8-Day Discover Africa 2018

South Africa

This vast country is undoubtedly one of the most culturally and geographically diverse places on earth. Fondly known by locals as the 'Rainbow Nation', South Africa has 11 official languages and its multicultural inhabitants are influenced by a fascinating mix of African, Asian and European cultures. Spend your days: discovering the gourmet restaurants, impressive art and nightlife scenes and fine beaches of Cape Town; enjoying a typical local braai (barbecue) in the Soweto township; browsing the bustling Indian markets in Durban; or sampling some of the world’s finest wines at the myriad wine estates dotted around the picturesque Cape Winelands. Due to its rich and turbulent history there are plenty of historical attractions to explore including the Zululand battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and Robben Island, just off the coast of Cape Town. Above all else, South Africa’s attraction lies in its remarkably untamed wilderness with its astonishing range of wildlife roaming freely across massive unfenced game reserves such as the world famous Kruger National Park. With all of this variety on offer, it is little wonder that South Africa has fast become Africa’s most popular tourist destination.

Banking and Currency

Currency

The currency is the Rand, which is divided into 100 cents. There are R200, R100, R50, R20 and R10 notes. Coins come in R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c.

Banking

Banks are found in most towns, and are generally open from 09h00 to 15h30 on weekdays and 08h30 to 11h00 on Saturdays (Closed Sundays and Public Holidays). Most of them offer foreign exchange services - with cash, bank & credit cards as well as travellers cheques. You can also obtain cash from automatic teller machines (ATMs). Several international banks have branches in the main city centres. Always advise your bank that you are travelling outside of the country as they might block your purchases if they are not informed.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Travelling around South Africa is relatively easy by air, road and rail.

Principal air routes are serviced by SAA and British Airways, operated by Comair. There are 2 low-cost carriers on main routes, namely Kulula.com and Mango.

Facilitating travel around South Africa are 10 airports managed by the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa). In addition, there are some 90 regional airports, including the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Nelspruit and the Skukuza Airport, offering access to the Kruger National Park.

An extensive tarred road system makes travelling in South Africa by vehicle convenient and easy. You will find gravel roads in rural areas though. Note:

  • A valid international driver's licence is required.
  • We drive on the left hand side of the road.
  • Wearing seat belts is compulsory and cellphones can only be used ‘hands free'.
  • Speed limits are generally set at 120km on freeways, 100km on secondary roads and 60km in urban areas.
  • Toll fees apply on certain national roads.
  • Petrol stations are widespread.
  • Most global car hire firms have branches in South Africa

Another means of getting around South Africa are luxury inter-city bus services such as Greyhound and Trans-Lux. Metrobus buses are available for in-city transport. Metered taxis must be ordered by telephone. There is a hop-on-hop-off bus in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Our rail system includes the long-haul, inexpensive Shosholoza Meyl Metrorail trains. More luxurious options are the Blue Train, Premier Classe and the steam train Rovos Rail. There is also the new Gautrain rapid transit railway system in Gauteng Province which links Johannesburg, Pretoria, Ekhuruleni and OR Tambo International Airport.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Standards of hygiene in relation to food health and safety in South Africa, are generally high in hotels, restaurants, pubs and nightspots. Tap water in South Africa is safe to drink and cook with when taken from taps in urban areas. Not all tap water in rural areas is safe for consumption, so take precautions if necessary.

It is safe to eat fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, and put ice in your drinks. South Africa's fish, meat and chicken are of excellent quality, so there is no need to limit yourself when enjoying the local cuisine.

Restaurants are subject to South Africa's food safety control legislation, which is implemented by local government. Regulations include certification and regular inspections by health inspectors to ensure hygienic standards are maintained.

Street food is not as common in South Africa as it is in other countries, although vendors selling traditional snacks and meals can be found in city centres and townships. Food safety in such instances cannot always be guaranteed.


