|Capital||Pretoria (Tshwane); note - Cape Town is the legislative capital and Bloemfontein the judicial capital|
|Area||total: 1,219,912 sq km |
land: 1,219,912 sq km
note: includes Prince Edward Islands (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island)
water: 0 sq km
|Population||43,647,658 (July 2002 est.)|
note: South Africa took a census October 1996 that showed a population of 40,583,611 (after an official adjustment for a 6.8% underenumeration based on a postenumeration survey);
|Language||11 official languages, which are Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, Sesotho sa Leboa, Setswana, SiSwati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga|
|Religion||Christian 68% (includes most whites and Coloreds, about 60% of blacks and about 40% of Indians), Muslim 2%, Hindu 1.5% (60% of Indians), indigenous beliefs and animist 28.5%|
South Africa is located at the southern tip of Africa. It is bordered by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho (which is completely surrounded by South Africa). It is a vast country with widely varying landscapes and with 11 official languages, an equally diverse people. South Africa is renowned for its wines and is the world's largest producer of gold. South Africa has a strong economy and is an influential player in African politics.
- Eastern Cape
- Free State
- Northern Cape
- Western Cape
- Bloemfontein -- location of the highest Court
- 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.
- Pretoria -- The administrative capital of the country
- Durban -- one of the biggest ports in Africa
- East London
- Johannesburg -- The business center of South Africa.
- Kimberley -- known for its diamonds
- Port Elizabeth
- Kruger National Park
- Pilanesberg National Park
- Stellenbosch - Paarl - Franschhoek -- The heart of South Africa's winelands.
- The Garden Route
- The Karoo
- Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park
- Augrabie Falls
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 travelling 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.
Outsiders' views of South Africa are colored by the same stereotypes as the rest of Africa. Contrary to popular belief, South Africa is not devastatingly poor with an unstable government that is rapidly going to hell. South Africa is among the most economically stratified nations in the world, and poverty in the townships can be appalling. Progress is being made, though it is necessarily slow after apartheid, which lasted for almost 46 years. South Africa boasts a well-developed infrastructure and has all the modern amenities and technologies. The government is stable, although corruption is rife. The government and the primary political parties all have a high level of respect for democratic institutions and human rights.
Most nationalities get up to 3 months entry on arrival. Check with your travel agent if you need to pre-arrange a visa.
Make sure you have 2 blank pages back to back in your passport and that it is valid for at least six more months 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.
South Africa's two major international airports are at Cape Town and Johannesburg. Regular flights arrive from major centers throughout Africa including: Cairo, Dar es Salaam, Harare, Lilongwe, Livingstone, Luanda, Lusaka, Kinshasa, Maputo, Manzini, Maun, Mauritius, Nairobi, Victoria Falls and Windhoek.
Direct flights also arrive from major European centers, including: London, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich and Athens. There are also direct flights from Dubai, New York, Atlanta, Washington (D.C.), Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Perth. You may also want to have a look at Discount airlines in Africa.
See Air travel in South Africa for detailed information.
The roads within South Africa and between it and its immediate neighbors are very good. There are many highways connecting the cities and larger centres, 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 and Johannesburg.
Some of the main roads have only one lane in each direction, especially where they are far from urban centers. Toll roads generally have two or more lanes in each direction. South Africa has a high rate of traffic fatalities, and you may want to avoid driving at night except in urban areas. Watch out for unsafe drivers (minibus taxies), poor lighting, 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 wild animals!
Also, make sure you understand the road signs.
There are scheduled bus services between Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and other cities (with stops in between), as well as connections to neighboring countries. The three main bus companies are:
- Greyhound (http://www.greyhound.co.za/) (www.greyhound.co.za)
- Intercape Mainliner (http://www.intercape.co.za/) (www.intercape.co.za)
- Translux (http://www.translux.co.za/) (www.translux.co.za)
An alternative is the Baz Bus (http://www.bazbus.com/)(www.bazbus.com). It offers a regular hop-on-hop-off service on some of the most interesting routes for the tourist (Cape Town to Durban via the Garden Route; Durban to Johannesburg via Swaziland; Durban to Johannesburg via the Drakensberg). Baz Bus picks you up and drops you off at many hostels along the route, so you don't have to hang around at a downtown bus stop at night.
If you're really in a pinch, you can use minibus taxi's. They are poorly maintained and rarely comply with safety standards. They also require patience as they make many detours and changeovers at the taxi rank (hub) where the driver will wait for passagers to fill up the bus. But they cover many routes not covered by the main bus service and are quite cheap (25 cents per kilometer per person on the main routes).
South Africa has 11 official languages. Most people other than rural Africans speak English, although not many as a first language. 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. Afrikaans has roots in Dutch, so it can be understood by Dutch speakers and sometimes deciphered by German speakers. Other widely spoken languages are Zulu (mainly in KwaZulu-Natal) 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:
- lekker - Enjoyable
- howzit - How is it ?
