Horseback riding in South Africa

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Equestrian tours in South Africa

South Africa Mini Guide
   Source: World Travel Guide

Overview

South Africa is a treasure chest of unforgettable scenery, from lofty mountains to sun-baked deserts and dramatic coastlines washed by the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Its game viewing equals the best in Africa, and where else can you find both penguins and elephants?

Overshadowed by dramatic Table Mountain and surrounded by the Atlantic, Cape Town is one of the world's most picturesque cities. You can sample fine wine under the grapes in the tranquil winelands, while the pretty Garden Route offers country towns, lagoons and forests to explore. The Wild Coast boasts isolated beaches, rocky coastline and traditional rural villages, and the resorts along the KwaZulu-Natal coast offer lots of family seaside fun.

Inland are the intriguing and moving battlefield sites that lay testament to the Anglo-Boer war. Here too rise the Drakensberg Mountains where vultures ride on the thermals over deeply green valleys and jagged peaks. To the east is the Kruger National Park where the thorny bush harbors the ‘Big Five' animals to see (the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino) as well as many other fascinating animals and birds.

South Africa also has a vivid history. Apartheid was broken down in 1990 by President FW De Klerk, and jailed ANC leader Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years of imprisonment. In the first democratic elections to be held in South Africa, Mandela became president in 1994. The story is told in the excellent museums in Johannesburg, by far the most vibrant of the country's cities with a rich cultural heritage.

Apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu named the newly integrated South Africa the Rainbow Nation'. It is a fitting name for a country with 11 official languages and people of all colors, races and creeds, living in a vividly colored and sculpted landscape. It is no wonder then that its cities are so cosmopolitan.

 

Passport/Visa

Passport Required?

British

Yes

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

Yes

Visa Required?

British

No

Australian

No

Canadian

No

USA

No

Other EU

No/1

Return Ticket Required?

British

Yes

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

Yes

 

Passports

To enter South Africa, a passport valid for at least 30 days after the intended date of departure is required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.

Passports must have at least two blank pages for entry stamps.

Passport Note

Yellow fever certificates are required if the journey starts from or passes through a country with yellow fever.

Traveling with minors: As of June 1, 2015, children under the age of 18 will need to supply an unabridged birth certificate showing the details of both parents. If the child is flying with one parent only, a parental consent affidavit signed by the absent parent will need to be produced. Full details are available at the Department for Home Affairs.

Visas

Visas for South Africa are not required by nationals referred to in the chart above for stays of up to 90 days except: 

• Nationals of Cyprus, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, who may stay visa-free for up to 30 days.

• Nationals of (1) Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia, who do require a visa.

Nationals not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy/high commission for visa requirements.

Visa Note

The Department of Home Affairs website (www.dha.gov.za) has comprehensive details on visa requirements and exemptions and the relevant forms for downloading. If you are one of the few travelers subject to visa requirements, you should apply for your visa at least a month before you intend to travel, and wait for it to be issued before you travel. No visas are issued at South African points of entry. If you arrive without the necessary paperwork, immigration officials are obliged to refuse you entry.

Types of Visa and Cost

Visa fee: 35GBP.

Validity

Visitor's visa: up to 90 days.

Applications to:

Consulate (or consular section at embassy or high commission); see Contact Addresses. Applicants in countries where South Africa is not represented may send their applications to the embassy in the nearest country.

Working Days Required

For applications in the UK, allow at least seven days for visa processing in the London visa centre and nine days for processing in Manchester or Edinburgh.

 

Money

Currency

Rand (ZAR; symbol R) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of R200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of R5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10 and 5 cents.

Currency Exchange

Money can be changed at banks, bureaux de change and some hotels. Proof of identity may be requested; therefore, it is advisable to carry a passport. Visitors are restricted to bringing in and taking out a maximum of R5,000 in cash.

Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs

MasterCard and Visa are preferred. American Express and Diners Club are also widely accepted. ATMs are available all over the towns and cities including shopping malls and petrol stations, and accept all international cards. Almost all hotels, shops and restaurants, and even national parks and game reserves accept credit cards. They are now acceptable at petrol stations too, but since that is a relatively new measure, it's worth checking before you fill up. Be alert when using ATMs, and do not accept help from anybody as conmen are adept at switching cards. Check your statements afterwards for a few weeks too, as cloning machines are occasionally planted in ATMs. More obviously, be aware of who is hanging around and don't withdraw money if your instinct tells you not to.

Traveller's Cheques

Valid at banks, hotels, restaurants and some tourist-orientated shops. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers are advised to take traveler's cheques in Pounds Sterling or US Dollars.

