Travellers with disabilities will find that most shopping centres, airports, office blocks and public buildings have special facilities in terms of parking, access and toilets, though sometimes limited in number. Wheelchairs are often made available at these facilities, but booking in advance is recommended. Some car rental agencies also have hand-controlled vehicles for hire.
On the Durban People Mover (buses) there is wheelchair access, and bus-stop wardens offer help to passengers requiring assistance.
A number of local specialist tour operators tailor packages for people with disabilities in South Africa, researching suitable resorts, attractions and activities.
Banking hours in South Africa vary depending on the bank, but are generally from 08:30 to 16:00, Monday to Friday and 09:00 to 12:00 on Saturdays. South Africa's main banks are Absa Bank, First National Bank, Nedbank, Standard Bank and Capitec.
Travellers' cheques can be exchanged in banks, bureaux de changes and some hotels. It is suggested you bring them in hard currencies. Money can also be withdrawn at automated teller machines (ATM) of which there are many countrywide. All major credit cards are accepted in the country, particularly MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Diners Club.
The main workdays in South Africa are Monday to Friday, from roughly 09:00 to 17:00. In Durban, retailers are usually open from 09:00 to 17:00 Monday to Saturday and from 10:00 to 16:00 on Sundays.
Climate and clothing
The winters are generally mild, comparing favourably with European summers. Winter temperatures range from 1°C at night to around 18°C in the day. Always bring a hat, sunglasses and sunblock as the sun can be strong even in the winter months.
The relatively mild and short winters do not justify the expense of central heating in many buildings and homes, which may lead visitors to think the winter is colder than it actually is. The answer to this is dressing in layers.
South’s Africa’s national currency is the Rand, which comes in the following denominations:
- Notes are in denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200
- Coins come in denominations of 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 15 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents, as well as R1, R2 and R5.
South African Customs regulations afford visitors to the country the opportunity to bring in certain goods without incurring duties and value added tax (VAT). These are limited in quantity and value. On arrival, you can take the green ‘nothing to declare' channel if you stick to these allowances:
- Personal effects
- New or used goods not exceeding R3 000 (additional goods, new or used, exceeding R12 000 will incur a duty charge of 20%)
- Wine not exceeding 2 litres per person over the age of 18
- Spirits and alcohol not exceeding l litre per person over the age of 18
- Cigarettes not exceeding 200 units and cigars not exceeding 20 units per person over the age of 18
- 250g cigarette tobacco or pipe tobacco per person over the age of 18
- Perfume not exceeding 50ml and eau de toilette not exceeding 250ml per person
If you have goods in excess of these allowances, take the red channel and declare your items. Here you will be billed at the applicable rates by representatives of South African Customs. If you are importing for business and commercial intent, you will not qualify for these allowances, other than that relating to personal effects.
Customs in South Africa further stipulates that individual travelers are entitled to a duty-free allowance of R5 000 per person, where no duties or VAT apply. These allowances may not be pooled and only apply on a per person basis.
Further information is available in this guide for travelers: www.borders.sars.gov.za/Documents/Airports.pdf
Drinking and food safety
Drinking water in South Africa is safe to drink and cook with when taken from taps in urban areas. Not all tap water in rural areas is safe for consumption, so take precautions if necessary. Some tap and natural water may have a slight brown tinge from humic acid, which is harmless and does not affect drinking water quality in South Africa.
Standards of hygiene in relation to food health and safety in South Africa, are generally high in hotels, restaurants, pubs and nightspots. It is safe to eat fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, and put ice in your drinks. Fish, meat and chicken are of good quality. Street food is not as common in South Africa as it is in other countries, although vendors selling traditional snacks and meals can be found in city centres and townships. Food safety in such instances cannot always be guaranteed.
Tourists to South Africa should be aware that:
- The South African electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ.
- Most plugs are 15 amp 3-prong or 5 amp 2-prong, with round pins. If an adaptor is called for, consider bringing one with you, although they can be purchased locally.
- US-made appliances may need a transformer.
- Most hotel rooms have 110 volt outlets for electric shavers and appliances.
The nationwide emergency phone number for the police is 10111 and for the ambulance service it is 10177 - you will not need to dial an area code for either. If you’re calling from a mobile phone, call 112 for emergency assistance.
Private hospitals and clinics in South Africa are of a high standard. It is advisable to take out comprehensive medical insurance before travelling to South Africa, as private health care is expensive.
South Africa's urban areas are well supplied with general and specialist practitioners, all registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. Many medical professionals require payment on consultation, and may offer discounts for immediate settlement.
South African pharmacists are unable to dispense Schedule 3 drugs and up without a prescription, so tourists on chronic medication who expect they'll run out during their stay, should come with the necessary doctor's prescription.
Information on health services in Durban can be found here: http://showme.co.za/durban/lifestyle/health-fitness/medical-practitioners-services-supplies/hospitals-clinics/
Delegates are requested to check the South Africa visa requirements relevant to them as soon as possible. Visa requirements vary depending on travelers’ country of origin. To find out if you need a visa to visit South Africa, visit the South African Department of Home Affairs website: www.dha.gov.za/index.php/immigration-services/apply-for-a-south-african-visa. Enquiries regarding South Africa visa information can also be obtained from South African missions in your home country, or the one nearest to you.
