South Africa

South Africa Travel Tips

Geographic Situation

South Africa occupies the most southern tip of Africa with its long coastline stretching more than 3 000 km from the desert border with Namibia on the Atlantic coast southwards around the tip of Africa and then north to the border of subtropical Mozambique on the Indian Ocean.

The country has more than 290 conservation parks. It is home to almost 300 mammal species, about 860 bird species and 8 000 plant species. The annual sardine run is the biggest migration on the planet.

The Oceans and Coastline

The warm Mozambique-Agulhas Current skirts the east and south coasts as far as Cape Agulhas, while the cold Benguela Current flows northwards along the west coast as far as southern Angola. The contrast in temperature between these two currents partly accounts for significant differences in climate and vegetation, as well as differences in marine life.

Owing to the cold waters of the west coast being much richer in oxygen, nitrates, phosphates and plankton than those of the east coast, the South African fishing industry is centred on the west coast.

Saldanha Bay on the west coast is the only ideal natural harbour.

History & Politics

Legal racial segregation

South Africa’s history and politics are complex and dominated by the country’s harrowing journey to end apartheid.

Apartheid – legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party government of South Africa between 1948 and 1993 – curtailed rights of black people, who were in the majority, in order to maintain minority rule by white people.

An important uprising

In Soweto (1976), a student uprising took place which would eventually help end white minority rule. 20,000 students took part in the protest and over 170 lost their lives. A famous photograph of a father carrying his dead child (Hector Peterson) was unveiled as a memorial by Nelson Mandela in 1992. This photo became an emblem of the anti-apartheid movement. The inscription on the memorial reads: “to all young heroes and heroines of our struggle who laid down their lives for freedom, peace and democracy”.

Legislation classified residents into racial groups (‘black’, ‘white’, ‘coloured’ and ‘Indian’). The government segregated education, health care and other public services, providing black people with services inferior to those of whites. Residential areas were segregated, sometimes with forced removals.

End of apartheid

Apartheid sparked resistance and violence, as well as a long trade embargo against South Africa. Uprisings and protests were met with the banning of opposition and imprisoning of anti-apartheid leaders. As unrest spread and became more violent, state organisations responded with increasing repression and state-sponsored violence.

Reforms failed to quell the mounting opposition. In 1990, President Frederik Willem de Klerk began negotiations to end apartheid, culminating in multi-racial democratic elections in 1994. These were won by the African National Congress under Nelson Mandela.

Culture & Language

South Africa, the country well described as the Rainbow Nation, has a rich multicultural diversity.

Among native black South Africans, there are many different ethnic groups and eleven official recognised local languages. They are: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. Fewer than two percent of South Africans speak a first language other than an official one.

The Zulu and Xhosa speakers are the two largest groups – accounting for nearly 40% of the population – with Pedi, Sotho, Tswana, Tsonga, Swati/Swazi, Venda and Ndebele speakers making up the rest.



To find out if you need a visa to visit South Africa, visit the South African Department of Home Affairs website which provides detailed information on South Africa’s visa requirements.

For nationals of countries requiring visas, your visa application must be submitted ahead of your departure as visas are not issued upon arrival. The visas must be affixed in your passport and shown to an immigration official upon landing.

To apply for a visa before your trip to SA, you will be required to provide particular documentation to meet South Africa’s visa requirements.

These include, but are not limited to:

  1. A passport valid for no less than 30 days after the expiry of the intended visit, and at least 1 unused page for entry/departure endorsements (sometimes referred to as the visa page).
  2. Payment of an application fee, if applicable.
  3. A vaccination certificate, if required (travel through the yellow fever belts of Africa and South America requires inoculation)
  4. Proof of financial means in the form of bank statements, undertakings by your hosts in South Africa, or available cash, including credit cards or travellers’ cheques.
  5. If travelling by air, a return or onward ticket.

Take care to request the correct duration of stay and type of visa.  Also, please note your visa’s processing time so that there is no last-minute panic before your trip to South Africa.

Please be aware that Ates Africa is not responsible for assisting with your South African visa. Any information above should be confirmed directly through your nearest embassy. For a guideline on whether your country requires a visa to enter South Africa, please see this downloadable PDF for reference. Please note that Ates Africa is not responsible for any out-of-date information, and travelers should always do their own research before traveling. 


t is a known joke amongst the locals that you can experience all four seasons in one day in Cape Town. It can be windy and cold in the morning, and then the sun will shine during the late afternoon. On the other hand, Johannesburg has its warm rainy season in summer but cold and dry winter.

As with any other trip, be prepared for drastic weather changes during your visit to South Africa.


From December to March, the weather can change depending on the area. It can range between 22 to 35ºC, but some areas experience strong winds in the late afternoon and temperatures drop to 10 ºC. Other cities near the Indian Ocean can experience high levels of humidity.


From April to May, throughout the country you will experience the beautiful mild and moderate climate, in which temperatures can fluctuate between 9 to 30ºC depending on the area.


From June to September, some areas in winter can be dry yet cold, with temperatures ranging between 5 to 25ºC. It is always recommended to wear warm clothes during the winter season.


Lasting from September to November, this season is enjoyed by many travelers, with mild temperatures (not too cold but not too hot) ranging between 10 to 30ºC. This season is perfect for lovers of outdoor activities, however this season is not quite beach friendly weather.


The unit of currency for South Africa is the Rand (ZAR).


South Africa uses Type M power supply plugs. Type M is a “15 A/250 V” version of electric plug D, with the standard voltage of 220/230 volts and frequency of AC 50 HZ. Most plugs are 15 amp 3-prong or 5 amp 2-prong, with round pins. These plugs and converters are widely available and can be purchased upon arrival.

South Africa’s Top Locations and Highlights

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