Embassies and consulates
If your country is not listed here, have at look at the list provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs (http://www.dfa.gov.za/for...) .
Now part of ABSA
Emergency and medical assistance
Some travel agents offer Netcare911 cover as an option, but you can also deal with them via Travel Insurance see below or find out if your existing cover has an association with them.
A large and well represented emergency assist company incorporating the Medi-Clinic chain of hospitals.
South Africans are generally polite, friendly and accommodating to tourists.
Public behaviour is very similar to what you might find in Europe. Heterosexual displays of affection in public are not frowned upon unless you overdo it. Homosexual displays of affection may generate unwelcome attention although they will be tolerated and respected in the more gay-friendly and cosmopolitan areas of Johannesburg Sandton, Rosebank and Parkhurst, Cape Town Greenpoint, Clifton and De Waterkant and Durban. South Africa is the first and only African nation where the government recognizes same-sex relationships and homosexual marriages are recognized by law.
Men generally greet with a firm handshake, while women will do the continental kiss on the cheek.
Except for designated beaches, nude sunbathing is illegal, although topless sunbathing for women is sometimes acceptable along Cape Town's Clifton and Camps Bay beaches. Thong bikinis for ladies and swimming trunks for men speedos if you really must are acceptable. Eating places are casual except when otherwise indicated.
Eating is generally done the British way with the fork in their left hand and the tines pointed downward. Burgers, pizzas, bunny chows and any other fast foods are eaten by hand. It is generally also acceptable to steal a piece of boerewors from the braai with your hands. Depending on which cultural group you find yourself with, these rules might change. Indians often eat breyani dishes with their hands, a white person from British descent might insist on eating his pizza with a knife and fork or a black person might eat pap-and-stew with a spoon. Be adaptable, but don't be afraid to also do your own thing; if really unacceptable, people will generally tell you so rather than take offence.
South Africans are proud of their country and what they have achieved. Although they themselves are quick to point out and complain to each other about the problems and shortcomings that still exist, they will harshly defend against any outsider doing so.
One thing you need to understand is that South African people are very straight-forward. If you do or say something that offends a South African, they will tell you so, in a very straight-forward manner. So, you must not be offended if this happens, but just apologise and change the manner in which you do things so that you don't offend any other people.
There are some laws that the average tourist might not be aware of
If you intend to do any angling fishing, either freshwater or at the coast, you will require an angling licence for the province you are in. These can be obtained at any Post Office and the price depends on the province, but is generally under R50. Fishery and environments officials do from time to time check if anglers are in possession of a licence and you can expect to be fined if you are caught fishing without a licence. Also pick up a booklet from the nearest angling shop that will tell you what the size limits for each species of fish is.
Except for specific areas, clearly indicated by notice boards, it is illegal to drive a vehicle onto any beach.
Boat skippers need a license to pilot a craft on ALL water courses, fresh or saltwater, within South Africa.
South Africa's country code is 27.
Phone numbers within South Africa are of the format 0XX YYY ZZZZ.
Large cities have area codes 0XX Johannesburg is 011, Pretoria 012, Cape Town 021, Durban 031, Port Elizabeth 041, East London 043, Kimberley 053, Bloemfontein 051 while smaller towns may have longer area codes 0XX Y for example with shorter local numbers.
When dialing a South African number from outside the country, one should dial +27 XX YYY ZZZZ.
Dialing within the country one should use all 10 digits, 0XX YYY ZZZZ.
To dial out of South Africa, dial 00 followed by the country code and the rest of the number you are trying to reach.
Pay phones are available at airports, shopping malls and some petrol stations. The number of pay phones in open public areas have been reduced over recent years, but you should still be able to find one when you need one. Pay phones use either coins or prepaid cards that are available at most shops and petrol stations ; coin phones are generally blue while card phones are usually green.
You can have film developed at most pharmacies and shopping malls, even in small towns. Automated machines to print or copy to CD from digital media CF, SD, MMC, Memory stick etc. are also becoming quite common and easy to find. Larger shopping malls have dedicated photography shops where you can buy cameras and lenses or have a camera repaired. Most major camera manufacturers are well represented.
South Africa has 11 official languages, namely Afrikaans, Southern Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Swazi, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda and English. Most people other than rural black Africans speak English as a second language. Only about 8% of the population speak English as a first language, almost exclusively in the white population which is ironically declining as a first language, while it is already a lingua franca among South Africans, and about 60% of the population can understand English. South African English is heavily influenced by Afrikaans. Afrikaans is also widely spoken, especially by the majority of the white and coloured population. Often Afrikaans is incorrectly called 'afrikan' or 'african' by foreigners. Note this is very incorrect as 'African' for a South African corresponds with the native-African languages: Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi etc. and, of course, there are thousands of languages in Africa so no single language can be called 'African' Afrikaans has roots in 17th century Dutch dialects, so it can be understood by Dutch speakers and sometimes deciphered by German speakers. Other widely spoken languages are Zulu mainly in KwaZulu-Natal - South Africa's largest single linguistic group and Xhosa mainly in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, as well as Sotho and Venda. This changes, according to the region you are in.
