Travel Guide ZA
South Africa is a country that unites an entire world. The diversity of the landscape is incomparable: deserts, endless savannas, bushland, rainforests, lagoons, wetlands, high plateaus, low mountain ranges with fertile valleys and bizarre high mountains. Over 2000 km of coastline with dream beaches, rough and melancholy in the west, relatively mild and Mediterranean in the east, tropical and significantly warmer in the northeast. Modern big cities with the comfort of the "Old World", excellent infrastructure and an economy that works very well for African conditions combine with the originality of the black continent, which with its friendly people, the unique fauna and flora attracts visitors again and again... and is pulling them under its spell. South Africa is not a typical holiday destination for extensive bathing on the beach. It is the goal of the "important journey", for many visitors, the most beautiful journey of their lives; for some even ultimately the permanent alternative to their own home country!
In terms of climate, South Africa is an attractive travel destination all year round. There is always good weather in this huge country: From November to April, it's best to visit the Western Cape with Cape Town and the Winelands. And from May to October, the best way to visit is the east coast and the Karoo and the Kalahari.
CET + 1 is the time zone in South Africa, i.e. the same time applies in European summer as South Africa does not have daylight saving time. In the European winter, however, you have to put the clock forward by one hour.
For a stay of up to 90 days, tourists from European countries only need a valid passport for 6 months after the return date. Special regulations apply to more extended stays. Upon entry, you must immediately check whether sufficient days have been approved beyond the day of departure. Any mistake made by whoever is the responsibility of the visitor. Exceeding the residence permit usually leads to severe penalties. Furthermore, there must be at least two free pages in the passport for stamps and entries. If these conditions are not met, entry into South Africa is not possible.
The national legal currency is the South African Rand (ZAR), with an exchange rate to the Euro of around 17.30 to 1 (as of August 2021). The interbank rate can easily be found on Google. The exchange rate used when changing money is significantly worse. In general, you will get a slightly better exchange rate if you change money in South Africa or, even better, transfer it by bank.
Foreign Exchange Regulations
The amount of imported foreign currencies in cash or traveller's checks, which can be exchanged at any bank (in USD or EUR), is unlimited. VISA and MasterCard credit cards are accepted everywhere. Few banks do accept EC cards (Maestro). The import of local currency is limited to the small amount of ZAR 5,000 per person.
The South African banks (e.g. Standard Bank, Nedbank or ABSA Bank) exchange freely convertible currencies and traveller's checks into ZAR. All larger bank branches have ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) for withdrawing cash with a credit card - sometimes also with a Maestro (formerly EC card). Banks are usually open on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and some are closed between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.
In South Africa - unlike in Europe - you can pay with major credit cards almost everywhere. MASTERCARD and VISA are preferred, with DINERS or AMERICAN EXPRESS; however, difficulties can arise, as many service providers do not accept the high fees of these card organizations.
Value-Added Tax (VAT)
Value-added tax (VAT) is 15% (as of August 2021). The VAT can be reimbursed for larger purchases by submitting the relevant receipts at the "VAT Refund" at international airports.
Regional Climatic and Weather Differences
The climatic conditions in South Africa depend on the altitude and proximity to the sea and therefore vary significantly from region to region.
The Climate in Cape Town and on the Cape Peninsula
The climate here is mediterranean. Dry, warm summers from December to April, often very windy. Between December and March, it can get stormy ("southeast winds"). The winters show themselves with temperatures of 14 to 22 degrees during the day and 5 to 12 degrees at night. Often abundant rain from May to July.
The health care system in the Western Cape, and especially in Cape Town and the surrounding area, is very well developed. The quality of the doctors is at a high international level. Numerous South African doctors have been trained in Europe or the USA. The technical equipment is first class, e.g. for orthodontists, ophthalmologists, oncologists and urologists. As an alternative to their branch/practice, doctors often come together in medical centres. In addition to the free state clinics, there are numerous operators of private hospitals. The supply of medication is extensive with multiple pharmacies.
Usually, the doctors (general practitioners) practice in group practices, e.g. Red Cross, and specialists practice in private clinics. Pharmacies can be found in all cities. Medicines are much cheaper than in Germany.
If hospital treatment is necessary, one should always choose one of the numerous private clinics, such as those of "Medi-Clinic" (e.g. Constantiaberg Hospital), "Life" (e.g. Kingsbury Hospital) and "Melomed" (e.g. Private Hospital in Tokai with Stroke Unit) as well. Other well-known names with great renown are Vincent Pallotti Hospital and Groote Schuur (site of the world's first heart transplant). State hospitals are not recommended; the medical equipment there is usually inadequate.
TRAFFIC and TRANSPORT
Driving on the left and buckling up is compulsory in South Africa, and the alcohol limit is 0.50%. The traffic rules are largely the same as in Germany. But there are important specifics.
At intersections, without traffic lights or with right-of-way signs (stop signs with a red "4" at all junctions), the rule applies: "First come, first".
Many of the larger country roads have wide shoulder strips that can make way for the overtaking vehicle.
