Welcome to South Africa
If you have only one chance to visit Africa, consider life-changing South Africa, a one-stop shop for cultural diversity, wildlife, wine, history, stunning natural beauty and more.
Geology and history textbooks come to life here, in the form of humbling museums and monuments, unfettered wildlife roaming free and every kind of geological formation from vast deserts to deep river canyons. Get your adrenaline pumping while rock climbing in the Cederberg, surfing off the Eastern Cape, backpacking the Drakensberg and bungee jumping from the Bloukrans Bridge on the Garden Route.
Get your safari on in Kruger, Kgalagadi and other parks where the Big Five – lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino – are on display. Wine and dine your way through cosmopolitan Cape Town, in the shadow of magnificent Table Mountain, and through the Cape Winelands, stopping to taste Pinotage and Chenin Blanc varietals. Take a reflective moment at Nelson Mandela’s grave or at his home in Soweto.
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Need To Know
- The oldest meteor scar in the world, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Vredefort Dome, is in South Africa in a town called Parys.
- The oldest remains of modern humans, more than 160,000 years old, were found in South Africa.
- Almost 90 percent of the Earth’s platinum metals are in South Africa, as well as approximately 41 percent of the world’s gold.
- The Cape Winelands region, along Route 62, is considered the longest wine route in the world. There are 560 wineries in the area.
- There is a monarchy within this democratic republic. The Province of KwaZulu-Natal is ruled over by Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, the King of the Zulu Nation.
South Africa’s official languages are Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
When To Go
South Africa may be visited year-round. Expect hot, sunny summer and cool, occasionally rainy winters in Cape Town. Johannesburg is especially pleasant in March, September and November. Durban is best visited between May and September. The weather in Kruger National Park varies dramatically from north to south. Aim for August or September for the driest weather with the most vegetation in bloom.
Keep in mind that most businesses throughout the country close between mid-December and mid-January for the holidays.
Tambo Airport, Johannesburg
Cape Town International Airport
King Shaka International Airport, Durban
Passport must be valid at time of entry for 30 days.
Visa Required By US Citizen?
None for stays of 90 days or less.
The CDC recommends the following vaccines for most travelers when visiting Ethiopia: Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Depending on where you are traveling, you may also need Hepatitis B, Malaria, Rabies and Yellow Fever vaccines.
Power plugs and sockets: types C, D, M and N. Standard voltage: 230V. Frequency: 50Hz.
Official local currency: Rand
Road conditions are generally good in South Africa. Be aware of poor driving, limited enforcement of traffic laws, road rage, aggressive driving, distracted driving and driving under the influence of alcohol. Use extra caution driving at night.
Taxis are generally available in major cities. Use individual metered taxis from established taxi companies, hotel taxis or tour buses when possible. Uber operates in South Africa. MyCitiBus service in Cape Town is a common transportation method within the city center.
There are various rail services, including the long-distance Shosholoza Meyl, rapid-rail Gautrain in the Gauteng Province and luxury rail service, such as Shosholoza Meyl Premier Classe, Blue Train and Royos Rail. The two recommended rail services for international travelers are the Gautrain in Johannesburg and the Southern Suburbs Metro Rail Line in Cape Town.
Valid US driver’s license is required.
US Embassy Info
U.S. Embassy Pretoria
877 Pretorius Street, Arcadia
Telephone: +(27)(12) 431-4000 / 012-431-4000
Fax: +(27)(12) 431-5504 / 012-431-5504
Local Visitor Info
Visit https://tkp.tourism.gov.za/vc/vic/Pages/default.aspx to search for a visitor information center in the area(s) you will be visiting.
Local Emergency Phone Numbers
General Emergency (Cape Town area): 107, 112 (from cell phone)
Safety and Security
The crime rate is high in South Africa. Violent crimes, such as robberies, car jackings, muggings and “smash-and-grab” attacks are common. Use caution in the central business districts of major cities, especially after dark. Avoid walking alone after dark. Do not carry cash or valuables.
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