About South Africa
South Africa covers the area on the southernmost tip of Africa, it's 2,500km long coastline streches from the Namibian border on the Atlantic coast in the west, southwards around the tip of Africa, then north to the border with subtropical Mozambique on the Indian Ocean in the east. The low-lying coastal zone is narrow for much of that distance, soon giving way to a mountainous escarpment that separates it from the high inland plateau.
Size: (Approx) 1.2 million square kilometres
Population: (Approx) 50 million people
Capital: Pretoria (executive), Cape Town (legislative) & Bloemfontein (judicial)
Languages: Zulu, Xhosa, Africaans, English, Northern Sotho, Tswana, Sotho, Tsonga, Swati, Venda & Ndebele.
Religion: African traditional religion, religion of the San people, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism & Buddhism
Land borders: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique & Swaziland.
Climate: South Africa has a subtropical climate with average summer temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius. Like the UK, South Africa's climate is categorised by four seasons:
Summer - (Mid October to Mid February) Hot, sunny weather often with short lived thunderstorms in the afternoons. The Western Cape being the exception to the rule has a Mediterranean climate and gets its rain fall in the winter months.
Autumn - (Mid February to April) Often described as the best time to visit South Africa, autumn has warm, sunny days with very little rainfall over the entire country. It's warm but not too hot, getting cooler as the season progresses.
Winter - (May to July) High-lying areas will experience dry, sunny days and cold nights. The KwaZulu-Natal coastal area as well as low-lying areas of Mpumalanga and Limpopo offer sunny, warmish days with virtually no wind or rain. The Western Cape experiences cloudy, wet days interspersed with some warm sunny days, many would liken it to a typical British summer. Finally, the high mountains of KwaZulu-Natal and the Drakensberg Range will normally experience some snow in the winter.
Spring - (August to Mid October) Sunny and calm conditions with temperatures beginning to rise to 25 - 30 degrees Celsius in the day with the evenings remaining fresh and cool. This is an excellent time to visit the country.
Money: South African Rand.
Tipping: Tipping in South Africa is widely practiced, many employees in the tourism industry will not be earning a large basic wage and therefore rely on tips from customers to help financially. See below a guide to whom you should tip and an approximate amount to give:
- Restaurants: 10% - 15% is the accepted tipping standard
- Parking & Petrol attendants: 2 Rand
- Airport Porters: 5 - 10 Rand
- Hotel Porters: 10 - 20 Rand
- Tour Guides & Drivers: Clients own discretion
Formalities: For stays of up to 90 days a visa is not required if you are a UK resident holding a UK passport. For all other nationalities please check with the foreign office to confirm what your visa requirements are.
Travel advice: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office produce up-to-date information on countries around the world. This can be checked on www.fco.gov.uk.