pop up description layer

South Africa Travel Guide

INTRODUCTION:

South Africa is the southern most country of the African continent and it shares a large border with Indian Ocean as well as with Atlantic Ocean in the south. Lesotho is a small African country, totally surrounded by and situated in the eastern side of South Africa. Other countries that border South Africa are Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland

Owing to the varied topography, South Africa is known for its distinctive landscapes. Apart from the scenic beauty, South African uniqueness in many aspects makes it popular around the world. The country has three capital cities with Pretoria being the Administrative Capital, Cape Town being the Legislative Capital and Bloemfontein being the Judicial Capital. Moreover, South Africa has 11 national languages with English being the most widely spoken understood language in the urban areas.

MAJOR CITIES:

Pretoria: is the judicial capital of South Africa and home to Parliament Houses.

Cape Town: is situated near the Cape of Good Hope and is the legislative capital of the country. It is a world class cosmopolitan city.

Bloemfontein: is the judicial capital being home to Supreme Court of appeal.

Durban: is the second largest South African city and a popular beach holiday destination.

Johannesburg: is the main gateway to South Africa as O. R. Tambo International Airport, the busiest airport of Africa, serves the city. South Africa’s highest court, Constitutional Court is situated here.

Polokwane: is the capital of the province of Limpopo. It is a good base for touring the northern parts of the country including Kruger National Park. Flying to Zimbabwe is easy from here.

Port Elizabeth: is a scenic coastal city in the province of Easter Cape. It is the gateway     to Addo Elephant National Park.

Kimberley: is the capital city of the province of Northern Cape and is popular for its diamond mines and the “Big Hole” which is an open underground mine.

Upington: is situated in the Northern Cape Province and is a preferred base for exploring the nearby national parks and the Kalahari Desert.

GET IN:

Visa:

Visa is mostly issued to tourists for 3 months but with extension, the stay can be made up to 6 months. It is important to have the visa beforehand in many cases so Home Affairs and the travel agent need to be consulted for the correct information. This will keep the travelers from being sent back.

As for the passport, if it is damaged, one would not be allowed to enter South Africa. Secondly, it is highly important to have “2 blank pages” attached at the back of the passport. This will allow the traveler to stay in the country for 30 more days after the due date of departure. Without these two pages, the travelers would simply be sent back. Also, in order to avoid being sent back, it is a must to keep the return ticket along. If it is to be received from the airport inside South Africa, correct information and flights number needs to kept handy and the customs guy has to be convinced, the point, with confidence.

Flying:

There are 10 international airports in South Africa and the major ones are; O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town and King Shaka International Airport in Durban.

Due to its importance as a tourist destination, South Africa has long been connected to many airports in Europe, Africa, Middle East, America and Asia. Cheap flights to South Africa are offered by many European airlines including British Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Air France. Paris, Milan, London, Nairobi, Madrid, Athens, Lusaka, Dar-es-Salaam, Mauritius, Dubai, Doha, New York, Washington D.C, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and many other airports are well connected to South African airports. However, the most frequent scheduling of South Africa flights is from European cities.  

GET AROUND:

Flying:

South African Airways, 1Time, Mango and Kulula Air, all fly within South Africa connecting countrywide airports. There is a healthy competition between all the airlines thus, finding low airfares is not very difficult. South Africa has one of the finest aviation infrastructures in the continent.

By Car:

Using a car is one of the most popular ways of exploring South Africa. Tourists can hire a car which should be the easiest of all other means. If driving license, insurance and registration of the car is not an issue, a car can be bought as well. Another very popular way is to buy the car under the buy-back contract. It ensures that the tourists can re-sell the car to the hiring company before leaving South Africa.

Care must always be taken to avoid carjacking or attracting the thieves and robbers. Hence while stopping at a signal, enough space should be kept with the car ahead, so as to be able to escape if required. Also any valuable belongings should be kept in the trunk or glove box or in any other place, where they do not get noticed.

Speed limits should be taken care of and a South African Drivers License is required. International Drivers Permit and the license from country of origin of the traveler are acceptable too.        

Bus:

There are some well reputed companies that run services in between Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban as well as the neighbors of South Africa. These include; Greyhound, Intercape Mainliner, Translux and SA Roadlink. Advance booking is preferred.

City Bug, Baz Bus and Lowveld Link are other smaller companies that service in and out of South Africa.   

