South Africa General Information
About 92 percent of South Africans are Christians, 2 percent are Hindus, and 2 percent are Muslims. Hindus are mainly Indian, and Muslims either Indian or Coloured although there has been some growth of Islam among Coloured people in recent years. The Christian churches include over 4000 African independent churches that collectively claim over 8.5 million adherents. African independent churches originally broke off from various mission churches. The majority of these independent churches are Zionist or Apostolic churches, with some independent branches of the Pentecostal movement. Most Afrikaners belong to one of the three Dutch Reformed churches whose 4.5 million members also include about half of the Coloured people and a small number of black people. The Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (Afrikaans for 'Dutch Reformed Church') is the largest of the Dutch Reformed churches with 4 million members including the Coloured and African membership. It was a racially segregated church that supported the state during the apartheid years, but then recanted and moved closer to other churches. Other denominations include Roman Catholics (2.91 million), Methodists (2.25 million), Anglicans (1.46 million), Lutherans (0.96 million), and Presbyterians (0.56 million). The larger churches in this group were prominent in the struggle against apartheid, at least at the leadership level. Most people who claim no religious affiliation are African traditionalists. Their religion has a strong cultural base and rituals vary according to ethnic group. They generally recognize a supreme being, but ancestors are much more important, and they believe in manipulation of the power of spirits. Traditionalists have had some contact with Christianity and many are in a transitional position, incorporating aspects of both religions into their beliefs and worship.
Until apartheid ended in 1994 only Afrikaans and English were official languages, although they represent the home languages of only 15 percent and 9 percent of the total population, respectively. The 1994 constitution added nine African languages to the list of recognized, official languages: Zulu, Xhosa, Sesotho sa Leboa (Northern Sotho or Pedi), Tswana, Sesotho (Southern Sotho), Tsonga, Venda, Ndebele, and siSwati. Some of these African languages are mutually understood and many black South Africans can speak two or more of them, in addition to English and Afrikaans. These 11 languages are the primary languages of 98 percent of South Africans. Many Indians also speak Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Gujarati, and Urdu. In practice English and, to a lesser extent, Afrikaans retain a dominant position, with English as the main medium of instruction in schools and most universities. The black population is composed of four main linguistic groups, all of whom speak Bantu languages belonging to the Benue-Congo subgroup of the Niger-Congo language family. The Tsonga and Venda constitute the other two major linguistic groupings. The country's white population are either Afrikaans or English speaking.
Area (sq. km):
1,221,037 square meters
When To Travel
A number of different geographic regions form South Africa. The lowveld, which covers most of the coastal areas, generally offers warm summers and cool winters – although further towards the Cape the winter months (June-August) are decidedly cold. From September to November the weather is unpredictable, and the warmest months are from December to March. The highveld, which takes in much of the interior, including Johannesburg and the eastern Transvaal, is at close to 1670 m and this has a tempering effect on the climate, making the summer months cooler and the winters very cold. Rain can be expected at any time of the year, and summer rain is common.
Situated in the southern hemisphere, South Africa has beautiful weather for most of the year. Winters are generally mild and dry. Summers (Nov-Feb) are generally hot days with afternoon thunderstorms to follow. The best time for game viewing is early spring (Aug-Oct). South Africa has a number of different geographic regions. The lowveld, which covers most of the coastal areas, generally offers warm summers and cool winters - although further towards the Cape the winter months (Jun-Aug) are decidedly cold. From September to November the weather is unpredictable, and the warmest months are from December to March. The highveld, which takes in much of the interior, including Johannesburg and the eastern Transvaal, is close to 1,450 metres above sea level, and this has a tempering effect on the climate, making the summer months cooler and the winters very cold. Rain can be expected at any time of the year, and summer rain is not uncommon.
PLEASE NOTE: If visiting Cape Town, the Cableway up to Table Mountain will be closed for annual maintenance from 22 July to 25 August 2013.
Useful Travel Facts
The major international airport is Johannesburg's Oliver Tambo International Airport, whilst international flights also land in Cape Town International Airport. There are many domestic airports throughout the country.
The international dialling code for South Africa is +27. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider; however, charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly. You should also check with your service provider to see if your mobile phone is compatible with the networks used in Africa. Phone calls made from public telephone offices are generally your cheapest option, but the most economical and convenient option is to get yourself a South African SIM card and insert that in your mobile phone.
The electricity supply in Africa is rated at 220 volts/50 cycles, and appliances requiring 240 volts will work normally. If you bring electrical appliances you should also bring an international adaptor. Round three pin plugs are the most common types in southern Africa.
Food in South Africa is much like Australia. There is fast food for those who love their burger and fries and there are top class restaurants for those who enjoy fine dining. Because South Africa has a mixture of cultures from the Dutch to Indian this makes South African cusine a diverse and rich mixture of tastes from different cultures. In South Africa, as a general guide, a light meal (eg, sandwiches for lunch) will cost around US$3-4. A more substantial lunch will cost around US$8-10. For dinner, we recommend budgeting about US$8-15 for the meal only. A litre of water costs about US$1.50 and a bottle of beer will set you back about US$2. Biltong is also a popular cheap snack, it come in the forms of beef or kudu and it is dried, salted meat.
There is a well-maintained network of roads and motorways in most regions. Approximately a third of roads are paved (with all major roads tarred to a high standard). Traffic drives on the left hand side of the road. In non-residential areas, speed limits are 120kph and can vary from 60 to 100kph in other areas. We do not recommend the use of public transport in South Africa. Although it is a cheap way to get around it can often be unreliable and unsafe.
South Africa has the normal array of African curios on offer. These include wooden carvings, beaded jewellery, soapstone carvings, products made from skins and hides.
Australians, Americans, Canadians, British and New Zealanders do not currently require a visa for South Africa. Upon arrival you will be given a free three-month multi-entry visa stamp. For all other nationalities please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent. Please note that you require six blank pages and your passport needs to have a minimum of six months validity to enter South Africa. Also note that to enter South Africa you may be required to show proof of onward travel plans and a valid yellow fever certificate (especially if entering or re-entering from East African countries or Zambia).
A new immigration regulation will take effect from 1st October 2014, whereby parents will need to produce an original unabridged birth certificate if they are travelling with children. The new regulation has been put in place to protect children from being abducted, kidnapped and preventing child trafficking. The Department of Home Affairs has urged all parents to apply for unabridged certificates for their children. This is an requirement of the immigration regulation 6 (12)(a) for parents travelling with children. More information can be found here: http://www.nwivisas.com/nwi-blog/south-africa/grace-period-for-parents-travelling-with-children/#sthash.VKZSSlHE.dpuf.
Useful Words & Phrases
South Africa - Lonely Planet
The Covenant - James A Michener
Cry The Beloved Country - Alan Paton
The Power of One - Bryce Courtenay
Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela
White Thorn - Bryce Courtenay