Stuff you need to know before you go…
South Africa is outstanding for self-drive holidays. All the major car rental companies have offices at the airports, along with local outfits including First Car Rental and Wise Wheels. Traffic in South Africa drives on the left.
The currency is the South African Rand (R). R1 is roughly AU$0.10. TripAdvisor.com recently named Cape Town the most affordable of 46 world cities, with a room service cost of A$19.14 for a club sandwich, bottle of water, peanuts, Coke, mini vodka and dry cleaning of one shirt (compared to A$67.09 for the same in Paris).
The power supply in South Africa is 220/230 volts AC. The standard plug is the 15-amp round-pin, three-pronged variety. Adaptors are available at supermarkets.
Health and safety
While crime statistics are high in some areas, you won’t necessarily be affected. Take the usual precautions. Police 101 111; Emergency 10177.
When eating out, add a gratuity of around 10-20 per cent of the total bill. Taxi drivers get around 10 per cent and porters up to R10 a bag. Tip petrol pump attendants between R5 and R10. Unofficial ‘car guards’ who ‘look after’ your vehicle, mostly at night outside clubs and restaurants, are usually happy with R5.
When to go
South Africa is a year-round destination. While summers see the coastal areas packed with locals and foreigners, winters are a good time to visit areas like Kruger Park as the temperatures are milder. The Western Cape has a temperate Mediterranean climate with winter rains, while the rest of the country has colder, dryer winters with summer rainstorms.
South Africa is two hours ahead of GMT. There is no daylight saving.
VAT is charged at 14% in South Africa. Only goods exceeding R250 can be claimed on in total and only within 90 days of purchase. Visit www.taxrefunds.co.za for more information.
New, strict legislation means smokers crowd outside bars and restaurants for a quick puff. Some bars are smoking venues, but few restaurants have smoking zones – mostly outdoor areas.
Australian passport-holders visiting South Africa do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less, or when in transit. Visit www.home-affairs.gov.za for more information.
With 11 official languages, including English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa, South Africans are a multi-lingual bunch. If you want to impress the locals, here’s some essential lingo...
“Baie dankie” [buy-a donkey] noun “Thank you very much.”
“Braai” [bra-ey] noun, verb
Barbecue. Never use the term ‘barbecue’ or ‘barbie’, or you’ll never be invited to one again.
“Bru” [broo] noun
An adult human male, or an informal term of endearment.
“Eish” [aysh] exclamation
Derived from the Zulu word, it’s an exclamation of shock, bewilderment or sympathy.
Eg “The Wallabies beat the Springboks? Eish!”
“Howzit” [howz-it] exclamation, greeting Contraction of ‘how is it’. Eg “Howzit, bru?”
“Ja” [yar] exclamation
Used to answer a question in the affirmative. Eg “Do you feel like having a braai tonight? Ja, that sounds lekker!”
“Lekker” [lack-er] noun, adjective Afrikaans word describing anything, from a person to a meal to an experience, as pleasant.
Eg “That was a lekker braai.”