The vast majority of visitors complete their travels in South Africa without any problems, although visitors should be aware that criminal activity is prevalent throughout the country.
However, try to keep things in perspective, and remember that despite the statistics and newspaper headlines, for tourists, South Africa is as safe as any other destination in the world.
Most parts of the country can be safely visited by tourists provided they take basic common-sense precautions i.e. avoid using ATMs in dark, remote, or isolated areas, do not walk or drive alone in deserted areas at night, do not expose or flash large amounts of cash in public areas, caution on the amount of photographic equipement you carry as well as the amount flashy pieces of jewellery you wear.
Most major cities run organized crime prevention programmes Safety Tip guidelines will be available at hotels and tourism information offices.
If you are in doubt as to the safety of a particular area or attraction, contact the National Tourism information and Safety Line on 083 123 2345.
Landline services are primarily run by Telkom, with a second operator, Neotel also providing fixed line services. Telkom has placed reliable public telephones at major tourist sites across South Africa. Coin-operated phones are blue, while card-phones are green. Both are user-friendly and compatible with hearing aid devices.
Many public phones also utilise Worldcall. Phonecards and Worldcall can be purchased at most retail stores, petrol stations, post offices and airports.
South Africa has a well-developed communications infrastructure, mobile phone reception is generally very good in major towns and cities but can be intermittent in more remote spots.
Mobile phone service providers:
- Cell C
- Virgin Mobile
VISAS & PERMITS:
Visitors on holiday from most Commonwealth countries (including Australia and the UK), as well as most Western European countries, Japan and the USA don’t require visas.
Permits are issued apon arrival and are free of charge which are valid to up to 90 days
Your passport must be valid for at least 30 days after the end of your intended visit. The immigration officer may use the date of your return flight as the date of your permit expiry.
If you are not entitled to an entry permit, a visa is required and must be obtained by a South African Embassy or Consulate before arrival. Visa generally cost approximately R435 / US$50 / €45 .
Allow at least a month for processing. Visit the Department of Home Affairs website for further information.
CURRENCY FOR TRAVELLERS:
The best currencies to bring are US dollars, euros or British pounds in a mixture of travellers cheques and cash, plus a Visa or MasterCard for withdrawing money from ATMs.
There are ATMs in all cities in South Africa. Credit cards are widely accepted in South Africa, especially MasterCard and Visa.
Most major shopping centres and malls operate 7 days a week, but you will find that in the smaller towns and rural areas that shops are closed on a Sunday.
Shops in South Africa range from a collective mass of street traders selling almost everything imaginable, up to upmarket stores and trendy boutiques that wouldn't seem out of place in New York or most European fashion capitals.
The numerous top class shopping malls in South Africa make the country a shopper's heaven. Malls combine the thrill of shopping with a wide variety of services, such as entertainment facilities, restrooms and banking facilities.
Unique items you may wish to purchase here include a multitude of jewellery, crafted from the finest South African gold, diamonds and semi-precious stones, leather and suede items, local crafts, ceramics, and also South African wine, brandy and liqueurs, which are excellent value and normally quite high quality.
DRIVING & ROAD SAFETY:
South Africa driving is done on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side of the vehicle.
All visitors intending to drive are required to obtain an international drivers licence, visitors found driving without an international license will be fined and not permitted to continue on their journey. Visitors will also not be able to rent a car without a valid International driver's license. The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory and strictly enforced by law.
Transport infrastructure in South Africa is excellent and roads are in good condition. If you're planning to drive, it is a good idea to plan your itinerary as distances between towns are considerably large. Avoid long car journeys that require driving at night as it always carries more risk. In some of the more remote rural areas, the roads are not fenced so there may be stray animals on the road, which could be very dangerous at night.
South Africa has very strict drinking and driving laws, with a maximum allowable alcohol blood content of 0.05%. This means about one glass of wine for the average woman and perhaps 1.5 or two for the average or large man. The speed limits are 120kmph on motorways or highways and 100kmph on smaller roads and between 60 and 80kmph in residential / commercial areas.
For pedistrians, take extreme care when crossing streets. Collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians are all too common on South African roadways.
HYGIENE (Food / Water):
The standards of hygiene and food preparation is most excellent.
It is safe to eat or drink in In hotels, restaurants, cafes etc.
Tap water in South Africa is safe to drink as it is treated and is free of harmful micro-organisms.
It is also safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks.
HOW MUCH TO TIP:
A 10% tip (or more for exceptional service) is acceptable in restaurants. You do not have to tip if you feel you have received poor service.
In major shopping centers as well as small centers, casinos, entertainment parking areas etc. uniformed parking attendances are generally tipped R2.00 - 5.00. This fee is a basic rule for the minding of your car or assistance in carrying your parcels or shopping to your vehicle. Petrol attendents welcome a R2.00-5.00 tip for checking oil, water and tyre pressure and cleaning windscreens.
Hotel porters as well as taxi drivers should be tipped R2.00-5.00. A larger tip for Tour Guides is more appropriate, between R20-50.
MEDICAL FACILITIES & HEALTH INFORMATION:
Private medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks, but they may be limited elsewhere.
Pharmacies are well stocked and equivalents to most Western - European medicines are available.
While most of South Africa is malaria-free, malaria risk exists throughout the year in rural low-altitude areas of Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, including Kruger National Park and neighboring game reserves. Risk also exists in the coastal lowlands of KwaZulu-Natal north of the Tugela River (including in Zululand, but excluding urban areas of Richards Bay).
In all risk areas, risk is much lower from June to September.
Visitors should prepare accordingly and use malaria prophylaxis.