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South Africa Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT +2

Electricity

Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round, three-pin plugs are standard.

Language

South Africa has 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho. English is widely spoken.

Travel Health

Health regulations in South Africa require that travellers from areas infected by yellow fever must carry a vaccination certificate; otherwise no vaccination is required. There is a malaria risk in the low-lying areas of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga (including the Kruger National Park), as well as north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal, and precautions are advised when travelling to these areas, especially between October and May. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Tap water is safe in urban areas but sterilisation is advisable elsewhere, as there are periodic outbreaks of cholera in the poor communities of rural South Africa, particularly in northern KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo provinces. Drug-resistant TB has been reported throughout the country. Food poisoning is rare. Medical facilities in South Africa are good in urban areas, but medical insurance is strongly advised as private hospitals expect cash up front and public hospitals are best avoided. Medication is readily available in urban areas, but those travelling outside of major cities for an extended period should bring a basic supply kit for emergency self-treatment.

Tipping

Waitering is a livelihood in South Africa and a tip of at least 10 percent is expected for good service, if a service charge is not included in the bill. Tipping for services rendered is widely anticipated by porters, taxi drivers and petrol attendants. Golf caddies should be tipped accordingly. 'Car guards' operate in the city centres and tourist spots and will offer to look after your parked car; they are usually immigrants from neighbouring countries looking for work and will expect anything from R2 upwards on your return, depending on how long you have been away.

Safety Information

Safety is an issue and visitors to South Africa should be aware of the country's high crime rate. Violent crime tends to be concentrated in pockets throughout the country and travellers should do some research to find out which areas to avoid. For instance, Berea and Hillbrow in Johannesburg are high-risk areas, and township areas in general are dangerous for foreigners. There is a risk of petty, opportunistic crime in all urban areas and armed robberies are fairly common in Johannesburg. Travellers should always be aware of these risks and exercise the necessary precautions. Carjackings and smash-and-grab robberies are common in major cities, and doors should be locked when driving and bags and valuables should be kept out of sight, or locked in the boot. One should not walk alone at night in any area. There have been recent incidents of robbery involving hikers walking on Table Mountain and Lion's Head in Cape Town, so visitors should avoid hiking alone. Be vigilant when using ATMs and do not display signs of wealth (e.g. mobile phones, money, expensive jewellery, cameras) on the streets. Tourists are targeted because they are seen as easy targets - try to appear like a local and you are less likely to run into trouble. Credit card fraud is on the increase and travellers should be vigilant and never allow their card out of their sight. It is worthwhile noting that the South African authorities do give high priority to the protection of tourists. Although crime rates are high in South Africa popular tourist sites and the main hotel areas tend to be safe and most visits are trouble-free.

Local Customs

South African culture and etiquette in urban areas is very Western. While standards of dress vary, beachwear should generally not to be worn off the beach, and nude sunbathing is only permissible in a few designated areas. Homosexuality is legal and accepted in urban areas without much fuss, but it is frowned on by some conservative South Africans and can be a problem in township areas. Although locals may complain loudly about the country and government, they will take offense if a foreigner is critical. Racism is a sensitive issue; however, interracial relationships are now common and widely accepted. South African racial terminology differs from what is acceptable in North America: the terms 'black' and 'white' are appropriate for those of African and Caucasian descent, respectively. 'Coloured' refers not to black Africans, but those of mixed African and European descent and is not considered an offensive term. South Africans are friendly and hospitable, and will often go out of their way to assist tourists who need help.

Business

Business practices in South Africa are influenced by South Africa's range of ethnicities, languages and even geographical areas, but in general follow common patterns. When doing business in South Africa it is important to be culturally sensitive and as understanding of colleagues' historical context as possible. Most South Africans prefer to do business with contacts they've met before, but they are also warm and open to newcomers. Working to build and maintain business relationships is vitally important in the South African business environment. South Africans are renowned for their friendliness which generally supersedes business formality.

Most large corporations, as well as the banking and financial sector, still adopt relatively formal business practices, whereas other companies and work environments enjoy more relaxed and personable atmospheres. Clear management hierarchies and respect for senior executives and colleagues are of paramount importance. However, business exchanges and decision-making processes often take on an egalitarian aspect. As with most countries, punctuality is highly regarded. However government officials are said to keep 'African time' as they are notorious for their tardiness when it comes to keeping time. Dress codes tend to be conservative, but not overly formal. Suits are the exception more than the rule, but dressing stylishly will always count in your favour. It is best to dress formally for initial meetings.

South Africans value hard work and respect those who succeed. However, they are mindful of other aspects of life such as healthy living, family and nurturing relationships - all of which add up to a well-balanced life. Generally South Africans are regarded as relaxed and informal with regards to introductions and the handling of business cards. Shaking hands is common for both men and women. The giving of gifts is uncommon and unnecessary. The official language of business in South Africa is English. Business hours tend to start at 8.30am or 9am and the day comes to a close at 5pm, or later in the major urban centres. Working over weekends tends to be quite rare in South Africa, unless you count watching a sports game with your colleagues as 'work'.

Communications

The international access code for South Africa is +27. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). As of 8 January 2007, South Africa has changed to 10-digit dialling (so city codes must be included, e.g. 021 for Cape Town) and international dialling has changed from 09 to 00. GSM mobile phone networks providing 900 and 1800 frequencies serve the country. Mobile service providers offer very cheap 'pay-as-you-go' SIM cards, which are a good option for visitors staying for some time. Internet cafes are available. Card and coin operated pay phones are also widespread.

Duty Free

Travellers to South Africa do not have to pay duty on 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars and 250g of tobacco; 2 litres wine and 1 litre spirits; perfume up to 50ml and 250ml eau de toilette; and other goods to the value of R3,000. All other goods brought in from abroad by South African residents must be declared on arrival. These will be subject to import duties. For goods to be re-imported, travellers must complete a DA65 or NEP-form that is issued on departure. Prohibited items include meat and dairy products, all medication except for personal consumption, flick knives, ammunition, explosives and pornography containing minors and bestiality.

Our Travel Expert

I am passionate about South Africa and everything that it has to offer. I love creating personalised packages for my clients that suit their exact requirements; I do not feel that one-size-fits-all works when it comes to travel. I started my own travel company, Southey Travel (www.southeytravel.com), to offer clients a personalised service with expert advice. My favourite holiday is to go on safari!

>Read Jenni's tips on South Africa
>Ask Jenni a question


Become our South Africa Travel Expert

We are looking for contributors for our South Africa travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to South Africa or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.


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