- yebo - Yes
- boet, bru, china or ou - Brother or man
- koppie - A small hill
- Madiba - Nelson Mandela
- robot - Traffic light
- tannie - Respectful term for an older woman
- tinkle - phone.
You�ll find the Wikipedia page on South African English (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_English) well worth reading.
The currency is the Rand (ZAR). Rough conversion rates are: 6:1 (USD), 8:1 (EUR) and 11:1 (GBP). It is recommended you carry one of the above currencies, as conversion between any of them and the Rand can be done at any bank without trouble. The Rand is also used in Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland, although it is not an official currency in these countries.
Recommendable is the use of Traveller's Cheques. They can be changed into local currencies everywhere and you will get a refund when they are lost.
Automated teller machines (ATMs) are available throughout the country. It is best to use only teller machines that are inside a mall or other building. Always be careful to make sure no one is watching you enter your PIN, and be vigilant about typical scams (e.g. machines that seem to eat your card and won't give it back after you enter the PIN). Some Banks (like First National Bank) only give out R1000 a day, while others (like ABSA) will allow you to take R3000 a time.
Prices in shops are fixed, but prices in open markets or from street vendors are open to barter.
Foreigners should note that fuel cannot be bought on credit cards. Fortunately many gas stations have ATMs.
South Africa has every kind of accommodation you can think of ranging from budget hostels right up to luxury resorts. The country is well outfitted to handle tourists.
Well, there is much to see, but what can't be missed is here:
- Cape Town - the mother city is a must. Be sure to visit its famous landmarks Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope
- The famous Cape Winelands around Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek.
- The Garden Route
- The Kruger National Park (KNP) or one of the smaller parks, like the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park or the Addo Elephant National Park
- Durban - especially the Indian market and the beaches
- The Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park
- The Drakensberg mountain range, if you like hiking
- The semi-desert Karoo and the famous ostrich farms near Oudtshoorn, as well as the Big Hole in the diamond city of Kimberley.
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 roads.
South Africa has long been a destination for hunters and fishermen, offering a range and abundance of quarry unmatched anywhere else in the world. Hunting is not a cheap as it once was, but the market remains competitive and a network of excellent professional hunters provide a good value for money service. Ensure that your chosen host is a member of the professional hunters's association (PHASA).
South Africa has a relatively high crime rate. However, warnings about crime should be taken in context. The threat is not as serious as it might sound. If you are alert and take some common-sense precautions then you will have no problems. As you spend more time in the country, you will get a better understanding of how things are. Don't make it obvious you are a tourist - conceal your camera and binoculars and know where your destination is.
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 perfectly safe.
South Africa has very few earthquakes, cyclones, tornados, floods, terrorist incidents or contagious diseases (with the exception of AIDS and malaria).
The HIV infection rate varies from around 13% in the Western Cape, to about 33% in the provinces around Gauteng and Mpumalanga; therefore, for your own safety, DO NOT HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX.
The north-eastern areas of the country (including the Kruger Park and St. Lucia and surrounds) are seasonal malaria zones especially in the hot summer months of November to March. Consult a physician regarding appropriate precautions, depending on the time of year you will be travelling. The most important defenses against malaria are:
- using mosquito repellent with DEET concentration greater than 50%;
- covering your skin with long-sleeved clothing, especially around dusk; and
- using mosquito nets while sleeping.
Municipal water is mostly safe to drink throughout the country, although a strong risk of bilharzia exists for stillstanding water. In the Western Cape mountain water is safe, as long as it has been stained brown due to vegetation.
The private hospitals are of the highest standard.
South Africa's country code is 27. Each region or city has an area code which is prefixed with a '0' when dialing long distance within South Africa. Johannesburg: 011. Cape Town: 021. Durban: 031.
To dial out of South Africa, dial 09 then country code, etc.
South Africa has an extensive GSM network, working on the same frequency as the rest of Africa and Europe. There are three cell phone providers in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, and Cell-C.
There are plenty of Internet cafes and access rates are cheap. Even cheaper would be to buy a prepaid cell phone starter pack (less than 10 rand) and access the internet with GPRS (2 rand per MB).
- Official South Africa Tourism Site (http://www.southafrica.net/)
- Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (http://www.environment.gov.za/)
- South African National Parks (http://www.sanparks.org/parks//) offers information and online-booking
- Information about airports and aviation in South Africa and Swaziland (http://www.africaspotter.at.tt)
- Safety Tips compiled by the South African Police Service (http://www.saps.gov.za/crime_prevention/safety_tips/tourists.htm)
- Online road maps for most metropolitan areas (http://www.brabys.com/mapping/)
- Online topographical maps (http://sagns.dac.gov.za/)