Republic of South Africa
Flag description: Two equal width horizontal bands of
red (top) and blue separated by a central green band which splits into
a horizontal Y, the arms of which end at the corners of the hoist side;
the Y embraces a black isosceles triangle from which the arms are separated
by narrow yellow bands; the red and blue bands are separated from the green
band and its arms by narrow white stripes
Note: Prior to 26 April 1994, the flag was actually four flags in one
- three miniature flags reproduced in the center of the white band of the
former flag of the Netherlands, which has three equal horizontal bands
of orange (top), white, and blue; the miniature flags are a vertically
hanging flag of the old Orange Free State with a horizontal flag of the
UK adjoining on the hoist side and a horizontal flag of the old Transvaal
Republic adjoining on the other side
1,221,037 sq.km (10th in Africa)
Cape Town (Parliament), Bloemfontein (Legislative), Pretoria (Administrative)
Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth
11, including English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa
Head of state:
President Jacob Zuma
The Republic of South Africa, also known by other official names, is a
country located at the southern tip of the continent of Africa. The South
African coast stretches 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) and borders both the
Atlantic and Indian oceans. To the north of South Africa lie Namibia,
Botswana and Zimbabwe,
to the east are Mozambique
while the Kingdom of
Lesotho is an independent enclave surrounded by South African territory.
South Africa is located at the southernmost region of Africa, with a long
coastline that stretches more than 2,500 kilometres (1,550 mi) and across two
oceans (the South Atlantic and the Indian).
With 471,443 sq mi (1,221,037 km²), is the 25th-largest country in the world
and contains some of the oldest archaeological sites in the world. Extensive
fossil remains at the Sterkfontein, Kromdraai and Makapansgat caves suggest
that various australopithecines existed in South Africa from about three
million years ago.
If you want to travel in southern Africa then South Africa is a good place to
start. While you can fly into any country in southern Africa, most flights
will route through South Africa anyway. South Africa is also a good place to
get used to traveling in the region (though some would argue that Namibia is
better for that). Of course South Africa is not only a jumping off point, it
is itself a superb destination rich in culture, fauna & flora and history.
Often outsiders' views of South Africa are colored by
their knowledge of most other countries in the rest of Africa.
Contrary to popular belief,
South Africa is not as devastatingly poor, yes, their government is
rapidly going to pot. Although the rural part of South Africa remains among
the poor and the least developed parts of the world and poverty in the
townships can be appalling, progress is being made. The process of recovering
from apartheid, which lasted almost 46 years, is quite slow. In fact, South
Africa's United Nations Human Development Index which was slowly improving
in the final years of apartheid, has declined dramatically since 1996
under black majority rule, largely due to the AIDS pandemic, corruption,
crime, together with poverty
levels, appear to be on the increase. South Africa boasts a well-developed
infrastructure and has all the modern amenities and technologies, all come
from developed during the years of "apartheid" white minority rule.
The government is stable, although corruption
is common and increasing. The ANC government generally have a low level of respect for democratic institutions and human rights, although
the government's support of the misrule of neighboring Zimbabwe's Robert
Mugabe has raised questions about its commitment to human rights and even
South Africa has a generally temperate climate, due in part to it being
surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on three sides, by its location
in the climatically milder southern hemisphere and due to the average
elevation rising steadily towards the north (towards the equator) and further
inland. Due to this varied topography and oceanic influence, a great variety
of climatic zones exist.
The climatic zones vary, from the extreme desert of the southern Namib in the
farthest northwest to the lush subtropical climate in the east along the
Mozambique border and the Indian ocean. From the east, the land quickly rises
over a mountainous escarpment towards the interior plateau known as the
Highveld. Even though South Africa is classified as semi-arid, there is
considerable variation in climate as well as topography.
The interior of South Africa is a vast, rather flat, and sparsely populated
scrubland, Karoo, which is drier towards the northwest along the Namib desert.
In contrast, the eastern coastline is lush and well-watered, which produces a
climate similar to the tropics. The extreme southwest has a climate remarkably
similar to that of the Mediterranean with wet winters and hot, dry summers,
hosting the famous Fynbos Biome. This area also produces much of the wine in
South Africa. This region is also particularly known for its wind, which blows
intermittently almost all year. The severity of this wind made passing around
the Cape of Good Hope particularly treacherous for sailors, causing many
shipwrecks. Further east on the south coast, rainfall is distributed more
evenly throughout the year, producing a green landscape. This area is
popularly known as the Garden Route. The Free State is particularly flat due
to the fact that it lies centrally on the high plateau. North of the Vaal
River, the Highveld becomes better watered and does not experience subtropical
extremes of heat. Johannesburg, in the centre of the Highveld, is at 1,740
metres (5,709 ft) and receives an annual rainfall of 760 millimetres (30 in).
