General South Africa information
Below you’ll find helpful South Africa information regarding topics such as:
Dos and donts
Currency and visas
Table of distances
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to email or call us.
Dos and donts
Currency, passports and valuable documents are best kept in your hotel’s safe. Nearly all hotels affiliated with South Africa Travel Plan have a safe at the reception area, available for storing valuable belongings. Never leave your valuables unattended in your room. All members of the cleaning staff have a key to your room. We would also avoid walking around with valuables or valuable documents at night, especially in the larger cities such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. In any case it’s best not to be out on the street at dusk or later in the evening, it’s best to take a taxi cab to your hotel or restaurant after 18:00.
- Leave anything you can’t afford to lose at home
- Keep up to date with travel advice issued by the Foreign Office. http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/
- Try to scale down your appearance in order to avoid looking like a wealthy target for pickpockets or other thieves
- Avoid groups of young men; older mixed groups of men and women are more trustworthy
- Avoid carrying all of your money on you at all times, keep some separate in case you are robbed
- Listen to advice from locals about areas you should and areas you shouldn’t visit
- Avoid deserted areas (even during the daytime)
- Scan all important travel documents and email them to an account you can access via the internet, so you can access in the event of them being lost/stolen.
- Don’t be afraid that everyone is out to steal your belongings, but it’s better to be safe than sorry and above all follow your instincts while travelling
- Make friends!
Baboons in the Cape Town area are dangerous, much like the wild rhinos and crocodiles in the wildlife reserves. Never leave your car in a wildlife reserve, except when at official rest areas. Too many people who have tried this will never be able to try it again! During this once in a lifetime adventure in South Africa, be sure to take amazing pictures…… bring along a telephoto lens.
Haggling or price negotiations are possible at markets and smaller stores in South Africa. Larger stores have set prices and won’t lower them at your insistence. Taxi cabs in South Africa have metres and therefore you won’t have to negotiate the price. However, make sure that the meter is running by the time you’ve entered the taxi cab. Your best option is to order a radio taxi.
This can be purchased in stores, however tap water is also drinkable. Ice cubes are perfectly safe to use in larger cities, as long as they are round or square ice blocks and not ice shavings or ice chips. In remote areas or farm areas, especially if you’re not staying in a luxury accommodation, it’s best not to drink tap water or use ice cubes. Bottled water will always be available in these areas.
Most of South Africa’s electricity supply runs on 220 volts, however there are a few exceptions (Pretoria 230v, Port Elizabeth 200v or 250v). You will need an adaptor, which you will be able to purchase one from the meet & greet person (not at all accommodation) or at larger stores and hardware stores (or borrow one from the hotel reception desk). These adaptors can only be used in South Africa. Electricity is not always readily available in bush camp accommodation; however you’ll usually find electricity at the reception and kitchen areas.
Many of our travellers want to be able to be reached while travelling through South Africa. Especially if you’re travelling independently, it’s convenient to be able to make or receive phone calls. For instance, you may want call your accommodation for directions or to let your host know that you’ll be arriving a little later than planned. In the event of car trouble or other problems on the road it’s great to have a phone with you. You could choose to bring along your own mobile with your UK sim-card and phone number; however this will prove to be quite expensive for both inbound and outbound calls. A cheaper option would be to bring your mobile, but to replace your sim-card with a South African one. A MTN sim-card, for instance, is available for approximately 30 Rand.
We would advise you not to give money to beggars. Even the South Africans themselves avoid giving money to them in an attempt to discourage begging in modern South Africa. If you would like to support the local economy, try to purchase as many locally made souvenirs as possible instead. Buy souvenirs at markets, pay for local services and buy goods at local stands. This is a more positive form of support for locals.
Try some of the local specialities during your stay. You may be familiar with rooibos tea, but perhaps you’d also like to try a strip of biltong (dried game meat), ostrich steak and eggs, the wonderfully spicy piri-piri sauce, Indian curries in Durban, bobotie or boerewors (a type of sausage) on the braai/ bbq. You’ll be able to buy beer (Castle beer) and sodas everywhere and South African wine is well known all over the world.
You’ll only pay VAT on goods, not for services. If you’ve paid more than ZAR 250 in VAT, restitution can be requested at the departure airport.
Your rental car
Be sure to always lock your car, never leave anything of value behind in it (especially in plain sight)! Empty the entire car each evening, even the boot area.
What should you bring with you and what should you leave at home? Since most trips to South Africa tend to be longer than an average holiday, the tendency is to bring along a lot of baggage. While packing, keep the following in mind:
- South Africans tend to dress quite informally; therefore you’ll have no problem wearing holiday clothes during your stay.
- Be sure to bring along various layers of clothes. There is a large difference between day time and night time temperatures in large portions of the country (see climate). For more information on what to wear on safari, have a look at our clothing advice.
- Hard shell suitcases do not fit well into the trunks of rental cars. Try to bring along rolling bags and remember to bring small luggage locks to lock them with.
- Bring along a sturdy money belt and never leave valuables behind in your rental car.
