South Africa Travel Guide
South Africa is a country located in Africa with name that begins with letter S. The Republic of South Africa covers around 1.2 million km² between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans at the southern end of the African continent. The country is characterized by great scenic beauty and abundance of wildlife, which can be admired in national parks such as the Kruger National Park. Almost 52 million people of the most diverse groups live in South Africa: In the “rainbow nation”, ten other official languages are spoken in addition to English, the most common of which is Zulu. South Africa is the economically wealthiest country on the African continent.
EU citizens need a valid passport to enter the Republic of South Africa, in which at least 2 pages must be left free for the entry note.
From the dry desert to the subtropical forest, from the coast to wintry heights: South Africa has a wide variety of climatic zones, with the climate in most regions being pleasantly mild all year round. The seasons are shifted by six months compared to Europe: November to March is summer with warm to very hot temperatures. – The latter occur in the desert areas and in the southern highveld. In the winter months from June to September there can be snow in the Drakensberg around Johannesburg; In Cape Town on the Atlantic coast, the weather is cool and humid.
Food and drink
Braai means something like grilling in Afrikaans: meat dishes of all kinds belong to the typical cuisine in the richer layer. Sausages, steaks, lamb and pork chops as well as fish tend to land on the grill. Air-dried game or beef is commonly known as biltong and is often eaten as a snack. Ugali maize porridge, which is widespread in South and East Africa, forms the basis for the cuisine of the poorer population of South Africa. The country is also known for its excellent wines.
During apartheid South Africa made a strict choice between whites, blacks, coloreds and Asians. Since the 1990s there has been a change to a “rainbow nation” in which all population groups are granted the same rights. Economically, there are still great differences between the individual groups; the peculiarities of the country and its residents should be treated with sensitivity.
Everyday life also has special features: left-hand traffic on the road, for example; handling tips, where you should have a few coins on hand for every service; and the fact that in South Africa “gentlemen first” applies when walking through a door or entering an elevator.
Medical care in South Africa is generally considered to be good. In order to prevent diarrhea, hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing and eating raw fruit, unpeeled vegetables and salads should be observed. Malaria is an issue in some regions of South Africa, ticks are common in others – especially in the wet season – and schistosomiasis occurs in all South African waters. Bringing a first-aid kit with personal medication is always recommended. If you are unsure, you should seek advice from your family doctor or a tropical medicine institute in good time before you start your journey.
Climate and travel time
Best travel time for South Africa
A general recommendation of the best time to visit South Africa is difficult. Which travel time is the best depends on which regions of South Africa you want to visit and how sensitive they are to heat and cold.
Cape Town, South Africa
The region around Cape Town is characterized by a mild coastal climate all year round. The differences between maximum and minimum temperatures are smaller here than in inland areas. If you are looking for warm summer weather, you should avoid the months of May to September, as the highest temperatures hardly rise above 20 °C here. If you don’t like it so warm, you should consider avoiding the months December to February – here the lows hardly fall below 15 ° C, the highs reach almost 25 °C.
Best travel time for the coast of the Indian Ocean of South Africa
The weather on the Indian Ocean is heavily influenced by the Agulhas Current, which originates from the Indian Ocean and is warmer and therefore enables warmer temperatures than on the west coast. Even in the winter months of June, July and August, the lows hardly ever drop to single-digit values. The summer months of December, January and February are not too hot with maximum values below 30 °C.
Travel time to Kruger National Park
The north-east of South Africa, where the Kruger National Park is located, has a tropical climate. Especially in the summer months between October and March it can be very hot here (sometimes over 40 °C) and also rainy. In the winter months from April to September it can get very cool at night, sometimes the temperatures drop to below freezing point, but the mercury climbs to pleasant and warm temperatures of around 20 to 30 degrees during the day.
Due to the regular (mostly short and heavy) rainfall in the summer months, the wild animals can be found throughout the park during this time. In winter, on the other hand, there is a dry season and almost all animals gather at the same time near rivers or the few large water holes to quench their thirst. Even the shyest animals then lose their fear due to the scarcity of water and dare to go straight to the water holes. The cooler winter months between May and August are therefore particularly suitable for observing animals and the chance of spotting the Big 5 is higher. Most of the rain falls in Kruger Park between November and March, the least in July and August.
In the South African winter, the grass of the savannah is particularly short and the trees and bushes have less leaves and scrub. This makes it easier to see the large animals. If you want to watch the animals with their offspring, you will have to drive to the Kruger Park again in the summer months, because the small wild cats and other large animals are usually born between November and February. By the way, there is a risk of malaria in the Kruger National Park! When traveling, at least in the rainy season, adequate malaria prophylaxis should be ensured. This can be achieved by taking anti-malaria medication as well as consistent mosquito repellent in the evening and at night (long clothes, insect repellent, mosquito net,…).
All about money
South African Rand (ZAR)
It is advisable to first exchange money in South Africa, as the exchange rates in Europe are quite expensive.
In general, ATMs can be found across the country. For example in all larger towns, at the airport in Cape Town and Johannesburg, but also sometimes in smaller shops and petrol stations. These usually accept debit cards or credit cards without any problems. In addition, you can pay with Visa, Mastercard or American Express in almost all shops and restaurants. Please note that you can withdraw a maximum of 2,000 rand per day. Travelers checks, on the other hand, are quite expensive and the exchange can take a little longer. Therefore travelers checks are no longer recommended.
Because of the very low salaries, people in South Africa are dependent on tips. So tipping is a must here. The guideline is to tip around 10% off the price. Parking attendants who park and unpark the car, as well as tank attendants, taxi drivers and luggage carriers should also be given 2 to 5 rand. It is therefore advisable to take some coins with you.
Other essential information
The time difference to CET in South Africa is +1 hour
The voltage in South Africa is 220 volts / 50 Hertz and sockets of type D, M and N are used. You therefore need suitable travel plug adapters.
Protection for walking safaris
During the hikes in the national park, an armed ranger will accompany you for safety reasons. This is considered protection from the animals.