Winters in this region are cold, although snow is rare.
To the north of
Johannesburg, the altitude drops beyond the escarpment of the Highveld, and
turns into the lower lying Bushveld, an area of mixed dry forest and an
abundance of wildlife. East of the Highveld, beyond the eastern escarpment,
the Lowveld stretches towards the Indian ocean. It has particularly high
temperatures, and is also the location of extended subtropical agriculture.
The high Drakensberg mountains, which form the
south-eastern escarpment of the Highveld, offer limited skiing opportunities
in winter. The coldest place in South Africa is Sutherland in the western
Roggeveld Mountains, where midwinter temperatures can reach as low as
−15 degrees Celsius (5 °F). The deep interior has the hottest
temperatures: A temperature of 51.7 °C (125 °F) was recorded in 1948 in the
Northern Cape Kalahari near Upington.
South Africa is one of only 17 countries worldwide considered mega-diverse. It
has more than 20,000 different plants, or about 10% of all the known species
of plants on Earth, making it particularly rich in plant biodiversity. South
Africa is the 6th most biodiverse country, after Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia,
China, and Mexico. The most prevalent biome in South Africa is the grassland,
particularly on the Highveld, where the plant cover is dominated by different
grasses, low shrubs, and acacia trees, mainly camel-thorn and whitethorn.
Vegetation becomes even more sparse towards the northwest due to low rainfall.
There are several species of water-storing succulents like aloes and
euphorbias in the very hot and dry Namaqualand area. The grass and thorn
savannah turns slowly into a bush savannah towards the north-east of the
country, with denser growth. There are significant numbers of baobab trees in
this area, near the northern end of Kruger National Park.
The Fynbos Biome, which makes up the majority of the area and plant life in
the Cape floristic region, one of the six floral kingdoms, is located in a
small region of the Western Cape and contains more than 9,000 of those
species, making it among the richest regions on earth in terms of floral
biodiversity. The majority of the plants are evergreen hard-leaf plants with
fine, needle-like leaves, such as the sclerophyllous plants. Another uniquely
South African plant is the protea genus of flowering plants. There are around
130 different species of protea in South Africa.
While South Africa has a great wealth of flowering plants, it has few forests.
Only 1% of South Africa is forest, almost exclusively in the humid coastal
plain along the Indian Ocean in KwaZulu-Natal (see KwaZulu-Cape coastal forest
mosaic). There are even smaller reserves of forests that are out of the reach
of fire, known as montane forests (see Knysna-Amatole montane forests).
Plantations of imported tree species are predominant, particularly the
non-native eucalyptus and pine. South Africa has lost a large area of natural
habitat in the last four decades, primarily due to overpopulation, sprawling
development patterns and deforestation during the nineteenth century. South
Africa is one of the worst affected countries in the world when it comes to
invasion by alien species with many (e.g. Black Wattle, Port Jackson, Hakea,
Lantana and Jacaranda) posing a significant threat to the native biodiversity
and the already scarce water resources. The original temperate forest that met
the first European settlers to South Africa was exploited ruthlessly until
only small patches remained. Currently, South African hardwood trees like Real
Yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius), stinkwood (Ocotea bullata), and South
African Black Ironwood (Olea laurifolia) are under government protection.
are found in the bushveld habitats including lions, leopards, white rhinos,
blue wildebeest, kudus, impalas, hyenas, hippopotamus and giraffes. A
significant extent of the bushveld habitat exists in the north-east including
Kruger National Park and the Mala Mala Reserve, as well as in the far north in
the Waterberg Biosphere. South
Africa has become a popular safari destination.
The Cape Floral Kingdom has been identified as
one of the global biodiversity hotspots since it will be hit very hard by
climate change and has such a great diversity of life. Drought, increased
intensity and frequency of fire and climbing temperatures are expected to push
many of these rare species towards extinction.
