Republic of South Africa
South Africa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa. It is a land of beautiful nature in the very south of the continent, surrounded by two oceans, with mountains and rivers, rich in flora and fauna. The people here are not like other nations, but they are all very open, friendly and independent. Welcome to South Africa, the country is waiting for you!
South Africa on the map
South Africa occupies the southernmost tip of Africa and is washed by the Indian Ocean to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The total length of the coastline is 2700 kilometres. South Africa has several islands and archipelagos.
On land the country borders with Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. In addition, within the territory of South Africa is the small state of Lesotho.
The country’s topography is predominantly mountainous, with many plateaus. In the south along the ocean stretches the Table Mountains, in the east to the north are the Dragon Mountains. The highest mountain of the country is Njesuti on the border with Lesotho. Its height is 3,410 metres.
In the north-west begins the arid Namib Desert.
There are many rivers and lakes in the country. Here are very rich flora and fauna, for the protection of which a number of national parks and reserves have been created in the country.
Safety for tourists
In the global index of peacefulness, which takes into account the calmness of the situation, attitude to tourists and many other factors, South Africa is on a distant 125th place, surrounded by other African countries. But this does not prevent millions of tourists from flocking here every year.
The country has a very high crime rate. By the level of serious crime, including murder, South Africa is one of the first places in the world. It is especially dangerous to visit poor neighbourhoods of the largest megacities of the republic. The country in general is characterised by a huge gap between the incomes of the population, and the unemployment rate is close to 40%. The luxurious neighbourhoods of the rich are sometimes closely juxtaposed with the miserable shacks of the poor.
Theft of luggage, valuables and belongings is common. Pickpockets are active on the streets in busy places, although their number has decreased in recent years. However, robberies in bars have become more frequent, when tourists are drugged with sleeping pills and take advantage of their helplessness.
Traffic in the cities is heavy, the rules are generally observed, but you should not lose vigilance. There are plenty of daredevils here too.
There is a risk of terrorist attack in the country. There are some Islamist groups located here, which can organise attacks in public places.
Natural dangers in South Africa are less significant. In local waters there are poisonous fish and jellyfish, white sharks are abundant, swimming with them has turned into a kind of attraction. Poisonous snakes and large predators are waiting for tourists on the shore, which, however, are found only far from big cities.
Sanitary and hygienic living conditions also leave much to be desired. Although the level of medicine here is not high enough, you should not use raw water or unwashed fruit.
In general, despite the numerous dangers, South Africa remains a very attractive place for holidays, the main thing is to carefully watch yourself and your belongings, and everything will be fine.
South Africa is a unique state, where you can participate in quite traditional European holidays and Latin carnivals or visit ethnic actions connected with religious beliefs and traditions of aborigines.
The country’s public holidays are divided into secular and religious holidays. The secular ones necessarily include New Year’s Day and a number of commemorations: Days of Reconciliation, Goodwill, Human Rights.
Religious holidays include Easter and Christmas.
In addition, the country holds a number of very famous festivals. For example, every year on New Year’s Eve in Cape Town there is a minstrel festival, when brightly dressed people fill the streets with the city.
In March in Cape Town there is a cookery festival, in spring there is a music fest in the town of Northam. In summer there is a national arts festival in Grahamstown. There are also original events like oyster eating competitions, waiter races and whale festivals.
What fun things to do in South Africa
The entertainment and tourism industry in South Africa is at a fairly high level. There are many excellent hotels, travel agencies that offer a variety of tours, well-developed network of motorways and air travel, allowing you to quickly get to the right place. And this attitude is not surprising, because more than 3 million tourists arrive in South Africa every month.
- Beach holidays. The best beaches of the country are concentrated in the south and on the coast of the Indian Ocean. A significant part of them is located in the immediate vicinity of Cape Town, including the famous King’s Beach.
- Surfing. Surfing as a sport is believed to have originated in South Africa around the city of Durban. And now these places are iconic for surfing enthusiasts. Here you can catch very high and stable waves, there are places for experienced athletes and beginners.
- Diving. Diving enthusiasts will also find something to do in the local waters. In addition to the usual dives, there are also such exotic ones as diving with sharks. Divers watch sharks from a steel cage, and toothy fish try to chew through thick bars.
- Microlight. Another popular attraction in the country, whose coastline is covered with bizarre mountains and coves. Tourists are offered to fly over the coast on a small glider with a motor independently or with an instructor. In some countries, this entertainment is called motor gliding.
- Tsitsikamma Park. This national park is located on the southern coast of South Africa and offers tourists a unique opportunity to walk among picturesque mountains, ride bicycles, jump from the world’s highest bridge Bloukrans.
- Safari. As in any African country, safaris in South Africa are very popular. Here is the famous Kruger Park, one of the largest in the world. There you can watch the life of the most dangerous predators and the most beautiful animals of this country from a car.