- Wet wipes and a flashlight are handy to have in your rental car.
Visa and Currency in Southern Africa
If you are travelling on a UK passport and plan on staying in South Africa for less than 90 days, you will not need a Visa. Customs officers will place a sticker in your passport (be sure to have at least two empty pages in your passport available for this). Your passport must be valid for at least 30 days after your return to the UK (children can travel on their parent’s passport up to an age of 15). Furthermore, you must have a flight ticket in your possession for a confirmed return or stop-over flight. The South African embassy for the UK is located at the South Africa House, Trafalgar, London WC2N 5DP, Telephone: 020 7451 7299, Fax: 020 7451 7283. The South African Visa-department can be contacted at: 15 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DD, Telephone: 020 7925 8900/01/10, Fax: 020 7925 8930/31/32.
South African Rand (ZAR). £1 is equivalent to about 11 ZAR (July 2010)
You will be able to use your ATM card in large South African cities and at airports (be sure to only do so during the daytime and in areas with many people out and about). This is the most affordable way to exchange currency. If you prefer to use your credit card, MasterCard and Visa are accepted at many locations (petrol tanking stations only accept payment in cash). Traveller Checks can be exchanged at most banks, however you will probably have to stand in long queues and fill out a lot of paperwork to do so. Exchanging Rand back to euros is not a problem and you’ll usually be able to do so at fair exchange rates. You’re only allowed to bring a limited amount of Rand back home with you.
Free visas are available at the border. It will take approximately 15 minutes for the visa to be processed. If you have a rental car in your possession, this will be documented in your passport. Therefore you must leave the country with your rental car. Keep in mind that some border crossing authorities are not open 24 hours a day.
Swazi Lilangeni (SLZ). Don’t bother purchasing Lilangeni. The South African Rand is widely accepted here. If you receive your change in Lilangeni, be sure to use it or exchange it before leaving the country.
Free visas are available at the border. It will take approximately 15 minutes for the visa to be processed. Your rental car will also be documented in your passport, therefore you must leave the country with your rental car. Keep in mind that some border crossing authorities are not open 24 hours a day.
Lesotho Ma loti. Don’t bother purchasing Loti. The South African Rand is widely accepted here. If you receive change in Loti, be sure to use it or exchange it before leaving the country.
South Africa information
You must be in possession of a visa in order to enter Mozambique. At the moment, it is very difficult to purchase a visa at border crossings and the Maputo airport due to changes in the Mozambique visa policy. Therefore we advise you to attain your visa before reaching Mozambique. For more information on attaining a visa or for information on your visa request contact the Embassy of Mozambique Consulate Section, 21 Fitzroy Square, London W1T 6EL. Opening hours 9.30am – 1.00pm, 2.00pm – 4.00pm on Monday – Friday. Your passport must be valid for another 6 months after your departure from Mozambique.
Mozambique Metical (MZM). You will not be able to use your ATM card here, however you can exchange cash euro’s and dollars here. Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted (petrol tanking station accepts cash only). Traveller Checks can be exchanged at most banks, however you will probably have to stand in long queues to do so.
South Africa information
Visas are not necessary if you plan on staying in the country less than 90 days. Your passport must be valid for another 6 months after you return home. You will also be required to have a confirmed return or stop-over flight ticket in your possession.
Namibian Dollar (NAD). A Namibian Dollar is worth the same as a South African Rand. Use of your ATM card and exchange of euros or dollars is only possible in the largest cities. Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted (petrol tanking stations only accept cash). Traveller Checks are accepted at most banks and large hotels, however it can take quite some time to exchange them. Since you will be travelling outside of the major cities, be sure to have enough cash Rand with you and hide some cash in a few different locations in case of theft.
South Africa information
Free visas with a one-month validity are available at the border. Extension is possible up to 3 months.
Botswana Pula (BWP). There are very few opportunities to use your ATM card. Money can be exchanged almost everywhere, however South African Rand and Cash Dollars are the currencies of choice. Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted. Traveller Checks are accepted at most banks and large hotels, however it can take quite some time to exchange them. Park entrance fees must be paid in Pula. Hotels and lodges accept euros, however will add a surcharge to your bill for paying in euros.
South Africa information
Visas are available at the border for approximately £28. Visas are valid for three months.
Zimbabwe Dollar or ZIM dollar. The exchange rate drops each month and the official exchange rate is far lower than the black market rates. ATM’s are sparse and due to the unfavourable exchange rates, we advise against using your ATM card here. At this moment most places only accept payment in American dollars and no credit cards. Please be sure to have enough dollars with you when you approach the border as well (your visa must also be paid in USD). It’s best to have small bills on hand (from $1.00 to $50.00). You’ll receive change in Zimbabwe Dollars. Travellers are strongly urged not to exchange currency while in the country. Keep in mind that if you do exchange currency, you’ll be paying one euro for anything that would cost one dollar! Traveller Cheques and the South African Rand are reasonably well accepted. At times you may have to pay surcharge for using them and the official exchange rate will be used. You are only allowed to take a very limited amount of Zim Dollar with you out of the country.