Official Name: Republic of South Africa

Capital: Pretoria (administrative)

Cape Town (legislative)

Bloemfontein (judicial)

Total Land Area: ± 1 219 912 square kilometres (471 011 square miles)

Total Coastline: ± 2 798 kilometres (1 739 miles)

Official Languages: Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana,

siSwati, Tshivenda & Xitsonga

Provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga,

Northern Cape, North West & Western Cape

Currency: The unit of currency is the Rand. 1 Rand (R) = 100 cents (c). Coins come in denominations of 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R5, and notes in denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200.


From the moment you step off the plane you'll start seeing banks, bureaux de change and automatic tellers all over.

The banks are generally open from 9am to 4pm Mondays to Fridays, and 8.30am to 11am on Saturdays, but those at the airports adjust their hours to accommodate international flights.

The major banks have branches as well as automated teller machines (ATM’s) in most large towns and all over the cities. International banks have branches in the major cities.

South Africa’s ‘big four’ banks: Absa Bank, First National Bank (FNB), Nedbank and Standard Bank.

Credit Cards & Cash:

All major credit cards can be used in South Africa, with American Express and Diners Club having less universal acceptance than MasterCard and Visa. In some small towns, you may find you'll need to use cash.

Road tolls, on the major routes between cities, can be paid using MasterCard or Visa.

Phoning to & from South Africa:

South Africa has a well-developed communications infrastructure, with extensive landline phone networks and four mobile phone service providers - Cell C, MTN, Vodacom and Virgin Mobile - with far-reaching coverage.

Landline services are operated by Telkom SA Ltd, with a second operator, Neotel, currently in the process of setting up shop. Telkom public telephones use coins (blue phone booths), phone cards or world call cards (green phone booths). Phone cards and world call cards can be purchased at most retail stores, petrol stations, post offices and airports where a Telkom logo is displayed.

South Africa’s international dialling code is +27 (dialled as 0027).

If you're in South Africa and phoning a landline - whether you're phoning from a landline or a mobile phone - the number must be preceded by the area code (including the first zero) for the city or town you're phoning.

If, on the other hand, you're phoning to a mobile number, you never use an area code, only the appropriate mobile network code.

Telkom's international call centre - 10903 - offers 24-hour assistance to anyone wanting to make international calls or send faxes, along with general international directory information.

Telkom's Home Direct service allows you to call an operator in your home country free of charge, either to place a call on your "phone home" account, if you have one, or to arrange a reverse-charge call. Telkom's Phone Book lists all available country-specific Home Direct numbers in its international dialling code list. Alternatively, phone Telkom's international customer care centre at 10903.

Many businesses and organisations have special landline numbers beginning with an 08 code - 0800, 0860, 0861, and so on. (But not 082, 083 or 084, which belong to the mobile networks) These are, in effect, national numbers - area codes are dispensed with, and callers dial the same number regardless of where they are. Note that these lines can only be accessed from within South Africa.

  • 080 numbers (usually 0800) - no charge to the caller.
  • 0860 numbers - the caller does not pay for any long-distance portion of the call.
  • 0861 numbers - the caller is charged a flat rate for the call.


Public Holidays:

In the major cities most stores, cinemas and restaurants are open on most public holidays. The exceptions are Christmas Day, 25 December and New Year's Day, 1 January.

The calendars of South African public holidays are:

  • 1 January – New Year's Day
  • 21 March – Human Rights Day
  • 10 April – Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Sunday)
  • 13 April – Family Day (the Monday after Easter Sunday)
  • 27 April – Freedom Day
  • 1 May – Workers Day
  • 16 June – Youth Day
  • 9 August – Women's Day
  • 24 September – Heritage Day
  • 16 December – Day of Reconciliation
  • 25 December – Christmas Day
  • 26 December – Day of Goodwill

If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday following becomes a public holiday.


South African Time:

South Africa does not change its clocks during the year, and there are no regional variations within the country. South African Standard Time is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean (or Universal Standard) Time, one hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, and seven hours ahead of the USA's Eastern Standard Winter Time.


Tipping is common practice in South Africa for a range of services. In restaurants the accepted standard is around 10% of the bill, although sometimes a gratuity will be included (often in the case of a large party). Barmen are tipped a similar percentage.

Petrol stations are manned by attendants who will expect a tip of two or three rands for filling up with petrol, checking oil, water and tyre pressure and cleaning windscreens. Hotel porters should be tipped two to five rands. It is also appropriate to tip taxi drivers, tour guides and even hairdressers.

If you park a car in a populated area such as near a shopping centre, street security guards will usually ask whether they can watch over your car and in return should be paid a small fee - anything from two rands upwards.


Electricity is 220 - 240 volts, 15 amps, and is supplied through either 15-amp three-prong or 5-amp two-prong plugs, in both cases with round pins. If you're bringing anything electrical, bring an adapter – or you could buy one upon arrival at the airport in South Africa.


We recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake, especially extreme adventure sports or wildlife activities.  Remember that failure to declare a medical condition could render a policy invalid.


A valid UK driving licence is accepted in South Africa for up to 12 months after entry, provided it carries the photograph and signature of the holder.  Old style UK driving licences, without photographs of the holder, may be authenticated by the Consular Section of the British High Commission or the Consulate General in Cape Town.

In South Africa, driving is the same as the UK, on the left hand side. On highways it is well worth remembering that overtaking can occur in any lane including, occasionally, the hard shoulder.  On single-lane roads the hard shoulder is also sometimes used by trucks and slower moving
vehicles to allow faster moving vehicles to overtake – it is regarded as a courtesy to acknowledge this, usually with a brief flash of hazard warning lights.  Four-way-stops are commonly found at the quieter intersections – the first vehicle to arrive has priority.  On roundabouts, give way to the right, although this is often overlooked.

Road standards are mostly very good, but some roads in the more remote areas are less well maintained and potholes may be encountered.  It is strongly recommended that you drive cautiously at all times and adhere to speed limits.  You should avoid unfamiliar rural areas at night

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