The southern shores of the African continent formed a stepping-stone for European settlement and colonization of the entire subcontinent. In modern South Africa - vibrant, diverse and energetic - you can still find large stretches of sandy beaches, winding roads in the bush and cultivated country estates. Bountiful sunshine combined with an abundance of scenic beauty, unconfined space and vast sparkling oceans make South Africa a sought after destination.
International Sports Mecca
South Africa is a hotspot for international sports. Numerous annual events attract avid sports people from all over the world. The build-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup is evident everywhere, with the construction of stadiums and additional infrastructure. The host cities include Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Mangaung / Bloemfontein, Nelson Mandela Bay / Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Rustenburg, and Tshwane / Pretoria.
In June 2009, South Africa was the proud host for the British-Irish Lions Rugby Tour. The country also draws many international participants for the Comrades Marathon, the Cape Argus Cycle Tour and the Cape to Rio Yacht Race.
Introduction to Cape Town
Every year Cape Town International Airport welcomes millions of travelers from around the world. It is the second largest airport in the country and is known as the gateway to the Western Cape. There are numerous options of transfers to and from the airport to most of the surrounding areas.
The city center is an amalgamation of western influences and traditional cultures making it vibrant, colorful, exuberant and friendly. The developed and modern infrastructure is an interesting mix of century old architecture and modern design.
Table Mountain is the most famous landmark and has been photographed by visitors from around the world. The harbor, which once acted as a halfway stop for weary seamen, now sports the V&A Waterfront with its Aquarium and excellent restaurants and shops. Daily charters take visitors to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was in exile for 27 years.
The Western Cape
The Western Cape has always been home to huge herds of game, making it an excellent base for early hunters. The slopes of the mountains and caves are often dotted with engravings and even ancient paintings.
The cuisine, culture and dress are as diverse as the many different kind of people found here. Pavement displays of African drums and woodcarvings from the townships contrast with elegant shops offering sophisticated curios, gold and diamond jewelers, and ethnic clothing boutiques. Craft co-operatives, shopping complexes and pavement stalls are all found in abundance. The rich mix of cultural diversity ensures that there is something special for everyone. The favorable exchange rate makes South Africa a shopping paradise for indigenous arts and crafts, gold, diamonds, leather and clothing.
A visit to the outlying townships is an eye-opening experience. Despite difficult circumstances and the poor living conditions, you can be completely entranced by the vibrancy and spirit of the people. Highlights include the informal communities with their houses made from corrugated iron and the famous eating and drinking gathering places known as “shebeens”. As you watch the hustle and bustle of daily life, it makes you thankful for the many modern conveniences so often taken for granted.
The breathtaking coastline is ideal for scenic and relaxing drives. Several excellent vantage points along the way offer whale or dolphin watching and ample photo opportunities. The area offers the unrivaled beauty of mountain ranges and an endless view of the vast sparkling ocean. For the outdoor enthusiast there is bird watching, hiking, swimming, paddling, diving and of course some of the best fishing and hunting grounds in the world. For the less active, there are leisurely walks, wine tastings, majestic scenic flights, sunset cruises or just lazing on the beach.
This area is perfect for those who enjoy outdoor activities. South Africans are known for their sporting passion so feel free to join them.
There is nothing quite like grabbing a fishing rod and bringing home some dinner. More than half a century ago, fishermen discovered a seaside paradise of exquisite beauty, cradled between the mountains and the ocean. Eventually these people built weekend retreats for family and friends to come and join them on their weekend excursions. Today these thriving communities have established a reputation for great hospitality, amidst great natural beauty and tranquility. These quaint little towns are dotted along the coastline of the Western Cape, between the City of Cape Town and the seaside towns of Hermanus, all the way to Plettenberg Bay. They are surrounded by pristine marine sanctuaries, lagoons, lakes, botanical gardens, natural springs, nature reserves and long stretches of deserted beaches.
South Africa is a golfing paradise and many of them are rated amongst the most beautiful in the world. Foreign players are very welcome in South African golf clubs and they are highly affordable by international standards.
If you are an avid photographer or lover of nature then this really is paradise. Just snap away to your heart's content and wow the folks back home.
Time Zone GMT +2
The summer season is from November to April with low humidity and warm, sunny days. Often it is light until eight in the evening, which means a long day for enjoying all the outdoor activities. Winters can be relatively cold with rain, although often interspersed with weeks of balmy sunny days.
Currency and Banking
The unit of currency is the Rand (ZAR) and is divided into 100 cents to a rand. Most banks are open from 9am until 3:30pm Monday through Friday and close at 11pm on Saturdays. Most credit cards and travelers cheques are accepted at hotels, restaurants and shops. Standard tipping is 10%.
Most plugs have three round pins and are available at supermarkets. The voltage is 220/250. Bathrooms are normally fitted for a 2-pin plug.
English is spoken in most areas of the country despite the fact that there are 11 official languages.
Mobile Phones and Devices
It is advisable to organize international roaming before leaving home in order to ascertain whether your phone is GSM compatible. Alternatively, cell phone hire is available at the airport. The international dialing prefix is +27. Internet and Bluetooth connections are available in most areas.
Most major shops are open 7 days a week with extended shopping hours on the weekend.
Value Added Tax (VAT) is at 14% and is included in the price of most consumer goods and services. Non-residents of the country can claim back the VAT at either the airport or most major shopping complexes. Ensure that all original tax invoices are available as proof of purchase.
The water is safe in the cities and towns. However, it is advisable to take bottled water on outdoor trips, as it is not always safe to drink from rivers, streams and other natural sources.
Most travel agents will assist with the necessary paperwork, which is uncomplicated. Alternatively, direct online enquiries to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pretoria, South Africa.