This intriguingly diverse country known affectionately as the "Rainbow Nation" is a melting pot of culture, language, terrain and wildlife. With spectacular scenery ranging from the striking Table Mountain to the glorious golden beaches of Cape Town, from acres of luscious vineyards to the towering skyscrapers of Johannesburg, from the vast expanse of the Kruger National Park to the fossil-filled caves of the Cradle of Humankind, a trip to the breathtakingly enticing South Africa is bound to be truly memorable.
South Africa benefits from one of the most temperate climates on the African continent which makes it comfortable to visit any time of the year. Winters, between June and September, are usually cool and dry whilst summers, between late November and March, can bring rain, mists and uncomfortably hot days. The climate around the Indian Ocean coast can be tropical with high humidity and snow fall can be expected in the mountain regions.
South Africans observe a number of public holidays which include:
1st January - New Year's Day
21st March - Human Rights Day
Beginning of April - Family Day
27th April - Freedom Day
1st May - Workers Day
16th June - Youth Day
9th August - National Women's Day
24th September - Heritage Day
16th December - Day of Reconciliation
25th December - Christmas Day
26th December - Day of Goodwill
Please note that any holidays that fall on a Sunday will be observed on the following Monday.
South Africa has 10 international airports, the main ones are Cape Town International Airport and OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Flights operate to and from South Africa from a number of European, North American, Asian and African destinations.
A number of domestic services operate throughout the country. Daily flights link the major towns and cities including Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, East London and Port Elizabeth.
There are eight daily intercity services that cross the country mainly to and from Johannesburg to a number of destinations. Rail is an economical but fairly slow way to travel round South Africa with most journeys running over night. Luxury trains are available, the Blue Train and the Pride of Africa are the most well known, offering first-class cabins with baths, digital entertainment, gourmet food and fine wines. Such services operate between Cape Town and Pretoria.
The main routes in to South Africa are from Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Major bus companies operate regular services to and from the capital cities of neighbouring countries.
Intercity express bus and coach services operate throughout the country, often on modern air-conditioned vehicles.
Roads and highways are well-maintained particularly in more populous regions. Most roads are paved apart from tracks and rural lanes in national parks and game reserves. Road signs are in English and Afrikaans and the national highways that link the major towns and cities are denoted with an "N".
When driving in South Africa the following rules and restrictions apply:
Traffic drives on the left and the wearing of a seatbelt is compulsory. It is essential to carry two red triangles in the vehicle to use in the event of a breakdown. Speed restrictions apply and are 60kph (35mph) in built-up areas and 120kph (75mph) in non-residential areas. Speed cameras are commonplace and heavy fines are imposed for speeding and drink driving.
The main ports in South Africa are Cape Town, Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth. A number of cruises operate between South Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands.
There are 11 official languages in South Africa Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Swati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.
English is widely spoken and understood by the majority of South Africans and Afrikaans is also broadly used.
The official currency of South Africa is the Rand(ZAR)which divides into 100 cents.
The domestic electricity voltage is 220/240v AC and 250v AC in Pretoria only.
Round three-pin plugs are used and adaptors are available.
The country dialling code for South Africa is +27.
In case of an emergency the following numbers should be used:
10111 - Police
10177 - Ambulance
107 - Fire
112 - from a mobile phone.
Smoking is prohibited in all public buildings and on public transport. Restaurants generally have enclosed or outdoor smoking sections.
Credit cards, particularly Visa and MasterCard, are widely accepted in South Africa.
ATM's are readily available in all towns and cities accepting all major debit and credit cards.
Tipping is common practice in South Africa with a tip of 10% of the bill being the norm in restaurants. Tips of two or three rand is usually given to petrol station attendants, hotel porters and car park security guards.