- Otter Trail. For trekkers and hikers, the Otter Trail along the southern coast is a great option. This 50-kilometre trail is designed for a 5-day trek and has a large drop in altitude.
- Mountaineering. South Africa has many beautiful mountains that are not very high, but are difficult to climb and scenic. One of the most popular places for climbing is Table Mountain near Cape Town. Its height is 1086 metres.
- Speleotourism. The country has a great number of amazingly beautiful and huge caves, many of which have tourist routes. The most popular are the Cango Caves, they stretch for more than 25 kilometres and many of their halls are still unexplored.
- Penguins. Fans of these cuties don’t have to head to Antarctica as many people think. A large population of penguins lives in South Africa on Bolders Beach, just outside Cape Town. This is a kind of nature reserve where penguins feel right at home.
What is important to know about South Africa
If you are planning to visit this state, here are some of the most important things to know:
South Africa is the only country in the world to have 12 languages as official languages. The most common are Afrikaans and English. In addition to these, the languages of the major tribes – Ndebele, Kosa, Zulu, Sotho, Sesotho, Tswana, Swazi, Venda and Tsonga – have been declared official languages.
Afrikaans, formerly called Boer, is the mother tongue of the white and coloured population. This language was considered a dialect of Dutch.
The country is currently home to just under 52 million people.
South Africa is one of the few countries in Africa with a high proportion of white people. About 10% of the population is now white, although this proportion is gradually declining.
Another 9% of the population are mulattoes, descendants of mixed marriages between Africans and Europeans. The south-east of the country is compactly settled by natives of Asia – Indians, Chinese, Malays. They account for about 2% of the population.
The rest of the country’s population are Africans, representatives of various local tribes. Among them most of all Zulus and Sotho, there are a lot of Kos, Tsonga and Tswana in the country.
More facts about the peoples of South Africa, their character and local colour can be found in this article.
The national currency is the rand, which is divided into 100 cents.
The rand was introduced into circulation in 1961, replacing the English pound sterling. The country now carries banknotes of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 rands. As well as coins of 5, 10, 20, 50 cents and 1, 2 and 5 rand.
You can exchange cash currency in the country in any bank, as well as almost everywhere international plastic cards are accepted.
The approximate exchange rate is about 19 rand to 1 dollar.
Most of the population of the country are Christians of various denominations. Among them are Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Zion churches and even Orthodox Christians.
Of the other religions, there are small communities of Judaists, Hindus, and Muslims in the country.
Among Africans, many continue to worship pagan gods and keep local beliefs.
About 1.5 per cent of the population have declared themselves atheists.
South Africa’s climate varies from an arid tropical climate in the north-western parts of the country to a mild Mediterranean subtropical climate in the south-east.
The subtropical climate is characterised by the presence of all four seasons: warm and dry summers, cooler and wetter winters, and intermediate springs and autumns. On the eastern and southern coasts, the average summer temperature is around +28 degrees Celsius. Temperature highs are recorded at +45 degrees Celsius. In winter, it gets much cooler and average monthly temperatures fall to +18 degrees.
The wettest period is from May to August, when about 90 millimetres of precipitation falls per month. For a year in these places falls only 500 millimetres of precipitation. But this is considerably higher than in the desert north-west of the country, where rainfall is almost non-existent.
Snow falls in South Africa only in the mountainous areas and not every year.
The average temperature of the seawater off the coast of South Africa is subject to strong annual fluctuations and does not always remain suitable for bathing. Locally, in winter, the water off the coast becomes too cold for swimming. This is especially true along the west coast, along which the cold Benguela Current operates. In contrast, the more comfortable conditions off the east coast are due to the warm Cape Needle Current.
- Water temperature in winter, December-January: +23 to +25 degrees Celsius.
- Water temperature in spring, March-May: +20 to +23 degrees Celsius.
- Water temperature in summer, June-July: from +15 to +18 degrees Celsius. The coldest water is in July.
- Water temperature in autumn, September-November: from +18 in early autumn to +22 degrees in November.
The main natural disasters for South Africa are tropical cyclones and associated floods. The tropical storm and hurricane season in the Southern Hemisphere begins in late November and lasts until April, but only a fraction of these affect South Africa. Most cyclones come from the Indian Ocean, bypassing Madagascar.
One of the worst floods associated with the passage of Cyclone Domoina occurred in January 1984. Heavy rains flooded the south-eastern coast of the country, killing 242 people.
Even more catastrophic was the flood of April 2022, which killed 450 people. It was the result of the movement of the subtropical Issa depression.
There are no active volcanoes on the territory of South Africa, and earthquakes are very rare. One of the strongest earthquakes in the last century occurred in the Cape Town area in 1969. Its magnitude was 6.3, as a result of which many buildings were destroyed and 12 people were killed.
Forest fires are another scourge of the country. Most of them occur in January-March in the south of the country in the Table Mountain region. For example, the major fires of January 2015 in the Cape Peninsula destroyed thousands of hectares of forests and killed three firefighters.