The rand (sign: R; code: ZAR) is the currency of South Africa. It takes its
name from the Witwatersrand (White-waters-ridge in English), the ridge upon
which Johannesburg is built and where most of South Africa's gold deposits
were found. The rand has the symbol "R" and is subdivided into 100
South Africa is a nation of more than 49 million people of diverse origins,
cultures, languages, and religions. The last census was held in 2001 and the
next will be in 2011. Statistics South Africa provided five racial categories
by which people could classify themselves, the last of which,
"unspecified/other" drew negligible responses, and these results
were omitted. The 2006 midyear estimated figures for the other categories were
Black African at 79.5%, White at 9.2%, Coloured at 8.9%, and Indian or Asian
By far the major part of the population classified itself as African or black,
but it is not culturally or linguistically homogeneous. Major ethnic groups
include the Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho (South Sotho), Bapedi (North Sotho), Venda,
Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi and Ndebele, all of which speak Bantu languages. Some,
such as the Zulu, Xhosa, Bapedi and Venda groups, are unique to South Africa.
Other groups are distributed across the borders with neighbours of South
Africa: The Basotho group is also the major ethnic group in Lesotho. The
Tswana ethnic group constitute the majority of the population of Botswana. The
Swazi ethnic group is the major ethnic group in Swaziland. The Ndebele ethnic
group is also found in Matabeleland in Zimbabwe, where they are known as the
Matabele. These Ndebele people are the descendants of a Zulu faction under the
warrior Mzilikazi that escaped persecution from Shaka by migrating to their
current territory. The Tsonga ethnic group is also found in southern
Mozambique, where they are known as the Shangaan. The white population is not
ethnically homogeneous and descend from many ethnic groups: Dutch, Flemish,
Portuguese, German, Greek, French Huguenot, English, Irish, Italian, Scottish
and Welsh. Culturally and linguistically, they are divided into the
Afrikaners, who speak Afrikaans, and English-speaking groups, many of whom are
descended from British and Irish immigrants.
South Africa has eleven official languages: Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati,
Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.
The country also recognizes eight non-official languages: Fanagalo, Khoe,
Lobedu, Nama, Northern Ndebele, Phuthi, San and South African Sign Language.
These non-official languages may be used in certain official uses in limited
areas where it has been determined that these languages are prevalent.
Nevertheless, their populations are not such that they require nationwide
recognition. Many of the "unofficial languages" of the San and
Khoikhoi people contain regional dialects stretching northward into Namibia
and Botswana, and elsewhere. These people, who are a physically distinct
population from other Africans, have their own cultural identity based on
their hunter-gatherer societies. They have been marginalised to a great
extent, and many of their languages are in danger of becoming extinct.
Many white South Africans also speak other European languages, such as
Portuguese (also spoken by Angolan and Mozambican blacks), German, and Greek,
while some Asians and Indians in South Africa speak South Asian languages,
such as Tamil, Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu and Telugu. French is still widely spoken
by French South Africans especially in places like Franschhoek, where many
South Africans are of French origin. South African French is spoken by less
than 10,000 individuals. Congolese French is also spoken in South Africa by
Most people other than rural black Africans speak English, although not many
as a first language. Only about 9% of the population speak English as a first
language, although about 60% of the population can understand English. South
African English is heavily influenced by Afrikaans. Afrikaans is also widely
spoken, especially by the white and coloured population. Often Afrikaans is
incorrectly called 'afrikan' or 'african' by foreigners. Note this is very
incorrect as 'African' for a South African corresponds with the native-African
languages: Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi etc. (and, of course, there are thousands of
languages in Africa so no single language can be called 'African') Afrikaans
has roots in 17th century Dutch dialects, so it can be understood by Dutch
speakers and sometimes deciphered by German speakers. Other widely spoken
languages are Zulu (mainly in KwaZulu-Natal - South Africa's largest single
linguistic group) and Xhosa (mainly in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape), as
well as Sotho and Venda. This changes, according to the region you are in.
A few words you may encounter are:
* eish - as in, "eish, it's hot
today", "eish, that's expensive" or "eish, that's too far
* lekker - nice, enjoyable
* howzit - how is it? (generally a rhetorical question)
* yebo - yes
* boet, bru, china or ou - brother or man (equivalent to dude or bro)
* koppie - a small hill (can also mean a cup)
* Madiba - Nelson Mandela
* Molo - Hello (in Xhosa)
* robot - traffic light
* tannie - (auntie) respectful term for an older woman
* oom - (uncle) respectful term for an older man
* tinkle - phone call
* just now - sometime soon (from Afrikaans "net-nou")
* now now - sooner than just now! (from Afrikaans "nou-nou",
* braai - barbecue.
* cheers - we use this for saying good-bye, as well as saying thank you and
for the occasional toast.