Currency Restrictions

Restrictions apply.

Banking Hours

Mon-Fri 0900-1530, Sat 0830-1100.

Exchange Rate Indicators

Date April 2018 
£1.00=  R16.94
$1.00= R11.94
€1.00= R14.77

 

Health

Vaccinations

 

Special Precautions

Diphtheria

Yes

Hepatitis A

Yes

Malaria

Sometimes*

Rabies

Sometimes

Tetanus

Yes

Typhoid

Sometimes

Yellow Fever

No**

Inoculation regulations can change at short notice. Please take medical advice in the case of doubt. Where 'Sometimes' appears in the table above, precautions may be required, depending on the season and region visited.

 * Kruger National Park, the Lowveld region of Mpumalanga and northern KwaZulu-Natal are considered a low risk malaria area during December-April.

** A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over one year of age arriving from an infected area.

Food and Drink

Mains water is safe to drink. Milk is pasteurized and dairy products are safe for consumption, as are local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables. Diarrhea remains the most common cause of ill health in travelers, with South Africa graded as an intermediate risk country. The standard of food safety and preparation is generally good and poses little threat to your health, but sensitive travelers should follow the advice to ‘cook it, peel it or leave it.’

Other Risks

Avoid swimming and paddling in stagnant or slow-moving water as there is a low risk of contracting bilharzia, and a risk of catching E.coli. Cholera is spread by contaminated food or water and occurs in some rural areas of Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, where it can be picked up from swimming in contaminated streams. Swimming pools that are well chlorinated and maintained are safe. Vaccinations against tuberculosis and hepatitis B are sometimes recommended.

 Department of Health statistics show the prevalence of HIV/AIDS remains high despite increasing efforts to combat it, with 178 out of 1,000 adults infected, compared to a global average of just 8 in 1,000. Malaria is found in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the north-east of KwaZulu-Natal, and the Department of Health recommends taking preventative drugs during the peak period between September and May.

Sunburn is a much more common risk, with the African sun being far fiercer than most people realize. Tourists are also vulnerable to theft or mugging and the usual precautions apply – keep jewelry, cameras, handbags and other valuables out of sight, do not carry large sums of money, and avoid walking at night or along isolated beaches and streets. Motorists should park in well-lit areas, be alert when waiting for traffic lights to change, and if a hijacking does occur, keep your hands where the attackers can see them and do not try to resist.

Health Care

Medical facilities are good in urban areas but can be limited elsewhere. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate cash payment. Comprehensive health insurance is recommended to cover the fees of private facilities. The National Tourism Information and Safety Line is 083 123 2345. The general emergency services number is 10111. Netcare 911 (tel: 082 911; www.netcare911.co.za) is a private emergency service offering road assistance and evacuation, ambulances, private hospitals and emergency over the phone medical advice.

 

Getting There

Getting There by Air

Flights to South Africa are rarely a bargain, but shop around because prices fall substantially if you are willing to make a connection in the Middle East. The national airline is South African Airways (SAA) (website: www.flysaa.com), which runs direct flights from the UK and the USA to Johannesburg.

British Airways (www.ba.com) and Virgin Atlantic (www.virgin-atlantic.com) also offer direct flights from London to Johannesburg. British Airways has a direct service between London and Cape Town too. Delta (www.delta.com) flies to Johannesburg from Atlanta. Flights are most expensive around Christmas when they tend to fill up quickly.

Approximate Flight Times

To Johannesburg: from London- 11 hours 5 minutes; New York- 14 hours 40 minutes.

To Cape Town from London- 11 hours 35 minutes; new York- 18 hours 35 minutes (including stopover).

Main Airports

Cape Town (CPT) (Cape Town International) is 22km (16 miles) east of the city (journey time - 20 minutes). To/from the airport: Round-the-clock shuttle buses meet incoming flights. Courtesy buses are operated by some hotels. Taxis are available, with a surcharge after 2300; Touch Down Taxis are the officially authorised airport taxi firm. Facilities: Duty-free shop, car hire, bank/bureau de change, ATMs, post office, tourist information desk and restaurants/bars.

 Durban (DUR) (Durban International)
is 18km (11 miles) southwest of the city (journey time - 20 minutes). To/from the airport: Airport shuttle buses and taxis are available to the city. Facilities: Duty-free shop, car hire, bank/bureau de change, ATMs and bar/restaurant.

