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Quick Facts

  • Area: 1,219,090 sq km
  • Population: 48,601,098
  • Capital: Cape Town (legislative)
  • Religions: Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, other Christian
  • Languages: While road sings tend to be in English and Afrikaans, there are in fact 11 official languages in South Africa, including Sepedi, Setswana, Sesotho, Xitsonga, siSwati, Tshivenda and IsiNdebele. Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhola and English are most commonly spoken.
  • Currency: South African Rand (ZAR)
  • Time Zone: GMT + 2 hours; British Summer Time + 1 hour

Geography and Climate

South Africa sits on the southernmost tip of Africa, and is the continent’s most developed economy. From the low coastal plains, mountains rise up in the south and east, with a high plateau just beyond. South Africa is a subtropical country which means warm, dry weather and unpredictable rainfall. With an oceanic coast on three sides, South Africa enjoys generally mild temperatures, with a hot desert climate in the northwest.

Cape Town

Average annual temperature and rainfall:

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Passports and Visas

British passport holders travelling to South Africa for up to 90 days do not need a visa. A passport is essential and should be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay and contain at least two full blank pages for the entry stamp. Many other nationals must obtain visas. If you do not have a British passport, please seek further information from your nation’s immigration department. 

One important note for parents is that, if you are travelling to/from South Africa with children under the age of 18, you are required to provide an unabridged birth certificate for all children travelling with you. This applies even when both parents are travelling with their children. In the case of one parent travelling with a child, he or she must produce an unabridged birth certificate and consent in the form of an affidavit from the other parent (issued no more than three months prior to travel date). The official list of requirements can be found here.

Check the foreign office for all the latest travel advice for South Africa.

Health

We hope the information below is helpful, but it is only guidance; requirements change frequently and you MUST check all health requirements yourself with your GP.

  • There is a risk of malaria in some areas of KwaZulu Natal, Swaziland, Mpumalanga and Northern Province including Kruger Park and precautions including anti-malaria tablets are advisable. 
  • If you are arriving to South Africa from a Yellow-Fever risk area you must have a certificate of vaccination, even for those in transit and not clearing South African immigration.

More information on the latest health requirements can be found at the Travel Pro Health website.

Insurance

Your travel insurance should provide cover for cancellation and curtailment, medical insurance, lost or damaged baggage and emergency evacuation. We are fortunate to be partnered with Rush Insurance who provide a range of travel insurance policies specifically for the type of trips we offer. We have a dedicated page on their website here.

Money

South African Rand (ZAR) is the local currency. South Africa has a comprehensive network of ATMs most of which accept British bank cards. You are now allowed to take a maximum of 25,000 ZAR into South Africa per person in bank notes, and a maximum in foreign currency equivalent to US $10,000.

American Express, Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, shops and by car hire companies. However, Debit Cards can be used at most petrol stations except at small petrol stations where cash is required.

Tipping

Tipping is not compulsory, however, if you want to tip because you have received good service, this is a guideline:

  • Camp, Game Lodge and Specialist Guides: if the guide has done a good job, perhaps 100 ZAR per guest per day;
  • General Safari Camp/Lodge Staff: about 30 ZAR per guest per day for safari camps. This should be placed in the communal tipping box to be distributed equally amongst all the staff at a later stage;
  • Hotel Staff: please allow between 10 – 20 ZAR per guest per day for hotel staff, i.e. housekeeping etc;
  • Porters: about 20 ZAR per person per movement;
  • Transfer Drivers: tipping is not recommended
  • Touring Driver/Guides:
    • Half day tour – 50 ZAR per person
    • Full day tour – 100 ZAR per person
  • Restaurants/Hotels: 10% is customary on meal accounts but only if you are satisfied with the service;
  • Car Guards/Petrol Attendants: 5 ZAR per ‘transaction’

Recommended Reading

Wildlife and Travel Guides

  • The Bradt Travel Guide South Africa
  • A Field Guide to African Wildlife, Peter Alden and Richard Estes
  • Lonely Planet South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland
  • Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa and Common Birds of Botswana, Ken Newman
  • Newman’s Birds of the Kruger Park, Newman
  • Rough Guide South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland
  • Sasol Birds of Prey of Africa and its Islands, Alan Kemp
  • Sasol Birds of Southern Africa, Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Traboton
  • Southern African Wildlife (Bradt Wildlife Guides), Mike Unwin
  • Southern Africa (Lonely Planet Watching Wildlife)
  • The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals, Richard Estes

Other Interesting Reading

  • This Traitors Heart, Rian Malan
  • Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela 
  • Shadow of the Sun: My African Life, Ryszard Kapuscinski
  • Disgrace, JM Coetzee
  • Africa: A Biography of the Continent, John Reader
  • The Electric Elephant, D Jacobson
  • Shadow of the Sun: My African Life, Ryszard Kapuscinski
  • Don’t Lets Go To The Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller
  • A Good Man in Africa, William Boyd
  • White Mischief, James Fox
  • Ways of Dying, Zakes Mda
  • The Bang Bang Club, Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva
  • Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  • Mukiwa, Peter Godwin
  • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  • The Last King of Scotland, Giles Fodden
  • The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay 
  • No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith