♦Capital: Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town
♦Currency: South African Rand (ZAR)
♦Time Zone: +2 GMT
♦Phone Code: +27
♦Best time to visit: Nov to March
♦Must eat: Bunny Chou (Curry meat)
♦Must drink: Umqombothi (beer)
♦Don't miss: Pilanesberg or Kruger National Animal Reserve Parks.
Getting there and transportation: When travelling to South Africa there are multiple airline options to choose from and a great variety of connections. Coming from Europe, Middle East and Africa are the best direct flights. South African Airways is the flag carrier and offers direct services to many destinations around the globe, including New York, Sau Paulo, Washington, Perth, Hong Kong or Dubai. European airlines offer daily flights from their hubs, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris, London or Madrid have direct flights to either Johannesburg or Cape Town, the two major cities.
It's also possible to connect with other major carriers via Europe, America or Asia. Domestic travel in South Africa is also possible thanks to the competition of many airlines now operating in the country. South African Airways has good connections as well as a good service. There are also low cost airlines, the most popular are Kulula, Mango and Flysafair, ideal for point to point travel within the country.
Once you are in South Africa and want to travel around, ground transportation is also possible by train or busses. However the distance between cities is very large, taking up to 12 hours from one major city to another. (Johannesburg to Durban for example). Trains are slow and busses are generally not safe. Unless you have plenty of time, and travel very light, these forms or transport are not really recommended.
When visiting, it's usual to rely upon tours and travel companies to take you around popular sights and other highlights in order to travel. Travelling with a local tour guide is safer plus ensures you will get the best out of your trip. Tours are available to book online with a minimum of two people, but if you are travelling alone its also possible to book direct with the Hotels or Tour companies if you give them a call in advance the days you want to travel and can join other people.
Local transportation options are very varied depending on each city, in general terms, for visitors it's not advised to take local transport. Except in Cape Town where safety levels are slightly better or Johannesburg, with it's Gautrain transport system. For more info on the local transport in each city please visit the city guides below.
Attention! If you are not familiar with South Africa it may not be advisable to use public transportation, as crime levels are high in the city centres of every city. Unless if you have a local who can show you around. Taxis, for example, would be a better option mainly because you will be assured of being dropped off at the front door of your destination. Always take metered cab that can be easily recognised by their yellow “taxi” lights.If you are travelling around the cities, unfortunately, safety levels are low due to the high crime activity, and as many poorer people and less fortunate come to the city centres to live. It's advised always to move around the city with cabs and going from door to door. Tour groups are fine and taking tour busses or walking tours. However, once the sun sets it's not advised to walk around the streets in the city or neighbourhoods which you are not familiar with.
Crime has increased in South Africa in the last 3 years. The biggest problems are being mugged or robbed, stolen cars, broken into cars, being attacked to steal, being insulted, being subject to a physical attack because of your skin colour, ethnic origin or religion, using or dealing with drugs, property crimes such as vandalism and theft, assault and armed robbery and finally corruption and bribery. If you encounter any threats, it's advised always to stay visible on main streets, walk away from any conflict and stay alert of your possessions. Never expose your mobile phone, camera, digital equipment etc and it's recommended to under-dress. Don't wear (expose) any jewellery or items of value on the street. Also, if you are alone make sure nobody follows you when walking around the city and frequently cross the street to avoid any followers. Don't take much money with you and only one credit card, not a wallet.
Weather and temperature: The large size of the country means that weather differences are very noticeable from region to region. The climate in South Africa ranges from desert and semi-desert in the north west of the country to sub-tropical on the eastern coastline. The rainy season for most of the country is in the summer. (November to march). The best time to visit South Africa's is during their Spring and Autumn (October to November and March to May). Remember that the climate is seasonal, it can get quite cold in winter (May-August), warm and sunny in Spring and Autumn, and often hot in summer (November to March)with temperatures reaching in the mid 30's C, though with frequent rains to cool things down.
During Winters the cold is nothing compared to what is experienced in Europe, with mild frost occasional, and snow only in the high mountains. Temperatures can range from 10-15C during this season. The west of the country is generally quite dry, therefore be aware of draughts and water restrictions, specially in Cape Town. In the East of the country, it rains more often as well as being greener, like in Durban.
What to eat and drink? When visiting in South African you will be amazed of the amount of BBQ dishes they have.The braai, is South Africa’s equivalent of the barbecue, is practically a national sport, a religion even. The long South African coastline guarantees a seemingly endless supply of the freshest fish and seafood. Just inland in the Cape Winelands, the local wine industry is thriving and generally of a very high standard. The country's cosmopolitan heritage is matched in its variety of culinary offerings, with fruity and sweet Cape Malay cuisine a speciality of Cape Town, and a strong Indian influence stirred into Durban's cracking curries.
These are some of the specialities you can find in South Africa: Boerewors: A high-quality beef and pork sausage with a variety of spices, essential for a braai. Bobotjie: A curried mince bake topped with egg and often studded with raisins. Poitjiekos: A casserole slow cooked on the re in a cast iron pot. Biltong: Dried meat, typically made from beef, venison or ostrich meat. Amagwinya: A savoury doughnut that often accompanies stews. Umgqusho: A traditional African staple of samp (dried maize kernels) and beans. Pap: A maize porridge staple that often accompanies braai meat. Bunny Chow: Curry lamb, beef or chicken in a hollowed half loaf of bread. Koeksister: A syrup-coated doughnut twist sometimes nished with a sprinkling of coconut. Melktert: An Afrikaans desert consisting of pastry and a creamy lling. Malva Pudding: A sweet and gooey sponge desert of Cape Dutch origin, similar to sticky toee pudding.
As for drinks you can find Umqombothi, a traditional Xhosa beer made with maize and sorghum. Pinotage, a red wine grape bursting with ripe fruit and unique to South Africa. Rooibos, a red-coloured and fragrant caffeine-free tea indigenous to Western Cape.