You can read about the most devastating disasters in South Africa’s history in this article.
South Africa is a presidential-parliamentary republic. The president of the country is the head of executive power, but in almost all decisions must be supported by the parliament. Legislative power is represented by the bicameral Parliament.
Administratively, the country is divided into 9 provinces.
The capital of the country is Pretoria. However, if Pretoria is the administrative capital, the legislative capital is Cape Town, and the judicial capital is Bloemfontein.
The major cities and resorts
Pretoria is the nominal capital of the country, where 700 thousand people live. It was founded in 1855. This city attracts few tourists, although it is considered one of the most modern in Africa. Pretoria is often called the city of contrasts, because ultra-modern districts here neighbour with poor slums.
Cape Town is the second most populous city in the country. It is home to more than 3.7 million people. It was founded in 1652 by the Dutch. Tourists are attracted here by marvellous beaches, beautiful Table Mountain, numerous monuments and cathedrals, the Fortress of Good Hope and national museums. The most colourful carnivals are also held here.
Port Elizabeth is a city on the Indian Ocean coast, known as the best beach resort in the country. It is inhabited by 900 thousand people and was founded in 1820. Tourists are attracted here by picturesque views with mountains and beaches, many secluded bays and excellent infrastructure.
Durban is the largest port of South Africa, called the sea gate of the country. It was founded in 1835 and is home to 600 thousand people. It is also famous for its beaches. There is an oceanarium, many clubs and shopping centres, and even a museum of Mahatma Gandhi, who lived in Durban for 21 years.
Springbok – the jumping antelope is considered the national symbol of South Africa, a graceful and very fast animal.
Royal protea – a very large and beautiful flower, also the national symbol of the country.
The yellow tree is an unusual evergreen plant that reaches 30 metres in height. Its young foliage has an unusual bright yellow colour.
Rooibos is an African shrub that makes a wonderful tonic drink.
How to get to South Africa
You can get to the country almost exclusively by aeroplane. There are three major international airports in the country – Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
The airport in Cape Town serves up to 10 million passengers a year, providing connections to major cities around the world: Europe, Asia, America and Australia.
An even larger airport is located in Johannesburg. It also serves Pretoria, effectively the country’s two capitals. Its passenger traffic exceeds 15 million travellers a year.
The airport in Durban is the smallest, but it also handles more than 4 million passengers annually.
Air communication is also established between separate cities in the country. Sometimes it is faster and cheaper to get to the desired place by plane than by car.
It is possible to get to South Africa by sea, but this way is long and very expensive. It is used by lovers of sea travel.
How much money to take with you
The cost of holidays in South Africa can vary greatly, depending on whether you plan to holiday on your own at your own risk, or use the services of a travel company and trusted guides.
South Africa is located in the Southern Hemisphere and is quite far from Europe. Therefore, travellers from the EU will not be cheap to fly here. For example, a round-trip ticket to Cape Town from Paris will cost at least $700.
The cost of ready-made tours can also vary significantly. For example, a very popular safari tour costs from $5500 for 10 days for two people. Excursion tour around the country will cost cheaper – from 2000 dollars for 10 days.
In the country itself, tourists are waiting for the following expenses:
- Food: prices for products here are quite high. For example, lunch in an average restaurant will cost $60 per person. Fast food is cheaper, there you can have a snack for 15–25 dollars. A cup of cappuccino costs about $1.5.
- Accommodation: the average price of a double room in a three-star hotel in Cape Town is $35, but you can get a room in a hostel for as little as $10. Five-star hotels offer suites from $100 to $1500 per night.
- Visiting attractions: when staying in a hotel, beach services will be free, except for additional services such as diving. There is a fee to visit parks and museums. The price of various excursions depends on their duration and the composition of the group. Thus, a ticket to the penguins on Bolders Beach will cost about $12, to go up the funicular to Table Mountain – $100, but a safari in the Kruger Park with accommodation in a hotel will cost from $500 for the day.
- Souvenirs: from South Africa tourists bring handicrafts and local producers: bright fabrics and clothes, leather, jewellery with diamonds or costume jewellery, masks and other souvenirs. Food items include biltong jerky ($3), local wine ($4) and rooibos tea. Souvenir costs are individual and can vary greatly.
- Transport: Getting around the cities can be done by buses or taxis. A ticket for public transport on average will cost $1.5 (depends on the kilometre). Taxi around the city costs about 10 dollars, and individual transfer already from 28 dollars. Intercity transportations are carried out by special buses.
Thus, taking into account the reserve amount for unforeseen expenses, a holiday in South Africa for two people will cost from 3000 to 7000 thousand euros for 7 days including flight. And of course, the maximum amount of the holiday can be much higher.
If you have already visited South Africa, please share your impressions in the comments. Please write a few words, what you liked most of all, what moments remained in your memory forever, and what you would recommend to other tourists. We will be very grateful for your recommendations!