60 km/h in urban areas, 100 km/h on paved country roads outside of town and 120 km/h on highways. Checks are becoming more and more frequent, especially at the entrances and exits. Speed transmissions, as well as parking sins, are punished with sometimes severe penalties.
The AA (South African Automobile Association) is the South African counterpart of the German ADAC, with branches in all medium-sized and larger cities. As a designated ADAC member, you can obtain maps here, among other things.
Petrol and Gas Stations
The petrol station network in urban areas is just as well developed as in Europe. You get diesel, 95 unleaded and 97 super (leaded). A petrol station can also be found in smaller towns. Since there are only petrol stations without self-service, a small tip is appropriate depending on the service of the tank attendant.
You can also do without it, but to avoid any difficulties during police checks, you should also have an international driver's license with you, which you can obtain from your national automobile club.
The railway network in South Africa has been developed quite well. For example, practically all major cities can be reached by train from Johannesburg. The railway company "Shosholoza Meyl" publishes exact timetables and price information on its website. For longer journeys sleeping cabins can be booked ("Tourist Class"); on shorter journeys, only seats ("Economy Class"). Compared to Europe, the prices are very moderate.
Until the corona pandemic started, Frankfurt and Munich were served daily by a South African airline. The flight time is 10 to 11 hours. Lufthansa flew the Frankfurt - Johannesburg route daily. There were also direct flights from Frankfurt and Munich to Cape Town between November and March. Other airlines such as Air France, KLM, British Airways and Turkish Airlines regularly flew to South Africa via their home base airports. The flight times are then a little longer. Airfares vary greatly depending on the season. Maximum prices are payable around Christmas.
In addition to a well-developed telephone network ("landline"), South Africa also has a modern, nationwide mobile network. The regional dialling code, e.g. 021 for Cape Town, must always be dialled in both networks. The country code for South Africa is 0027.
A mobile phone is called a "cellphone" in South Africa. The giant mobile phone providers are Vodacom and MTN. It is advisable to purchase a very inexpensive South African Simcard ("prepaid") upon arrival at the airport. After activation in a Vodacom or MTN shop, the card can also be used to surf the Internet. Airtime and data volume can be bought in every supermarket and also in numerous other shops. In this way, high roaming costs for European mobile network providers can be avoided.
Important Telephone Numbers (for the Constantia Valley)
Police emergency number 10111; Next police station 021 710 7306, ambulance 10177; Flying Squad 10 111, ADT Emergency 0861 212 301, Medi-Clinic Constantiaberg, 021 799 2911, Ambulance 10 177, 24-hours Emergency Unit 021 799 2196, AA emergency telephone number 0861 000234, Fire 021 480 7700
Restaurants in larger cities easily meet international standards. This is especially true for the metropolises Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The region around the Cape Peninsula with Cape Town and the Constantia Valley and the famous Winelands around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl must be particularly emphasized. There are numerous top international gourmet temples here, some of which are among the top 100 in the world. The quality is excellent, the prices, however, much more expensive than in "normal" restaurants, but cheap compared to top restaurants in Europe. Restaurant chains, such as excellent steakhouses ( Cattle Baron, Spurs, Hussar Grill), or branches of fast-food greats such as McDonald, Burger Kind or KFC are represented throughout the country.
Alcoholic beverages can only be bought in liquor stores. However, wine is also available in supermarkets such as Pick n Pay, Spar and Woolworth. South Africa is a true world champion in beer brewing, both in terms of the annual production of the industry giants ("South African Breweries") and the per capita consumption of South Africans, as well as a large number of types of beer, especially the small producers of handcrafted specialities ("craft beers") contribute.
Wine production is becoming increasingly important in South Africa and has become a significant economic factor. In the Winelands around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, as well as the Thulbach, Swartland, Elgin, Constantia and the Robertson plateau with its numerous valleys, top-quality wines are vinified in addition to the mass products for the national and international market, regardless of whether they are white grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, or from red grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and the South African speciality Pinotage, to name just the most important. The price-performance ratio is excellent; You can get a top red wine for EUR 15.00 per bottle.
The wine selection in restaurants is usually good to very good. The prices fluctuate very strongly between "normal" restaurants and top gastronomy. Most restaurants and hotels today are "fully licensed", i.e. have an unrestricted liquor license. Most restaurants allow you to bring your wine with you to your meal for a corkage fee. However, in upscale gastronomy and the wineries' restaurants, this is limited or even completely excluded.
In restaurants, 10% of the invoice amount is customary and appropriate. Some restaurants in the upper category now specify 12.5% and automatically charge this. Porters should be given ZAR 5 to 10. At petrol stations, you give ZAR to 5 depending on the scope of service, with the full program, i.e. disk-water-oil-tire pressure, rather more. The general rule is: If you are not satisfied with the service, there is no tip.
The tap water in the centres of South Africa is usually clean and safe to drink unless expressly warned against it. When touring in remote areas, you should bring enough drinking water with you. Bottled water and ice for cooling are available at most petrol stations and in many shops.