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Truly South African - Things to know

It's always recommended to do your homework before going off on your travels. This not only ensures you return home having had the most enjoyable holiday, but a safe one too. Like any new destination, travellers should be aware of their surroundings and apply common street sense to avoid falling prey to petty theft and crime. Most areas and attractions of South Africa can be safely visited. If in doubt, ask hotel staff or your hosts advice on potential areas to avoid.

South African Official Language

The most commonly spoken languages are English, Afrikaans, Sotho, Xhosa and Zulu, but the country has 11 official languages.

Time differences

In terms of time differences, South Africa is:

•   two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time
•   one hour ahead of Central European Winter Time
•   seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time
•   seven hours behind Australian Central Time.

South African Currency

Currency is the South African Rand (ZAR) which is equivalent to 100 cents. You'll be pleasantly surprised at just how far your dollar, pound or euro will get you. Most establishments in urban areas accept major credit cards, while ATMs are also widespread with PIN numbers required for both. Traveller's cheques can be exchanged at banks.

South African Tax

Value-added-tax (VAT) is charged on most items and provided that the value of the items purchased exceeds R250 foreign visitors can have their 14% VAT refunded at the point of departure. Receipts from purchases must be kept and produced. at banks.

Banking hours

Mon-Fri:   09:00 - 15:30
Sat:           08:00 -11:00

Business Hours

Mon-Fri:   08:00 -1700

South African Public Holidays

Public holidays falling on a Sunday are observed the following Monday.

New Year's Day - 1 Jan
Human Rights Day - 21 Mar
Good Friday - Friday before Easter Sunday
Family Day - Monday after Easter Sunday
Freedom Day - 27 Apr
Workers' Day - 1 May
Youth Day - 16 Jun
National Women's Day - 9 Aug
Heritage Day - 24 Sep
Day of Reconciliation - 16 Dec
Christmas Day - 25 Dec
Day of Goodwill - 26 Dec
Public Holiday - 27 Dec

Shopping hours

South Africa has an abundance of well appointed shopping centres open seven days a week. Opening hours are generally from 09:00 to 17:00 Monday to Saturday and from 09:00 - 14:00 on Sundays. In some smaller towns, shops are closed on a Sunday.

Mon-Sat:   09:00 - 17:00
Sun:           10:00 - 14:00


Numbers to know!


107       -   Emergency

10111   -   Police

10177   -   Ambulance


112       -   Emergency

Social Norms

South Africans' standard form when greeting is a handshake. Casual wear is widely accepted for leisure, but for business meetings, are generally expected to be worn and business cards are widely used. Punctuality is expected.

Smoking is prohibited in most public spaces, including airports and railway stations, but most restaurants, bars and clubs have designated smoking and non-smoking areas.

In the case of tipping, as a rule, South African restaurants do not include a service charge in the total bill. It's customary to leave a 10% tip for good service, or more for exceptional service.

When filling up, petrol attendants will fill your tank, check the oil and will offer to wash your windscreen and pump your tires. A small tip is always greatly appreciated, whatever small change you have available. Parking attendants are also common and will offer to assist watch over it while you are away - again, a tip of R2 is appreciated.

Electrical plugs and adaptors

If you are going to use electrical appliances, South Africa's electricity supply uses 220/230 volts 50 Hz electrical voltage is used. For adapters and plugs, these are 2-pin and 3-pin round. Adaptors can be purchased but US-made appliances may need a transformer.


A valid driver's licence is required to rent a car in South Africa. Drivers must carry a valid driver's licence at all times and seatbelts are compulsory. Use of mobile phones while driving is illegal, but a hands free kit must be used. Strict fines apply for drinking and driving as well as speeding.

While numerous road signs will indicate the speed limit on a particular road, the general rule of thumb on National roads or highways is 120kmph, 100kmph on smaller roads and between 60 and 80kmph in residential areas, cities and towns. Speeding is strictly enforced with cameras.

When it comes to cars, there are a few differences in terms of words used:

Petrol - not gasoline

Bonnet - not hood

Boot - not trunk

Road safety

South Africa has an excellent network of good quality roads. Due to the sheer size of the country, travelling distances can be long, so leave enough time for breaks along the way as one of the biggest causes of road accidents on long-distances is fatigue and loss of concentration.

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