* heita - hello
* sharp - (usually pronounced quickly) OK
* sure-sure more pronounced like sho-sho - Correct, Agreement, Thank you
When apartheid ended in 1994, the South African government had to integrate
the formerly independent and semi-independent Bantustans into the political
structure of South Africa. To this end, it abolished the four former provinces
of South Africa (Cape Province, Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal) and
replaced them with nine fully integrated provinces. The new provinces are
usually much smaller than the former provinces, which theoretically gives
local governments more resources to distribute over smaller areas.
provinces are further subdivided into 52 districts: 6 metropolitan and 46
district municipalities. The 46 district municipalities are further subdivided
into 231 local municipalities. The district municipalities also contain 20
district management areas (mostly game parks) that are directly governed by
the district municipalities. The six metropolitan municipalities perform the
functions of both district and local municipalities. The new provinces are:
1. Eastern Cape (Bhisho)
2. Free State (Bloemfontein)
3. Gauteng (Pretoria)
4. KwaZulu-Natal (Durban)
5. Limpopo (Polokwane)
6. Mpumalanga (Nelspruit)
7. Northern Cape (Kimberley)
8. North West (Rustenburg)
9. Western Cape (Cape Town)
- * Pretoria
– The administrative capital of the country. Johannesburg is the seat
the provincial government, also the economic heart of Africa and the most
common entry point into Southern Africa.
- * Cape
Town – The legislative capital and seat of Parliament. A world-class
city named for its proximity to the Cape of Good Hope. Also within a
stone's throw of South Africa's winelands. Cape Town, the mother city,
with famous landmarks as Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope. The
winelands near Stellenbosch, the Whale Coast along the Overberg, Agulhas
where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet and the Cape Floral Region. The
Garden Route, one of the top destinations, running along the Southern
Coast from Mossel Bay to Port Elizabeth, with cities like Knysna and
ostrich capital Oudtshoorn.
- * Bloemfontein
– Location of the Supreme Court of Appeal, the highest court in
non-constitutional matters. The Constitutional Court in Johannesburg
became the highest court in constitutional matters in 1994. The world
heritage site Vredefort Dome, remnants of the largest and oldest meteorite
- * Durban
– Largest city in KwaZulu-Natal ,second largest in South Africa and
popular coastal holiday destination for South Africans. The Drakensberg
mountain range, if you like hiking and also the Tugela Falls, worlds
second highest waterfall.
- * Johannesburg
– The economic heart of Africa and the most common entry point into
- * Polokwane
– Capital of Limpopo (formally known as Pietersburg) and a good jump off
point for visits to the northern parts of the Kruger National Park and
- * Port
Elizabeth – Coastal city in the Eastern Cape with Addo Elephant
National Park located close by.
- * Kimberley
-- Capital of the Northern Cape Province. Famous for its diamonds and
"Big Hole". Biggest province with fewest people, Upington is the
second big city, a good base when exploring the Kalahari desert, Kgalagadi
Transfrontier Park and the Augrabies Falls on the Orange River. Also Ai-Ais/Richtersveld
Transfrontier Park and the semi-desert Karoo.
- * Upington
– Located in the arid Northern Cape province, this city is a good base
when exploring the Kalahari desert and the many national parks located in
the Northern Cape.
- * Rustenburg
-- Capital of North West, famous for Sun City and Pilanesberg Game
- * Nelspruit
-- Capital of Mpumalanga and gateway to Mozambique and southern section of
the Kruger National Park. The Drakensberg Escarpment with the Blyde River
Canyon is the third largest Canyon in the world.
- * Bhisho -- The remainder of the
Garden Route, the former homelands, the Wild Coast, spectacular coastlines
without the tourist crowd. Superb beaches in Port Elizabeth and Jeffreys
Bay, the surfing mecca of South Africa. Great parks like Addo Elephant
National Park and Tsitsikamma National Park.
South Africa is a paradise for anyone
interested in natural history. A wide range of species (some potentially
dangerous) may be encountered in parks, farms, private reserves and even on
* The Kruger National Park is
exceptionally well managed and a favorite tourist destination.
* Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the heart of the Kalahari desert with
wide open spaces and hordes of games including the majestic 'Gemsbok'. This is
the first park in Africa to cross political borders.
* There are also a large number of smaller parks, like the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi
Park, Addo Elephant National Park, Pilanesberg National Park
or the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
There are hiking trails available in almost
all the parks and around geographical places of interest,
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Cradle of Humankind, near Johannesburg is a must see for anyone interested
in where it all started.A large collection of caves rich in hominid and
advanced ape fossils.
* Robben Island
just off the coast from Cape Town where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many
* The Cape Floral
Region in the Western Cape
* iSimangaliso Wetland Park,
Kingdom, in the North-West
Drakensberg Park, , for its landscape, biodiversity and rock art.
