Preparing for your trip

Citizens of Canada or the United States are not required to hold a visa for an intended stay of 90 days or less and when in transit. However All Non-South African passport holders are required to have at least two, entirely blank (unstamped) visa pages (i.e. one side of such a page not front and back thereof) in their passport, each time entry is sought into South Africa. These pages are in addition to the endorsement/amendment pages at the back of the passport. South African government regulations prohibit airlines from boarding passengers without the required blank visa page. Passports must be valid for a minimum of 6 months after intended date of departure. Your consultant will discuss this with you.

Temperatures can fluctuate in South Africa. Travelers should pack lightweight clothes that can be worn in layers, as well as a sweater and a jacket. The style of dress is mostly smart casual, but dinner at some of the more expensive restaurants can be a little more formal.

When visiting other countries, it may be fine to bring along any kind of camera, but in the South African bush, travelers need a good camera to accurately record their experiences. Disposable cameras just don’t do the landscape justice, and you won’t be able to effectively capture the action of the animals without a telephoto lens. Most rangers recommend a 200 mm SLR camera with a zoom lens. They also prefer slower Fuji film (either 50 or 100 ASA), which gives almost perfect quality photos in normal light.

Wall outlets in most of South Africa take 15-amp plugs with three round prongs, similar to the old British outlets. Adaptors with these prongs are somewhat difficult to find in the U.S., but most upscale hotels in South Africa will provide you with one during your stay.

Yes. Most medical facilities require cash for services rendered, and many health plans in the U.S. will not reimburse expenses incurred out of the country. Check with your health plan well before traveling.

Long distance calls can be direct dialed by using the appropriate country code (91 for the U.S.). Most telephone companies make calling long distance relatively easy. Check with your individual company to find out what they charge per minute to call from South Africa to the U.S.

Upon departure, you may want to claim your VAT refund. You can do this at the airport as long as you have the receipts and the merchandise you purchased with you. You will also have to go through customs again.


Malaria, which can be spread via the Anopheles mosquito, is rare but deadly. The CDC currently recommends that if you are going to be in the prime game viewing areas of Mpumalanga or the Northern Province or in northern KwaZulu-Natal that you take a few precautions. These include taking a prescription anti-malaria drug, spraying yourself and your clothing with insect repellent containing 30 percent DEET, and wearing long light-colored pants and shirts with long sleeves in the evenings. It is also important to wear shoes and socks, and keep a fan going in your room at night. Mosquito coils are effective. Contact your physician or local travel clinic for advice as to which medication is recommended.

The private hospitals in South Africa are some of the best in the world. In fact, doctors at the Groote Schoor Hospital in Cape Town performed the world’s first heart transplant in 1967. Private hospitals are more advanced than public hospitals and tend to be less crowded. Tourists are advised to visit private hospitals in the event of an emergency and are expected to pay cash for medical services rendered.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta currently recommends that travelers should be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and are up-to-date with other routine immunizations such as polio and tetanus. For more information, contact your local Travel Clinic or Family Doctor.

About South Africa

South Africa covers the southern tip of the African continent. It borders Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe to the north, and Mozambique and Swaziland to the northeast. Flight time from the U.S. averages 17.5 hours.

South Africa is a Republic with an elected president. Since the 1994 elections, it is re-divided into nine provinces, roughly along tribal lines: Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, North-West Province, Cauteng, Northern Province, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

South Africa has 11 official languages, and English – with a local South African flavor – is the most widely spoken. The other 10 include Afrikaans (a derivative dialect of Dutch), Ndebele, North Sotho, South Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. Less than one percent of South Africans speak any other language as their home language.

South Africa is seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the U.S., except during Daylight Savings Time, when it is six hours ahead.

The seasons in South Africa are reversed from those in the U.S. – when it’s summer in USA/Canada, it is winter in South Africa. Climatic conditions generally range from Mediterranean in the south-western corner of the country to temperate in the interior plateau, and subtropical in the northeast. Most of the country has warm, sunny days and cool nights. Temperatures are influenced by variations in elevation, terrain, and ocean currents more than latitude. Air temperatures in Durban, on the Indian Ocean, average nearly 60 C warmer than temperatures at the same latitude on the Atlantic Ocean coast. Over most of the country summer (mid-October to mid-March) is characterized by hot, sunny weather, often with afternoon thunderstorms that clear quickly. The Western Cape, with its Mediterranean climate, is the exception, getting its rain in winter. Autumn (mid-March to April) offers the best weather with very little rain fall and warm but not too hot days, getting colder as the season progresses. Winter (May to July) in the higher-lying areas of the interior plateau offers dry, sunny, crisp days and cold nights. The sun throughout South Africa is very strong all year round. Travelers are advised to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and more if you sunburn easily.

