Welcome to our handy hints and info for travellers.
If you are visiting South Africa on business or pleasure, this is the place to find information - from how many provinces are in South africa to where can I buy stamps... from which languages are used in business to what is the mortgage rate.
South Africa is fondly known as the Rainbow Country because of its diversity of people, cultures and natural scenery. The South African nation comprises people of San (or Bushman), Nguni, Sotho-Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Indian, Afrikaner and mixed origin, as well as immigrant communities from all corners of the world. Officially the population consists of more than 40 million people
It is a country where a bright future awaits anyone who is skilled and committed to hard work. For older people it is also an ideal place to retire. The favourable exchange rate, good weather and excellent medical facilities will ensure their care-free future.
Accommodation - where to stay... for a night or longer
A night in the most basic hotel will cost approximately R300 per person. Luxury hotels abound in all major cities and cost upwards of R800.
All daily newspapers advertise accommodation to let. A large number of agencies also manage such accommodation. Usually the tenant will have to rent the accommodation for a minimum of six months. A deposit equal to one month's rent is normally required as security against damage to the property. An unfurnished bachelor apartment will cost a minimum of R1000 per month. This excludes electricity fees, but includes water. Furnished rental accommodation is both rare and expensive.
If buying property, proof of the buyer's previous credit record as well as proof of other fixed assets and life insurance will come in useful. Please note that houses are generally sold unfurnished in South Africa and that the current average mortgage rate is 12,5%.
Communication - phones, mobile phones, stamps and more...
In South Africa the telephone dialling code is a monotonous purr-sound. A beep-tone of a half second repeated every half second signals number engaged. A very long beep-tone of 2,5 seconds repeated at half second intervals signals that the number you have dialled no longer exists.
Only one company provides land-line telephone services in South Africa, namely Telkom SA (Ltd). They have offices all over the country. Public telephones use either coins or phone-cards, which may be purchased from post-offices, stationery shops or cafés.
Three cellular telephone companies (Vodacom, MTN and Cell C) are also represented in South Africa and offer various contracts to suit individuals.
Stamps can be bought from post offices or most stationers such as CNA. An independent postage service is offered by a group of stores known as Postnet. They have slightly cheaper rates for overseas mail.
Culture - music, literature, dance...
Owing to the disparate cultural backgrounds of the various peoples of the country, there is no uniform or coherent South African culture as such. South African artists of all population groups are active locally as well as overseas in all fields. The differences in cultural background between black and white are most marked in the artistic expressions of the various groups. The styles and traditions of whites are generally European in origin and those of the blacks, African. In music, literature, architecture, drama, fine and graphic arts many South Africans achieve success with the symbioses of European and African elements.
Economy - inflation rates and more...
The South African economy is relatively sound and every attempt is being made to extend economic opportunities for all citizens. The VPIX inflation rate on a year to year basis amounted to 8,1% in February 2004.
A great concern for the Government is the high rate of unemployment. To combat this trend entrepreneurs are encouraged to invest in South Africa. Immigrants with the necessary skills are also most welcome. It is a well-known fact that every skilled labourer creates jobs for up to ten unskilled workers.
The petrol/fuel/gasoline price is determined by the State on a monthly basis. On the first Wednesday of every month, a new price is implemented. It is influenced by the international oil price, the exchange rate of South African currency and the condition of the South African road fund. South Africans refer to fuel for passenger vehicles as “petrol”. Petrol prices are also cheaper in coastal regions than inland.
Education - types of schools in South Africa
The majority of pupils in South Africa attend government assisted schools, under a single national system which is organized and managed on the basis of nine provincial sub-systems. However, private schools run by church denominations or private enterprises are an important feature of the educational system.
Emergency - who do I call?
Should you have any emergency in South Africa, the numbers to call to reach ambulance, fire, electricity or similar services can be found on the second or third page of the local telephone directory. The police's rapid response emergency number is 10111.
Geographic info - where is South Africa?
The Republic of South Africa has common boundaries with Namibia, the Republics of Botswana and Zimbabwe, while the Republic of Mozambique and the Kingdom of Swaziland lie to its north-east. The Kingdom of Lesotho is completely enclosed by South African territory. To the west, south and east, South Africa borders on the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans respectively.
There are nine provinces in South Africa:
Eastern Cape (capital: Bisho)
Free State (capital: Bloemfontein)
Gauteng (capital: Johannesburg)
KwaZulu-Natal (capitals: Pietermaritzburg and Ulundi)
Limpopo (capital: Polokwane)
Mpumalanga (capital: Nelspruit)
Northern Cape (capital: Kimberley)
North-West (capital: Mafikeng)
Western Cape (capital: Cape Town)
Health care - hospitals, doctors, dentists and more
South Africa offers excellent health care facilities. In 1999, 29 180 medical practitioners, 4 435 dentists, 10 205 pharmacists and 173 961 nurses were registered in South Africa.
Good medical care is very expensive and a patient generally has to prove that he will be able to pay for treatment before it is administered. A simple operation, such as an appendectomy, may cost approximately R15 000. It is recommended that immigrants take out medical/life insurance upon arrival in the country. Several excellent schemes are available. Contributions are calculated according to the ages, number and medical histories of applicants.
Travellers are recommended to take out medical insurance before their trip.
Malaria and bilharzia are diseases endemic to certain parts of South Africa. Before visiting the country, foreigners are advised to take precautions in this regard.
According to the United Nations AIDS Report, released in June 1998, South Africa is the country with the fastest growing number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world. Approximately 8,6% of the total population is estimated to be HIV positive, with more than 1 500 new infections occurring daily. An aggressive media campaign educates society about the disease and all blood products are screened by health services to prevent accidental infection of patients.
A toll-free HIV/AIDS helpline exists at 0800-012-322.
Languages spoken - how many official languages?
According to the national census of October 1996, the five most commonly-spoken home languages are IsiZulu (22,9%), IsiXhosa (17,9%), Afrikaans (14,4%), Sepedi (9,2%) and English (8,6%). The Constitution recognises 11 languages as official languages at national level, namely the 5 above, as well as IsiNdebele, Sesotho, SiSwati, Xitsonga, Tshivenda en Setswana.
English and Afrikaans are the most commonly used languages in official circles and the business world. Immigrants should have a good knowledge of at least one of the two in order to cope with life in South Africa. Please note that South Africa does not offer compulsory/sponsored/intensive language courses for immigrants. It is up to individuals to study the languages of their choice and they have to pay for tuition themselves.
Holidaymakers and visitors who do not speak English fluently need not worry. Most shopkeepers speak several languages and will always ‘make a plan’ to help.
Media - newspapers, television, radio...
The South African Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of expression and press freedom is actively promoted by both the Government and the private sector. More than 80 community radio stations broadcast in South Africa and the programmes of 3 national and 1 independent television channel, plus some pay and satellite channels, can be enjoyed.
The country has 17 daily and 8 major weekly newspapers, as well as more than 200 regional papers. Some English South African papers are The Star, Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times and The Sunday Independent. They all provide web-site facilities. Approximately 300 consumer magazines and more than 500 trade, technical and professional magazines are registered in South Africa.
Recreation and sport - rugby, cricket... and much more!
The fact that South Africa was one of the main contenders to host the 2004-Olympic Games, proves that excellent facilities for most kinds of sport are to be found in the country. The climate makes year-round outdoor sport and recreation possible throughout South Africa. The country's unique and abundant fauna and flora offers many recreational activities for lovers of outdoor life.