Go straight to the horse's mouth for information on South African visa requirements, namely the Department of Home Affairs which has a comprehensive website. This website details which nationals are exempt from visas, and which are obliged to make application. Enquiries regarding South African visa info can also be obtained from South African missions in your country, or the nearest one to you.
A subtropical location and a high interior plateau are responsible for South Africa's temperate conditions so appreciated by visitors.
South African temperatures, which are measured in centigrade, average at high of 28°C and a low of 8°C. Average annual rainfall is on the low side at under 500mm a year, making the country somewhat dry. Most of the rain falls in the Western Cape in the winter, differing from the rest of the country, which experiences a summer rainfall. But on the plus side, the South African climate boasts more than its fair share of sunshine, recording an average of 8.5 hours a day.
South Africa's climatic conditions generally range from Mediterranean in the south-western corner of the country to temperate in the interior plateau, and subtropical in the north-east. A small region in the north-west has a desert climate.
Our relatively mild and short winters do not justify the expense of central heating in many buildings and homes, which may lead visitors to think the winter is colder than it actually is. The answer to this is dressing in layers.
With a few exceptions in deep rural areas, electricity is available almost everywhere in South Africa.
The South African telecommunication infrastructure is much in tune with global development, and connections to countries beyond our borders are easy and efficient.
With the growth of the population, business and industry, supply is sometimes under pressure, particularly in densely populated urban areas when usage reaches a peak, such as on winter evenings, resulting in a power outage.
The supplier of South African electrictiy, Eskom, and government, have prioritised the extension of the South African electrical grid with the construction of new power stations, diversification of poweer sources and instituting energy efficient programmes.
Tourists to South Africa should be aware that:
- The South African electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ.
- Most plugs are 15 amp 3-prong or 5 amp 2-prong, with round pins. If an adaptor is called for, consider bringing one with you, although they can be purchased locally.
- US-made appliances may need a transformer.
- Most hotel rooms have 110 volt outlets for electric shavers and appliances.
Picking a best time to visit South Africa is not a task easily accomplished. After all, this is a country famous for its sunshine and relatively warm winters. Perhaps it's wise to consider what it is you wish to do and see, along with the South African tourism seasons. For example, if you are an avid twitcher, the country is on the flight path of birds from the north in mid-October - November. If it's the floral carpet spread of the Cape flower season that you wish to catch, visit the area when the winter rains are over at the first sign of spring, namely August and September. If you are going on a game safari, the best time is July through September, when the visibility is best and it's birthing season.Another point you might want to take into account are the major South African holiday seasons, when the schools close and families en-masse head for the coast. The busiest period of all falls between mid- December and early January, coinciding with the Festive Season. Mid-winter is another prime time when locals head for warmer climes. You'll find the holiday crowds in destinations like Durban and Cape Town, but they do bring a lot of buzz in their wake.If action and adventure is your thing, a number of activities are at their best after the summer's peak, such as diving, hiking and surfing. You may also want to time your trip to include a major sporting or entertainment event - these generally take place out of season too. And don't discount winter holidays either - the South African winter compares favourably with the European summer, and the tropical province of KwaZulu-Natal with its fine coastline will still offer a good beach holiday.The best time to visit South Africa? Well, just about all year round
If you are a national of a country that requires visas, you must make application ahead of your departure, as visas are not issued on arrival. The visa must be affixed in your passport to be shown to immigration officials on landing. Applications must be made through South African diplomatic or consular representatives.You will have to supply a number of elements in terms of visa requirements in South Africa, such as:
- A passport valid for no less than 30 days after the expiry of the intended visit, and at least 1 unused page for entry/departure endorsements (sometimes referred to as the visa page).
- Payment of a prescribed fee.
- A vaccination certificate, if required (travel through the yellow fever belts of Africa and South America requires inoculation)
- Statement and/or documentation confirming the purpose and duration of your visit.
- Two identity photographs
- Proof of financial means in the form of bank statements; salary advices; undertakings by your hosts in South Africa; bursaries; medical cover; or cash available, including credit cards or travellers' cheques.
- If travelling by air, a return or onward ticket; or proof of sufficient funds; or lodge a cash deposit of equivalent value to such a ticket.Take care to request the correct duration of stay and type of visa. Also check on processing time so that you don't have any last minute panic.
Best Time to Visit
Telkom, our sole landline operator for decades, is soon to be challenged by a second operator, Neotel, and it's believed the resultant competition will advance South African telecommunications to cutting edge levels. Hotels offer direct dial facilities, while call boxes operate on coins and phonecards which can be widely purchased. Reverse charge and ‘home direct' (charging a call to your home number) services are available.
