Everything you need to know about travel to South Africa
About South Africa
When you think of Africa, what images come to mind? Safari parks teaming with wildlife, jagged mountains, golden beaches, a diverse cultural mix, historical significance and vibrant cities. Although South Africa has had a very turbulent past in terms of Apartheid, the country is fast becoming one of the most sought-after holiday destinations in the world. In fact, over 10 million people travel to South Africa every year.
Topping the long list of tourist attractions by far is the abundance of safari and wildlife destinations. These include the Kruger Park, Pilanesberg, Cape Point, Addo Elephant park National Parks to mention a few. These national parks are dedicated to the preservation of an incredible array of fauna and flora species. These include the infamous Big 5 ( lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino) as well as host of other iconic species from zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, hippo, impala, kudu, warthog and more. The reserves are also dedicated to the preservation of the various biospheres that range from:
• the ocean realm-home to many marine species from the Great White Shar, dolphins, penguins and Leatherback turtles
• the mountains of the Drakensberg and Cedarberg
• coastal fynbos-found mainly in the Cape Town and Eastern Cape area
• desert regions of the Kalahari
• forests of the Mpumalanga region
• savannah and grasslands of the Kruger and other national parks
• subtropical wetlands of St.Lucia and Sodwana
The 2 major cities in South Africa
The cities of South Africa are no less varied. Right at the bottom of the country is the most iconic and scenic city of all. Hailed as one of the most beautiful cites in the world, Cape Town is nestled under the protection of the by the infamous Table Mountain. Cape Town is by far the most accessible and most visited city in South Africa. And it is not hard to understand why. With its stunning beaches, vibrant, multicultural neighbourhoods, famous vineyards, majestic coastal mountain scenery, fine dining and lively nightlife, it is on par with any European city.
Johannesburg which is situated up north has its own unique flavour. The city is way different to Cape Town. There is no logical reason for Johannesburg to be situated where it is. Unlike all major cities in the world, water was the main reason for settlement. Johannesburg has no rivers to supply its inhabitants. The only reason Johannesburg exists is the discovery of Gold back in 1886. This discovery started a worldwide gold rush that ultimately helped shape not only Johannesburg but South Africa as a whole. Unfortunately, the discovery also brought with it the history of Apartheid and the Struggle by the oppressed people to gain their freedom. Johannesburg showcases some iconic areas that played their part in the ultimate freedom. Some interesting places to visit include the Apartheid museum, Constitution Hill and Soweto.
In between your city travels, you can lose yourself in the endless safari tours that are available in South Africa. The undisputed top spot for wildlife and safari experiences is the Kruger National park. Come and meet see what a truly unique South African Safari is all about. Spending a day on safari looking for your favourite wild animal followed by a bush fire, traditional South African food, millions of stars and a nice glass of estate wine is definitely a nice way to spend any vacation.
11 Official languages
If you think the landscape and wildlife is diverse, wait until you meet the people. There are 11 official languages and a dozen other tribal units. These include a mixture of people from Africa, Europe and the Indian Subcontinent. That is way South is Africa has become know as the very fitting ‘Rainbow Nation’. The diversity is tangible wherever you go. This includes the architecture, food and language. It is also the reason why South Africa is one of the friendliest countries in the world. You will find that the average South African is very open and welcoming.
Key facts about South Africa
• Size: 1,219,912 square kilometres
• Population: 56 million (2020 figures)
• Population density: 46 people per square kilometre
• Capital Cities: Pretoria, Cape Town and Bloemfontein
• Government: Republic
• Population dynamics: Black-77%, white-9%, coloured-9%, Asian-3%, 2% unspecified.
*NOTE: The use of certain words like black and coloured are not seen as derogatory (which may be the case in other nations of the world) The racial classification has been recognised as such in South Africa by the government. So please don’t feel upset if the term is brought up on your travels in South Africa.
Did you know?
South Africa is the only country to boast 2 Nobel Peace Prize winners who stayed in the same street. They were Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, who stayed on Vilakazi Street in Soweto.
