South Africa information

South Africa general information

Do I need a visa for South Africa? What time is it in South Africa? What is South Africa's currency? Here we've tried to answer frequently asked questions most travellers have, when going on holiday to South Africa's Cape for the first time.

Know before you go

As you plan your trip, and before you travel, we recommend that you check the latest Foreign Office advice on the places that you're going to - regardless of where you are travelling to, or how you are travelling. See FCO's South Africa advice here, or its info on other countries here.
We urge you to do this, as we recommend that all our travellers keep themselves up to date with the current foreign office advice on their destination countries.

Time in South Africa

South Africa is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2); South Africa doesn't operate daylight saving time, so there's no time difference between the summer and winter months.

Currency in South Africa

South Africa's currency is the South African rand (ZAR). At the time of writing (Aug 09) £1 = ZAR13.39 (US$1 = ZAR8.13); we suggest you also check with for the latest exchange rates. Travellers' cheques and foreign currency can be exchanged at banks; credit cards are widely accepted.

South Africa's International Dialling Code

The International Dialling Code for South Africa is +27. Calling to South Africa, you dial 0027, followed by the area code (e.g. 21 for Cape Town) and local number. Calling from South Africa, you need to know the code of the country you want make a call to (e.g. +44 for the UK; +1 for the USA). Currently (Aug 09), calls with Telkom SA Limited cost ZAR0.80 per minute (peak time; Mon to Fri 8:00-20:00), respectively ZAR0.70 per minute (global off-peak; Mon to Fri 20:00-8:00 plus weekends).

Food in South Africa

In South Africa, high-quality food is inexpensive; most restaurants serve international cuisine, along with award-winning South African wine or the local Castle beer – there's something for every taste.

South Africa's traditional foods includes Biltong (dried meat), Potjiekos (slowly cooked meat and vegetable stew), Mielie Pap (corn meal mix) and Boerewors (spicy sausage). Bar-b-ques are very popular, and here they are known universally as 'braais'!

Driving in South Africa's Cape

Distances in the southern Cape are usually small and you drive on the left. The roads are generally well signposted and almost all are tarmac.

Health in South Africa

For travel to South Africa, several vaccines are sensible (typhoid, polio and tetanus), though none are required. Malaria is generally not present in the southern Cape, but is found in Mpumalanga and the northern and eastern sections of South Africa; always check the latest news and advice from your doctor or travel clinic. (See the Scottish NHS site for more travel info on health issues in South Africa.)

HIV infection rates are high; AIDS is prevalent here. This isn't usually an issue for travellers, but they should be aware of the situation, and take the same sensible precautions to avoid infection which are wise in most countries. We understand that blood supplies used by the private hospitals here have been carefully screened for many years.

Language in South Africa

English is one of South Africa's 11 official languages and is very widely spoken; other official languages include Afrikaans, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana and Zulu.

Visas for South Africa

At the time of writing (Aug '09), travellers with British passports (as well as US citizens) do not need visas when travelling to South Africa. That said, always check for the latest regulations with your nearest South African High Commission before you travel. The South African Embassy in London provides detailed visa information for travellers from the UK.

Weather and climate in South Africa

South Africa is a large country, and it spans several quite different climatic zones. The weather in the centre and east of the country, for example Mpumalanga, broadly follows the same weather pattern as the other countries nearby in the subcontinent: see our comments on the weather in South Africa for more details.

The weather pattern in South Africa's Cape is totally different from any other area – and in fact has rain when most of the rest of the country is dry, and vice-versa. See our webpage: weather and climate in South Africa's Cape.