Climate and Weather

South African temperatures, which are measured in centigrade, average at highs of 28°C to average lows of 8°C in the summer months while winter temperatures range from 1°C at night to around 18°C in the day. Average annual rainfall is on the low side at under 500mm a year, making the country somewhat dry. Much of the rain falls in the Western Cape in the winter, differing from the rest of the country, which experiences summer rainfall. On the plus side, the South African climate boasts more than its fair share of sunshine, recording an average of 8.5 hours a day.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Summer

Bring clothes that are cool, light and comfortable because summer temperatures can get well into the 30 - 40 degree Celsius range in some areas.Also bring an umbrella or raincoat during summer as this is when most of the country gets its rain, but don't forget a swimming costume (bathing suit).

Winter

The winters are generally mild, comparing favourably with European summers. But there are days when temperatures dive, especially in high-lying areas such as the Drakensberg, so be prepared with jerseys and jackets. Cape Town gets its rain during the winter season so it’s advisable to bring rain gear along.

General

Always bring a hat, sunglasses and sunblock as the sun can be strong even in the winter months.

Walking shoes are a good idea all year-round, with warm socks in the winter.

If you are doing business in the country, business attire (suit and tie) is generally called for in the corporate sector, but media for example generally dress more casually.

For game viewing, a couple of neutral-toned items will be useful, but there's no need to go overboard. A good pair of walking shoes is also advisable.

For the evening, if you are dining at an upmarket restaurant or seeing a show, smart-casual attire is recommended.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Current is 220/240 volts at 50 cycles per second. A three-point round-pin adapter plug should be brought for your electrical appliances - such adapters are also available at major airports.


Zambia

This unique, peanut-shaped country, once known as Northern Rhodesia, offers visitors an authentic African experience complete with adrenalin pumping adventure sports, a variety of fascinating cultural activities, and an abundance of indigenous wildlife, which finds refuge in Zambia’s vast national parks. Spend your evenings enjoying the spectacular site of the world’s largest waterfall, the Victoria Falls, while sipping on sundowners after an exhilarating day of whitewater rafting down the rapids of the mighty Zambezi River. If that sounds a little too adventurous for your taste, take a houseboat cruise along the exquisite Lake Kariba while watching wild elephants drink at the riverbank as you try your hand at catching the elusive tiger fish. However you choose to spend your time in this unique country, you are bound to leave with a heavy heart and a desire to return again soon to this exceptionally beautiful Southern African country.

Banking and Currency

Currency

Zambia's unit of currency is the Kwacha (ZMW), formally ZMK which was rebased in 2013. The denominaions are K100, K50, K20, K10, K5 and K2. It is subdivided into 100 ngwee. Coins available are K1, 50 ngwee, 10 ngwee and 5 ngwee.

However, some prices are quoted in US$. It is therefore possible to use dollars and pounds as well.

Banking

In the cities and larger towns, you can change cash and travellers cheques at branches of Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered Bank. Larger branches have ATMs that accept Visa. Foreign exchange offices are easy to find in cities and larger towns.

Banks are generally open on weekdays from 08h150 to 15h30 and 08h15 to 12h00 on Saturdays. Banks are closed on Sundays and public holidays.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Proflight flies from Lusaka to Mfuwe (South Luangwa), to Livingstone and the Copperbelt and also does charters.Various air charter companies will fly to any of the many airstrips around the country and most of the areas worth visiting are accessible by air.

Public Transport

There are many taxis available. Prices are negotiable. There is a good bus service to Chipata, Livingstone, the Copperbelt and Harare, but they don’t always follow strict schedules. The main bus terminus is in Dedan Kimathi Road in Lusaka where one can inquire about timetables. Other private bus companies offer more reliable services to Livingstone, Harare and Johannesburg.

Travel by Bus

Long range buses frequently leave from Lusaka to all the main towns. The intercity bus terminal can be found one road up from Cairo Road at the station.

Minibuses and taxis, local transport – all painted blue – can be jumped on at pretty much any juncture. They’re not expensive and you can always find a minibus that won’t cost too much to buy all the seats in it to get your own private minibus to wherever you want to go but you’ll have to negotiate.

Travel by Road

Zambia has 38,763 kilometres of roads, about 10,000 kms of which are tarred and another 8000 kms are gravel road. The rest range from reasonable to bad dirt roads.

If you’re doing a vehicle trip through Zambia it is a good idea to carry a range of tools and essential spares with you.

