South Africa operates two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year making it an hour ahead of central European winter time, seven hours ahead of Eastern standard winter time and seven hours behind Australian central time.
PASSPORTS & VISAS
For the majority of foreign nationals who travel to South Africa, entry is straightforward and hassle free. All visitors to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport, in order to enter the country, and in some cases, a visa. To determine whether you require a visa to enter South Africa, visit the comprehensive South African Home Affairs Department website. For South African missions abroad, visit this website.
BANKS & MONEY
The currency unit is the Rand, denoted by the symbol R, with 100 cents making up R1 (one Rand). Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks, and Bureau de Changes. Most major international credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa, and their affiliates are widely accepted.
Most restaurants do not add a service charge to bills – thus it is customary to leave a 10-15% tip. Parking and petrol station attendants can be given whatever small change you have available. This is always appreciated, even though it may seem a small amount.
Value added tax (VAT) is charged on most items. Foreign tourists to South African can have their 15% VAT refunded, provided that the value of the items purchased exceeds R250-00. VAT is refunded at the point of departure, provided receipts are produced.
South Africa’s electricity supply: 220/230 volts AC 50 Hz. Exceptions: Pretoria (230 V) and Port Elizabeth (200 / 250 V). Most plugs have three round pins but some plugs with two smaller pins are also found on appliances. Adaptors can be purchased, but may be in short supply. US-made appliances may need a transformer.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Many foreigners are unaware that South Africa has a well-developed infrastructure, high standard of water treatment and medical facilities equal to the best in the world. Here we address any health and safety questions you may have.
HOSPITALS & MEDICAL CARE
In a great many medical disciplines, South Africa is a global leader. In fact South African trained doctors are sought after all over the world, so this should give an indication of the standard of medical care available. There is a large network of public and private hospitals countrywide, offering excellent service. However clients must have adequate health insurance to cover the fees private hospitals charge.
South Africa boasts a vast array of cultures, communities, sites and attractions. Most parts of the country can be safely visited by tourists, provided they take basic common sense precautions, for example not walking alone in deserted areas at night and being circumspect about how much photographic equipment or flashy jewellery you carry. Most major cities run organized crime prevention programs. Basic 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 +27 (0) 83-123-2345. The number may also be used for practical assistance in replacing lost documents or reporting incidents.
FOOD & WATER
As a rule, tap water in South Africa is safe to drink, as it is treated and is free of harmful micro-organisms. In hotels, restaurants and nightspots, the standards of hygiene and food preparation are top notch. It is safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks – a good thing too after a day on the beach or in the bush.
Our transport infrastructure is excellent, and our roads are in good condition. However the distances between towns are significant, so if you are planning to self drive it is a good idea to plan your itinerary to ensure you don’t drive long distances, as fatigue is a major cause of road accidents. Avoid long car journeys that necessitate driving at night, as it always carries more risk. Also 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. We have very strict drinking and driving laws, with a maximum allowable alcohol blood content of 0.05%. Translated that means about one glass of wine for the average woman, and perhaps 1.5 or 2 for the average or larger man. Our speed limits are 120 kmph on the open road, 100 kmph on smaller roads and between 60 and 80 kmph in towns. Be aware that even major national roads cut through residential areas, so there may be a speed limit of 80 or 60 kmph on a road that looks like an autobahn/motorway. This is to protect pedestrians, especially children, so we really do encourage people to comply. All visitors intending to drive are required to obtain an international driver’s permit.
Visitors who are entering South Africa from a yellow fever zone must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate.
Most major shopping centre’s and malls operate seven days a week, but you will find that in smaller towns and rural areas that shops are closed on Sundays. Monday – Saturday: 09h00 – 17h00 Sundays: 09h00– 14h00.