You wouldn’t be visiting this section of our website, unless you were looking for some positive personal re-assurances on South Africa. While you may have gone to guide books such as Rough Guide, Lonely Planet or Footprints, they do not tell you everything.
Most Senior Explorers have been here (to S.A.) before, and have more than likely been to Cape Town, travelled the Garden Route and visited the Kruger National Park on an organised tour or stayed with friends or relatives.
But now you want to be more adventurous, take a second bite at the apple and get under the veneer of the country and travel to some less crowded places on the tourist map.
Our advice to you therefore, is to hire a car and be FREE to do what you want to do.
Most companies (Avis, Budget, Imperial, Europecar, and Tempest) are situated at airports, and what is even better, you can book your hired car over the Internet. You can hire a car in Johannesburg and drop it off in Durban, fly to Port Elizabeth and drive to Cape Town.
You can also hire a mobile phone at the airport, should you so wish.
Safety and Security
(National Tourism Information & Safety Line – 083 123 2345)
You have no doubt heard so many stories or read in the press about the level of crime in South Africa, so let’s deal with that next.
Tourists can safely visit most parts of the country, provided that they take common–sense precautions. However as would be the case anywhere in the world, we recommend that some areas be visited in groups or with local Guides. We suggest that visitors make use of recommended tours and tour operators to visit these sites If you are unsure, then please contact the above telephone number. There is crime in any country. Tourists no matter where they are, are normally singled out as easy pickings.
As in any foreign country, be aware and sensible about where you are. Visitors can ensure their own safety by taking normal precautions to protect themselves and their possessions by following some basic rules:
ON THE STREET
- Always carry a charged cell phone with you in case of an emergency
- Do not publicise your valuables, e.g. jewellery, camera, cell phone etc
- Use credit cards or, if possible, please carry only small amounts of money
- At night, avoid isolated, dark places
- If you need any information, policemen or tourism information officers will be glad to assist you
- Don’t walk to a restaurant at night, unless in the hotel, or right next door- take a taxi
- If you want a taxi, your accommodation can recommend a reliable service
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Get advice from your accommodation establishment before embarking on foot
- Always let someone (family, friends, travelling companions, tour guide or hotel manager), know your schedule or time of return. Stick to your planned itinerary, and advise any deviation to someone who will know how to reach you in an emergency
IN THE CAR
- Like anywhere else in the world, your safety is strongly dependent on you
- Always know where you are going
- Fasten your seat belt, lock your doors, and only leave your windows open about 5cm
- Never pick up strangers
- Do not use your cell phone while driving unless you have a ‘hands free kit’
- Never display your valuables in the car e.g. handbags, clothes, cell phones. Lock them in the boot
- Be aware of your surroundings when you stop at a robot (traffic lights), or stop street
VISITING RURAL SITES
- Establish how to observe the cultural protocol of that area
- Visit traditional areas with registered tour operators or guides
- Use registered, qualified tour guides
- Get advice from your local tourism office in the region for the best routes to follow
- Do not stop to pick up strangers
ON THE BEACH
- Swim at beaches manned by lifeguards
- Swim between the beacons
- Obey instructions of lifeguards
- Do not bring along valuables to the beach; always leave them in a safety box at your accommodation
- Use adequate sun protection cream
- When encountering difficulties in the sea, raise one hand above your head
- Do not take glass bottles to the beach
- Avoid mixing alcohol and swimming
- When you swim in the sea consider asking your neighbour to keep an eye on your belongings or leave belongs in lockers or with lifeguards
- Just like anywhere else in the world, please do not leave your luggage unattended
- Store valuables in the safety deposit box at your accommodation’s reception
- Keep your room locked, whether you‘re in or out
- If someone knocks, check who it is before opening the door
AT THE AIRPORT
- Always keep your bags where you can see them and be aware of them
- If you feel uncomfortable with people around you, please go to the nearest security office
- Do not allow other people to tamper with your bags
- Make sure that your bags and luggage have locks
On any Mobile Phone 112
Police Emergency Number 10111
This will depend on what time of the year you travel in South Africa.
- A light waterproof jacket, hat, sunscreen and sunglasses, for wear anywhere, anytime.
- A fold down umbrella binoculars and camera (still and/or video) – are further items.
- Put all these in a small haversack or backpack, and you won’t look like a Christmas tree.
- It rains and gets very cold in the Cape in winter, and it is hot and dry in summer.
- Everywhere else is hot in summer with afternoon summer thunderstorms, and cold in winter (June and July). Mean temperatures around Bloemfontein and Kimberley as well as Johannesburg in winter can be down to –4°C or more, in very cold spells.
