Information about South Africa for Tourists
South Africa has a population of approximately 55 million people and has 11 official languages. For this reason it is called the rainbow nation!
This page contains some general information about South Africa for tourists. You can see more specific information for tourists in South Africa on our other pages:
- Safety information for tourists visiting South Africa
- Passport and Visa Requirements for tourists visiting South Africa
- Health information for tourists visiting South Africa
- How to book low cost air tickets / flights to South Africa
Information contained on this page:
Language and communication
South Africa has 11 official languages, including English. This is as a result of it’s large culturally diversity. English is the most widely spoken language throughout the country. All tourist related operators and employees with whom you will deal will be able to speak English. All road signs and important notices will be English.
TV and radio is offered in multiple languages, however the widest variety is normally in English
Cellphone and internet access in South Africa
Cellphone reception and internet access is available widely throughout South Africa. In most highly populated areas, there will be at least 3G mobile internet available. In metropolitan areas such as Cape Town and most stops along the garden route, there is 4G available.
It is best to check with your mobile service provider in your home country regarding roaming charges for calls as well as data, otherwise you may end up with a large phone bill. It may be a lot cheaper to buy a South African SIM card on arrival at the airport.
All our accommodations provide WiFi access for your convenience during your trip.
Currency and finances
The local currency is the South Africa Rand (R). This is the only currency accepted as payment.
ATMs (Cash machines)
There is a high number of ATM (cash machines) throughout South Africa. In rural areas such as Addo, there may be fewer. However, there is usually an ATM at petrol stations. So it is a good idea to draw cash when filling up your vehicle.
Paying with card
These days, most tourist related venues have card facilities where one can pay with a credit / debit card. You can always ask your hotel / guest house to find out if the place you wish to visit has card facilities. You will need to contact your bank regarding what fees you will be charged each time you use your card, as well as what exchange rate you will receive. However, it is always a good idea to keep some cash on you, as smaller shops may not have card facilities.
Currency exchange vs using card
Whether it is cheaper to purchase South African Rand from a currency exchange office, or to use your card to draw your cash from ATMs and to pay with card depends on your bank. However, carrying a large amount of cash is not recommended for safety reasons.
Important: It is critical that you notify your bank that you will be travelling to South Africa! If you don’t do this, your bank may disable your card for security reasons.
Driving in South Africa
Drive on the left hand side of the road
In South Africa we drive on the left hand side of the road!
General Road rules
The South Africa road rules are similar to those found around the world. The speed limit in most urban areas is 60km/h, and 120km/h on most sections of highways. Secondary / Regional roads usually have a speed limit of 100 km/h.
Always pay attention to road signs as these will tell you the exact speed signs. If you drive faster than the speed limit, expect to receive a speed fine or two!
A seat-belt is to be worn at all times by all passengers and the driver. It is illegal to use a cellphone while driving!
It is illegal to drink alcohol and drive. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05g per 100ml.
South Africa has relatively good network of tarred roads. Most of your trip will be on these.
Traffic lights are often referred to as “robots” in South Africa. When being given directions, do not be alarmed if you are told to turn at a set of “robots”!
Always lock your doors while driving. Drive with your windows up when in urban areas, especially at traffic lights! Do not leave any valuables visible whilst driving or when the car is parked. We do not recommend driving at night as a tourist (see below)!
Driving at night
As a tourist we highly recommend that you do not drive at night. Rather plan to reach your next destination while it is still light. We advise this for safety and practical reasons. It is a lot easier to navigate during the day than at night (see road signs, turn offs, etc.).
In certain areas the risk of animals being on the road at night is higher and it is a lot harder to spot them in the dark. This is especially true for rural areas of the Eastern Cape where most game parks are located.
Food and drinks
Most of our food is very western! Restaurants are widely available. Hygiene standards and food quality is high in restaurants / cafes and legitimate shops. However, be careful when purchasing food and drink from street vendors.
If you have any allergies consult with the restaurant.
Most tap water is safe for consumption in urban areas. If you are not sure, just check with the hotel / guest house you are staying at.
Climate and clothing
South Africa has it’s summer from December to February and it’s winter from June to August (as it is in the southern hemisphere).
The coastlines of South Africa have a very moderate climate. Summers which are not too hot, and winters which are not too cold. Inland regions (such as Oudtshoorn and Addo) experience hotter summers and colder winters.
Summer average temperatures:
- Southern coast (Cape Town to Eastern Cape): Average highs from 25°C to 30°C, with lows ranging from 15°C to 20°C in the evenings
- Inland regions (Oudtshoorn, Addo): Average highs from 30°C and more. In some regions it can reach up to 40°C!
Winter average temperatures:
- Southern coast: Average highs of not more than 20°C. Lows ranging from 5°C to 10°C
- Inland regions: Also average highs of not more than 20°C, but expect cooler nights of 5°C
In summer we recommend bringing cooler clothes to deal with the heat. However, still bring something warm as it may be cooler in the evenings. We always recommend bringing a light jacket in case there is rain or wind.
In winter we recommend bringing warmer clothes! A warm jacket is recommended. It may not be needed everyday, however you may experience some cold days and nights.
All year round we recommend bringing a hat and sun protection, as well as a jacket which is waterproof.
We recommended bringing a pair of comfortable durable shoes, as there are many wonderful outdoor activities to enjoy.
For game drives, we recommend wearing more natural colored clothes (however this is not compulsory). If going on an early morning or night game drive, it is highly recommended to take a warm jacket.
Electricity and electrical adapters
The mains electricity in South Africa is 220/230V AC at 50Hz. Most plugs are three pinned, however a lot of hotels and guest houses have 2 pin plugs (EU type) in bathrooms for shavers, tooth brushes etc.
We recommend buying an adapter or two when you arrive at the airport. This will save you a lot of inconvenience throughout your trip.