South Africa

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Destination Information

South Africa is deservedly renowned for its majestic scenery and abundant wildlife. A safari will likely be the focal point of your trip, but set aside several days to explore cosmopolitan Cape Town and the lovely adjacent Winelands. The famous Blue Train makes a scenic 31-hour journey between Pretoria (near Johannesburg) and Cape Town. The elegant trains feature dining salons and wood-paneled club cars. Each air-conditioned guest compartment comes with a full marble bath en suite, phone, TV and butler button. Jacket/tie for dinner. A more leisurely but equally luxurious journey may be enjoyed aboard the nostalgic Rovos Rail, which takes three days and two nights to make the same trip and is pulled part of the way by steam engine.

South Africa’s main roads are generally smooth, well-maintained and well-signed, so it is easy to drive yourself. Crime is chiefly a problem in the major cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Although many of the economic, social and political problems associated with the apartheid era remain unresolved, for the most part South Africa is a friendly and beautiful country through which it is a delight to travel.

When to Visit

The dry and sunny November-April period is high season in the Cape. This is not the best time to visit Kruger and the northeastern safari lodges, so visitors should consider a safari in the malaria-free Eastern Cape or the Kalahari Desert. Around Kruger National Park, the ideal time of year is the cool, dry season from July to October. During this period, the weather is agreeable, the bush has thinned (making game viewing easier), and the animals are forced to congregate near permanent sources of water.

Direct Dial Codes

To phone hotels and restaurants in South Africa, dial 011 (international access) + 27 (South Africa code) + city code and local numbers. 

Time

Seven hours ahead of New York (EST).

U.S. Embassy

Pretoria, Tel. (27) 12-431-4000. Consulates: Johannesburg, Tel. (27) 11-290-3000; Cape Town, Tel. (27) 21-702-7300; Durban, Tel. (27) 31-305-7600. 

Entry Requirements

Passport (valid for at least one month beyond end of stay and containing at least two consecutive unstamped pages). Visit travel.state.gov, and for travelers’ health information, cdc.gov.

Currency

Rand (R). Fluctuating rate valued at R15.22 = US$1.00 as of February 2021.