Travelling to Cape Town & the Western Cape
South Africa has a modern and well-developed travel and transport infrastructure. The roads are world-class. The air and rail networks are the largest on the continent. And the country's ports provide a natural stopover for cruise liners from Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia.
Airports - top^
South Africa has 50 international airlines flying between its major cities, and to some of its smaller ones, making around 230 000 aircraft landings and carrying about 33-million passengers a year with fares ranging from first-class to cut-price economy
Flights from Europe are generally overnight and just a sleep away - an aperitif, dinner, sound sleep, a good breakfast - and voila, you're in South Africa! The direct flights between the USA and Johannesburg or Cape Town are about 15 hours Flights between London and Cape Town take about 11 hours.
Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) operates South Africa's 10 principal airports, including three international airports - O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, Cape Town International Airport and Durban International Airport. The other seven are domestic airports in Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, East London, George, Kimberley, Upington and Pilanesberg.
Cape Town International airport in the Western Cape, which has 3.8-million passengers departing a year, has been voted Africa's leading airport at the World Travel Awards for seven consecutive years.
Seven major domestic airlines as well as a number of smaller charter airline companies operate in the Western Cape and throughout South Africa. South African Airways, South Africa's national carrier, serves over 700 cities, including 20 destinations in Africa, and provides maintenance for many of the world's airlines. South African Express and Airlink fly between all the major cities and to some of the smaller ones. Kulula.com, 1time and Mango offer cut-price flights on the more popular routes, between Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit and George.
Planning a visit to Cape Town and the Western Cape? Then be sure to read the basic information below on South Africa's entry requirements.
For detailed visa info, visit the South African Department of Home Affairs and the South African Department of Foreign Affairs. Also visit South African Tourism for an easy breakdown.
What are the requirements for visiting South Africa?
- A valid passport for the duration of your stay and six months thereafter.
- Your passport must have at least two blank pages.
- A valid visa, if required.
- A return or onward ticket
- Sufficient funds
- Yellow fever certificates if the journey starts or entails passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America.
Do I need a visa to visit South Africa?
Depending on your nationality, and the purpose and duration of your visit, you may not need a visa to visit South Africa at all.
Countries exempt from South African visas
Countries subject to South African visa fees
How do I apply for a visa?
If you are subject to visa requirements, you will need to apply for your visa at least 4 (four) weeks before you depart. You will have to await the outcome of your visa application before you depart. You can apply for your visa at your nearest South African Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.
For more general visa information, online forms and to confirm which categories do not need visa’s, please visit the Department of Home Affairs.
Taxes and Duty - top^
You can bring all your personal effects duty free to the value of R 3 000. For additional goods of up to R 12 000, a flat rate of 20% duty is charged. Thereafter, normal custom duties apply. You are also allowed to bring limited quantities of luxury items into South Africa, duty free. These items include:
- Wine - up to 2 litres per person
- Spirits and other alcoholic beverages - up to one litre per person.
- Cigarettes - up to 200 per person.
- Cigars - up to 20 per person.
- Perfume - up to 50ml per person.
- Eau de toilette - up to 250ml per person.
The alcohol and tobacco allowance only apply to people over 18 years of age. Persons younger than 18 years of age will not be permitted with any tobacco or alcohol products. When leaving South Africa, you are permitted to take up to R500,00 in South African Reserve Bank notes. A 20% levy is applicable on amounts above R 500,00.
Telephones - top^
Telephones are fully automatic with direct dialing to most parts of the world. Public phones are widely available. Public phones are painted either bright blue or green. The blue public phones take coins while the green public phones work with phone cards. You can purchase these at a variety of shops and at post offices - most public phones advertise the closest sale point. Phone cards are available in denominations from R 10,00 to R 200,00.
To make an international call from South Africa dial 00, drop the first 0 of the number and dial the rest of the number. To make an international call to South Africa, dial 27 followed by the area code (drop the 0 of the area code) and number. Should you wish to make a collect call nationally, dial 0020. To make a collect call internationally dial 0900. To make local and national enquiries or to find a number, you may call 1023. For international enquiries dial 0903.
Cellular/ Mobile Phones
South Africa is the fourth-fastest growing mobile communications market in the world. The country's three cellular network operators - Vodacom, MTN and Cell C - provide telephony to over 80% of the population. All three networks operate on GSM digital. If your phone is compatible, you may want to speak to your network operator about international roaming. Hire a cell-phone at the airport or other centers. It is relatively inexpensive to purchase a local sim card. Most international cell-phones will work here if you purchase a local sim card. The South African networks cover the whole country and provide excellent service - enabling you to call or exchange text messages at any time.
