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Travel tips for South Africa. Important information for your holidays.

South Africa.

All you need to know about South Africa.

Time Zone

Germany and South Africa have the same time as central-Europe during summer time. During our winter (Standard Time), South Africa is one hour ahead of us (12:00h in Cape Town = 11:00h in Berlin).


Since the end of apartheid, isiZulu, English, Afrikaans, Siswati, IsiNdebele, Sesotho, northern Sotho, Xitsonga, Setswana, Venda and IsiXhosa – a total number of 11 languages – have officially been acknowledged. With English, you'll get by all around the country. If you are touring South Africa on your own, we recommend you to have at least basic knowledge of the English language.


Local and long-distance public transport is not comparable to Europe. There are hardly any passenger trains between the cities. In the Gauteng (Johannesburg and Pretoria) and Cape Town areas there is a system of local trains, but we strongly advise against using them. The Gautrain, South Africa's first high-speed train, runs between Johannesburg and O.R. Tambo International Airport, as well as to Pretoria. The use is considered safe and is recommended.

Taxis are available in the cities. They must generally be ordered. Often better (but also a little more expensive) are private transfer operators who can also be called by your hotel. Moreover, the driving service provider Uber is well known and often used. In all cases you should ask for the best local solutions on site.

Driving a car

In South Africa there is left-hand traffic. In principle, the road system in South Africa is well developed. About a third of all roads are asphalted, including all main roads. With the exception of national parks and game reserves, almost all routes used by tourists are tarred, so that a four-wheel drive is generally not necessary. However, it is recommended to choose a more robust vehicle as a rental car (e.g. a 2x4 off-road vehicle or an SUV). Driving is definitely more relaxed and even as a driver you don't always have to stare at the road surface in front of you. On some routes there are problems with potholes. Here you should drive extremely carefully, especially in the rain.

There are many different types of roads in South Africa, ranging from ten-lane motorways to dirt roads with an official number. The national roads (N) in the urban regions are often developed as multi-lane highways, in rural areas, however, there often are only two-lane roads, analogous to our federal ones. Their condition is generally very good. In some regions they are subject to tolls ("Toll Road" - T).

In urban areas there are many petrol stations, which are often open 24 hours a day and also accept credit cards. In rural areas, this network is becoming much thinner and you should pay attention to your fuel level and refuel earlier than you may be used to. Here the petrol stations often have limited opening hours and often you have to pay cash. Refuelling is usually carried out by personnel, who often also clean windows and check air pressure and oil if necessary. The gas station attendant is very happy about a few coins after refueling.

You should plan your routes so that you reach your destination by daylight. We advise against driving at night. Roads and vehicles are often poorly lit and wild animals often wander the streets. You should also avoid driving through townships and taking hitchhikers with you. As in some other countries, there is no right-of-left priority rule. 4-way-stop crossings are popular. All arriving vehicles stop and leave in the order of their arrival. This works wonderfully!

Unless otherwise indicated, the speed limits are 60 km/h in the city, 100 km/h on country roads and 120 km/h on motorways and marked national roads. Radar traps and controls are common, please be sure to observe the limits. Should you ever be stopped and asked to pay a fine directly in cash, do not do so. The police are not authorized to accept cash or to demand immediate payment. Insist on receiving an official ticket ('Section 56 Notice') that you can pay in various and simple ways, usually within 30 days.

Our recommendation is to carry an international driving licence - so you are always on the safe side!


Like any other country around the world, many people who have provided you with a service, would be delighted with a small tip. In the following we tried to give you a small recommendation, but of course it can only serve as a guideline and it depends very much on the particular situation. It is always advisable to have a few coins or small notes (R10) available in your pocket, which you can then have quickly on hand, without having to whip out your entire purse. The restaurant has a 10% standard requirement. With particularly good service it can be a bit more, with poor service correspondingly less.

When refuelling, you can give the attendant R2–R3 if they clean your windows or pump air into the tyres. Parking attendant tips can vary after a certain period of time. For short stops (up to approx. 1 hour) you can give the parking attendant R2–R3, for longer periods or good service, approximately R3–R5. In hotels you should give luggage carriers R5.

