South Africa: detailed travel guide

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South Africa: detailed travel guide

The history of the Republic of South Africa as a country began with the landing of European settlers on April 6, 1652. On this day, a group of colonists who arrived from Holland founded the first settlement on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, where the city of Cape Town is now located. By that time, sailors from Europe, starting with Vasco de Gama, many times skirted the southern tip of the African continent, and needed a base to repair ships and resupply. The Dutch East India Company created such a base and began to attract immigrants from different countries. Having merged into a single nation, the colonists began to be called Boers, their Afrikaans language became one of the branches of Dutch.

A new stage in the life of South Africa came with the arrival of British troops. Having seized the territories developed by the Boers, England declared them its colonial possessions. In response, the Boers migrated deep into the continent. After a fierce struggle with local tribes, they were able to recapture new lands and equip them. Two Boer countries appeared on the world map at once – the Free Orange State and the Transvaal. They existed quietly for about forty years, until reserves of gold and diamonds were found on their territory. The outbreak of the “gold rush” pushed the UK to try to take control of the rich deposits. Two Anglo-Boer wars followed, the second conflict, which lasted from 1899 to 1902, was especially difficult; the British could break the resistance of the Boers only by enormous efforts. In the conquered lands, Great Britain created the Union of South Africa, giving the new colony self-government.

Over time, the apartheid regime was created on the territory of South Africa. All residents were divided by race into white, black, Asian and colored. Each race was granted a certain set of rights, institutions, places in transport, even beaches were divided. The black population, whenever possible, moved to places of compact residence, the so-called “bantustans”. The authorities diligently limited the number of blacks needed to work in cities and imposed bans on their residence in white houses, even as personal servants. As more and more African countries gained independence, the apartheid regime began to cause strong outrage around the world. The United Nations has imposed sanctions against South Africa, most economically developed countries broke off trade relations with South Africa. The apartheid regime was lifted only in 1994, when representatives of the black majority came to power as a result of general elections.

Now in South Africa, all citizens enjoy the same rights, but the country has lost many qualified specialists who have emigrated abroad; according to various sources, every fifth representative of the white community left. The economy was seriously undermined because of this, although the Republic of South Africa continues to outstrip all other states on the African continent in terms of development.

  • Capital: Pretoria
  • Area: 1,221,037 km²
  • Population: 57,725,600
  • Language: English, Afrikaans, Venda, Zulu, Kosa, South Ndebele, Swati, North Soto, Sesotho, Tswana, Tsonga

How to get to South Africa

Getting to South Africa is relatively easy: all major European companies fly to Johannesburg, next to which the country’s largest airport is located, including Air France, Lufthansa, KLM, British Airways, Brussels Airlines. The price of a ticket that includes a change in one of the European cities is 28-30 thousand rubles, with a special offer it can drop to 18-20 thousand rubles. Also popular are flights by Qatar airways via Doha, Emirates via Dubai, Turkish airlines via Istanbul – the price level is about the same, but the travel time is less. An interesting, albeit somewhat intricate, way to get to South Africa can be a flight to Egypt with one of the burning charters and a further flight by the African airline Ethiopian Airlines or Egyptair. The latter allow you to fly from Moscow, but flying directly from Cairo makes it possible to save several thousand.

Many major airlines also fly to Cape Town Airport, but only a limited number of them fly there, and the airport’s passenger traffic is half that of Johannesburg. It should also be noted that some of the passengers who took a ticket from Europe to Cape Town are forced to transfer at Johannesburg Airport to local flights of South African Airways. Tickets to Cape Town cost about 3-4 thousand rubles more than tickets to Johannesburg.

The rest of the country’s airports are much less loaded, the third largest passenger traffic in Durban is 4 times lower than Johannesburg in terms of this indicator, and Port Elizabeth airport is more than 10 times. Thus, when planning to get from Russia to South Africa, you should first of all keep in mind the Johannesburg airport.

Climate in South Africa

Climate in South Africa

Climate in South Africa

The climate of South Africa is determined by two major factors: the location of the country south of the equator and the proximity of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Because of this, summer in South Africa comes in December, and winter, on the contrary, in June. In addition, the cold Atlantic current affects the western regions of the country, while the warm Indian Ocean current warms the east coast. To the south of South Africa lies the vast Kalahari Desert, which also has an impact on the climate. While temperatures are high there, the highlands of the central part of the country may suffer from a cold snap; in winter in the mountains the thermometer mark sometimes drops below zero.

Therefore, different areas of South Africa should be visited at different times. For example, the central part of the country experiences intense heat from November to February, while the West Coast enjoys beautiful, mild weather. On the contrary, when the rainy season begins on the coasts in July, it is the best time to visit the national parks. It is most reasonable to arrange a trip so as to first observe the life of African animals, and then go to rest on the coast, which at the moment is most suitable, either in the Cape Town area or in the Durban area.