Email and Internet Access
Access to the Internet is widely available throughout Cape Town and the Western Cape. All major towns have Internet cafड’s. You'll find Internet access at most public libraries and plenty of coffee shops and restaurants. Most backpacker’s hostels, guest lodges and hotels are equipped to provide guests with access to the Internet (please confirm with the place in question). South African companies are well represented on the Internet, with most retail stores providing an internet-shopping alternative.
Most post offices are open from 08h30 to 16h30, Mondays to Fridays and from 08h00 to 12h00 on Saturdays. Postal rates are reasonable and delivery times are usually between 5 and 14 days to any international destination via airmail. Heavier items can be posted via surface mail, though the goods do take longer to reach their destination. Post offices also sell cell-phone airtime, phone cards, and provide additional services including registered mail, speed mail and insurance of valuable articles.
Climate - top^
Cape Town and the Western Cape with its warm balmy summer days and mild winters is a year round business and leisure destination which draws visitors back to its breathtaking shores time and time again. Add in friendly and welcoming locals, diverse cultures and scenery to die for and you're guaranteed a visit to remember.
Warm languid summers and mild, moist winters - conditions that perfectly sum up the mediterranean climate of Cape Town and the Western Cape. Pop down to the coast in summertime and you're looking at pleasant lows of 15C (59F) to highs of 27C (80.6F). Go inland and you'll be shedding layers as temperatures are between 3-5 degrees higher.
Tourist Information centres -هtop^
What to do? Where to find it? When to do it? With 86 Visitor Information Offices throughout the Cape, you are never far from friendly local service.
Throughout the Western Cape, in most towns and villages, there is a Local Tourism Office. In total there are 86 Local Tourism Offices, which form part of the Cape Visitor Information Network. The network aims to provide efficient and friendly service to visitors on all products and services, focusing on the local area.
When entering a town or village, look for the Official Local Tourism Information sign. The sign is the letter “I” sign on a brown road sign. You will see this sign with direction arrows from the main entrance points to the town. Should you not see the sign, ask the locals or the police for directions.
All tourism offices are able to provide visitors with maps, brochures, lists of local events, listings of local accommodation, activities, restaurants, etc and quality information on the local area. In the larger towns, visitors may be able to purchase some of the local crafts and enjoy tasty local food and drink at the Tourism Cafe.
At the Cape Town city centre tourism office, visitors may also be able to access the internet via the in-house internet cafछ, find more information on the Cape Nature Conservation and the South African National Parks and claim VAT back. Bookings of accommodation may be made for you at most tourism offices.
South African Time Zone - top^
South Africa, which is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2), does not operate on daylight saving time.
Currency - top^
The South African unit of currency is the Rand (R), which is divided into 100 cents.
Coin denominations are; 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R5. Notes are R10,00, R20,00,R50,00, R100,00 and R200,00.
With a rand that exchanges favorably with all major international currencies, South Africa is a really affordable destination where five-star luxury, and many items such as food, wine and lager, can be purchased for far less than in other global cities. The current exchange rate varies around 7.5 to 8.0 Rands per US Dollar.
Banking Services - top^
South Africa's banking system is extensive, efficient and easily accessible. Banks offer a wide range of services, including cash withdrawals, foreign exchange, electronic transfers (wiring), cashing of traveler’s cheques and PIN withdrawals. You'll find that using your card poses not problem provided that it belongs to the worldwide Cirrus network.
Worried about laying your hands on your cash? Don’t be, branches of all major banks, and Automatic Teller Machines (ATM’s) can be found in most South African towns and cities. Some rural towns do not have ATM's so please keep cash at hand when traveling to the smaller towns and villages in the Cape. If you need to go into the bank, withdrawals can be done over the counter using your passport. Many banks provide foreign exchange facilities. International electronic transfers are also available at most banks - enabling you to send or receive money from overseas. Banks also provide guidance, support and assistance with any banking questions you may have as well as convenient and secure Internet banking services.
For more information on South African banks, visit the websites of South Africa’s major banks:
Banking hours vary but are generally from 09:00 to 15:30 on weekdays. On Saturdays banks open at 09:00 and close at 11:00. Banks are closed on Sundays and Public Holidays. Some smaller branches have limited operating hours - if you’re going to a small village or rural area, check the local banks’ operating hours. The majority of the province’s hundreds of ATM’s are 24-hour facilities, enabling you to do your banking whenever you choose. However, there are ATM’s that close after 17h00 on week days and 13h00 on weekends. Also do bear in mind that ATM's may not be available in all small villages.
Credit cards, especially Visa and Master Card are widely accepted.
All major credit cards can be used in South Africa, with American Express and Diners Clubenjoying less universal acceptance than MasterCard and Visa.In some small towns, you may find you'll need to use cash. One anomaly - you can't purchase fuel with a credit card. Many locals have special fuel credit cards, known as garage or petrol cards, for use only at filling stations so remember to keep spare cash handy when filling up. You can, however, pay road tolls with MasterCard or Visa.
