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South Africa Country Guide

South Africa has a rich and long history, going back thousands of years. Its varied landscape, people and cultural traditions will leave you captivated and wanting to return again and again. South Africa is a country that is quickly getting back onto the travellers' map, and for very good reason. It is a place where the energy and excitement of a new dawn, a new South Africa, is palpable!

Come see for yourself why the world is waking up to South Africa!

South Africa offers much more than just beaches and safaris - although, to be fair, we do offer some of the best beaches and safaris in the world too! Apart from those, you can party the night away in Durban, eat delicious food to your stomach's content in Johannesburg, and be blown away by the splendour that is Cape Town. Fantastic drives along the coast are standard, and adrenaline sports such as bungee jumping and shark diving are sure to give you a rush. And through it all, the famous African hospitality shines through, making you feel like more than just a tourist in this gorgeous land.

This South Africa Country Guide below gives some quick facts and background information to let you learn a little more about the country. Our South Africa Destination Guides give more detailed information about specific cities within South Africa. More general information about what there is to see and do can be found in our South Africa Tours page.

We recommend you read about travel in South Africa on GoNOMAD.

Check out the latest South Africa Travel features on YouTube.

South Africa Country Guide

Useful information on this page includes:


Climate/WeatherTop

Follow the link to our South Africa weather page for information about the best time to visit South Africa, the average yearly temperatures, and the climate in South Africa. We also have a six-day Cape Town weather forecast.

CommunicationTop

The international country code for South Africa is +27. To dial overseas from within South Africa, dial 09 followed by the relevant country code and phone number. Emergency numbers in South Africa are: Ambulance (10177); Fire (10111); & Police (10111).

Mobile phone coverage is available in most urban areas, but can be unavailable in many rural areas. There are also roaming agreements with some foreign mobile phone companies.

The international postal system from within South Africa gets mail to mainland Europe in about 7 days. Post offices are usually open from 8.30am-4.30pm (Monday-Friday) & from 8am-11.30am on Saturday.

Internet cafes are becoming more popular as the internet reaches more parts of the country. You will obviously find these plentiful in tourist areas as well as major towns & cities, but is obviously hard to find in more rural locations.

Currency/MoneyTop

The currency unit is the Rand, denoted by the symbol R, with 100 cents making up R1 (one Rand). Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks and Bureaux de Changes. Most major international credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and their affiliates are accepted for most purchases.

Current exchange rates can be found by going to OANDA.com - The Currency Site.

ElectricityTop

South Africa runs off a 220/230V; 50Hz system.

Embassy LocationsTop

To view a list of South African embassies around the world, including foreign embassies within South Africa, click on this link to EmbassyWorld.com.

General InformationTop

Population - 44 million people
Total Area - 1,219,912 sq km (4% of the continent's total landmass - 5 times larger than Great Britain and 3 times the size of Texas.
Capital - South Africa has 3 different capital cities. The official capital is Pretoria, whereas Cape Town is the legislative capital; and Bloemfontein serves as the judicial capital.
Time Zone - Standard time zone: UTC/GMT +2 hours (1 hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time & 7 hours behind Australian Central Time).

To view the current time in Pretoria, click on this link to TimeAndDate.com.

LanguageTop

South Africa has many different languages which are spoken throughout various regions of the country. 11 of these are recognised as official languages, with most of these native to South Africa. However, English is widely understood and spoken, especially in the cities. Business, commerce, government (including Presidential speeches), and official documents are all conducted in English.

The official language breakdowns include: IsiZulu (23.8%), IsiXhosa (17.6%), Afrikaans (13.3%), Sepedi (9.4%), English (8.2%), Setswana (8.2%), Sesotho (7.9%), Xitsonga (4.4%), other (7.2%) - 2001 census.

Public HolidaysTop

Follow the link to view a list of current public holidays in South Africa.

ReligionTop

The breakdowns of religions amongst the population of South Africa are: Zion Christian (11.1%), Pentecostal/Charismatic (8.2%), Catholic (7.1%), Methodist (6.8%), Dutch Reformed (6.7%), Anglican (3.8%), other Christian (36%), Islam (1.5%), other (2.3%), unspecified (1.4%), none (15.1%) - 2001 census.

Visas/PassportsTop

Visas are not required for travellers from the United Kingdom, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Other EU Countries, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland for stays of up to 90 days.

Nationals of Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Slovak Republic, Hong Kong (SAR) (Holders of Hong Kong British Nationals overseas passports and Hong Kong special passports), Korea (Rep), Macau (SAR), Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey do not require visas for stays of up to 30 days. All other countries, (including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia) require visas.

Transit passengers do not require visas if they are continuing their journey by the same or first connecting flight; and have in their possession their return or onward documentation. They must also not leave the airport (you must advise the relevant authorities in advance if you plan to stay overnight).

Travellers must have a valid passport for at least 30 days after the intended date of departure required by all. All passengers must have a passport with at least one blank page for their entry stamp. Passengers who also require a visa must have a passport with two blank facing pages, one for the visa and one for their entry stamp.

Types of visas include: Visitors and Transit Visas (which are approx US$65). Some countries (including the UK, India and Zimbabwe) do not have to pay visa fees. Other countries must apply for, and pay the relevant visa costs. All fees are subject to change without prior notice. Please check with your relevant embassy or consulate to ensure you have the most up to date visa costs. Visa validity depends on the length of stay. Permits can be extended if done at least 30 days prior to expiry of original documentation.

It is advisable to check all relevant South African visa information, as well as passport and entry requirements with your relevant consulate prior to travel.

US citizens that need to renew, add pages, change name, or just get a new US passport, can Apply for a New US Passport here.

LocationTop

South Africa is located, as the name suggest, in Southern Africa. It occupies the most southern section of the continent. It shares land borders with Botswana (1,840 km), Namibia (967 km), Lesotho (909 km), Mozambique (491 km), Swaziland (430 km), and Zimbabwe (225 km). Both Lesotho and Swaziland are completely encompassed by South Africa. It coastline is shared with the Indian Ocean on its eastern coast, and the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean on its western coast.

To view a map of South Africa, click on this link to WorldAtlas.com.

PeopleTop

South Africa has around 43 million people. The large majority of people (77%) are black African; followed by whites (11%), and then coloured (used to describe people of mixed white, Asian and African descent). South Africa has an extremely high mortality rate due to HIV/AIDS. More than 50% of its people live in cities.

Provinces & Major CitiesTop

South Africa is divided into 9 separate provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumulanga, Northern Cape, North West and the Western Cape. Major cities include the economic centre of Johannesburg; Cape Town (the legislative capital) located between Table Mountain and the ocean; historic Pretoria (the official capital; coastal Durban; and Bloemfontein (the judicial capital).