Some information on dialing codes:
- For outgoing international calls, dial 00 plus the country and area codes of the destination concerned. Refer to telephone directories for international dialing codes, or obtain 24-hour assistance by calling 10903.
- For incoming international calls, the code is +27 followed by the city code or cell phone code, dropping the first 0.
- O8 numbers are free to the caller; 0860 numbers are charged at local rates; 0861 numbers are charged at a flat rate.
- Some local city dialing codes: 011 - Johannesburg; 012 - Pretoria; 021 - Cape Town; 031 - Durban; 041 - Port Elizabeth
When it comes to internet and fax connections, most international hotels offer wireless connections either in guest rooms, business centres or some restaurants, and internet cafes are to be found in business locations and shopping malls. Stores such as PostNet found in major cities offer internet , fax, postage and photocopying facilities.
An essential aspect of telecommunications in South Africa is the South African Post Office, which over and above normal postage by air, offers various express and courier services
To sketch some background, English and Afrikaans were the official languages spoken in South Africa until the change of political dispensation in 1994. At that point another 9 languages were added to the official list, to give representation to the many languages spoken by black population groups.These languages of South Africa fall into two main language families, Nguni and Sotho. But good news is that most South Africans are conversant in English, particularly in urban areas, so the tourist need not fear insurmountable language barriers.The Nguni languages include isiZulu, isiXhosa, siSwati and isiNdebele, while the Sotho languages encompass Setswana, Sepedi and Sesotho.
South African Customs regulations afford visitors to the country the opportunity to bring in certain goods without incurring duties and value added tax (VAT). These are limited in quantity and value. On arrival, you can take the green ‘nothing to declare' channel if you stick to these allowances:
• Personal effects
• Other new or used goods not exceeding R3 000 (Additional goods, new or used, exceeding R12 000 will incur a duty charge of 20%)
• Wine not exceeding 2 litres per person over the age of 18
• Spirits and alcohol not exceeding l litre per person over the age of 18
• Cigarettes not exceeding 200 and cigars not exceeding 20 per person over the age of 18
• 250g cigarette tobacco or pipe tobacco per person over the age of 18
• Perfumery not exceeding 50ml and toilet water not exceeding 250ml per person
But, if you have goods in excess of these allowances, take the red channel and declare your items, where you will be billed at the applicable rates by representatives of South African Customs. Note also, that if you are importing for business and commercial intent, you will also not qualify for these allowances, other than personal effects.
Customs in South Africa further stipulates that when you leave the country you are permitted to take up to R500 in South African Reserve Bank notes. A 20% levy is charged on higher amounts.
Most parts of the South Africa can be safely visited by travellers, provided they take common sense safety precautions, much as recommended in most countries and big cities.
Here is some good South African safety advice:
- Avoid deserted areas at night, stick to busy and well-lit streets.
- Don't wear flashy jewellery - in fact leave it at home.
- Keep photographic equipment close to you at all times.
- Keep car doors locked and windows closed, and carry a map in case you should get lost. Don't leave bags or valuables on the seat next to you - rather lock them in the boot. Park in well lit areas.
- Don't leave luggage unattended.
- Store valuables in the hotel safe and leave your hotel room door locked at all times, even when you are in it.
- Limit the amount of money you carry on your person. Don't accept offers of assistance at ATMs and keep your pin numbers out of the view of others.
- When using a credit card in restaurants, ask the waiter to bring a portable credit card machine to your table. Report stolen or lost cards immediately.
- If you're in doubt about a place you wish to visit or how to get there, have a word with your hotel concierge first or contact the National Tourism information and Safety Line on 083 123 2345. If you need a taxi, ask the hotel to order one on your behalf from a reliable service.
- In rural areas, watch out for wild or farm animals - road signage will warn you when you need to take care.
Like most other countries, use of the cellphone or mobile phone is widespread. Four service providers ensure countrywide coverage and reception is generally good in urban areas. Cellphones can be hired at all international airports.
Important telephone numbers
From a fixed line
- 107 - Emergency
- 10111 - Police 
- 10177 - Ambulance
- 082911 - Netcare911 and The National Sea Rescue Institute
From a mobile phone
- 112 - Emergency
- 911 - Netcare911 and The National Sea Rescue Institute
(C)Copyright Southafrica Tourism (text and imagine source above: http://www1.southafrica.net)