Travel Destinations / South Africa
South Africa has a rich and very varied landscape, and is considered to be Africa for beginners. South Africa has the most diverse and developed tourist industry on the continent. From the tropical wilds of Maputaland to the Big Five country of Limpopo, and from the metropolitan heartland of Gauteng to the elegant sophistication and beauty of the Cape Winelands, there is no single country in Africa with as much to offer the discerning traveller.
A wide variety of visitors are coming to South Africa, because tourists on short-term visits are attracted by the well-established highlights such as the Kruger National Park with its ‘Big Five’, and Cape Town’s Table mountain with one of the most beautiful views in the world. Sport lovers come to play golf, try rock climbing, mountain biking, bungee jumping and hike the numerous pristine nature reserves, while backpackers fall in love with the Garden Route’s beauty and tranquillity. And everyone will love the golden beaches, welcoming wine farms and the great food.
South Africa is brimming with contradictions and surprising contrasts. Living side by side you’ll find poverty and wealth; desert and rainforests; secluded beach and mist-shrouded maintain; and it is all populated by over thirty different cultures.
The tourist infrastructure is outstanding and could be compared with European infrastructure. The weakness of the Rand against major international currencies makes for a hard to beat value for money holiday. South Africa has it all: a combination of everything a visitor could want, in a territory that is a true paradise on earth.
It is difficult to talk about South Africa as one culture, because the population is so varied and there are widely differing communities that make up life in the country. It is one of the few countries in the world which have such extremes in terms of wealth, culture and language.
South Africa has 11 official languages and approximately 15 different ethnic groups. Generally people welcome visitors and people are uniformly proud of their country. The only way to avoid stereotyping, when you meet many different cultures, is to encounter each person as an individual, this way you’ll see the country’s people with fresh eyes.
African masks or stone carvings are the most popular souvenirs, although most of which comes from other African countries, like Malawi or Zimbabwe. South Africa is an excellent place to buy jewellery or have custom pieces designed and made, because the country is rich in diamonds, gold and platinum.
Wine is also a good bet, particularly since case lots are tax exempt for export and most wine estates will deliver purchases to your home.
Currency: South African Rand (ZAR). ZAR1 = 100 cents
Notes: ZAR 1-, 20, 50, 100 and 200.
Coins: ZAR 1, 5, 10 and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cents.
Credit cards: All major credit cards are accepted in most shops, hotels and restaurants.
Anti-malarials and mosquito repellent is needed when you travel to Kruger National Park and game farms in the Northern Province and Mpumalanga, to minimise the risk of contracting the disease.
Throughout South Africa it is safe to drink water from the tap. In rural areas, however, you are advised not to drink tap water and wash fresh fruit before eating
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South Africa has an ideal climate to visit the country year-round. The summers are hot and the winters are very mild. The size of the country and the substantial variations in altitude mean that climatic conditions vary throughout.
The summers are hot with showers in the Johannesburg area, which is 2000m above sea level and the winters there are dry and chilly.
Along the subtropical Kwa-Zulu Natal coast, summers are hot and humid with mild winters.
Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate, with rainfall during the winter and long, mellow summer days.
Best time to visit
South Africa enjoys a wonderful year-round climate, making it great to visit any time. It is worth planning around the seasons if you have specific activities in mind though. If you are thinking about an outdoors kind of holiday, winter is best as it’s generally the drier season across the country. (Take note this doesn’t include the Western Cape, as it experiences its rainy season during winter.)
It’s more important to take note of South African school holidays than weather when planning a trip to the southern tip of Africa. Easter holidays, June and July, as well as the December holidays (peak summer break) are best avoided as local travelers fill up many of the countries tourist attractions.