All other tips are usually collected in a box. The domestic worker usually receives a tip as well. Depending on the category, you should plan for R30 to R70. Of course, you can also tip employees a small bill at any time. On safaris there are mostly local recommendations. Here it is often common to reward your personal driver separately with a tip, all other employee tips are collected and then shared. Depending on the quality of the service, you can roughly orient yourself to R80–R120 per day, both for the ranger and for the community.


The voltage in South Africa is 220/230 like in Germany. You can use all your electrical equipment. For outlets you need the three-pole type "M", which is seldom included in travel plug sets. You can buy adapters in appropriate specialist stores in Europe. A cheaper way, however, would be buying them anywhere in the destination itself. If you have many devices to connect, it is advisable to take a multi-plug/socket strip. This means that you only need one adapter and you can still load or use many devices in a timely way.


In South Africa you pay with Rand. 1 RAND corresponds to 100 Cents and has an "R" as the currency symbol; International code is "ZAR". Payments with Credit Cards (MasterCard and Visa) are now common and also popular for small amounts. In rural areas and in markets, you generally have to pay with cash. You can get this in money cambio, at banks or most easily at ATMs. Traveller's cheques are widely accepted in banks and money Cambio, but there are usually high fees. At most ATMs you will receive cash with your Maestro or credit card. Please contact your card issuer for the fees. At the International Airport O. R Tambo in Johannesburg there are a number of exchange offices in and behind the direct arrival area. There are also many ATM machines.


In South Africa there are leisure activities for all age groups. For example, sporty travellers can choose from abseiling, fishing, balloon trips, boat trips, snorkelling, scuba diving, windsurfing, surfing, kayaking, paragliding, whale watching, shark cage diving, white-water rafting, animal watching, quad biking, scenic flights in small planes and helicopters and of course golfing. For those interested in culture there are many museums, music events, theatre performances, historical sites, events of local tribes and much more.


To travel to South Africa for a maximum of 90 days, as a German national, you need a machine-readable passport that is valid for at least 30 days above your return date and contains at least two free pages as well as a valid return ticket. Children travelling with you also need their own passport as described above. If you travel with underage children who are not your own, there are other restrictions and requirements. Please contact the relevant consulate for more information. See also "www.suedafrika.org" if your destination is different from a purely tourist visit, you may need a visa. Please be sure to contact the consulate here.

If you are a citizen of a country other than Germany, please inform us of your nationality at the time of your inquiry or booking so that we can inform you of the relevant entry requirements. Thank you very much!


For the current health situation and your personal situation, please contact your doctor before starting your journey. In general, medical care in South Africa is good. Private hospitals in the cities generally have an European standard. In state hospitals and in rural areas the situation is different. We strongly recommend that you complete a travel medical insurance and return insurance. Vaccinations are not required for direct entry from Europe (or a non-fever area). The usual protection against tetanus, diphtheria, polio, typhoid and hepatitis A is advisable. Malaria exists in South Africa only in some regions and also varies greatly depending on the travel period. In principle, the regions around the Krugerpark and the north-east coast of KwaZulu-Natal are affected. Please also contact your doctor. Furthermore, you should not forget reliable sun protection. Even on supposedly cloudy days there may be strong sunburns.


Due to its size, South Africa has a very different climate and therefore also very differentiating vegetation zones, depending on the region. From subtropical rainforests in the east to the extreme desert on the border with Namibia, everything is represented. Basically, the seasons are opposite to those of Europe. In other words: in our winter, there is summer in South Africa and the other way around. How does this affect the individual regions and what are the best travel times?

Johannesburg is situated about 1750m above sea level and has a pleasant climate all year round. In the local summer it is never too hot, but in the afternoon there are frequent thunderstorms that can cause heavy rainfall. Then the sun usually comes out again. In winter it is mostly sunny with daytime temperatures up to 23 °c. At night it cools down significantly, even to below 0 °c. In this time of the year it almost never rains. The area around Pretoria is a bit flatter, so the temperatures are usually slightly higher.

Cape Town is influenced by the cold Benguela current and therefore it is cooler here than in large parts of South Africa. The climate is Mediterranean with summer temperatures around 25–30 °c, it is rarely raining. In winter there are more frequent rainfalls, but also many very nice, warm and dry days. The temperature rarely drops below 10 °c, but sometimes it can be very windy.

