Useful Travel Information
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Please download the following 5 page document that will get you “ready to roll” to South Africa! South Africa before you go – SAAV (December 2012)
For you to fully experience the joy of a Mission Vision Tour you will need answers to several questions,
like climate & weather, passports & visas, medical care, clothing and necessities, insurance
You will find all the answers in this document
Interesting facts about South Africa (with thanks to Big Six Tour Safaris)
The Republic of South Africa occupies 1 223 410 sq, km (472 659 sq, miles) at the southern-most tip of the African continent, stretching from the Limpopo River in the north to Cape Agulhas in the south. It is five times the size of Britain, twice as big as France and about one-eighth of the size of the United States. The West Coast borders the cool South Atlantic Ocean while the Eastern Coastline runs along the warmer Indian Ocean. To the north, South Africa borders Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. In the North-East Mozambique and Swaziland.
The summer is normally from October through April, when you will often experience rain showers in the Northern Highlands, but otherwise it is warm. The winters are usually dry in the North, which makes game viewing excellent. Day temperatures range from 15 deg C to 25 deg C, but cooler nights. In the Southern part of the country, there will be winter rain showers. South Africa can be visited any time of the year.
All major credit cards are accepted at hotels, shops and restaurants and the country has a lot of Automatic Teller machines. Petrol cannot be purchased with standard credit cards.
The South African monetary unit is the Rand, divided into 100 cents. The banking system is similar to and as sophisticated as those of the Western industrialized countries. Normal banking hours in major centers are from 09:00 to 15:30 on weekdays and from 08:30 to 11:00 on Saturdays. South African Rand can be used 1:1 in Namibia, and the Rand is widely accepted in Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana. We do not recommend you take Rand with you, when you leave Africa.
DINING AND ENTERTAINMENT
These facilities are superb in South Africa. The gourmet can choose from international standard cuisine in top-class hotels, or try one of the smaller bistro restaurants found all over the country. A must is our traditional South African food. The tap water in South Africa is drinkable, but that does not apply in the rest of Africa. Theatre and film bookings can be made through Computicket or direct with the theatre or cinema.
Dress code is casual in South Africa. Even more exclusive restaurants only generally require smart casual wear.
When you are driving and you have a fast car approaching you from behind it is courtesy to pull over into the emergency lane, permitting that there are no blind rises or corners where your vision is obscured. They will either raise their hand or flash their hazard lights at you as a thank you. You can either flash your lights or raise your hand in acknowledgement. This is a friendly gesture and it is not a requirement on the roads. Driving is done on the left-hand side of the road. Speed restriction limits are strictly enforced with a maximum of 60 km/h in urban areas, 100 km/h on country roads and 120 km/h on freeways where signposted. The signboards are normally written in English and Afrikaans, which derives from Dutch spoken by 17th century settlers.
Generally, urban power systems are 220/230 volts. Plugs are 5-amp, two-pin or 15-amp, three pin (round point). Not all electric shavers will fit hotel and game park plug points; visitors can purchase adapters in the country (O.R Tambo Airport) or borrow from reception in the hotel.
MORE ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA
Remember to reconfirm your onward flights with the airline at least 72 hours prior to departure. If you are on a guided tour the tour guide/leader will do the reconfirmation.
Traveller,s cheques and foreign currency notes of all major currencies can be exchanged at any commercial bank. Rennies Foreign Exchange Bureaux or American Express and most hotels have exchange facilities for guests but at less attractive rates. Fluctuations in foreign exchange markets are reflected in new rates daily, but it is advisable to exchange at official Foreign Exchange outlets only.
One of South Africa’s greatest attractions is its wildlife. Great efforts have been made to conserve this national heritage while at the same time providing the facilities and opportunity to view game in their natural habitat. There is a wide choice of parks and lodges, each offering a different experience. The National Parks Board has a range of parks throughout the country and the Natal Parks Board operates in the Natal area. In these parks you drive your own vehicle, but in some camps there is the possibility of night game drives and walks. Check with the reception or your tour guide. The independently, private owned game lodges cater for a limited number of guests at a time and offer much personalized attention. The accommodation and facilities are normally of an extremely high standard. Major scene-stealers are the elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino (Big Five). Conducted game trails feature on the agenda of most parks. Some reserves offer four-wheel drive vehicles and the services of experienced rangers. Beware of the animals and do not get out of your vehicle and walk around. Read carefully the rules given to you at the entrance to the National Parks, when you do self-drive.
No international immunizations are needed when entering South Africa. The only requirement is a yellow fever vaccination certificate from travelers over one year of age entering South Africa within six days of leaving an infected country. Visitors who travel through or disembark in these areas are advised to be vaccinated against the disease before visiting the country. Malaria risks – predominantly in the malignant form exist throughout the year, but mainly October – April in certain areas of the country – mainly Northern Kruger and Swaziland.
Because of the country’s large resources of gold and diamonds the prices are very reasonable. There are a wide variety of jewelery shops to choose from, when you are in the country and you must be very careful of the quality and prices. Ask your tourist guide to assist you to the best.
South Africa,s ethnic diversity is reflected in the 11 official languages spoken by its people. The English-speaking visitor will have no problem while travelling through the country.
Most International film brands and sizes are readily available from shops. Processing is quick with same day service. For game viewing telephoto lenses are recommended, as well as a good pair of binoculars.
01 January – New Year,s Day
21 March – Human Rights Day
March/April – Good Friday
March/April – Family Day
27 April – Freedom Day
01 May – Workers Day
16 June – Youth Day
09 August – National Woman’s Day
24 September – Heritage Day
16 December – Day of Reconciliation
25 December – Christmas Day
26 December – Day of Goodwill
South Africa has a good network of railway and roads, but public transport can sometimes be a problem especially away from major centers. Transnet and Spoornet train and bus services are good but finding taxi services in smaller places can be difficult. Local bus service in smaller towns is also unreliable and it is advisable for a visitor to make arrangements for car hire. Mission Vision Tours can assist you with car hire, also with driver/guides. Taxis are available at airports/hotels and restaurants and on call. Trains and buses run between towns and cities. The major cities have regular bus services. Tourists can make use of one of the many luxury coach tours to see the country. Please contact Mission Vision Tours for advice.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Valuables, including traveller’s cheques, should be locked up when away from your hotel or lodge. All hotel/lodges have safe deposits. Use traveller,s cheques or credit cards rather than carrying large amounts of cash on your person. The streets in the cities are not dangerous but it is unwise to walk alone after dark or away from well-lit streets, especially carrying bags and cameras. Use taxis at night and only use those, which are booked through a reputable taxi company. Keep your car doors locked at all times. It is not advisable to resist if confronted. When in the cities, take the same precautions that you would anywhere in the world.
There are modern shopping complexes in and around all major centers offering the visitor a variety of choices to purchase jewellery, curios, artifacts, wine and liquor, clothing, books and anything else they require. Normal shopping hours are 08:30 to 17:00 on weekdays with most major centers open on Saturday for the same hours and Sunday from 08:30 – 13:00. There are the exceptions that stay open until 21:00. Please keep the receipt for presentation at border posts. Handicrafts are generally cheaper in Swaziland.
Foreign tourists visiting South Africa can have sales tax paid (known as Value Added Tax – VAT), refunded at a port of exit, provided the total items purchase exceeds R250. To qualify for a refund, visitors must be in possession of a valid passport; valid tax invoices and must produce the goods purchased. The VAT rate is 14% and is levied on most products.
South Africa has a sophisticated telecommunications network. International dialing and full telex, telefax, and electronic mail facilities are widely available. Phone cards and cellular phones are also on the market and readily available. International dialing codes can be found in South African telephone directories. Dial 09 + Country code + number.
Throughout the year, South African Standard Time is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Consult the international section of the local telephone directory for detailed world time zones.
Providing the service is satisfactory, it is usual to tip porters, waiters, taxi drivers, room attendants, golf caddies, game rangers and trackers, guides and drivers. Generally speaking, gratuities should be at least 10% of the cost of the service. Some times it is the only pay they get! For tour guides and drivers we recommend R30 to R40 per person per day on group tours.