* Vredefort Dome,
remnants of the largest and oldest meteorite impact crater.
city, street and building names in South Africa have been changed after the
end of apartheid and some of them are still being changed today. These changes
can sometimes lead to confusion as many of the new names are not yet well
known. This travel guide will use the official new names, but also mention the
previous names where possible.
The climate in South Africa ranges from desert and semi-desert in the north
west of the country to sub-tropical on the eastern coastline. The rainy season
for most of the country is in the summer, except in the Western Cape where the
rains come in the winter. Rainfall in the Eastern Cape is distributed evenly
throughout the year. Winter temperatures hover around zero, summers can be
very hot, in excess of 35 Celsius in some places.
Most nationalities get up to 3 months entry
on arrival. Check with the Home Affairs and your travel agent whether you need
to prearrange a visa. Do not show up without a visa if you are required to
have one, as visas will not be issued at points of entry. If needed, you can
extend your visa in South Africa. With an extension the total amount of time
you are allowed to stay is 6 months. Additional information as well as Visa
application forms can be found at the Department
of Home Affairs , phone: +27 (0)12 810 8911
The Department of Home Affairs is notoriously
inefficient, so make sure to apply for visas and visa extensions as early as
Make sure you have 2 blank pages back to back
in your passport and that it is valid for at least 30 days after your intended
date of departure, or you will be sent back! Make sure you have a return
ticket available or they will send you back. If you need to pick up a ticket
at the airport have the flight number and details handy and speak with the
customs guy, they should check your story out and let you in (be firm). Be
wary of arriving with a damaged passport as new security measures might trip
up your entry.
Tourism operates a number of offices in other countries. You might wish to
contact the office in your country for any additional information or
Level 1, 117 York Street, Sydney,
☎ +61 2 9261-5000
+61 2 9261-2000).
61 Rue La Boetie, 75008 Paris, ☎
+33 1 456-10197
Friedensstrasse 6-10, Frankfurt, ☎
+49 69 929-1290
Via XX Settembre 24, 3rd Floor, Milano,
Akasaka Lions Building, 1-1-2 Moto Akasaka,
Minato-Ku, Tokyo, ☎
+81 33 478 -7601
Jozef Israėlskade 48 A, Amsterdam, ☎
+31 20 471-3181
No. 5 & 6 Alt Grove, Wimbledon, London,
500 Fifth Avenue, 20th Floor, Suite 2040, New
+1 212 730-2929
South Africa has a well established domestic
air travel infrastructure with links between all major centers and is a major
hub for air travel in the Southern African region.
The two most used airports for international
flights are Cape Town International and OR Tambo International Airport in
There are regular flights arrive in South
Africa from major centers throughout Africa including: Blantyre, Cairo,
Gaborone, Dar es Salaam, Harare, Lilongwe, Livingstone, Luanda, Lusaka,
Kinshasa, Maputo, Manzini, Maun, Mauritius, Nairobi, Victoria Falls and
Direct flights also arrive from major European centers, including: Amsterdam,
Athens, Madrid, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich and Lisbon.
There are also direct flights from Abu Dhabi,
Bangkok, Dubai, Doha, New York, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Buenos Aires,
Mumbai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Sydney and Perth.
There are multiple daily flights to all the
major airports within the country. Contact any of the airlines for details.
The low cost airlines (1
Time, Kulula, Mango)
are usually the cheapest and prices can be compared online. It is also worth
comparing with the SAA
rates as they usually have online specials which are very reasonable.
Road traffic in South Africa (and its neighboring countries) drives on the
Make sure you understand the South African
A special kind of crossing is the 'four way
stop' where the car that stops first has right of way.
You will not encounter many traffic circles,
but when you do, take special care since the general attitude of South African
drivers is that traffic circles do not constitute a traffic management roadway
structure. They do not use their indicators in a safe and predictable fashion,
if at all.
A noticeable number of South Africans tend to
ignore speed limits. They are prone to selfish or aggressive driving behavior,
such as tailgating and hooting. On multi-lane roadways, the principle of
keep-left, pass right, is often not adhered to.
Left (or right) turns on red at traffic
lights are illegal. You will, however, find traffic lights and 'four way
stops' that have an accompanying yield sign explicitly permitting a left turn.
The wearing of seat belts is compulsory. The
front seat occupants of a car are required to wear seat belts while traveling,
and for your own safety it is recommended that those in the rear seats do so
as well. If you are caught without you will be subject to a fine.