A few words you may encounter are:
eish - as in, "eish, it's hot today", "eish, that's expensive" or "eish, that's too far to drive"
lekker - nice, enjoyable
howzit - how is it? generally a rhetorical question
yebo - yes
boet, bru, china or ou - brother or man equivalent to dude or bro
koppie - a small hill can also mean a cup
Madiba - Nelson Mandela
Molo - Hello in Xhosa
robot - traffic light
tannie - auntie respectful term for an older woman
oom - uncle respectful term for an older man
tinkle - phone call
just now - sometime soon from Afrikaans "net-nou"
now now - sooner than just now! from Afrikaans "nou-nou", pronounced no-no
braai - barbecue.
cheers - we use this for saying good-bye, as well as saying thank you and for the occasional toast.
heita - hello
sharp - usually pronounced quickly OK
sure-sure more pronounced like sho-sho - Correct, Agreement, Thank you
ayoba - something cool
zebra crossing - a crosswalk. named for the white & black stripes that are generally painted on crosswalks.
AlwaysOn (http://www.alwayson.co.za) seem to be leading the way in prepaid WiFi access. Their hotspots can now be found at Cape Town, Durban and OR Tambo airports, City Lodge Hotels, Sun International Hotels, some Southern Sun Hotels, Mugg & Bean restaurants and various other places.
Simply connect to the access point and you will be given the opportunity to pay for access by credit card. Pricing starts at around R15 for 10 minutes or R60 for 100MB. Their support desk can be contacted on +27 011 759-7300 .
There are plenty of Internet Cafes and access rates are cheap.
Even cheaper and more mobile would be to buy a prepaid cell phone starter pack less than R10 and access the Internet with GPRS or 3G. Generally R2 per MB for out of bundle data from most providers 50c for Virgin Mobile, but it becomes a lot cheaper if you buy a data bundle. Vodacom prices range from 38c per MB on a 500MB bundle to 19c per MB on a 1GB bundle. MTN prices range between R1 per MB on a 10MB to 39c per MB on a 1GB bundle. Mobile data connections are always charged per MB as opposed to per second as is popular on many European networks.
ADSL1 is popular for residential use and are available in speeds of 384kbps, 1mbps and 10mbps. Due to the Telkom monopoly on last-mile infrastructure, operators can get away with labeling 384kbps as "broadband internet" simply because there are almost no viable alternatives, and users are usually limited to 1GB to 3GB per month on an account. The average cost of ADSL data is R70/GB.
hiv and aids
South Africa has one of the highest HIV infection rates world-wide. 5.4 million people out of a population of 48 million are HIV-positive South African Medical Research Council (http://www.mrc.ac.za/).
The HIV infection rate in the total population older than 2 years varies from around 2% in the Western Cape to over 17% in KwaZulu-Natal Avert and all together 18.8% of South Africans over 15 years of age are HIV-Positive (UNICEF (http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/southafrica_statistics.html#25). One in four females and one in five males aged 20 to 40 is estimated to be infected Avert (http://www.avert.org/safricastats.htm).
One of the main reasons travelers visit South Africa is to experience the outdoors and see the wide range of wildlife.
When driving in a wildlife reserve, always keep to the speed limits and stay inside your car at all times. On game drives or walks, always follow the instructions of your guide.
Ensure that you wear socks and boots whenever you are walking in the bush; do not wear open sandals. A good pair of boots can stop snake and insect bites and avoid any possible cuts that may lead to infections.
In many areas you may encounter wildlife while driving on public roads, monkeys and baboons are especially common. Do not get out of the vehicle to take photos or otherwise try to interact with the animals. These are wild animals and their actions can be unpredictable.
Sometimes you might find yourself in the open with wild animals often happens with baboons at Cape Point. Keep your distance and always ensure that the animals are only to one side of you, do not walk between two groups or individuals. A female baboon may get rather upset if you separate her from her child.
Always check with locals before swimming in a river or lake as there may be crocodiles or hippos.Most major beaches in KwaZulu-Natal have shark nets installed. If you intend to swim anywhere other that the main beaches, check with a local first.
Note that shark nets may be removed for a couple of days during the annual sardine run normally along the KwaZulu-Natal coast between early May and late July. This is done to avoid excessive shark and other marine life fatalities. Notices are posted on beaches during these times.
The north-eastern areas of the country including the Kruger National Park and St. Lucia and surrounds are seasonal malaria zones, from about November to May. The peak danger time is just after the wet season from March to May. Consult a physician regarding appropriate precautions, depending on the time of year you will be travelling. The most important defences against malaria are:
using a DEET-based mosquito repellent
covering your skin with long-sleeved clothing, especially around dusk; and
using mosquito nets while sleeping.
Tabbard and Peacefull Sleep are commonly used mosquito repellents and can be bought almost anywhere.
Also read the Malaria and Mosquitoes travel topics.
Smoking is banned in all enclosed public spaces, these include airports, pubs, shopping malls and theaters. However this is largely ignored, if people are smoking indoors then feel free to join them.
Most restaurants do have smoking sections, either ventilated indoor areas or outdoor open areas.