Situated at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa is 1 233 404km² in size and is edged on three sides by nearly 3 000km of coastline, with the Indian Ocean to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The country is bordered in the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and also encloses two independent countries, the kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland.
South Africa has three capitals: Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (administrative) and Bloemfontein (judicial).
The last census in 2011 showed a population of about 52-million people, of varying origins, cultures, languages and religions, of which 79,2% are African, 8,9% ‘coloured’ (a term used in South Africa to describe people of mixed race), 8,9% white, and 2,5% Indian. Just over half the population is female.
South Africa’s currency is the rand, which offers visitors great value for money. The rand comes in a range of coins (R1 = 100 cents) and note denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200.
South Africa is known for its long sunny days, hence the title, ‘Sunny South Africa’. Most of the nine provinces have summer rainfall, except for the Western Cape, which experiences winter rainfall. The high-lying areas of the interior can be chilly in winter. The South African Weather Service uses the following dates for seasons:
Spring: September, October, November
Summer: December through February
Autumn: March, April, May
Winter: June through August
South Africa has a well-developed communications infrastructure. A number of cellphone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas.
There are nine provinces in South Africa, namely: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West and Western Cape.
South Africa is a multilingual country and there are 11 official languages, namely: English, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga. Although only about 10% of the population has English as its mother tongue, English is the language most widely understood, and is the second language of the majority of South Africans.
About 80% of South Africa’s population is Christian. Other major religious groups include Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists. A minority does not belong to any of the major religions. The Constitution guarantees freedom of worship.
South Africa’s three major international airports are OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg); Cape Town International Airport; and King Shaka International Airport (Durban). There are also many regional airports, including the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Mbombela (Nelspruit).
Visitors arriving at OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg
For visa requirements, please contact your nearest South African diplomatic mission. South Africa requires a valid yellow fever certificate from all foreign visitors and citizens over one year of age travelling from an infected area or having been in transit through infected areas. Infected areas include Zambia and Angola in southern Africa.
South Africa has been well known for its medical skill since Professor Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful human heart transplant in the country in 1967. There are many world-class private hospitals and medical centres around the country, especially in the urban areas, while many state hospitals also offer excellent care, among them Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.
Most of South Africa is malaria-free, but if you are visiting the Kruger National Park or low-lying parts of northern KwaZulu-Natal, be aware that you are entering malarial areas and should take precautions in the form of prophylactic medication.
TIPS AND TIPPING
As a rough guide: give 10% to 15% to a waitron in a restaurant; about US$10 (or equivalent) per day to your safari ranger.
se common sense and take basic safety precautions. Keep valuables locked away and don’t wear expensive watches or jewellery, flash expensive cameras, or walk in deserted areas. Keep car doors and windows locked at all times. If in doubt, ask a guide or at your accommodation for safety guidelines.