The use of hand-held cell (mobile) phones whilst
in control of a vehicle is illegal. If you need to speak on your cell phone
use either a vehicle phone attachment or a hands-free kit. Or even better (and
safer), pull off the road and stop. NOTE: only pull off the road at safe
places, eg a petrol station. Pulling over and stopping along roads can be
dangerous. 99% of petrol stations are open 24hr.
Safety - Beware - High Crime Rate in Certain City Areas
South Africa has a high rate of traffic
accidents. You should at all times exercise extra caution when driving,
especially at night in urban areas. Watch out for unsafe drivers (minibus
taxis), poor lighting, cyclists (many of whom seem not to know about the
"drive on the left" rule) and pedestrians (who are the cause of many
accidents, especially at night). When driving outside of the major cities you
will often encounter animals, wild and domestic, in or near the roadway. The
locals tend to herd their cattle and goats near the road. If you see an animal
on or by the road, slow down, as they are unpredictable. Do not stop to feed
Should you find yourself waiting at a red
traffic light late at night in an area where you do not feel safe, you could
(illegally) cross over the red light after first carefully checking that there
is no other traffic. If you receive a fine due to a camera on the traffic
light you can sometimes have it waived by writing a letter to the traffic
department or court explaining that you crossed safely and on purpose, due to
security reasons. The fact remains that, for whatever reason, you have broken
the law. Do not make a habit of this.
When stopped at a traffic light at night
always leave enough room between your car and the car in front of you so you
can get around them. It is a common hijacking maneuver to box your car in.
This is especially prevalent in the suburbs of Johannesburg.
So far as possible, and especially when
driving in urban areas, try not to have any belongings visible inside the car
- keep them out of sight in the glove boxes or in the boot (trunk). The same
applies, but even more so, when parking your car. It is also considered safe
practice to drive in urban areas with the car windows closed and the doors
locked. These simple precautions will make things less attractive for
potential thieves and criminals.
As you would do in any other country, always
be alert when driving. The safest way is to drive defensively and assume that
the other driver is about to do something stupid / dangerous / illegal.
Speed limits are usually clearly indicated.
Generally, speed limits on highways are 120km/h, those on major roads outside
built-up areas are 100 km/h, those on major roads within built-up areas are
80km/h and those on normal city/town roads are 60 km/h. But beware - in some
areas the posted speed limits may change suddenly and unexpectedly.
The roads within South Africa, connecting
most major cities, and between its immediate neighbors are very good. There
are many national and regional road connecting the cities and larger centers,
including the N1 running from Cape Town through Johannesburg and Pretoria up
to Harare, Zimbabwe, the N2 running from Cape Town to Durban, which passes
through the world-famous Garden Route near Knysna, and the N3 between Durban
Some portions of the national roads are
limited access, dual carriage freeways (the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban
is freeway almost all the way) and some sections are also toll roads with
emergency assist telephones every couple of kilometers. Toll roads generally
have two or more lanes in each direction.
The large fuel companies have rest stops
every 200-300 km along these highways where you can fill up, eat at a
restaurant, buy takeaways, do some shopping or just stretch your legs.
Restrooms at these facilities are well maintained and clean. Most (but not
all) of these rest stops also have ATMs.
Some of the main roads have only one lane in
each direction, especially where they are far from urban centers. When driving
on such a road, after passing a truck or other slow-moving vehicle that has
moved onto the hard shoulder (often marked by a yellow line) to let you pass,
it is customary to flash your hazard lights once. This is considered a thank
you and you will most likely receive a my pleasure response in the the form of
the slow vehicle flashing its headlights once. Bear in mind that it is both
illegal and dangerous to drive on the hard shoulder - although many people do.
In many rural areas you will find unpaved
"dirt" roads. Most of these are perfectly suitable for a normal car,
although a reduced speed might often be advisable. Extra caution is required
when driving on these road, especially when encountering other traffic -
windscreens and lights broken by flying stones are not uncommon.
Whilst it is not yet compulsory, more and
more drivers are adopting the practice of driving with their headlights on at
all times. This greatly increases their visibility to other road users.
Fuel stations are full service with lead free
petrol, lead replacement petrol and diesel available. Pump attendants will
offer to wash your windscreen and check oil and water in addition to just
filling up the car. It is usual to tip the attendant approximately R5. Most
fuel stations are open 24 hours a day.
The N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town and the
N3 between Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal can become very busy at the start and end
of Gauteng school holidays, due to many people from Gauteng spending their
holidays at the coast. If you are planning on using these two highways, it is
wise to try and avoid the two days after schools break up and the two days
before they open again.
The N3 normally have a Highway Customer Care
line during busy periods, phone: 0800 203 950, it can be used to request
assistance for breakdowns, accidents or general route information.
