With golden beaches, jagged mountains and national parks overflowing with wildlife, South Africa is the Africa you’ve always imagined. While memories of a troubled past remain, the republic is well on the way to regaining its throne as the holiday capital of Africa, visited by nearly 10 million people every year.
Topping a long list of attractions is the republic’s spectacular wildlife and natural scenery. National parks and nature reserves preserve an incredible variety of landscapes – rolling plains, towering mountains, arid deserts, coastal fynbos (shrubland) and pure blue oceans – home to an incredible variety of wildlife, from lions and elephants to great white sharks and playful penguins.
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South Africa has a very high level of crime like rape and murder. But the risk of violent crime to visitors travelling to the main tourist destinations is generally low. The government of South African give high priority to protecting tourists and tourism police are deployed in several large towns. Most cases of violent crime occur in the townships. Ask your guide if it is safe to visit the nearby town depending on your location.
Keep valuables out of sight, when you make stops. there are frequent incidents of car windows being broken and valuables taken while cars are parking or waiting at any stop. Also keep large amounts of money, expensive Jewellery, cameras and phones out of sight. Don’t change or withdraw large sums of money in busy public areas including foreign exchange facilities or ATMs. Thieves operate at international airports, and bus and railway stations. Keep your valuables safe and baggage with you at all times. Don’t give personal or financial account information details to anyone. There are international fraud rings operating in South Africa, who may target visitors.
Operational hours are 08:30 to 4:30 hours Mondays through to Fridays and 08:15 to 12:00 hours on Saturdays.
Most hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and the bigger shops will take credit cards. Most of the bigger banks will advance local currency against a credit card. Most banks have ATM’s which accept Visa cards for cash. Visa is more readily accepted than MasterCard or American Express.
It’s best to come into the country with either Dollars, Pounds or Euros which can be exchanged at any of the many Bureaus de Change in the main towns. If you are offered an exchange on the black market at the borders, exercise extreme caution as they are notorious for cheating you without you even realizing it.
ATMs are available within major towns in South Africa. Bigger banks have ATMs which accept Visa but not MasterCard.
Exchange of foreign currency is carried out at authorized banks and bureau de change. There are many bureau at the central shopping areas in the main towns.
Third party insurance must be purchased at the airport for a nominal fee.
Medical insurance should be purchased before you leave your own country and should include emergency air evacuation coverage if you’re spending any time in remote parts of the country.
If one is not a citizen of a country that is exempted from having to apply for a visa, then one must obtain a visa either at the port of entry or at a South African Mission abroad. Please note that the countries do change and we advise that you visit South African Immigration for up to date Visa information.
Health and Medical
A yellow fever certificate is mandatory if you are travelling from an infected area. Malaria is virulent in the low lying areas of the country which include most of the good wildlife destinations. Doctors advise taking prophylactics two weeks before arrival and continuing two weeks after leaving. Your chemist or doctor can advise you of the most suitable drug available as certain drugs lose their effectiveness.
Tap water in the major towns is purified but we don’t recommend to drink, drink bottled water within the hotel or in the cooler box available in the car with your guide.
Chemists / Pharmacies
Travelers should carry an adequate supply of their prescribed medicines with them although chemists in the major centers carry a wide range of medicines and first aid accessories. It may be hard to find your very prescribed medicines.
Medical services are underdeveloped. In bigger towns, you can find anything resembling western standards but may not give the best and the clinics in the rural areas usually only have the basics.
Safety and Security
There are particularly high levels of crime in the Berea and Hill brow districts of Johannesburg and around the Rotunda bus terminus in the Central Business District. Be particularly vigilant in Durban’s city center and beach front area. Keep to main roads and avoid driving at night when visiting Northern KwaZulu Natal and Zululand, as there have been incidents of hi-jacking and robbery, particularly on isolated secondary roads. Be vigilant on the approach roads to and from Kruger Park where there have been cases of car hijacking. Avoid isolated beaches and picnic spots. Don’t walk alone, especially in remote areas. Hikers should stick to popular trails. There have been violent attacks on hikers and tourists on Table Mountain. Take care in quieter areas of the Park, especially early in the morning or just before the park closes. You can call the police (on 10111 or on 112 from a mobile phone) at the first sign of danger. Mobile phone reception is generally good in major towns and cities but can be intermittent in more remote spots.
For tourists on self-drive, you can drive using a UK Driving License for up to 12 months. The standard of driving in South Africa can vary greatly and there are many fatal accidents every year.
On highways overtaking can occur in any lane including the hard shoulder. On single-lane roads the hard shoulder is also sometimes used by trucks and slower vehicles to allow faster vehicles to overtake. At quieter intersections, first vehicle to arrive sometimes has priority. On roundabouts, you should give way to the right, although this rule is often ignored.
Road standards are mostly very good, but some roads in remote areas are less well maintained and may have potholes. Drive cautiously, obey speed limits and avoid unfamiliar rural areas at night. Thieves have been known to employ various methods to make a vehicle stop (eg placing large stones in the middle of the road) enabling them to rob the occupants. Park in well-lit areas. Don’t pick up strangers or stop to help apparently distressed motorists, as this is a technique sometimes used by hijackers. It’s better to report any incident to the police.