VAT Refund - top^
South Africa has a Value Added Tax system of 14% on purchases and services. If you are a foreign visitor to the Cape, you can reclaim your VAT on purchases over R 250, 00 that are taken out of the country unused.
There are a number of VAT refund offices. You may find it convenient to use Airport offices or the VAT Refund kiosk at the V&A Waterfront or at Cape Town Tourism in Burg Street, Cape Town.
Leave yourself enough time to do this - you’ll need your original tax invoice and your passport, and will need to fill in a form and have the goods you bought available for inspection.
For more information see www.taxrefunds.co.za
Tipping and Bargaining - top^
Tipping? Yes please.
Set your mind at ease, tipping is an accepted practice in Cape Town and Western Cape. Tipping in bars and restaurants is normally between 10% and 15%. Tipping taxi drivers and petrol attendants is also a common practice at about 10%. “Car guards” normally get a few rand for their services.
Bargaining, unfortunately is not a South African habit but it is worth asking about special deals and discounts that may apply.
Electricity - top^
South Africa's electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ, with the exception of Pretoria (230 V) and Port Elizabeth (200/250 V). Most plugs have 3-pin or 2-pin. Adaptors can be purchased, but may be in short supply. US-made appliances may need a transformer. Most hotel rooms have 110 volt outlets for electric shavers and appliances.
Safety Tips - top^
When you visit Cape Town and the Western Cape, there are basic travel safety measures to follow to ensure your visit is a fantastic experience.
As a visitor to and guest of our beautiful province, your enjoyment and wellbeing are of utmost importance to us. As in other countries, there are a few basic precautions you should take during your visit to ensure that your stay is as pleasant and safe as possible.
- Separate your cash and credit cards and don't carry all your cash with you.
- Store parcels out of sight in the boot of the car.
- Never leave your luggage unattended.
- Do not allow strangers to assist you in your transactions at automated teller machines.
- Try to obtain a route map before you set out and plan your route beforehand.
- Try to explore in groups and stick to well-lit streets especially at night.
- Never pick up strangers.
- Park in well-lit areas at night.
- Always drive with your doors locked and your windows closed.
If unsure of any area, approach the local police station or tourism office for further advice and guidance. Although incidents against tourists in South Africa are rare, it is advisable for you to be aware of basic emergency procedures in the unlikely event that you are a victim of crime. If you have been victimized, call the police emergency number (10111) and briefly explain what happened. If you are using a cell phone dial 112 for emergency services.
Driving in Cape Town and Western Cape - top^
Non-residents are permitted to drive with a driving licence, which is valid in their own country, provided that it bears the photograph and signature of the holder and is in English. If your driver’s licence does not meet these requirements, an international driver’s licence is required. Driving is on the left and the wearing of seatbelts is compulsory.
Health - top^
Cape Town and the Western Cape have very few health issues to be concerned about. No inoculations are needed and the health infrastructure is of a good standard. As in the case of the rest of Africa, South Africa is also facing a crisis with HIV/AIDS and visitors are advised to take precautions.
Health Tips - top^
Cape Town and the Western Cape are malaria-free, and no vaccinations are required for cholera or smallpox. If you are on chronic medication, please keep a prescription or part of the packaging showing the generic name. If you wear spectacles, ensure you have a copy of your lens prescriptions. You can have spectacles replaced by any optician. Opticians offer great service at value for money prices.
Medical Services - top^
Medical services are of a very high standard in Cape Town and the surrounding areas. In the event of an emergency, use one of the major private clinics. You may contact the police on 10111 for directions to the nearest hospital. You may also contact the ambulance services on 10177. Many doctors do house calls and are listed under Medical in the telephone directory.
High quality water is available everywhere in Cape Town and the Western Cape and unlike many places worldwide; tap water is safe to drink. Many local manufacturers produce bottled water from sources around the Western Cape’s mountain ranges. Hikers drinking water from streams maybe at risk of waterborne diseases and though the water in most mountain streams is safe to drink, it is advisable to purify it first or to drink bottled water.
Public Holidays - top^
South Africa has 12 public holidays:
- New Year's Day [1 January]
- Human Rights Day [21 March]
- Good Friday
- Family Day (Easter Monday)
- Freedom Day [27 April]
- Worker's Day [1 May]
- Youth Day [16 June]
- National Women's Day [9 August]
- Heritage Day [24 September]
- Day of Reconciliation [16 December]
- Christmas [25 December]
- Day of Goodwill [26 December]
Hotels - top^
With an accommodation directory of more than 16 000 rooms in Cape Town alone, your wearied head becomes the simplest thing! So whether you’re looking for a luxury hotel, a farmhouse B&B, guesthouse, lodge or resort you are assured of excellent service, good food and sound sleep.