The unit of currency in South Africa is the rand. Bills come in RIO, R20, R50, R 100, and R200 denominations. A value-added tax (VAT) is included in the price of most goods and services, but a refund for foreign visitors is available at the airport.

The large majority of South Africa is safe, and the people you will meet are very warm and welcoming. However, like any country, there are certain areas where petty crime is a problem, including downtown Johannesburg and some areas of Soweto, Pretoria and Cape Town. Tourists are not advised to visit these areas by themselves or at night. In all other areas, tourists should practice good common sense safety habits, such as not wearing flashy jewelery and not appearing lost.

During game drives in the bush, predatory animals like lions, leopards, and hyena often come so close to your vehicle that danger would seem imminent. Amazingly, the animals who live in and around the private game reserves are accustomed to the sight and sound of a Land Rover filled with people, ana will often appear not even to notice you. However, anything could happen in the wild, so guests are instructed not to stand up in the vehicle or make any sudden movements, and all rangers are trained to handle an attack situation.

During apartheid, black South Africans were forced to live in areas set apart from whites. These areas, which came to be known as townships, remain today even though apartheid has disappeared, and many are struggling to overcome poverty, poor housing, and overcrowding. Soweto, which is an acronym for the South Western Township, is by far the largest township in South Africa. It is also the most developed. Other townships throughout South Africa may not be as large as Soweto, but they still have the same warmth, spirit and vibrancy that make a visit unforgettable.

South Africa is the most child-friendly country in Africa, but care should be taken when entering the bush. In fact, most private game reserves will not accept children under 12, which is understandable given that three-hour game drives can be tedious for restless kids. Outside of the bush, however, most hotels offer special amenities for children, and most restaurants have an abundant child’s menu.

All major roads and highways in South Africa are excellent. Some of South Africa’s back roads aren’t as well maintained, so care should be taken while driving on them. Driving in South Africa occurs on the left-hand side of the road, and the speed limit is 75 miles per hour. Be on the look out for animals in the bush and in rural areas.

Culture, Food and Drink

South Africa is home to some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Many five-star properties have received international acclaim. An entirely different kind of luxury is found in the bush, where guests can spend an afternoon immersed in their private plunge pool to the sound of elephants in the distance and enjoy dinner by candlelit lanterns in an authentic African boma.

Temperatures can fluctuate in South Africa. Travelers should pack lightweight clothes that can be worn in layers, as well as a sweater and a jacket. The style of dress is mostly smart casual, but dinner at some of the more expensive restaurants can be a little more formal.

The nightlife in South Africa varies from region to region and city to city. In the bush, the only real nightlife involves an exciting evening game drive followed by a traditional African dinner around a smoldering fire in an open-air boma. In Cape Town, long, lingering dinners with plenty of local wine is enough nightlife for some people, but others can take advantage of the many bars and pubs located in the waterfront. Clubs with live music are also popular in Cape Town, as are a number of jazz clubs that double as restaurants. Visitors to Johannesburg can get a taste of traditional and township South African jazz. There are also a number of bars and pubs scattered throughout the city.

Whether you are looking for homemade crafts, authentic African art, or the latest in clothing fashion trends, South Africa will not disappoint. Flea markets and roadside stands are the best venues for homemade crafts, while museums and galleries sell the best work by South African artists. Cape Town offers the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront shopping area as well as some other shopping malls. Pretoria and the Johannesburg suburbs of Sandton and Rosebank are home to a number of upscale shopping malls where Americans can buy practically anything under the sun, from leather handbags to beaded Zulu dolls.

South Africa cuisine comprises ethnic specialties such as spicy curries, fragrant Malay cuisine and hearty Cape Dutch cooking, featuring meals of wild game, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. English-style breakfasts and afternoon teas are found in hotel dining rooms and country manor houses, and an increasing number of restaurants specialize in authentic African dishes from across the country. A treat not to be missed is a traditional South African barbecue, called “braai,” literally translated to mean “grilled meat,” although fresh fish braais along the coastal beaches are very popular.

The tap water throughout South Africa is perfectly safe to drink.