Everything about Africa that stirs the imagination is concentrated in its southernmost country. Lions freely roam vast game reserves such as Kruger National Park, vineyards stretch across the Cape Winelands, and mountains cascade into the sea along miles of beaches. In addition to dream safaris and romantic honeymoons, South Africa offers modern cities with thriving arts and dining scenes. When it comes to city life, every South African city has its own unique story to tell, and the best people to tell those stories are the locals themselves. So, let them be your guide to all the hot spots, dance-spots, taste experiences and best-kept secrets around the cities they call home.South Africans are welcoming, and the country’s emergence from a turbulent past provides a dramatic history lesson and the promise of something new every time you visit.
Johannesburg, or Jo'burg, Egoli ("City of Gold"), or Jozi, as it is affectionately known by locals, is the commercial heart of South Africa and the primary gateway for international visitors. Historically it is where money is made and fortunes are found. The city has a (perhaps rather unfair) reputation for being an ugly, dangerous place you ought to avoid on any trip to South Africa. On the contrary, much of Johannesburg is quite pretty, largely because of the millions of trees that cover it (it has, purportedly, the largest human-planted forest in the world), and statistically speaking it is less dangerous than Cape Town.
Glamorous Cape Town
A favorite South African topic of debate is whether Cape Town really is part of Africa. That’s how different it is, both from the rest of the country and the rest of the continent. And therein lies its attraction. South Africa's most urbane, sophisticated city sits in stark contrast to the South Africa north of the Hex River Valley. Here, the traffic lights work pretty much consistently and good restaurants are commonplace. In fact, dining establishments in the so-called Mother City always dominate the country's "best of" lists.
Durban's beach is one of the few places where South Africans of all stripes mingle -- surfers, women in burkinis, pensioners on a stroll and kids playing on the well-maintained public slides. The main attraction is uShaka Marine World, a water park and aquarium. To cool off, you can book a table at the Cargo Hold restaurant (+21 328 8065) inside the shark tank, or step outside to Ocean Ventures and book a surf lesson. Durban's beaches are protected by shark nets and the water's warm enough to swim in year round.
Most hotels have Wi-Fi. Stores such as Woolworths, restaurants such as Wimpy, and most airports offer a countrywide Wi-Fi service called Always On that allows you 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi per day. If you need more time, you can pay for it.
If you bring your laptop or tablet, you'll have no problem finding Wi-Fi service in the cities, but it's unlikely you'll find anyone to service a Mac outside of Cape Town and Jo 'burg.
There are toll-free numbers in South Africa. There's also something called a share-call line, for which the cost of the call is split between both parties.
The country code for South Africa is 27. When dialing from abroad, drop the initial 0 from local area codes.
Calling Within South Africa
Local calls (from landline to landline) are very cheap, although all calls from hotels add a hefty premium. Calls between a mobile phone and a landline are relatively expensive (up to R5 per minute). Pay phones may be coin- or card-operated (the former are being phased out). Phone cards are available at newsstands, convenience stores, and telephone company offices.
When making a phone call in South Africa, always use the full 10-digit number, including the area code, even if you're in the same area. For directory assistance in South Africa, call 1023. For operator-assisted national long-distance calls, call 1025. For international operator assistance, dial 10903#. These numbers are free if dialed from a Telkom (landline) phone but are charged at normal cell-phone rates from a mobile—and they're busy call centers. Directory inquiries numbers are different for each cell-phone network. Vodacom is 111, MTN is 200, and Cell C is 146. These calls are charged at normal rates, but the call is timed only from when it is actually answered.
Calling Outside South Africa
When dialing out from South Africa, dial 00 before the international code. So, for example, you would dial 001 for the United States, since the country code for the United States is 1.
Internet calling like Skype also works well from the United States, but it's not always functional in South Africa, unless you're on a reliable high-speed Internet connection, which isn't available everywhere. However, if you have a South African "free" cell phone (meaning you can receive calls for free; all phones using an SA SIM card do this), someone in the United States can call you from their Skype account, for reasonable per-minute charges, and you won't be charged.
CURRENCY AND BANK
The currency unit is the rand, denoted by the symbol R, with 100 cents making up R1 (one rand). Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks and Foreign Exchanges. Most major international credit card are widely accepted. ATM's are available everywhere.
Tipping is an integral part of South African life, and it's expected that you'll tip for services that you might take for granted at home. Most notable among these is getting gas, as there are no self-service stations. If the attendant simply fills your tank, tip R2–R3; if he or she offers to clean your windshield, checks your tires, oil, or water, and is generally helpful, tip R5–R10. In restaurants the size of the tip should depend on the quality of service, but 10% is standard, unless, of course, a service charge has already been added to the bill. Give the same percentage to bartenders, taxi drivers, and tour guides.
At the end of your stay at a game lodge, you're expected to tip both the ranger and the tracker and the general staff. Different lodgings handle it differently, and checking with the management is one way to make sure you tip properly. However, a good model to follow is to factor 10% of your total room bill.
Fifty percent of this figure should go to your ranger/tracker, and 50% should go to the general staff. If you have a personal butler, factor an additional 10% (of your total tip figure). If you have your laundry done, leave R5–R10 for the laundress in a special envelope. Envelopes are usually provided in safari rooms and tents for tipping, but it's a nice touch to bring your own note cards to write a personal message.
