Travelling in South Africa


South Africa is certainly one of the most beautiful countries in the world! It is a large country with a huge and fascinating diversity in nature, fauna, flora, climate, culture, religion and language. You will find everything from desert to cities, African villages to luxury shopping malls, golf courses to nature reserves, mountains to plains, forests and long stretches of unspoilt beaches.  


The problem for you will be to decide what to see and experience this time and what to save for your next visits.

The Western Cape and the Cape area in particular offer a great selection of activities and sightseeing. The distances between places of interest are not too far and you can experience a great many things without using up most of your time driving. If you wish tips on things to see and experience have a look under Pringle Bay and Towns and Activities and if you have any questions do not hesitate to contact me. 


South Africa’s population is estimated to just under 50 million and we have 11 official languages – Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.  


Time difference for Europe is a maximum of 3 hours.


For information about how to get to and around in South Africa visit the Transport page.


The private health care is of excellent standard – the first heart transplant was made in Cape Town – and some people visit South Africa to make use of the private health care e.g. having eye laser surgeon or other operations. It is also expensive so make sure that you have a valid travel insurance that will cover you in the event of you having to make use of it.  




Since South Africa is such a large country the climate varies a lot. Some areas are quite warm all year around, i.e. Durban, whiles others get very cold and occasionally gets snow during winter, i.e. Drakensberg. The climate of the Cape area is quite similar to that of the Mediterranean.

Western Cape is the only Winter Rainfall area in South Africa. This means that the Western Cape gets its rain during May-September and it very rarely rains November-February. The other parts of South Africa mainly have their rain during the summer months.

The South African summer in the Cape area is warm with day temperatures around 20-35 degrees Celsius. It is generally cooler along the coast and gets considerably warmer further inland. The warmest month is February when the humidity is also quite high.  


The South African winter in the Cape area generally vary from 10 - 20 degrees Celsius during the day, with more chill during the night. The houses are not heated to the same degree as in Europe so if you plan to visit during this time bring along some warm clothes.

When you expose yourself to the sun remember that the African sun is very strong and it is recommended that you use a sun lotion with a high UV protection factor - even on cloudy days.


Water, Food, Wine


  • A great advantage of traveling in South Africa is that the water is completely safe to drink directly from the tap. However if you prefer mineral water you will find a great selection in most grocery shops from 200 ml to 5 liter bottles.


  • In general in the cities and larger towns you can find anything you normally would find in a European grocery store (even Wasa knäckebröd and salt liquorish). The selection and quality of both fresh and processed food is great and even though the prices have gone up considerably the last years it is overall still comparably cheaper to similar or same goods in Europe.


  • You will find a great variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. At most grocery shops you will also find a big variety of frozen vegetarian foods such as soya sausage, chunks and vegetarian schnitzels.


  • The quality of restaurant food is great value for money. You can choose anything from top range exceptional fancy restaurants to common fast food chains such as McDonalds - and anything in between. Even though most of the South Africans are serious about their meat (try to attend a traditional braai) most restaurants will have vegetarian options.


  • The following meat is well worth trying: Kudu, Crocodile, Ostrich, Warthog, Springbok (national animal and also the name of the South African Rugby Team).


  • Many local dishes are inspired and originate from the Malaysian kitchen, try Boboti, Briyani or Curry. Also try the Butternut soup, tomato bredie (stew), waterblommitjie bredie (stew), dry woers (dried sausage) and biltong (dried meat).


  • At most restaurants you can ask for a "doggy bag" for the food you can not finish - have it for lunch the next day or give it to someone needy.


  • Service charges are not included in the prices on menus and the guide line is to add 10% to the total as tip/service fee.


  • South Africa has a huge variety of high quality local wines - visit one of the many farms for tasting or a grocery shop to buy a bottle of wine for your meal.


  • Many restaurants permit you to bring with your own wine - a small corkage fee is asked.





  • All accommodation – self catering houses, B&B, guest houses, hotels and camping sites usually keep high standard and are clean.


  • Make sure to book with an establishment that is a member of a Tourism Bureau, graded by TGCSA (Tourism Grading Council of South Africa), AA graded etc as these establishments have to adhere to certain minimum criteria in regards to equipment and service.


  • If possible make bookings directly through the owners as you will be able to get the best price not having to pay commissions (payable either by guest or owner).


  • Public places and toilets in malls, restaurants and petrol stations are mostly clean. You can often find changing and nursing rooms at malls.


  • Electrical appliances are run at 220 Volt 50 Hertz (except in Pretoria 230V and Port Elizabeth 200/250V). Plugs are not always compatible but adaptors can be bought at most grocery or hardware shops.



