What to know about South Africa

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The Republic of South Africa has much beautiful nature, many cultures and a long, intense history. It has a history of racial separation (apartheid) which legally ended in 1994.

There is much to know about this country. That’s why in this blog I wrote about the following:

Medical number: 112

Police: 10111

What to know about South Africa

Before you travel to South Africa, I recommend you read about the history of South Africa. There are also many documentaries you can watch.

Some general information that you need to know:

  • Capitals: Cape Town (legislative), Bloemfontein (judicial) and Pretoria (executive)
  • Currency: South African Rand (ZAR)
  • Official languages: English, Afrikaans and nine other ethnic languages with Zulu and Xhosa spoken the most.
  • Largest religion: Christian
  • Neighboring countries: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. Lesotho is a country enclosed by South Africa.
  • Surface: 1,220,00 km2
  • Inhabitants: 60,040,000 (2021)
  • Independence: 31 May 1910

Besides the general information there are some important things you should know before you go:

  • As mentioned before, South Africa has three capital cities and eleven official languages.
  • For around 50 years there was a state of racial separation, Apartheid. This was a law that separated the white from the black South Africans when Britain was in control. This lasted until 1994 which then the law was terminated.
  • Nelson Mandela was the first black president of South Africa. After he was freed from jail, he became president in 1994, and he was against the racial separation.
  • The Table Mountain is like a table and it’s one of the oldest mountains in the world.  
  • It’s the largest producer of platinum in the world.
  • The first successful heart transplant happened in Cape Town hospital.
  • South Africa is an important producer of gold in the world.
  • Route 62 is the longest wine route in the world and located in the Western Cape.
  • They have one of the highest commercial bungee jumps in the world. Bloukrans Bridge Bungy is 216 meters high.
  • Rovos Rail is the most luxurious train in the world and It’s in South Africa.

Tip: South Africa is beautiful but there is a lot of poverty so watch out for pickpockets, car jacking and don’t go into the poor neighborhoods with fancy clothes/accessories.

Weather and landscape in South Africa

There is sun all year round but there are different climates. There is the cool and arid climate, the subtropical climate and the climate of the plateau depending in which area you are. The rainfall is largest at the Western Cape during the winter from June to August, while the rest of the country receives this in summer from December to February.

The winter is from June to August and temperatures are between -2°C to 26°C and summer is from December to February with temperatures between 15°C and 36°C.  

You can visit South Africa all year round. The best time to visit South Africa is from May to September. During the winter it’s the best time to spot wildlife but it can get cold during the nights. You can read everything about the weather on the site Rough Guides.

Tip: in winter it can get quite cold so make sure to bring some warm clothes.

In terms of landscape South Africa is a diverse country, it has it all. There are deserts, grasslands, forests, beaches, wetlands, bush, escarpments, and mountains.    

Transport in South Africa

The best way to visit South Africa is to rent a car, but you must know that they drive on the left side of the road. If you are planning to drive yourself in the national parks, I would recommend renting a 4×4 car. For example, it’s not possible to visit the Baviaanskloof if you don’t have a 4×4 but it is possible to visit the Kruger National Park. If you are doing a road trip, you can rent your car in one city and return the car in another city. We started in Cape Town and ended in Johannesburg.

It is possible to visit places in South Africa by train, buses, or taxi. The train is a slow way to get around the country. You can also take buses, which you will find everywhere. There are different operators, and the fares depend on the distance. You will find taxis, but it can get expensive when you visit the country only using taxis.  More about the transport you can read on Rough Guides.

South Africa is a perfect country for a road trip. There is much to do in this big country. Read about all the things you can visit in the blog The ultimate road trip in South Africa.

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