Be really careful, especially if travelling at night for road markings are usually non existent. Do watch out for animals in the road, vehicles without lights, pedestrians, unannounced roadworks, bad drivers and broken down trucks with no warning triangles. If you see a tree branch in the road, slow down immediately – these are improvised warning triangles and there’s bound to be a truck or car in the middle of the road up ahead.

Be sure to have all your vehicle papers on hand as you’re bound to encounter a few roadblocks.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Zambia's native cuisine is based on nshima, a cooked porridge made from ground maize normally accompanied by some tasty relish, perhaps made of meat and tomatoes, or dried fish. Safari camps will often prepare nshima if requested, and it is almost always available in small, local restaurants.

Camps, hotels and lodges that cater to overseas visitors tend to serve a range of international fare, and the quality of food prepared in the most remote bush camps is typically excellent.


Water in the main towns is usually purified, provided there are no shortages of chlorine, breakdowns, or other mishaps. The locals drink it, and are used to the relatively innocuous bugs that it may harbour. If you are in the country for a long time, then it may be worth acclimatising yourself to it. However, if you are in Zambia for just a few weeks, then try to drink only bottled, boiled, or treated water in town.

Out in the bush, most of the camps and lodges use water from bore-holes. These underground sources vary in quality, but are normally perfectly safe to drink.


Climate and Weather

The rains in Zambia come mostly in December, January, February and March though the further north you are, the earlier the rains arrive and the later they leave. Eastern areas and higher areas generally receive more rain than western and lowland areas.


By April and May most of the rain has faded away, leaving a landscape that's still green, but starting to dry out. Nighttime temperatures start to drop, especially in higher and more southerly locations.


In June, July and August the nights become much cooler, but the days are clear and warm. Make sure you bring warm clothes to wrap up if you're out at night, as some nights get very cold! Most of Zambia's small 'walking bush camps' open at the start of June, when the roads have dried out sufficiently to allow access. This is the start of the 'peak season' for these countries – with often cloudless days and continually increasing game sightings.


Into September and October the temperatures climb: the lower-lying rift valleys – Lower Zambezi, Mana Pools and Luangwa Valley – can get very hot in October. However, you'll see some superb game as the animals concentrate around the limited water sources.


November is variable; it can be hot and dry like October, or it can see the season's first downpours. Often it's a very interesting month as you can see both patterns on successive days.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Zambia has mild winters and the summer days can be scourching hot. Lightweight casual clothes can be worn all year round, with a jacket or jersey for early winter mornings and evenings.

On safari keep clothes to neutral colours - kharkis, browns and greens. A sunhat, sunscreen, sunglasses and insect repellent are a must.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Current is 220/240 volt at 50 cycles per second. Both square and round wall plugs are used.


Botswana

Situated in the southern reaches of Africa, Botswana is renowned for its pristine wilderness areas characterised by deep lagoons, wetlands, lush palms, rugged hills and desert plains scattered with scrubland. The country’s primary tourist draw card is undoubtedly the vast red expanse of the Kalahari desert and its remarkably beautiful Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world. These natural wonders provide a tranquil haven for an abundance of African wildlife to thrive. Other highlights include the impressive Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, where visitors are privy to massive zebra migrations during the flood season; the Savuti plains, which host large prides of lions; and the Tsodilo Hills, where 4500 rock paintings form a unique record of human settlement over many millennia.


Entry Requirements

Effective from 1 June 2017, all travellers to Botswana (with the exception of residents and citizens of the Southern African Development Community) will have to pay a tourism development levy.According to Botswana Tourism, the objective of the levy is to raise funds for conservation and natural tourism development. The $30 (€27) levy will be payable at all ports of entry, including airports and border posts, through electronic payment machines, cash, and debit and credit cards.After the payment, a unique receipt corresponding to the passport will be automatically generated. The receipt is presented to immigration officials and the passport and the receipt will be stamped and handed back to the traveller. The receipt will be valid for a 30-day period and can be used for multiple entries.


Banking and Currency

Currency

Botswana's currency is Pula (which means 'rain' in Setswana). It is divided into 100 thebe (which means 'shield' in Setswana). Travellers' cheques and foreign currency may be changed at banks, bureaux de change and authorised hotels.