Johannesburg (JNB) (OR Tambo International)
is 22km (14 miles) east of the city (journey time - 35 minutes). To/from the airport: Shuttle bus services and taxis to Pretoria and Johannesburg are available. Courtesy coaches are operated by major hotels within the vicinity of the airport. Facilities: Duty-free shops, post office, car hire, bank/bureau de change, ATMs, medical clinic, conference facilities, tourist information desk, restaurant and bar.

Port Elizabeth (PLZ) (Port Elizabeth International) is 5km (3 miles) west of the Capital Business District (journey time - 15 minutes). To/from the airport: There is an airport shuttle bus to the main international hotels in Port Elizabeth upon request. Taxis are also available. Facilities: ATM, conference facilities, information desk, restaurants and pubs, shops, pharmacy, postal services and car hire.

For more information regarding the airports, contact Airports Company South Africa (website: www.airports.co.za).

Departure Tax

All taxes are included in the price of an air ticket.

Getting There by Water

Main ports: Cape Town, Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth. For more information regarding ports, contact Transnet National Ports Authority (www.transnetnationalportsauthority.net).

Getting there by Rail

South Africa's railway network is sadly under-developed and there is little cohesion between neighboring countries. That makes arriving by train unfeasible, unless you can afford the luxurious Rovos Rail (www.rovos.com), which runs occasionally to and from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Swakopmund in Namibia, and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Getting There by Road

There are several borders you can cross to get into South Africa if you are entering the country by car and border posts are open daily. The main border posts are:

Namibia Vioolsdrift/ South Africa, open 24 hours
Mozambique Komatieport/ South Africa, 0700-2200
Botswana Tlokweng/ South Africa, 0700-2200
Zimbabwe Beitbridge/ South Africa, 0600-2200
Swaziland Oshoek/ South Africa, 0700-2200

Coach operator Intercape (tel: 0861 287 287; website: www.intercape.co.za) runs regularly to and from points in Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
 

Climate

Being in the southern hemisphere, South Africa's seasons are the opposite of European seasons. The climate is seasonal, but the country enjoys at least seven months of sunshine with temperatures dropping in the winter months of May to August. April and May are the most temperate months. Temperatures above 32 Celsius (90F) are fairly common in summer, and frequently exceed 38 Celsius (100F) in the lower Orange River Valley and the Mpumalanga Lowveld. The barren Northern Cape has some of the most extreme temperatures sometimes cracking 40 Celsius (104F) in summer and plummeting to below freezing in winter.

It's pleasantly warm and sunny in spring and autumn, and delightfully hot in summer (November to March) with frequent heavy tropical rains and sudden spring and summer hailstorms to cool things down. The thunder and lightning storms over Africa's big skies can be quite spectacular, but are best enjoyed through a window, not out in the open. These tropical storms can be vicious too, often causing flooding and turning urban streets into temporary streams, making driving hazardous. Wait an hour and it will all be over.

Even in winters South Africa's chill is nothing compared with European standard, with mild frost occasional, and snow a rarity. The rainiest months in Cape Town are May to August, although the weather in Cape Town is generally difficult to predict and can deliver all four seasons in one day.

Christmas can be just too hot for game viewing in the safari parks, and it's also peak season for South African holidaymakers. Cape Town is a magnet for Jo'burgers at Christmas, so best avoided- visit in spring and autumn, when the weather is good and the crows are smaller. Of the main cities, Durban is the hottest and can get remarkably hot and sticky in the summer. But it's perfect in winter, where you van still wear shorts in temperatures that the locals consider a bit nippy.

Required Clothing

For summer in Africa you'll need to keep cool, so pack lightweight clothes. In winter you'll be surprised at how cold it can be in some areas, so bring a jumper or sweatshirt. You will never need a heavy coat or jacket, but a light raincoat can be useful, especially in Cape Town. For a safari bring long sleeves and long trousers, if only to protect against mosquitos and thorn bushes. The game drivers will either start out chilly with a 0600 start and end under the blazing sun, or vice versa, with a hot late afternoon start and a return after sunset, so take a wrap or pullover of some sort.

 

Contacts

South African High Commission in the UK

South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DP, UK
Tel: (020) 7451 7299.
Website: http://southafricahouseuk.com/index.html 
Opening times: Mon-Fri 0900-1100 (appointments only).

South African Consulate in the UK

66 Wilson Street, London. EC2 A2JX
Tel:
Website: http://southafricahouseuk.com/visas/vis_needvis.php  
Opening times:
By appointment only. .

Embassy of the Republic of South Africa in the USA

3051 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Tel: (202) 232 4400 / (202) 274 7991 (consular section).
Website: www.saembassy.org 
Opening times: Mon-Fri 0830-1245 and 1330-1700. Consular section Mon-Fri 0900-1200.

 

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