The Garden Route is located in the transition area of the summer and winter rain areas. Due to the Agulhas stream it is normally warmer here than in Cape Town. There is rain all year round and the winters are mild. This region is most beautiful between September and the end of April.

Further to the east, in Kwa-Zulu Natal, the climate becomes subtropical: in summer there is a high humidity and at 30 °c it gets muggy. You have to expect tropical thunderstorms at all times. However, there are many dry days, as well. The winters are very mild and drier than the summers.

There is subtropical climate in Lowveld around Kruger National Park, as well. Temperatures in moist warm summers can reach 40 °c. More pleasant are the winter months from June to August, which are usually dry. Early in the morning it can still be quite fresh on the game drive. For animal observations this is the best time as the bushes and trees are bare and the animals are increasingly staying near water spots.

On the Panoramic Route along the Escarpments, the edge-mountains located in the transition from Lowveld to the Highveld, the winters are mostly dry with temperatures up to 25 °c. In summer it is hotter and there can be strong thunderstorms. The visit from May to September is ideal, however, the many spectacular waterfalls become smaller in the end of the winter. They are the most beautiful in summer.

In the Drakensberg and the Highveld, temperate temperatures prevail and, analogous to the weather around Johannesburg, it is rather dry in winter with estival thunderstorms. In higher altitudes, snow can fall, as well. In the spring between September and November it blooms wonderfully in this area.

The Kalahari Basin consists of desert with very hot summers – over 40 °c are possible – and occasional downpours. In winter the temperatures are more pleasant and the observation of animals becomes easier as they accumulate more around the water holes.


Before starting your holidays, it is strongly advised to conclude a foreign health insurance which also covers repatriation to the home country. In cooperation with our partner TravelSecure.de we are offering you a wide range of important insurances.

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That there are problems with crime in South Africa is well known. But if you stick to some rules, the risk is drastically reduced. The Foreign Office will inform you about the current situation on its website (www.auswaertiges-amt.de) and we strongly recommend you to inform yourself here before departure. In general, you should avoid the inner cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town after the close of business, Sundays and sunset. You should only visit Townships as part of an organized tour. If you are travelling with your rental car, pay particular attention at crossings by closing windows and locking doors. Of course you must never leave valuables open (not even during the journey). Also, if possible, do not go over land after nightfall. It goes without saying that you should not be wearing too much jewellery in public and not show off expensive cameras. If you are drawing cash from vending machines and switches, please conceal your money immediately.

Flora & Fauna

In South Africa there are more than 20,000 different plants. These make the region one of the most plant-rich areas on Earth. Alone in the Fynbos (Cape Flora) region, Cape Town has more than 9000 species – one of the most ecologically diverse spots on Earth. In the Fynbos region, the best known are the wonderful sugar bushes, more commonly called "Protea". There are clearly more than 100 species that are called evergreen shrubs (sometimes even small trees) can reach heights of up to 10m. Large parts of the country are covered with grasses, bushes and acacia. The farther you get to the north, the balder it becomes. There are few forests left; unfortunately materials are made of imported pines, spruce and eucalyptus that serve the forestry industry and are a pure monoculture. In the Namaqualand, north-west of Cape Town, many water-saving plants grow like aloe and euphorbia. After the first rain, mostly in August, there is an entire section of flowering carpets. Unfortunately, this spectacular bloom only lasts a short time. In the Kalahari, grass and thorn savannas dominate and the vegetation is very sparse. South Africa has more than 300 species of mammals, 500 bird species and over 100 species of reptiles over a very species-rich wildlife. These include the elephant as largest animal, the giraffe as the tallest and the cheetah as the fastest animal. Residing at home are the "Big Five", named after the sub-hunters. Some of the most dreaded animals: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. A multitude of other animals are added to the sea, from whales and dolphins to various types of seals up to a large shark population. You can observe the species-rich wildlife in a variety of small and large game reserves (game or Nature reserves) and in the national parks.

Important Note:

We cannot guarantee the correctness, completeness and topicality of the information given here, nor shall we be liable for any damage. Described regulations as well as the security situation can change at any time. As we have already recommended, in case of doubt we recommend that you contact your local diplomatic, consular representative or your doctor for health issues.

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