South Africa travel info

Electricity

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

Language

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

Money

South Africa's currency is the Rand (ZAR), which is divided into 100 cents. Money can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change, and the larger hotels. ATMs are widely available and major international credit cards are widely accepted. Visitors should be vigilant when drawing cash from ATMs, as con artists are known to operate there. All commercial banks will exchange foreign currency.

Tipping

Tips of at least 10 percent are 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 parked cars; they are usually immigrants from neighbouring countries looking for work and will expect anything from ZAR 8 upwards on the driver's return, depending on how long the driver will have been away.

Health

Travellers from areas infected by yellow fever must carry a vaccination certificate; otherwise no vaccinations are 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 northeastern 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 in South Africa. Tap water is generally safe in urban areas but sterilisation is advisable elsewhere. 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 major cities, but those travelling outside of these centres for an extended period should bring a basic supply kit for emergency self-treatment.

Safety

It is worthwhile noting that the South African authorities give high priority to the protection of tourists and that, although crime rates are high, popular tourist sites and the main hotel areas tend to be safe. Still, travellers should remember that 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. Doors should be locked when driving; bags and valuables should be kept out of sight. Travellers should not walk alone at night in any area, and should be vigilant when using ATMs. They should not display signs of wealth (mobile phones, money, expensive jewellery, cameras) on the streets. Credit card fraud is on the increase, meaning travellers should be vigilant and never allow their card out of their sight.

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.

Doing 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 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.

Duty free

Travellers to South Africa do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 20 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 ZAR 5,000 per person.

Communications

The international access code for South Africa is +27. Mobile phone networks are available across the country, and there are roaming agreements with most international mobile operators. Mobile service providers offer very cheap 'pay-as-you-go' SIM cards, which are a good option for visitors staying for some time. WiFi is easily available, especially in the larger cities.

Passport & Visa

Passports should be valid for at least 30 days beyond the period of intended stay. An onward or return ticket is required, as is evidence of sufficient funds. Extension of stay for an additional 90 days is possible if travellers apply at least 60 days prior to the expiry date of their visa, permit or visa exempt period. There are special requirements for travelling to South Africa with children under the age of 18, and different requirements for unaccompanied children entering the country. Travellers should consult the nearest South African high commission or embassy for details. It is highly recommended that travellers' passport have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

United States nationals need a passport valid for at least 30 days beyond intended travel. A visa is required.

British nationals need a passport valid for 30 days beyond the date of intended travel, but no visa is needed for stays of up to 90 days if passport is endorsed British Citizen or British Overseas Territories Citizen. Those whose passports state British National (Overseas) may stay up to 30 days without a visa.

Canadian nationals need a passport valid for 30 days beyond the date of intended travel, but no visa is needed for stays of up to 90 days.

Australian nationals need a passport valid for 30 days beyond the date of intended travel, but no visa is needed for stays of up to 90 days.

Irish nationals require a passport valid for 30 days beyond intended travel, but no visa is needed for stays of up to 90 days.

New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for 30 days beyond intended travel. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days.

Useful contacts

South African Tourism, Johannesburg: www.southafrica.net

Emergencies: 10111 (Police), 10177 (Ambulance), 10112 (cellphone emergency number).

Embassies / consulates in other countries

South African Embassy, Washington, United States: +1 202 232 4400.

South African High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7451 7299.

South African High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 744 0330.

South African High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 6272 7300.

South African Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 661 5553.

Embassies / consulates in South Africa

United States Embassy, Pretoria: +27 12 431 4000.

British High Commission, Pretoria: +27 12 421 7500.

Canadian High Commission, Pretoria: +27 12 422 3000.

Australian High Commission, Pretoria: +27 12 423 6000.

Irish Embassy, Pretoria: +27 12 452 1000.

New Zealand High Commission, Pretoria: +27 12 435 9000.

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