Mini Bus taxis are not up to the European standards in security, maintenance and the way they are driven. However, they are they cost low and cover many destinations.

Train:

Trains in South Africa range from budget ones to luxury ones and are of many different kinds. There are commuter trains as well, in major cities. For safari tours, Bushveld Train Safaris and Shongololo Express are the best choices.

Blue Train is popular around the world and known as a 5-star hotel on the wheels. It is, indeed, the most expensive of all South African trains and runs from Pretoria to Cape Town, stopping at Kimberlay on way. Rovos Rail takes its passengers to Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban, George, Swakopmund (Namibia), Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) and Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania).

Hitchhiking:

Hitchhiking is very popular in South Africa. It needs to be conveyed that a free ride is being looked up for; otherwise the tourists are expected to pay. Due to security reasons and high crime rate, it is not preferred.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS:

Kruger National Park:

This national park is ranked amongst some of the best in the whole continent. Spread over 2 million hectares, Kruger National Park houses 336 species of trees, 49 species of fish, 34 species of amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 species of birds and 147 species of mammals. It opened up in 1898 and is the best South African safari.

Joy of Jazz:

Joy of Jazz Joburg International Festival is one of the reasons that make Johannesburg, one of the most happening and grooviest cities of the world. This festival is held in August every year and draws jazz artistes from all around the globe. Apart from performances, the festival also holds workshops for fans and fanatics of jazz music. Some very important decisions like the winners of other African music awards are announced here. From Oscar winners to Grammy Award winners to others, all grace the stage of the lavish Standard Bank arena during this festival.

Apartheid Museum:

Apartheid Museum is one of the few internationally acclaimed African museums. The finest of African architecture, standing amidst beautiful lush green gardens and a water body, completes the landmark construction of this museum.

As clear by its name, Apartheid Museum portrays the dark ages of South Africa when it was being ruled under the constitution that favored white skin color and offended colored and black skins. It is through signboards, videos, images and writings that the interior of the museum is decorated. The aesthetics used in the interior and exterior of the museum add to its charm

Clifton Beach:

Situated in Cape Town, Clifton beach is one of the most popular of all South African beaches amongst tourists. All kinds of beach activity including water sports are possible at the beach. The beaches at Clifton are divided into 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th, with Clifton 4th being one of the most environmentally friendly beaches as far as water and beach maintenance is concerned.

Carlton Center:

Carlton Center is a shopping center as well as a sky scrapper, situated in Johannesburg. It is the tallest building on the African continent rising up to 730 feet. The shopping center has 50 floors and it is on the top floor that a viewing deck can be found. This deck provides panoramic views of the spectacular city of Johannesburg.                   

LANGUAGES:

As mentioned above, South Africa enjoys 11 different languages. English is the most widely spoken language (spoken by 60% people) however, less than 10% of South African populations speak it as the first language. Blacks living in rural areas do not speak or understand English. Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho and Venda are some other widely spoken languages.

WEATHER:

1st Quarter:

Average precipitation in South Africa during the first quarter exceeds no more than 0.7 inches and no lesser than 0.3 inches. There is a good amount of sunshine with 11 hours in January, 10 in February, and 9 in March. Temperatures range between 16oC and 26oC in the first two month of this quarter and drops to 14oC and 25oC in March.  

2nd Quarter:

At the verge of second quarter, sunshine hours reduce to 8 while May and June see no more than 6 hours of sunlight. Rainfalls are high during this time when 4.8 inches have been recorded in April, 7.9 inches in May and 8.4 inches in June. Maximum temperatures of April, May and June are 22oC, 19oC and 18oC and the lowest are 12oC, 9oC and 8oC respectively.   

3rd Quarter:

As the third quarter moves ahead, sunshine hours increase from 6 in July to 7 in August and 8 in September. Rainfalls also increase considerably as July sees the highest rainfall in the whole year at 3.inches. Highest temperatures stay around 17oC and 18oC while the lowest ones range between 7oC and 9oC.  

4th Quarter:

As per the tourists’ requirements, it is the best time of visiting this country. However, if it is not possible, a flight to South Africa can be found somewhere for the first quarter. During this time, precipitation is low compared to other quarters, which is highest in October at 1.2nches. Average daily temperatures stay at a bearable of 21oC to 24oC and to fall at the lowest, they vary from 11oC to 14oC. Sunshine hours considerably increase during this time with 9 in October, 10 in November and 11 in December.