It is the delegate’s responsibility to investigate the visa requirements and to apply for a visa, if necessary. For nationals of countries requiring visas, application of the visa must be made ahead of your departure as visas are not issued on arrival. The visas must be affixed in your passport and shown to immigration officials on landing. Applications must be made through South African diplomatic or consular representatives.
To apply for a visa, you'll be required to furnish particular documentation to meet South Africa's visa requirements. See here for a full list: www.dha.gov.za/index.php/immigration-services/apply-for-a-south-african-visa.
If you are subject to visa requirements, you should apply for your visa at least four week before your departure for South Africa. Do not leave until you know your application has been successful. Visas are not issued at South African ports of entry, and airline officials are obliged to insist on visas before allowing passengers to board. If you arrive without a visa, immigration officials will refuse you entry to South Africa and place you on a return flight to your country.
Additional questions can be sent to our Visa Team at [email protected].
There are 11 official languages spoken in South Africa and many unofficial ones.
English is the official language of business, politics and media, but on South Africa's streets you'll find a heady mix of languages spoken from all over the world, most notably Africa, Europe and Asia.
Most South Africans are multilingual and often mix languages together so you'll hear IsiZulu, for example, peppered with English or Afrikaans phrases.
But tourists need not be concerned. English is widely spoken throughout most of South Africa save for some very rural areas.
The units of measurement used in South Africa are metric - road distances are measured in kilometres, petrol in litres and solid food in grams.
National and international calls
To make an international call from South Africa, dial 00, followed by the country code of the country you wish to call, followed by the relevant area code (if there is one), followed by the phone number.
To make a national call in South Africa, dial 0, followed by the phone number.
If you're calling from outside South Africa, simply use the international dialling code +27.
Security and safety
South African safety precautions are not unlike those recommended when travelling to other countries and major cities.
Important South African safety advice includes whether alone or accompanied, avoiding deserted areas, especially after dark, securing valuables such as photographic equipment and wallets on your person; and leaving expensive, flashy jewellery in your hotel safe while out and about.
Other safety precautions you may want to consider include:
- Locking valuables and luggage away in the car boot while travelling (never leave handbags or cameras on car seats)
- Being vigilant of your luggage and other belongings (never leave them unattended).
- Storing valuables in your hotel safe.
- Limit the amount of money you carry on your person. Also, don't accept offers of assistance at ATMs and keep your pin numbers secure.
- When using a credit card in restaurants, ask the waiter to bring a portable credit card machine to your table. Report stolen or lost cards immediately.
- Carry a current road map with you. If you're in any doubt about a place you wish to visit or how to get there, have a word with your hotel concierge first or contact the National Tourism Information and Safety Line on 083 123 2345 for assistance.
- Only use reputable tour operators and travel and transport services. If you're not sure, ask your hotel to recommend a service provider for you.
- In rural areas, watch out for wild or farm animals - road signage will warn you when you need to take care.
- If you intend travelling to malaria areas, take the necessary prophylaxis before you leave home.
Smoking is banned in both public places and in partially enclosed public places such as covered patios, verandas, balconies, walkways and parking areas, as well as smoking in cars where there are children under the age of 12 present. There are stiff penalties associated with anti-smoking legislation in South Africa, including hefty fines for both the smoker and venue operator. Be aware that smoking is banned on all domestic flights in South Africa; in all airport terminals; in all restaurants, pubs and offices with no designated smoking areas; on all public transport; in cinemas and shopping malls; and even in some hotel rooms (check on booking).
Durban is on South Africa Standard Time (SAST), which is UTC +2:00 and shares the same offset as a number of time zones that are under different names, including Central European Summer Time (CEST) and Central Africa Time (CET). South Africa does not observe Daylight Saving Time in 2016.
You can see Durban's time in relation to most cities on the globe by visiting www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/south-africa/cape-town.
Most retail purchases carry a VAT levy of 14%, which is refunded to foreign tourists at departure points, subject to stipulated amounts spent, completion of the necessary forms, and presentation of original tax invoices.
Tipping in South Africa is widely practised. In restaurants and bars, 10% to 15% is the accepted tipping standard. The going rate for porters at airports is between R5 and R10 per piece of luggage. Hotel porters usually expect a tip of R10 to R20 per porter service. Others who also receive tips include tour guides and taxi drivers.
Yellow fever entry requirements
South Africa's yellow fever vaccination requirements policy has been reviewed.
As of 1 October 2011, South Africa requires all travellers journeying from yellow fever risk countries to show proof of yellow fever vaccination by means of a valid yellow fever certificate.
This also applies to those who have transited through a yellow fever risk country.
The certificates, which are valid for the life of the person vaccinated, must be approved by the World Health Organization, and should be administered at a yellow fever approved vaccination centre at least 10 days before departure to South Africa, as the vaccine only offers protection 10 days after administration.
Failure to produce a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate at a South African port of entry could lead to refusal of entry, or quarantine until the traveller’s certificate becomes valid. Quarantine will not be longer than 6 six days.
For a full list of countries for which a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry, see here: www.southafrica.net/za/en/travel-tips/entry/travel-tip-yellow-fever-entry-requirements.