Informal parking attendants operate in the major cities in South Africa and even in some tourist areas. Although they often look a bit seedy, they do provide a good service, so tip them R2–R5 if your car is still in one piece when you return to it.
American citizens need only a valid passport to enter South Africa for visits of up to 90 days; this includes infants. Check the expiration date. If your passport will expire within six months of your return date, you need to renew it in advance, as South Africa won't let you enter with a soon-to-expire passport. You will be denied entry to the country if you do not have two blank, facing pages in your passport.
Before your trip, make two copies of your passport's data page (one for someone at home and another for you to carry separately). Or scan the page and email it to someone at home and/or yourself.
U.S. Passport Information
U.S. Department of State.877-487-2778
For Summer travel months, December through February, lightweight clothing such as cottons and linens, short sleeves clothes are best, although a light jersey or jumper might be needed for cooler evenings. Umbrellas and raincoats are essential for the summers and the Western Cape winters which is June through August.
The electrical current is 220 volts, 50 cycles alternating current (AC); wall outlets in most of the region take 15-amp plugs with three round prongs (the old British system), some take the European two narrow prongs, and a few take the straight-edged three-prong plugs, also 15 amps.
If your appliances are dual voltage, you'll need only an adapter. In remote areas (and even in some lodges) power may be solar or from a generator; this means that delivery is erratic both in voltage and supply. In even the remotest places, however, lodge staff will find a way to charge video and camera batteries, but you will receive little sympathy if you insist on using a hair dryer or electric razor.
Consider making a small investment in a universal adapter, which has several types of plugs in one lightweight, compact unit. Most laptops and mobile phone chargers are dual voltage (i.e., they operate equally well on 110 and 220 volts), so require only an adapter. These days the same is true of small appliances such as hair dryers. Always check labels and manufacturer instructions to be sure. Don't use 110-volt outlets marked for shavers only for high-wattage appliances such as hair dryers.
South Africa's cities and towns are full of dining options, from chain restaurants like the popular Nando's to chic cafés. Indian food and Cape Malay dishes are regional favorites in Cape Town, and traditional smoked meats and sausages are available countrywide. Children are allowed in all restaurants, but don't expect toys and games as in American restaurants.
The restaurants we list are the cream of the crop in each price category. Price categories are based on the average cost of a main course at dinner (or at lunch if that is the only option). If you love seafood, you should make a point of visiting one of the casual West Coast beach restaurants in the Western Cape, where you sit on the beach in a makeshift structure and eat course after course of seafood cooked on an open fire.
Meals and Mealtimes
In South Africa dinner is eaten at night and lunch at noon. Breakfast generally consists of something eggy and hot, but many people are moving over to muesli and fruit. South Africans may eat muffins for breakfast but draw the line at doughnuts, so don't expect too many breakfast sweets. Restaurants serve breakfast until about 11:30; a few serve breakfast all day.
If you're staying at a game lodge, your mealtimes will revolve around the game drives—usually coffee and rusks (similar to biscotti) early in the morning, more coffee and probably muffins on the first game drive, a huge brunch in the late morning, no lunch, tea and something sweet in the late afternoon before the evening game drive, cocktails and snacks on the drive, and a substantial supper, or dinner, about 8 or 8:30.
If you're particularly interested in food, stay at a guesthouse selected by Good Cooks and Their Country Houses, which are noted for superior cuisine. For a guesthouse to qualify for inclusion, the chef must be the owner (or one of them).
Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed in this guide are open daily for lunch and dinner.
Many restaurants accustomed to serving tourists accept credit cards, usually Visa and American Express, with MasterCard increasingly accepted.
Reservations and Dress
Most restaurants welcome casual dress, including jeans and sneakers. Very expensive restaurants and old-fashioned hotel restaurants (where colonial traditions die hard) may welcome nicer dress, but other than the Blue Train, few require a jacket and tie.
Wines, Beer, and Spirits
You can buy wine in supermarkets and many convenience stores. Beer is available only in "bottle shops," which are licensed to sell spirits. Most restaurants are licensed to sell wine and beer, and many also sell spirits. From Saturday at 8 pm through Sunday, you can buy alcohol only in restaurants and bars. You may not take alcohol onto beaches, and it's illegal to walk down the street with an open container. You can, however, drink with a picnic or enjoy sundowners (cocktails at sunset) in almost any public place, such as Table Mountain or Kirstenbosch. The beach rule is also somewhat relaxed at sundowner time, but be careful.
All fuel complexes on the major roads have large, clean, well-maintained restrooms. In cities you can find restrooms in shopping malls, at some gas stations, and in restaurants—most of which are quite happy to allow you to use them.
T-Shirts and long sleeved
Shorts or two skirts
Underwear and Socks
Good Walking Shoes
Bathing Suit and Cover -up
Warm Sweater and Jacket
Toiletries- Suntan lotion- Moisturizers
Antimalarial pills for safari
Camera & Sunglasses
FOOD AND WATER
The tap water in South Africa is relatively safe to drink. In hotels, restaurants and night spots, the standards of hygiene and food preparation are top notch, there is nothing to fear.
South Africa operates on SAST (South African Standard Time). That makes it seven hours ahead of North American eastern standard time. South Africa doesn't follow any daylight saving time, so when U.S. clocks spring forward, it's only 6 hours ahead.