Sights of South Africa

Considering the historical belonging of the South African Republic to both the Dutch and the British, plus the presence of its own history and the high level of development relative to other African countries, the country has something to see. Follow the links below for more information on each South African attraction – general description, location on the map, directions, photos, opening times, ticket prices and much more.

Along the southern coast of South Africa stretches the “Garden Route”, a set of paths, trails and roads through an extremely picturesque and varied terrain. It stretches for a very considerable distance, a trip on foot to the most prominent points takes five days, even with porters (this service is provided to those who wish for a fee, including a trip back on a steam train). Although the name envisages mainly the kingdom of flora, fortunately there are 24 thousand species of vegetation, on the “path” not only the “gardens” stated in the name, but everything is enough – and untouched nature and landscapes created by human activity, pleasing to the eye, forests smoothly flow into picturesque plantations that give way to mountains, overlooking a virgin beach and endless ocean! From visits to ostrich farms to visiting the famous Klein Karoo wasteland with its stunning scenery, the two combine to provide a wide range of possibilities. Yes, some of the Cango caves with the famous “organ pipes”, which were carved in stone by inventive nature, what are they worth! This is the paradox of the “garden path” – on a 30-kilometer beach stretching along the coast, you can find a place where you will not find a living soul, but here and there you can find quads, canoes, surfing on the dunes, skydiving, canopy tours, voyages to the open sea in order to look up close at sharks and whales.

Moving around South Africa

Aircraft in South Africa

The most convenient flights in the Republic of South Africa are provided by the national carrier South African airways. Its flights connect Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Kimberley, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit and other large settlements. The prices for flights within the country are approximately $ 100-150 one way. Better deals can be found at Mango and Kulula – these discounters can save approximately 25-35 percent on South African airways. You can find out the current price of flights on the airlines’ websites.

Buses in South Africa

For budget travel in South Africa, it is recommended to use intercity buses. The bus network is extensive and includes all cities of interest for tourists. On most routes, there is competition between carriers, which allows you to choose the best prices for moving.

The services of the bus company “Intercape” are very popular, operating not only in the territory of South Africa, but also in neighboring countries – Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe. On the website you can buy tickets online. Most of Intercape buses are new, comfortable, with TVs, air conditioning, toilets. Between Johannesburg and Cape Town and on a number of other long routes, there are special luxury sleeper buses with 150-degree fold-out seats. Ticket prices are slightly higher than other carriers, but there are often special offers that allow you to save a lot. For example, a standard ticket from Johannesburg to Cape Town costs R 750, with a special offer available for R 560.

Another popular carrier, Citiliner, also allows online ticket bookings on the site. The company has an extensive fleet of modern buses, and its route network reaches the most remote corners of the country. There are also good offers from the Greyhound company.

An interesting option for travelers is offered by the Buz Bus company. Her multi-day pass is beneficial for those who expect to make stops along the way to explore cities. For example, having bought a weekly ticket from Johannesburg to Cape Town, you can visit about a dozen large settlements, delaying at each right time. A one week ticket to ride the entire Buz Bus network costs R1700, a two week ticket costs R2700, and a three week ticket R3.300. Customers of this bus company also receive discounts at low-cost hotels and hostels.

Railways in South Africa

Rail transportation in South Africa is much weaker than bus transportation. Traveling by train usually takes longer and costs about the same as traveling by bus. For example, a trip in a sleeping car from a Johannesburg-Cape Town train will cost R 620-740 depending on the season and take more than a day versus 18 hours by bus. The trip between Johannesburg and Durban will take over 10 hours instead of 6 by bus. In addition, safety is ensured only in intercity trains; it is strictly not recommended to use commuter trains. You can check the travel details on the South African Railways website.

Car rental in South Africa

Car rental in South Africa is well developed, but left-hand traffic poses a serious obstacle to travelers from continental Europe. Because of this, many are afraid to rent a car, and if they do, then with an automatic transmission. Knowing this, South African car rental companies keep the prices for cars with “automatic” at 30 percent higher than for “mechanics”. Renting an economy class car for a week costs about $ 250-300 from a large international company such as Avis or Hertz; local rental offices give more favorable prices.

South African cuisine

South African cuisine

South African cuisine

South African cuisine does not have a pronounced national color: Africans have never been distinguished by their culinary arts, and European settlers brought with them the traditions of their own countries. The specialties of South African cuisine are mainly related to the interweaving of these traditions, for example, Indian or Asian spices are added to meat and vegetables. One of the most famous South African dishes is braai, a kind of barbecue. Meat fried over the fire is served with vegetables and spices, sometimes very spicy.

In everyday life, inexpensive chicken dishes are in demand, fish cuisine is developed, especially in Cape Town and other coastal cities, where, in addition to fish, mussels, lobsters, and shrimps are also served. Tourists can taste quite common game dishes, including exotic ones; the menu of large restaurants constantly contains the meat of crocodiles, ostriches, hippos. There are more exotic varieties, such as larvae and locusts, but these are not common.

