What to know about traveling to South Africa.

Tourist guide to South Africa

The country has a developed modern telecommunications network. Most pay phones accept payment cards of 10 to 200 ZAR (green colored machines) but in some areas you can also find machines which work on coins of 2 ZAR. Phone cards are sold in post offices and most major stores.

Geographic location

South Africa is bordered on the north by Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe and on the northeast by Mozambique and Swaziland. Within South Africa is the country of Lesotho. The country is washed by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east. The capital cities are Pretoria (administrative), Cape Town (legislative) and Bloemfontein (judicial).


Cape Town and the southern coast of the Cape are characterized by a Mediterranean climate with warm and hot summers and mild or cool winters. It is here that most of the rain falls. Elsewhere in South Africa, most of the rain falls between June and August.

In many areas of the interior, summers can be very hot, especially in the Kruger National Park, Kgalagadi, and KwaZulu-Natal areas. Inland winter days are cool, but temperatures can drop below 0°C at night. The coastal region of KwaZulu-Natal is very humid in summer.


The time in South Africa is 1 hour behind Moscow and corresponds to the time in Kiev.


In the Republic of South Africa there are 11 official languages: English, Afrikaans, Ndebele, Northern Sotho (Pedi), Siswati, Southern Sotho, Tsunga, Tswana, Venda, Khosa and Zulu. English is widespread, and almost all signs are in English. But sometimes signs are in other languages, including Afrikaans, Zulu, and Kosa.


Tipping is common in South Africa. In restaurants it is 10% of the bill, R50-100 for tour bus drivers, from ZAR 200 for guides in excursions, etc.


The official currency is the South African Rand. There are coins of value 1, 2, 10, 20, 50 cents, 1, 2 and 5 rand and banknotes of 10, 50, 100 and 200 rand. 1 rand is approximately equal to 5 rubles. Banks around the country can carry out any financial transactions. Banks are open Monday to Friday 9:00 to 15:30 and Saturday 8:30 to 11:00. ATMs are available in most cities and offer 24-hour service. Most hotels have exchange offices, but it is not advantageous to exchange money there: the rate is usually overvalued and a fee is charged. Credit cards are accepted for everything except gasoline. Most major stores, hotels and restaurants accept Visa, Mastercard, Diners Club and American Express.

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Household voltage is 220/230 volts, 50 hertz. For plug sockets fit two-pin euros. Adapters are available at stores in major cities.

Clothing and Quick Tips

The South African lifestyle can be described as casual. In summer many people wear shorts, plain shirts and sandals, especially on the coast and in the reserves. Dress is more formal when visiting nice restaurants, but jackets and ties are not necessary.

The sun is more active in Africa, so you should bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a summer hat. It’s a good idea to have field binoculars for safaris (although they are usually issued on safari).


In the arrival hall in South Africa, after receiving your luggage, you should go through customs control. For this purpose, you should fill in a declaration in English, which indicates the amount of currency, jewelry and other valuables.

There is a system of two corridors for passing through customs in RSA – “green” and “red”. The “green” corridor is used only if the amount of goods you are carrying does not exceed the allowed amount, as well as if there are no goods for commercial purposes. If, however, the amount of items and goods exceeds the norm, you will have to go through the “red” corridor and possibly pay duty.

You can bring into South Africa duty-free: cigarettes – 400 pieces, cigars – 50 pieces, cigarette or pipe tobacco – 250 grams, wine – 2 liters, other spirits – 1 liter, perfume – 50 ml, gifts, souvenirs and other goods worth 500 rands (about $100).

People under 18 years of age may not bring tobacco or alcohol. You cannot bring in vegetables or fruit. At importation customs control is obligatory for arms, antiquities and art. Rough diamonds, explosives, ammunition, narcotic drugs (in any form) cannot be taken out of South Africa. If the value of the imported items exceeds 10,000 South African Rand, a duty of 20% of the total amount is levied.

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An unlimited amount of foreign currency can be brought into South Africa, including in traveler’s checks and credit cards.

Importation of local currency is limited: no more than 500 rand per person. This corresponds to the amount you can have when leaving South Africa. If you wish to carry a larger amount, you should obtain permission from The South African Reserve Bank (P.O. Box 427 Pretoria 0001).

Foreigners leaving South Africa can receive a refund of the value of the sales tax (value-added tax – VAT) they have paid at the point of departure if the value of the items purchased exceeds R250. In order to receive a refund, proof of payment must be obtained for items purchased during the stay. VAT is 14% and is charged on most goods and services. A valid passport, required forms and cash receipts are required for the refund procedure.

Health Information

It is advisable to take a first-aid kit with you on the trip, which will include: painkillers, antipyretic, acid neutralizer (for stomach), remedy for allergies and intestinal problems. It is also good if the first aid kit contains bandages, antiseptic, scissors, tweezers, thermometer, lip balm, and sunscreen.

Citizens of the Russian Federation and Ukraine do not need an international certificate of vaccination against yellow fever or other diseases to enter South Africa. In most tourist areas, malaria does not occur, so you can simply forget about it. However, in the area of Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga, Limpopo River, and the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal province, there is some danger of malaria during summer months, so preventive measures (pills are taken at the traveler’s discretion) and repellents are recommended.


South Africa has a high crime rate, especially in Johannesburg. Therefore, it is undesirable to walk around the city alone and even more so at night.

As everywhere else, be careful about HIV infection and take the usual precautions. AIDS is widespread in African countries, and South Africa is no exception.

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Unlike many countries in Africa, you can safely drink tap water in South Africa. In some areas, the water is rich in minerals, so you may experience some discomfort in the first few days until you get used to it. However, drinking water directly from rivers and streams may be unsafe, especially if they flow in the vicinity of settlements. That said, the water in mountain springs is usually perfectly clear.

In the hotel, do not allow people who are not hotel employees to take care of your luggage. Keep documents, money and valuables, including passports and airline tickets, in the hotel safe.

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