Travel Tips

Many people who have not travelled to South Africa before will almost certainly be concerned from the media presentation of security and safety issues in South Africa. Whilst crime in Johannesburg is high, Cape Town is 1400 km (875 miles) away and the situation here is entirely different. As an example, at the recent World Diabetes conference with 12,000 delegates there were two minor incidents. In Stellenbosch, the nearest town to Spier, it is considered safe by all local people to walk around the town centre at any hour of day or night.

SAFETY AND SECURITY

Your safety and well-being are of utmost importance to Capetonians, but, as always, travellers should take a few basic precautions to ensure a safe and pleasant visit:

  • Never leave personal property unattended

  • Store valuables in your hotel’s safety deposit box

  • Keep your hotel room locked

  • Use reliable taxi services

  • Avoid displaying expensive jewellery and cameras

  • Do not carry large sums of money on your person

  • Stay away from dark, isolated areas

  • When travelling by car, plan your route in advance

  • Keep car doors locked and windows closed, and stay aware when stopped at a stoplight

  • When parked or driving, place valuables out of sight in the boot (trunk)

  • Never give strangers a lift

HEALTH AND IMMUNISATION

The only inoculation requirement for visitors is a yellow fever vaccination certificate for those entering South Africa within six days of leaving a yellow fever zone. Babies of one year old or less are exempt. Malaria is endemic in some parts of Mpumalanga, Northern Province, and KwaZulu-Natal and it is essential to take precautions if you intend to visit these areas. The bilharzia parasite is present in streams, rivers, lakes and dams in some of the northern and eastern parts of the country, and visitors should avoid contact with the water in these regions. There is no immunisation against bilharzia. The closest malaria and bilharzia regions are approximately 1600 kilometres from Cape Town.

CAPE TOWN STANDARD TIME

Two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2)

CONVERSIONS: DISTANCE AND TEMPERATURE

Distances throughout South Africa are given in kilometres.
1 mile = 1.62 kilometres
Temperature is given in degrees Celsius.

CURRENCY AND FOREIGN EXCHANGE

The South African currency is the Rand
Click here to view an up-to-date currency converter
Foreign currency can be exchanged at most commercial banks and Bureaux de Change are widely available.
Banking Hours:
Monday – Friday: 09h00 – 15h30
Saturdays: 08h30 – 11h00
ATMs are widely available and are mostly open 24 hours a day for cash withdrawals and statements.

ELECTRICITY

220/230 volts, 50Hz, single phase

EMERGENCIES

Dial 10111 for the Flying Squad (special police services) and 10177 for an ambulance.

ETIQUETTE

The dress code across South Africa is mainly casual and smart casual, except in some restaurants and clubs that require more formal attire.
Smoking is banned in public buildings and on planes, buses and trains.

FACILITIES FOR THE DISABLED

South African Airways provides passenger aid units at all major airports. Many hotels offer facilities for the disabled, as do most rest camps in the Kruger National Park.
Wheelchairs and other aides are available for hire in most cities. The larger rental car agencies can provide vehicles with hand controls.

LANGUAGE

South Africa has 11 official languages and English is spoken throughout the country. French, German and Italian are also spoken at many larger hotels and popular tourist destinations around Cape Town.

MEDICAL SERVICES

Emergency care is excellent and widely available in Cape Town. South Africa has no national health scheme, so it is advisable to purchase travel insurance that will cover medical expenses during the period of your stay.

MEDICATION

Should you require regular medication, note down the generic (official) name. This is consistent internationally, whereas the brand (marketing) name can vary between countries. Indicate you usual strength and dose. A doctor's letter and prescription should ensure you have no problems at customs. Determine prior to departure if your medication is readily accessible at your destination (over-the-counter vs. prescription). Carry all-important medication in your cabin luggage to avoid problems should your luggage be lost or delayed en route.

PASSPORTS AND VISAS

A list of South African consulates and embassies may be found on the South African Department of Foreign Affairs website or visit the South African Department of Home Affairs website:

{w} Foreign Affairs
{w} South African Department of Home Affairs

Visa application forms can be downloaded from the South African Home Affairs website:

{w} South African Department of Home Affairs

PETROL (GASOLINE) FILLING STATIONS

Filling stations are conveniently situated throughout the country. Unleaded petrol is available. Most filling stations in major cities are open 24 hours a day. South African filling stations will not accept credit cards so be sure to have enough cash available for filling up.

RULES OF THE ROAD

An excellent road network links the largest metropolitan areas with even the smallest villages. South Africa drives on the LEFT.
The speed limit in urban areas is usually 60km per hour; on rural roads 100km per hour and on freeways 120km per hour unless otherwise indicated.
Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory; driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence; and traffic laws are strictly enforced.
Valid driver's licenses from visitors’ home countries are acceptable provided that they are in English and include the driver’s photograph. If your driver’s license does not comply with these requirements, you should obtain an International Driving Permit before your departure to South Africa.

SHOPPING

Local manufacturers set a high premium on workmanship, and with a favourable exchange rate, visitors can afford to indulge.

Shopping hours in the bigger cities are generally 08h00 to 17h00 on weekdays, 08h00 to 13h00 on Saturdays, and some shops outside of malls are still closed on Sundays. Malls are generally open until 17h00 on Saturday and Sunday, and the V&A Waterfront is open 09h00 – 21h00 7 days a week!

SUN PROTECTION

The South African sun is strong, with a high ultraviolet rating. Sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher is recommended, as well as a hat.

TELEPHONES

Cape Town telephone dialling codes:
International: +27-21-
National: 021-
National Directory Enquiries: 1023
To call internationally out of South Africa, dial 00 and then the country code. Cell phones are widely available for hire, as are ‘starter packs’ if your personal handset is compatible with the South African system.

TIPPING

It is customary to tip waiters, wine stewards, taxi drivers, porters, caddies and other service providers. Depending on the service, the amount should be around 10%-15% of the bill, R5 per suitcase or R20 per golf bag.

TRAVEL HEALTH INSURANCE

This is very important: take time to choose a suitable policy that provides adequate cover (including possible medical evacuation). Ensure that you understand what the policy covers and how it works (read the small print), as well as relevant contact details.

VAT (Value Added Tax)

Currently set at 14%, VAT is included in the marked/quoted price of most goods and services. Foreign visitors may claim back VAT paid on items to be taken out of the country when the total value exceeds ZAR 250.00. Information leaflets on the procedure to follow are available from VAT Refund Administration offices at the Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban International Airports, and at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

WATER

In the major cities and towns and at most game reserves, tap water is purified, tastes good and 100% safe to drink.