South Africa Overview
Covering a huge swathe of land, washed by the Atlantic and Indian oceans, South Africa has enormous wealth above and below ground, making it one of the richest natural storehouses on the planet. With staggeringly beautiful rural areas such as the Cape Winelands, the towering dunes of the Wild Coast, the magnificent game parks of Kruger and Zululand, and the Kalahari and Karoo deserts, barren for much of the year but a carpet of flowers in spring, the possbilities for tourists are endless. Alternatively, visit sophisticated cities such as johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town, or charming historic towns like Stellenbosch or Pietermaritzburg. Even once infamous townships such as Soweto are now growing into vibrant cities in their own right. South Africa is a ‘rainbow nation’ of many colors and cultures, encompassing Zulu, Tswana, Khosa, Sotho, Indian, Afrikaans and those of Britich origin. The scars left by the apartheid years are slowly healing, but have left huge inequalities between rich and poor. Despite this, the people are charming hosts, most speak English and all have a fascinating story to tell.
Area: 1,219,080 sq km (470,689 sq miles)
Capital: Pretoria (administrative) Cape Town (legislative). Bloemfontein (judicial).
Geography: The Republic of Suoth Africa lies at the southern end of the African continent. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and is bordered to the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland and totally encloses Lesotho. Sout Africa has three major geographical regions, namely plateau, mountins and the coastal belt. Following the 1994 elections, South Africa was organized into nine regions. These comprise the Western Cape with its provincial and national capital of Cape Town, the Eastern Cape with its provincial capital Bisho, the Northern Cape with its provincial capital Kimberley, KwaZulu Natal with it provincial capital Pietermaritzburg, the Free State with its provincial capital of Bloemfontein, the North West Province with its provincial capital Pietersburg, Mpumalanga with its provincial capital of Nelspruit,a nd Gauteng with its provincial capital of Johannesburg.
Language: The official languages at national level are Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
Credit Cards: MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and Visa are widely accepted.
Travelers Checks: Valid at banks, hotels, restaurants and shops. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers are advised to take travelers checks in Sterling or USD.
Banking Hours: 8:30am-3:30pm Monday to Friday, 8am-11:30am Saturday.
Air: South Africa’s national airline is South African Airways (SA) (www.flysaa.com)
Approximate flight times:
London to Cape Town 11 hours, To Durban 14 hours 5 minutes and to Johannesburg 11 hours 50 minutes
New York to Johannesburg 14 hours
Los Angeles to Johannesburg is 23 hours
Cape Town (CPT) (Cape Town International) is 22km (14 miles) east of the city (travel time-25 minutes). Airport facilities include outgoing duty-free shop, car rental, bank/bureau de change. Inter-Cape buses meet all inward and outgoing flights. Some hotels operate courtesy buses. Taxis are available.
Durban (DUR) (Durban international) is 16km (10 miles) south of the city 9travel time-20 minutes). Airport facilities include outgoing duty-free shop, car rental, bank/bureau de change and bar/restaurant. Airprot buses and taxis are available to the city.
Johannesburg (JNB) (Johannesburg International) is 24km (15 miles) northeast of the city (travel time-35 minutes). Bus services to Pretoria and Johannesburg are available. Taxis are available. Some major hotels operate courtesy coaches.
Social & Business Customs
Typical South African dishes include sosaties (a type of kebab), bobotie (a curried mince dish), bredies (meat, tomato and vegetable casseroles), crayfish (or rock lobster) and many other seafood dishes traditional to the Western Cape Province Curries and chutneys are excellent. Biltong (seasoned dried meat) is a savory specialty.
There are excellent local red and white wines, and sherries. Beer is also very good.
Cinemas show a variety of international films. In the large cities there are regular plays, operas andsymphony concerts. There are a number of nightclubs and discotheques open until late. The large hotels usually have live music or cabaret.
Stores are generally modern. Special purchases include Swakara coats, gold diamond and semi-precious stone jewelry, leather, suede and fur goods. African handicrafts, safari suits and feathers.
9am-5pm Monday to Friday, 9am-2pm Saturday. Some shops are open Sunday.
Handshaking is the usual form of greeting. Normal courtesies should be shown when visiting someone’s home. Casual wear is widely acceptable.
Normally 10% if service is not included. It is customary to tip porters, waiters, taxi drivers, caddies and room service. Porters and room service are usually given a R2 tip. By law, hotel rates do not include a service charge.
Suits are generally expected to be worn for meetings, safair-style suits are often suitable for summer. Appointments are generally necessary and punctuality is expected. Office hours: 8:30am-4:30pm Monday to Friday.
South Aftrica’s climate is generally sunny and pleasant. Witners are usually mild. Since South Africa lies south of the Equator, the seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere. Clothing: Lighweight cottons and linens and rainwear. Warmer clothes for winter.