- Coats jerseys and jackets are a must in winter (June & July). This is a different kind of cold to Europe, with an icy wind that cuts right through you. We do not have central heating in this country, so be warned.
While traveller’s cheques are accepted, it is a very tedious procedure to change them at banks. Far better to put money into your credit card before leaving, and make the necessary arrangements with your bank to draw money from your credit card when needed.
There are ATMs (hole in the wall) at the airports, in all the shopping malls and in towns and cities throughout South Africa, and you can withdraw money at will. In this way you don’t have to carry a lot of cash.
Visa and MasterCard are accepted as payment anywhere in the country for accommodation, meals and any other purchases.
VAT can be claimed at Johannesburg airport before departure. Make sure you keep all your receipts.
If you haven’t purchased a map of South Africa in your home country, these are readily available at the stationers or bookshops in the air terminal buildings.
South Africa’s road system is one of the best in the world. Only in the main centres such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Bloemfontein from 07h15 in the morning until 08h30, and from 16h00 until 17h30 in the afternoons. For the rest of the time and out in the country it is an absolute pleasure, nothing like London, the M25, or the New-Jersey turnpike!
Speed Limits/Traffic Signs
Normally 120km per hour on the National (N) roads unless otherwise stated where repairs are underway. 100 km per hour on secondary (R) roads, and 60km per hour in urban areas, or otherwise 80 km per hour where stated. It is recommended that visitors familiarise themselves with the rules of the road in S.A.
It is advisable to keep all doors, windows and the boot of the vehicle, locked at all times.
There should be few problems where this is concerned. PLAN YOUR ROUTE!
Most signage is well placed and easily readable. The top left-hand side of major toll and freeway signage on the national (N) roads will give you an exit number, which is often referred to on your map. If you do manage to get lost, consult your map.
The problem in the bigger centres is to get into the right traffic lane before turning, otherwise you might have to travel further down the freeway and take the next glide-off back to where you were supposed to turn. Most city maps give directional arrows for 1-way streets so plan your route, and when travelling between centres know what national route you will be travelling on and what towns and cities you will pass (or travel through) on the way. Sometimes signage will only tell you what the next town will be + the distance in kilometres.
The blue on white /// // / signs tell you when you are approaching a glide off from the freeway or National road, and gives you the 3 2 1 countdown.
4 – Way Stops
When a traffic light (robot), is not working, or you arrive at a 4-way-stop sign, the first vehicle at any of the stops is first to leave, and the last to arrive, is the last to move on. Drivers just take their turn.
Take into account that while driving on the freeway or toll road, that it will take approximately 1 hour to travel 100kms and 1¼ hours on secondary regional (R) roads.
It is best that you take into account the distance you wish to travel each day, and try and stop every 200km, to take a short break. 600 km maximum is a good run for the day and this is 6-7½ hours of driving without stops. Take into account that, after Johannesburg or any of the main cities for that matter, that towns are usually about 70 – 100km apart.
Watch your fuel gauge!
South African tap water is the 5th cleanest in the world, and unless otherwise stated is drinkable anywhere in the country. Bottled water is available everywhere, but in some cases you will pay more for bottled water than a Coke. It is advisable to carry water in the car on long trips, particularly in hot weather.
Petrol/Diesel is obtainable at all garages. It goes without saying that you find out whether the hired vehicle you are driving is petrol or diesel. You may laugh, but it is quite common for overseas visitors to put the wrong fuel in the tank. Most hired vehicles take unleaded petrol, where the pump is coded in green. All garages have staff to fill your tank, check oil, water and tyres, and clean your windscreen. A R2.00 (or more) tip for services given, will be readily accepted.
Information Offices are marked with a big white i. on a green background in most towns or cities.
There is no better place to pick up on what and where accommodation is available, and the price. Information on restaurants and curio shops, interesting local sites, local tours, and the availability of local tourist guides, who can take you around the area, will also be available.
When to visit?
If you want the luxury of better weather, less heat and fewer people, do yourself a favour and travel the country in our Autumn – late March and the months of April and May.
The weather at this time of the year is near perfect throughout the country.
It is more than likely that you will be paying less for your airfare too.
December, January and February is mid-summer. These are the hottest months of the year, up to 40°C in some places in the North, and you will have to hire a car with an air-conditioner.
See under separate page Travel Insurance.
General Travel Info
For information on what to see at the top ten attractions in all of South Africa’s 9 Provinces, please click on to: www.travelinfo.co.za
For the best of KwaZulu-Natal, click on to: www.zulukingdom.org.za