Fuel stations do NOT take credit cards. From
a tourist perspective, it's CASH ONLY.
Law enforcement (speed and other violations)
is usually done by portable or stationary, radar or laser cameras. Fines will
be sent to the registered address of the vehicle you are driving. Non camera
portable radar and laser systems are also used and you may be pulled over for
speeding (or other violations) and given a written fine.
South Africa currently does not have a merits
system and does not share traffic violation information with other nations.
If your driver's licence is in any of South
Africa's 11 official languages (e.g. English) and it contains a photo and your
signature integrated into the licence document, then it is legally acceptable
as a valid driver's license in South Africa. However, some car rental and
insurance companies may still insist that you provide an International
It is generally best practice to acquire an
International Driver's Permit in your country of origin, prior to starting
your journey, regardless of whether your license is legally acceptable or not.
There are scheduled bus services between Cape
Town, Johannesburg, Durban and other cities (with stops in between), as well
as connections to neighboring countries.
Municipal tap water is safe to drink.
The legal age to purchase and drink alcohol
in South Africa is 18. Almost all restaurants are licensed to serve liquor.
Be very careful if someone offers you
witblits or mampoer; those are the local names for moonshine or firewater.
It's extremely high in alcohol content and packs a lethal blow.
Local beer production is dominated by
SABMiller with Castle, Hansa, Black Label and Castle Milk Stout being most
Imported beers such as Stella Artois and
Grolsch are also widely available.
Prices can vary widely depending on the
establishment. Expect to pay anything from R7 to R18 for a beer.
South Africa has a well established wine
industry with most of the wine produced concentrated in the Cape Winelands in
the Western Cape and along the Orange River in the Northern Cape
Amarula Cream is made from the marula fruit.
The marula fruit is a favorite treat for African elephants, baboons and
monkeys and in the liqueur form definitely not something to be passed over by
humans. Pour over crushed ice and enjoy. The taste, color and texture is very
similar to the world famous Baileys Irish Cream. Cape Velvet is a favorite in
and around Cape Town.
Tea and Coffee
The local Rooibos tea, made from a herb from
the Cederberg Mountains is a favorite for many South Africans. You will find
coffee shops in most shopping malls.
South Africa has some of the highest violent
crime rates in the world but by being vigilant and using common sense you
should have a safe and pleasant trip -- as hundreds of thousands of people
have each year. The key is to know and stick to general safety precautions
e.g. don't walk around in deserted areas at night, don't advertise possessions
of money and expensive accessories.
Do not accept offers from
overly friendly strangers.
Do not wear jewelry or expensive watches.
Do not wear a tummy bag with all
your valuables. Distribute your valuables in inside pockets and other pockets.
Do not carry large sums of money. Do not walk by night in deserted places.
Don't make it obvious you are a tourist - conceal your camera and binoculars.
Do not leave your valuables in plain sight when driving in your car, as
"smash and grab" attacks do sometimes occur at intersections, and
keep your car doors locked, and windows closed. Know where to go so that you
don't have to reveal you're lost or need a map -- simply all the obvious
"I am a tourist" signs.
Visiting the townships is possible, but don't
do it alone unless you really know where you're going. Some townships are safe
while others can be extremely dangerous. It's best to go with an experienced
guide. Some tour companies offer guided visits to the townships, and this is
South Africa has very few earthquakes,
cyclones, tornadoes, floods, terrorist incidents or contagious diseases (with
the notable exception of HIV).
Please also note that taking an evening
stroll, or walking to venues after dark can be very risky! It simply is NOT
part of the culture here, as it is in Europe, North America or Australia. It
is best to take a taxi (a meter cab - not a minibus taxi) or private vehicle
for an "evening out". The same applies to picking up hitchhikers or
offering assistance at broken-down car scenes.
Many activities in South Africa are outdoors,
see the sunburn and sun protection travel topic for tips on how to protect
HIV and AIDS
South Africa has one of the largest HIV
infection rates world-wide. 5.4 million people out of a population of 48
million are HIV-positive (South African Medical Research Council).
The HIV infection rate in the total
population older than 2 years varies from around 2% in the Western Cape to
over 17% in KwaZulu-Natal (Avert and all together 18.8% of South Africans over
15 years of age are HIV-Positive (UNICEF). One in four females and one in five
males aged 20 to 40 is estimated to be infected (Avert).
Only about 10% of the world's population
lives in Sub-Sahara Africa, but the same population includes 70% of the
world's HIV infected individuals (CDC).