There are more than 2,000 shipwrecks along the cost of South Africa dating back nearly 500 years.
In 2010, South Africa was the first African nation to host the FIFA soccer world cup.
South Africa has still got 7 recognised Royal Families to which 20 million people to belong.
Religion in South Africa
About 75% of South African are Christian. Many Africans believe in traditional Sangomas (traditional healers) while the rest of the communities make up Hindu, Jewish and Muslim religions.
Official language in South Africa?
Although there are lots of languages, English is the most widely spoken language. A perfect holiday destination for travellers from the USA, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Is South Africa safe?
South Africa is no different to most countries in the world. There are areas you need to avoid. Although the country developed a reputation of being dangerous, the situation is way different from say 20 years ago. Yes, there is still a big gap between middle class and lower-class population groups which does bring about certain challenges. But all in all, the country is safe to travel in. There are certain precautions you would need to take and there are areas you would need to avoid. You may have seen stats on the murder rate and violent crime. Again, that is only true for certain areas. The murders are usually contained to the poorer areas and is stimulated by alcohol and socio-economic situations. For the most part, the safety concerns for tourists in South Africa are similar to those elsewhere in the world: petty theft, credit card skimming, tourist scams, etc. The key to safety as a traveller in South Africa is being alert. Always be aware of your surroundings, and if you get that prickly feeling that something just ‘isn’t right’; listen to it and move yourself or your belongings to a safer place.
What currency is accepted when you travel to South Africa?
The currency is the South African Rand (ZAR). Other currencies such as the USD, Pounds or Euros are not accepted as a form of payment. There are plenty of foreign exchange outlets or banks available to convert your currency into Rands.
if you decide to travel to South Africa, it is advisable to take to travel insurance. The quality of health care facilities varies. Basically, there public hospitals and private hospitals. Travel insurance will be needed to access the private hospital facilities. The private hospitals are world class. Public hospitals are not the best place to be when you need medical help.
Which countries need a visa to visit South Africa
If you are visiting South Africa from the following countries, you will NOT need a visa. This is only applicable to travellers who plan on visiting for less than 90 days and includes tourism, short business or transit reasons. If you are going to travel to South Africa for any other reason like employment or study, then you will need to get a visa in advance. These are the countries that DO NOT need a visa:
All European Union Countries
Requirements for entering South Africa
The government of South Africa has a few requirements in place for travel to South Africa as listed below:
• A valid and acceptable passport or travel document for your intended stay
• At least one blank page in your passport for endorsements
• A valid visa, if required
• Sufficient funds to pay for your day-to-day expenses during your stay
• A return or onward ticket
• Yellow fever certificates if your journey starts or entails passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America.
Be open minded
South Africans are a very warm, open and relaxed people. You can walk up to most people and strike up a conversation. Our culture is one of openness and communication. Part of our culture is our sense of humour and ability to not take things too seriously. There is a lot of banter between people. So, don’t get alarmed when locals say things to each other that seems offensive. Its just people bantering. In fact, there are things locals will say to each other that is not necessarily allowed in the rest of the world. People do not get offended that easily. There will also be a lot of customs you will not be used to. Signs advertising whichdoctors promising to bring back lost lovers or make your penis bigger or 30-minute abortions are the norm. Traditional healers are still are a big part of south African culture.
South Africa’s weather
The climate in South Africa is generally dry, warm, and sometimes humid. It can also be unpredictable. The biggest weather-related threat typically involves rain. There are no Tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes or other natural hazards. Johannesburg is known as the lightning capital of the world. One of the most spectacular phenomena to experience if you are in the city. Strangely enough, the only real damage inflicted by these storms is blown appliances.
The rainy season for most of the country occurs during the summer months (November-March) and can bring extremely heavy rain. The heavier the rain, the greater the likelihood of flash flooding. The winter months are dry with blue skies. Temperatures sometimes reach freezing point in the evenings. But generally, the daytime temperatures are between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius.