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South Africa is bounded on the south by 2,798 kilometres of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; on the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and on the east and northeast by Mozambique and Swaziland; and surrounds the kingdom of Lesotho. South Africa is the largest country in Southern Africa

Travellers cannot visit South Africa without learning about its tumultuous history which is a crucial part of the country's identity. Museum visits, many of which include exhibits on the apartheid era, might not be light-hearted, but will help you to understand the very fabric of South African society and to appreciate how far the country has come.

South Africa is one of the continent's best safari destinations, offering the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) and more in accessible parks and reserves. You can drive right into the epic wilderness at Kruger, Kgalagadi and other parks, or join khaki-clad rangers on guided drives and walks. But it's not all about big game sightings – wildlife watching here also teaches you to enjoy the little things: a leopard tortoise ambling alongside the road, a go-away bird chirping its distinctive chant in the trees, or on the coast, an encounter with seals, whales or a great white shark.

South Africa's ever-changing scenery is the perfect canvas on which to paint an activity-packed trip. Try rock-climbing in the craggy Cederberg, surfing off the Eastern Cape coast, abseiling from Cape Town's iconic Table Mountain or bungee jumping from a Garden Route bridge. If adrenaline sports aren't your thing, opt instead for a hike: options include multi-day treks through wildlife reserves, dusty day walks in the semi-desert Karoo, catered 'slackpacking' trails along the Cape coast or an overnight hike into the sometimes-snow-capped peaks of the Drakensberg.

South Africa's climatic conditions generally range from Mediterranean in the southwestern corner of South Africa to temperate in the interior plateau, and subtropical in the northeast. A small area in the northwest has a desert climate. Most of the country has warm, sunny days and cool nights. Rainfall generally occurs during summer (November through March), although in the southwest, around Cape Town, rainfall occurs in winter (June to August).

Given the moderate climate, during the summer months in light, summer-weight clothes most of the time, but do pack a jacket, socks, good shoes and a rain jacket. Pack sunscreen as well as a hat, sunglasses and beach wear. Make sure you have at least one cotton shirt, with a collar, for sun protection. Stock up on insect repellent and, if you’re planning to be in a malaria area, plan to wear long sleeves and long pants for evenings. Bring good walking shoes.

If you’re visiting in winter, pack warm clothes, including a fleece, as it can get nippy in mornings and at night. Pack a bandanna or cotton scarf as well as a versatile wrap, sarong or kikoi. If you’ll be watching game, aim for reasonably neutral colours but it’s not compulsory. Pack something warm for game drives: a windbreaker or hoodie is ideal.

South Africa has eleven official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. English is recognised as the language of commerce and science and it is the first language of only 9.6% of South African, however it is widely spoken and understood.

The South African Rand/ZAR is the currency used in South Africa.

If you have recently travelled in a yellow-fever area, or even transited for over 12 hours en route to South Africa, you need to show a vaccination certificate to enter South Africa.

South African Standard Time (SAST) is the time zone used by South Africa, Botswana as well as Swaziland and Lesotho. The zone is two hours ahead of UTC (UTC+2) and is the same as Central Africa Time.

Travellers visiting South Africa will need a valid and acceptable passport or travel document for your intended stay and a valid visa, if required. Your passport should be valid for at least 30 days after the end of your intended visit, and should have at least two blank pages.

You're permitted to bring 2L of wine, 1L of spirits and other alcoholic beverages, 200 cigarettes and up to R5000 worth of goods into South Africa without paying duties. Imported and exported protected-animal products such as ivory must be declared.

Wages are low here, and tipping is expected.
  • Restaurants & Cafes 10% to 15% of the total in restaurants; 10% in cafes.
  • Hotels- standard tip of R10 to R20 is welcomed.
  • Car guards- offer R2, or R5 for longer periods.
  • Petrol stations- anything from R2 – more if the attendant also washes the windscreen and checks the tyres.
  • Taxis tips are not expected but rounding up the fare will be appreciated.

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