The opportunity to eat inexpensively in South Africa is provided by fast foods, represented by both international chains such as Mc’Donald’s, and local establishments. Indian restaurants are popular where you can eat inexpensively, if you do not pay attention to the spiciness of the food.

Wines of South Africa

Traditions of South African winemaking were established three and a half centuries ago: for the first time locally produced wine appeared in 1659. For a long time, the wine industry, for various reasons, was in the shadow of other sectors of the economy, mainly enthusiasts invested in its development. The cultivation of grapes and the production of wine reached significant volumes only in the 20th century, when the government of South Africa developed certain rules. Areas with the most suitable climate for growing grapes were identified, and the order of wine production was streamlined.

South Africa achieved international recognition of wine in the 1990s, after the fall of the apartheid regime and the lifting of economic sanctions from the country. Now the Republic of South Africa ranks eighth in the world in terms of wine production and these volumes are growing from year to year.

Mostly grape varieties were imported to South Africa from Europe, France made a great contribution. South Africa on the basis of grapes grown “Chardonnay”, “Sauvignon Blanc”, “Riesling” produces white wines, which occupy about three quarters of the market. For the production of red wines the varieties “Merlot”, “Sauvignon”, “Cabernet” are used. In the 1920s, South African breeders managed to create a hybrid called Pinotage by crossing two varieties of French grapes, which became the hallmark of the wine industry. Red wine from this grape is distinguished by aroma, richness and balance. Due to the country’s climatic characteristics, South African wines come out sweet and tart, connoisseurs put many varieties on a par with French wines.

Shopping in South Africa

For many years the Republic of South Africa has been known all over the world as the largest exporter of precious stones, and in the country’s jewelry stores you can buy magnificent diamonds, including unique colored ones. Also in South Africa, products are sold from pomegranates, sapphires, emeralds. Jewelry prices are slightly lower than in Europe, and most importantly, many of them are real works of art.

It makes no sense to buy clothes and shoes in South Africa, unlike accessories: skillfully crafted crocodile leather handbags and belts have become a kind of hallmark of the South African industry.

Expensive purchases are best done in large shopping centers, they are found in all cities in South Africa. Groceries are also best purchased in supermarkets, although Indian-owned private shops are often more conveniently located in central areas.

Souvenirs from South Africa

Souvenir products are sold in specialized shops, but they offer mainly a standard set – magnets, plates with views, etc. If you want to buy something especially memorable, then it is better to look for impromptu markets that suit the local population, sometimes located right on asphalt near places visited by tourists. From stalls and from stretched bedspreads, Africans sell national clothes, various decorations, statuettes and masks made with their own hands. Various crafts in the African manner are popular among tourists – figurines of animals and people made of wood, embroidery, pottery with an ornament. Of interest are bone keychains and other products from the bones of African animals. The traditions of African weaving with beads go deep into the past, and therefore each braid attracts attention with bright colors – such a souvenir is not so expensive, especially if you bargain, and then you can bring down the price, for example, from 80 to 50 rand. Bargaining between a buyer and a seller is appropriate, but only in private markets – if there is a price tag, then bargaining is pointless.

Safety in South Africa

In terms of crime, South Africa, according to statistical data, is on a par with disadvantaged third world countries, far behind the economically developed countries. On average, 120 murders, 600 armed attacks, 900 robberies are committed per one hundred thousand people per year. For comparison, in Finland there are only 4 murders and 12 attacks per one hundred thousand people. The number of murders in South Africa exceeds the level of European countries by 20 times, and even the level of Russia is 3 times.

However, according to local police, three quarters of murders and other violent crimes occur in the same areas, which occupy about a quarter of the country. In other words, if you avoid crime-prone areas, the chances of falling into the hands of criminals are relatively low. Tourists who adhere to certain rules and do not leave large cities are most likely not to be attacked. It is also safe to be in the national parks of small villages and in general wherever there are no poor Negro neighborhoods nearby.

In the central regions of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, CCTV cameras have been installed, allowing law enforcement to quickly respond to the situation. The city streets are regularly patrolled. In addition to the police, numerous private security guards monitor security: shopping centers, hotels, large condominiums, entertainment complexes have their own security guards. Therefore, staying and moving in large cities is quite safe, although in any case, you should not carry large amounts of cash with you, and even more so show them to sellers, bank employees and other local residents – they can give a tip to familiar bandits, and then neither the police nor video cameras will not help you avoid robbery. It is not recommended to leave your belongings in a parked car, at least in plain sight: theft from vehicles is the largest percentage of all nonviolent crimes in South Africa.

South African hotels and other accommodation facilities

Popular destinations in South Africa:

  • Cape Town hotels
  • Johannesburg hotels
  • Durban hotels
  • Pretoria hotels
  • rest of South Africa hotels

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