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Facts & information about South Africa

Introduction
Location
Size
Climate
Average temperatures in ºC
People

Language
Provinces & Major Cities
Time Differences
Money
Passports and Visas
Tax

Introduction

South Africa is one of the most diverse and enchanting countries in the world. Exotic combinations of landscapes, people, history and culture offer the traveller a unique and inspiring experience. Here are the quick facts to get you started.

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Location

South Africa is located on the southern tip of the African continent, bordered by northern neighbours Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It encompasses the independent mountain kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland and is flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and the warm Indian Ocean on the east - giving the country its spectacular range of biodiversity.

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Size

South Africa occupies 4% of the continent's total landmass, covering an area of 1 221 040 square kilometres. The country is five times larger than Great Britain and three times the size of Texas.

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Climate

South Africa enjoys a temperate and pleasant climate, with lovely warm sunny days most of the year. The seasons of the southern hemisphere are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere so our summers runs from November to February, when most of the country is characterised by hot weather with afternoon thunderstorms. Winters are generally mild and dry. South Africa enjoys one of the world's highest average daily hours of sunshine - 8.5 compared with 3.8 in London, 6.4 in Rome and 6.9 in New York.

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Average temperatures in ºC

 
Summer
Winter
Cape Town
20
12.6
Durban
23.6
17
Johannesburg
19.4
11.1
Pretoria
22.4
12.9

For daily and long-term forecasts for South Africa, visit www.weathersa.co.za.

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People

South Africa is home to some 43 million people - a colourful population as diverse in makeup as the country's geography is varied. Almost 77% are black(or African), 11% white and 9% "coloured", the local label for people of mixed African, Asian and white descent. Just over half the population live in the cities. Three-quarters are Christian and most of the other major world religions are represented here.

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Language

There are 11 officially recognised languages, most of them indigenous to South Africa. English is one of these, and everywhere you go, you can expect to find people who speak and understand it. English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government and official documents. Road signs and official forms are in English. The President makes his speeches in English and at any hotel, the service staff will speak English.

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Provinces & Major Cities

South Africa is divided into nine provinces, namely Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu- Natal, Limpopo, Mpumulanga, Northern Cape, North West and the Western Cape. Major cities include the modern economic hub of Johannesburg, coastal Cape Town picturesquely perched between mountain and sea, historic Pretoria and the 'sun and surf central' city of Durban.

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Time Differences

South Africa operates two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year, making it an hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time and seven hours behind Australian Central Time.

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Money

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 Bureaux de Changes. Most major international credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and their affiliates are accepted for most purchases.

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Passports and Visas

For the majority of foreign nationals who travel to South Africa for vacation, entry is straightforward and hassle-free. All visitors to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport in order to enter the country, and in some cases, a visa.

Travellers from certain regions of the world (Scandinavia, Japan, the USA, and most Western European and Commonwealth countries) do not need to formally apply for a visa. Upon arrival in South Africa, countries falling into this category will automatically be given a free entry permit sticker that outlines how long they may remain in the country. This automatic entry permit is usually for a maximum of 90 days, though the immigration officer may tailor the time period according to the airline tickets held. Foreign nationals from some other countries are offered this service, but for a maximum of 30 days. If visitors want to stay for a longer period, they will have to apply formally for a visa, as opposed to relying on the automatic entry permit.

To determine whether you require a visa to enter South Africa, visit the comprehensive South African Home Affairs Department website at: http://home-affairs.pwv.gov.za.

For South African missions abroad, visit http://www.dfa.gov.za/foreign/sa_abroad/index.htm.

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Tax

Value-added-tax (VAT) is charged on most items. Foreign tourists to South Africa can have their 14% VAT refunded provided that the value of the items purchased exceeds R250.00. VAT is refunded at the point of departure provided eceipts are produced.

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All information by courtesy of South African Tourism