For your own safety, DO NOT HAVE UNPROTECTED
The north-eastern areas of the country
(including the Kruger National Park and St. Lucia and surrounds) are seasonal
malaria zones, from about November to May. The peak danger time is just after
the wet season from March to May. Consult a physician regarding appropriate
precautions, depending on the time of year you will be traveling. The most
important defence against malaria are:
* using a DEET-based mosquito repellent
* covering your skin with long-sleeved clothing, especially around dusk; and
* using mosquito nets while sleeping.
Tabbard and Peacefull Sleep are commonly used
mosquito repellents and can be bought almost anywhere.
Also read the Malaria and Mosquitoes travel
Except for pubs, smoking is banned in all
enclosed public spaces, these include airports, shopping malls and theaters.
Most restaurants do have smoking sections,
either ventilated indoor areas or outdoor open areas.
One of the main reasons travelers visit South
Africa is to experience the outdoors and see the wide range of wildlife.
When driving in a wildlife reserve, always
keep to the speed limits and stay inside your car at all times. On game drives
or walks, always follow the instructions of your guide.
Ensure that you wear socks and boots whenever
you are walking in the bush; do not wear open sandals. A good pair of boots
can stop snake and insect bites and avoid any possible cuts that may lead to
In many areas you may encounter wildlife
while driving on public roads, monkeys and baboons are especially common. Do
not get out of the vehicle to take photos or otherwise try to interact with
the animals. These are wild animals and their actions can be unpredictable.
Sometimes you might find yourself in the open
with wild animals (often happens with baboons at Cape Point). Keep your
distance and always ensure that the animals are only to one side of you, do
not walk between two groups or individuals. A female baboon may get rather
upset if you separate her from her child.
Always check with locals before swimming in a
river or lake as there may be crocodiles or hippos. Most major beaches in
KwaZulu-Natal have shark nets installed. If you intend to swim anywhere other
that the main beaches, check with a local first. Note that shark nets may be
removed for a couple of days during the annual sardine run (normally along the
KwaZulu-Natal coast between early May and late July). This is done to avoid
excessive shark and other marine life fatalities. Notices are posted on
beaches during these times.
The first known inhabitants of present-day South Africa were San and
Khoikhoi hunters and gatherers; they were followed southward by Bantu-speaking
peoples between AD 1000 and 1500. In 1488, Portuguese mariners led by Bartolomeu
DIAS rounded the Cape of Good Hope.
The Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck
established the first European settlement at Table Bay (now Cape Town)
in 1652 as a station for the Dutch East India Company. Dutch pioneers
spread eastward, and in 1779 war broke out between Xhosas migrating south
and the Dutch near the Great Fish River.
Britain controlled the Cape sporadically during the Napoleonic Wars
and formally received the territory in 1814 under provisions made by the
Congress of Vienna. Large-scale British settlement began in 1820.
To preserve their Calvinist way of life, the Dutch (Boer) farmers began
(1836) to move into the interior on the so-called GREAT TREK.
The Voortrekkers eventually set up independent
republics, including the Orange Free State (1854) and the South African
Republic (1852; later the Transvaal).
The discovery of diamonds and gold in the late 1800s drew British immigrant
entrepreneurs (Uitlanders, or "foreigners") into the interior, and conflict
over ownership ensued. Paul KRUGER (Oom Paul), leader of the Transvaal,
resisted British attempts to claim the area, including those by Cecil RHODES,
prime minister of the British-controlled Cape Colony, who encouraged the
Uitlanders to take over the Transvaal. The unsuccessful Jameson Raid,
engineered by the British and intended to aid the Uitlanders in an uprising,
added to the mounting tension.
Eventually, the SOUTH AFRICAN WAR
(1899-1902) erupted between the British and the Boers, with the British
the victors. In this war the British introduced CONCENTRATION CAMPS in
which 26,000 Boer women and children died. In 1910 such leaders as
Jan SMUTS helped create the Union of South Africa, with dominion status,
out of the former British colonies and the two defeated Boer republics.
Louis BOTHA, a moderate Afrikaner advocating close cooperation with the
British, became the first prime minister.
Between the two world wars, mining and manufacturing expanded. The
Depression of the 1930s, however, forced black Africans and white farmers
alike into the cities to compete for unskilled jobs. As a result,
both African and Afrikaner nationalism emerged. At the same time,
a segregationist policy was adopted by James Barry HERTZOG'S government
(1924-39) to preserve South Africa as a white country in which black Africans
would be restricted as far as possible to reserves. The Coloured
population, whose voting rights had been protected by the 1910 constitution,