Phone and Internet


  • It is a good idea to get a local sim card for your cell phone as it will enable you to make emergency and number enquiries for free, make other calls for local rates and receive calls for free.  


  • "Pay as you go" sim cards can mostly be bought on "specials" at some grocery shops and cellphone shops for R1 to R10 (at the airports the same starter packs are usually more expensive). You will have to RICA register your sim card showing your ID document. You are not able to make calls on the sim card until the registration has been processed which might take a few hours. You buy as much airtime (available at most shops) as you need and load yourself. Vodacom and MTN are two of the most common networks you can use on a pre-paid basis. You might not be able to use a South African sim card if your cell phone is locked to a specific service provider in your home country.


  • On some of these networks you can also use your cell phone to buy data bundles and connect to the internet on a pay as you go/pre paid basis. You can use the purchased data bundles to connect to internet using your cell phone as a modem to your laptop.


Health Care and Malaria


  • Most towns have private doctors and clinics. In the cities and larger towns you will find private hospitals and specialists. The private medical care is of very high standard but expensive. Make sure you have a travel insurance covering you for medical emergencies!


  • Cape Town and Western Cape is completely free from malaria.


  • If you are planning to travel to Kruger National Park you might need to take malaria tablets, depending on season and which parts of the park you will visit. There are several kinds of tablets but most of them need to be taken several days before, during and after visiting malaria areas. Speak to a travel clinic or GP for advice.





The South African currency is South African Rand, ZAR, or usually indicated by R. One Rand is equivalent to 100 cents.


Notes comes in R10, R50, R100 and R200 (watch out as only the new R200 are accepted).


Coins are issued in R1, R2, R5 and 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents.


Banking hours are Monday-Friday from 9am to 3.30 pm and on Saturdays from 9-11am.


Some Bureaux de Change stay open until 7pm.


All major credit cards are acceptable at many shops and restaurants.


ATMs are open 24-hours a day, but take care when drawing cash. Look under Safety.



Use the currency converter on the Rates page to calculate the exchange rate.




Tax Refund


When leaving South Africa you can claim back the Value-Added Tax (14%) on goods you are taking with you out of the country (i.e. clothes, electronics, toys, crafts, jewellery, wine and much more). A small fee is charged (at the moment minimum R10 maximum R250). For details click here.
To be able to claim the VAT back you need to:


  • Save your receipts/ Tax Invoice.


  • At many shops all information needed for tax refund is automatically printed onto the slip but at some shops you will need to ask for a hand written Tax Invoice


  • For details get a free Information Brochure about the Tax Refund and the procedure - found at Tourism Bureaus and at the Airport when arriving.


  • You must apply for Tax Refund before checking in your luggage as you might be requested to show the goods you are exporting.




As always when travelling the best rule is to USE COMMON SENSE and to have knowledge in order to minimize the risk for crime. If you avoid certain places and behaviour you should have a safe trip.


  • Keep the following numbers with you in case you would need them in an emergency:
    • Free emergency number (calls will be transferred to the appropriate emergency service in your area):
      • From landline/phone box: 107 or 10111 (police)
      • From cell phone: 112
  • The national ambulance service 10177
  • The National Tourism Information and Safety 24h service can provide you with emotional support, practical assistance and information to help you to deal with a problem. (I.e. assistance with your application to replace stolen/lost passports, visa etc.) 083 123 2345 


  • Find out about unsafe places in the area you are visiting through:

    • National Tourism Information and Safety Line 083 123 2345
    • The local Tourism Bureau
    • The local Police Station


  • Do not enter informal settlements unless you do so with a registered tour operator.


  • Do not open the door for/let in unknown persons into your house/room.  


  • Do not display your wealth, i.e. jewellery, cameras and other valuables unnecessary and do not count or display money in public.


  • Avoid walking about or driving when it is dark. If you have to, try to move in larger groups and only where the streets are well lit.


  • Always make sure beforehand that an area you are planning to visit, walk in etc is safe by e.g. asking at your local tourism bureau.


  • Never allow strangers to assist you in your transactions at automated tellers, ATMs. If your card gets stuck immediately call the Help Line number for assistance found at the ATM. Criminals like to target people at the ATMs during and after transactions.


  • Do not leave your credit card out of sight, at restaurants etc the machine is usually brought to you - if not walk with your card.


  • Separate your cash and credit cards and don't carry all of it with you. Do not countersign all your traveller’s cheques. Do not leave luggage, bags, handbags etc unattended.


  • Immediately report lost or stolen travel documents to your country's embassy or consulate and the SAPS (police).


  • Give certified photocopies of your valuable documents such as passport, travel insurance, visa, driving license, tickets and travellers cheques to somebody at home.



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