We often associate South Africa with a continent of elephants, jungles, safaris, adventure and deserts. Those who belonged to the previous generation often associated this continent with voodoo, black magic and other such things that were seemingly practiced by the tribes and other the native Africans. However, there is much more to South Africa than the above things. Yes, there is no doubt that Africa has some of the most fascinating wild life, natural resources, flora and fauna. But there are a few more things that are also unique about this wonderful continent. For an outsider visiting any country or continent, language often is big challenge. However, this is not the problem as far as South Africa is concerned. Almost the entire population speaks English and it is one of the official languages. Apart from this big advantage, there are other opportunities for travelers. It could be the one of the best place for those who seek rugged adventure or those who are looking for a spiritual experience or would like to be a part of a memorable wine and food tour.
Take Professional Help For Visas
Online visa facility is available for US Citizens who plan to visit South Africa. There are some clearly laid down rules and regulations pertaining to visa application in this country. The applicants would need a valid passport, credit or debit cards and an email address. For visits up 90 days Visa is not required. But there are some rules and requirements that have to be followed, check here: South Africa tourist visa.
It would therefore be better to approach some professionals who can help with online and physical visa application processing. There are quite a few of them and therefore, you must do your research and choose the right ones.
Information About Local Currency
South African Rand is the official and local currency in this country. There is quite a bit of volatility between the USD and the Rand. Therefore, you must check on the exchanges rates before you travel. You must have an adequate buffer of USD so that are able to tide over violent fluctuations in the exchange rates and this keeps happening often. It has moved to almost 15 Rand to a U.S Dollar and has come down to 9 Rand to the dollar. You can withdraw Rand from ATMs but the banks will charge you a foreign transaction fee of around 3 percent. You can draw cash or through credit card. The transaction fee could be a drain on your pocket and you must be prepared for it. When you are into safari and are visiting rural areas, ATMs may not be available in all the places. Hence, you must keep this in mind and ensure that your wallet is well-stocked with Rand in such areas.
How To Move Around
When you are moving in the countryside or even in cities, you will most probably be traveling in a group. You could travel either in a comfortable AC coach or even rent a car. You could also have a guide or tour leader accompanying you. South Africa has a well-developed road network. The roads are properly-tarred and have the right sign-posts. You also can hire GPS units and this could help in identifying places and directions. It would be better to plan your travel in advance. There could be some roads where you may have to travel in 4×4 vehicles because of dirt and gravel.
When in Johannesburg, you could try out the Gauteng Rail System or the Gautrain. However, when staying in hotels, please make sure that it is conveniently located near the railway station. It should also be well-located as far as travelling to airport and catching onward flights are concerned.
Public transport in South Africa is not well-developed and the same is the case with train services. However, you could try some luxury passenger trains that come with an itinerary of their own. You may have to spend extra money on taxi services and your tour operators can help you on this.
Languages That Are Spoken
South Africa has 11 official languages and therefore it is often referred to as the Rainbow Nation. It is a nation of rich cultural diversity. Though English is spoken across the country and is used for business purposes, it is the 5th most common home language. isiZulu, followed by isoXhosa and Afrikaans are the three most popular languages. Most South Africans are multilingual and therefore you should not have problems conversing with them.
Customs That Tourists Should Follow
Tipping is not the same as it is in the USA. If the service is good be sure that you tip. Some restaurants add 10% tip onto the bill and therefore you should not end up tipping twice, unless you have fantastic reasons to do so. When you are self-driving, you may come across car guards. These are people who take care of your cars when you are either on the beach or spending time with your family in the mall. They would expect some tips and it could be anything upwards $1. There are not hard and fast rules but anything around $1 is considered good. They could be pest around a bit and you don’t feel too bad about it and keep smiling. They are not harmful, most of them.
Drinks, Drugs And Partying
South Africa has pubs and night clubs in big cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg and also Port Elizabeth and Durban. The drinking age is 18 and there are no entrances fees in most of the night club. Marijuana is illegal in the country but there are a few night clubs where drugs are available.
Vaccines Before Visiting The Country
No vaccines are required unless you have travelled through the Yellow Fever Belt. In such a situation, you must show proof of a yellow fever shot. This includes Zambia where a part of the awesome Victoria Falls is located. However, to be on the safer side, travelers would be advised to take shots to prevent polio, mumps, measles, hepatitis A, tetanus, rabies and typhoid.
Other Interesting Points
Though South Africa is safe when compared to many US cities, Cape Town is notorious for tourist muggings. Hence you should ensure caution when in this city.
You will need a power converter because South Africa uses 220/230, 15 amps currency.
Always come with a small cell phone because buying it locally as a foreigner would cost a lot.
4 star hotels have filtered water supplies and when visiting bushes and forests, use a portable filtration system or carry some water purifying tablets. Bottled water is also available.