Many region, city, street and building names in South Africa have been changed after the end of apartheid and some of them are still being changed today. These changes can sometimes lead to confusion as many of the new names are not yet well known. This travel guide will use the official new names, but also mention the previous names where possible.
The public holidays in South Africa are:
New Year's Day1 January
Human Rights Day21 March
Easter weekend4-day long weekend in March/April - Consisting of "Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday", and "Easter Monday", the dates are set according to the Western Christian tradition.
Freedom Day27 April
Workers Day1 May
Youth Day16 June
Woman's Day9 August
Heritage Day24 September
Day of Reconciliation16 December - see Bloodriver.
Christmas Day25 December
Day of Goodwill26 December
If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, then the Monday following will be a holiday
School holidays (http://www.info.gov.za/ab...) occur early December to middle January, early in April, middle June to middle July and late September. Most South Africans go on leave during these times and accommodation will be harder to find.
If you want to travel in southern Africa then South Africa is a good place to start. While you can fly into any country in southern Africa, most flights will route through South Africa anyway. South Africa is also a good place to get used to traveling in the region though some would argue that Namibia is better for that. Of course South Africa is not only a jumping off point, it is itself a superb destination rich in culture, fauna & flora and history.
Outsiders' views of South Africa are colored by the same stereotypes as the rest of Africa. Contrary to popular belief, South Africa is not devastatingly poor with an unstable government. Although the rural part of South Africa remains among the poorest and the least developed parts of the world and poverty in the townships can be appalling, progress is being made. The process of recovering from apartheid, which lasted almost 46 years, is quite slow. In fact, South Africa's United Nations Human Development Index which was slowly improving in the final years of apartheid, has declined dramatically since 1996, largely due to the AIDS pandemic, and poverty levels appear to be on the increase. South Africa boasts a well-developed infrastructure and has all the modern amenities and technologies, much of it developed during the years of white minority rule. The government is stable, although corruption is common. The government and the primary political parties generally have a high level of respect for democratic institutions and human rights, although the government's support of the misrule of neighboring Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe has raised questions about its commitment to human rights and even democracy itself.
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The climate in South Africa ranges from desert and semi-desert in the north west of the country to sub-tropical on the eastern coastline. The rainy season for most of the country is in the summer, except in the Western Cape where the rains come in the winter. Rainfall in the Eastern Cape is distributed evenly throughout the year. Winter temperatures hover around zero, summers can be very hot, in excess of 35°Celsius 95°F in some places.
The South African Weather Service (http://www.weathersa.co.za/) provides up to date weather information, forecasts and radar imaging.