South African time falls into the Central Africa Time zone, which is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year, making it an hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time and seven hours behind Australian Central Time. There is no daylight saving in the region.
OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg – airport code JNB) is the major gateway airport to South Africa and is the hub for 45 airlines from five continents. Flights from Europe are generally overnight and just a sleep away. The direct flights between the USA and Johannesburg or Cape Town last about 15 hours, and flights between London and Johannesburg take about 12 hours. Alternative routes are possible via the Gulf.
For the majority of foreign nationals travelling to South Africa for a holiday, entry is straightforward and hassle-free. All visitors to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport in order to enter the country, and in some cases, a visa. It is advisable to ensure that your passport is valid for 6 months beyond your intended departure date from South Africa and that it contains at least two empty pages.
Travellers from certain regions of the world (Scandinavia, Japan, the USA, and most Western European and Commonwealth countries) do not need to apply formally for a visa. Upon arrival in South Africa, citizens of countries falling into this category will automatically be given a free entry permit sticker outlining how long they may remain in the country. This automatic entry permit is usually for a maximum of 90 days, though the immigration officer may tailor the time period according to the airline tickets held. Foreign nationals from some other countries are offered this service, but for a maximum of 30 days. Visitors wishing to stay longer have to apply formally for a visa, as opposed to relying on the automatic entry permit.
The currency unit is the Rand, denoted by the symbol R before the numbers. There are 100 cents (100c) in R1 (one Rand). Foreign currency may be exchanged at local banks and Bureaux de Changes. Most major international credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and their affiliates are widely accepted.
Most restaurants do not add a service charge to bills - thus it is customary to leave a 10-15% tip. Parking car guards and petrol station attendants should be given whatever small change you have available up to about R5. though it may seem a small amount, it is always appreciated.
Value-added-tax (VAT) is charged on most items. Foreign tourists to South Africa may have their 15% VAT refunded provided that the value of goods purchased exceeds R250.00. VAT is refunded at the point of departure provided receipts are produced. VAT on accommodation and services will not be refunded.
Generally speaking, the facilities for disabled visitors are improving. An increasing number of accommodation establishments have wheelchair ramps and bathroom facilities for the disabled. Almost every national park has at least one accessible chalet and many accommodation establishments have one or two wheelchair-friendly rooms. Most sports stadia have accessible suites, stands or areas for wheelchairs near accessible parking as well as special toilet facilities. Most public buildings also cater for wheelchair access.
The seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are the direct opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere. For summer months (September to April) lightweight such as cottons and linens, short-sleeved clothes are best, although a light jersey/jumper might be needed for the cooler evenings. Umbrellas and raincoats are essential for the summers and the Western Cape winters. Warmer clothes are needed for the winter months (May to August).
South Africa's electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 Hz
Most plugs have three round pins but some plugs with two smaller pins are also found on appliances. Adaptors are readily available countrywide. US-made appliances may need a transformer.
South Africa has a well-developed infrastructure, high standards of water treatment and medical facilities equal to the best in the world. As a rule, tap water in South Africa is safe to drink as it is treated and is free of harmful micro-organisms. In hotels, restaurants and nightspots, the standards of hygiene and food preparation are top-notch. It is safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice in your drinks as you like!
South Africa is a global leader in a great many medical disciplines. In fact, South African trained doctors are widely sought after all over the world. There is a large network of public and private hospitals countrywide, offering an excellent service. However, clients must have adequate health insurance to cover the fees charged by private hospitals.
Malaria is found only in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo and on the Maputaland coast of KwaZulu-Natal and is not much of a risk in the winter months. Although incidences of malaria are rare, it is still advisable to take adequate precautions if you choose to visit these areas.
The South African government has embarked on an extensive anti-malaria programme (in co-operation with Swaziland and Mozambique) and the incidence of malaria is decreasing. It is not possible to contract malaria unless you are bitten by an infected mosquito. And with modern insect repellents and some common sense one can significantly reduce the risks.
The cheapest, safest and most effective measures against malaria are physical barriers such as a mosquito net, long trousers and sleeves and the use of a good insect repellent. If you decide to take malaria prophylaxis, it is essential that you take the drugs in accordance with the directions on the package insert. You will need to start a week or two before entering a malaria-endemic area and should continue taking the drugs for four weeks after leaving the malaria risk area. It is advisable to consult a medical professional before embarking on a course of malaria prophylaxis. Note that expectant mothers should avoid malaria medications.
For tourists, South Africa is as safe as any other comparable destination in the world. Most parts of the country can be safely visited by tourists provided they take basic common-sense precautions (for example not walking alone in deserted areas at night and being circumspect about how much photographic equipment or jewellery is carried). Most crime that takes place in South Africa occurs between people who know each other and random acts of violence make up a very small minority of cases. Most major cities run organised crime prevention programmes. Basic Safety Tip guidelines will be available at hotels and tourism information offices.
Our transport infrastructure is excellent and our roads are in good condition. However, the distances between towns are significant. Avoid long car journeys that necessitate driving at night. Roads are not fenced in some remote rural areas and drivers should be aware of the extra risks posed by stray animals on the road.
South Africa has very strict drinking and driving laws - with a maximum allowable alcohol blood content of 0.05%. Translated, this means about one glass of wine for the average woman and perhaps 1.5 or two for a man. Speed limits are 120 km/h on the open road, 100 km/h on smaller roads and between 60 and 80 km/h in towns. Be aware that even major national roads cut through residential areas so there may be a speed limit of 80 or 60 km/h on a road that looks like an Autobahn.
Whatever the temptation to do so, it is neither advisable nor permissible to pay cash to traffic officers – it is better to accept the fine given to you with a good grace. Corruption only leads to more corruption!
Visitors entering South Africa from a yellow fever zone (including Kenya and Zambia) must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate. Only infants under the age of one year are exempt. Immunisation against cholera and smallpox are not required nor are any other vaccinations unless time is to be spent in undeveloped rural areas.
Most major shopping centres and malls operate 7 days a week (Monday - Saturday 09:00 to 17:00; Sunday 09:00 - 14:00) but you will find in the smaller towns and rural areas that shops are closed on a Sundays and occasionally even close for lunch between 13:00 and 14:00. Most banks close at 15:30 on weekdays and 11:00 on Saturdays and almost all have ATMs, available 24 hours, and accept most international cards.
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