The US dollar, Euros, British Pound and the South African Rand are the most easily convertible currencies (and accepted by some estabishments - but, generally, then an inflated rate of exchange will be applied).

Banking

Seven main commercial banks, as well as a number of foregin exchange bureaux, operate in Botswana. Operating hours are Monday to Friday 08h30 to 15h30 and Saturday 08h30 to 10h45.

Full banking services are available in major towns, although ATMs are sprouting up all over the country. Most credit cards are accepted at hotels and restaurants. Cultural sites and community art and craft outlets usually only accept cash.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Public transport in Botswana is geared towards the needs of the local populace and is confined to main roads between major population centres. Although cheap and reliable, it is of little use to the traveller as most of Botswana’s tourist attractions lie off the beaten track.

Driving off the main roads in Botswana is only recommended to expects in 4x4 vehicles, that are equipped correctly. Most lodges offer transfers or they can be arranged. If, however, you will be driving in Botswana: your home driving licence will be accepted (with an official English translation if necessary; driving is on the left side of the road; and the national speed limit is on tarred roads is 120km/h and 60km/h in towns and villages.

Be sure to watch out for wild animals on the roads!

There are major airports in Maun, Kasane and Gaborone, while smaller charter flights are used to get to the other top attractions and camps.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Tap water is considered safe to drink, although outside main cities and towns, visitors are advised to check first and sterilise water if in any doubt. Bottled water is available in most tourist centres. Filtered water is available at most camps and shops offer bottled water - it is advised to be well stocked of bottled water if you are travelling off the beaten track. Milk is pasteurised, and dairy products, local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally safe.

Safari lodges and camps serve international-style cuisine, generally of an extremely high standard, along with local beer and imported wine and spirits. Good restaurants and bars can be found in main towns, often within hotels. Beef and goat are very popular meats. Elsewhere, food is more basic: millet and sorghum porridge are the local staples.

A discretionary 5 to 10% tip is typical for restaurant bills. In many places, a service charge is automatically added. It is customary to tip the game guide and lodge staff while on safari.


Climate and Weather

Botswana's climatic pattern is typical of southern Africa, although its rainfall is less than countries further east. The rains in Botswana come mostly between December and March, when average minimum temperatures are in the low 20°s. Some days will be bright and sunny, some will have afternoon thunderstorms, and some will just be grey.

As with Namibia, April and May in Botswana are generally lovely, with the sky clear and the landscape green. Night temperatures start to drop during these months, especially in the Kalahari. Note that places in and around the Okavango tend to have less extreme, more moderate temperatures than the drier areas of the Kalahari.

From June to August the night-time temperatures in drier areas can be close to freezing, but it warms up rapidly during the day, when the sky is usually clear and blue. It's now very much 'peak season' for most safari areas: the land is dry in most areas so the animals congregate around the few available water sources.

This continues into September and October, when temperatures climb again, drying the landscapes and concentrating the game even more. This is the best time for big game safaris – although October can feel very hot, with maximum temperatures sometimes approaching 40°C.

November is difficult to predict, as it can sometimes be a continuation of October's heat, whilst sometimes it's cooled by the first rains; it's always an interesting month.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

In summer, lightweight, lightcoloured cottons are preferable. Avoid synthetic materials and black clothing, as they increase perspiration and discomfort. In winter, wear trousers, longsleeved shirts / blouses and jerseys. From May – August, night temperatures can fall below zero degrees celsius, so warm jerseys and jackets are vital, especially on morning and evening game drives. Garments of neutral colours that blend with the bush and forest are advisable for safaris and game viewing. Bring a lightweight jacket and/or jersey for unexpected temperature changes or rain. Closed, comfortable walking shoesor gym shoes are a must in all seasons. Special attention should be given to protection from the sun. Bring a sunhat, good quality sunscreen, sun lotion and polarised sunglasses. Wide brimmed sun hats are essential.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Botswana are the "Type M " South African SABS1661 ("Large" 15 amp BS-546) sockets. This is actually an old British standard. The "Type M " South African plug and socket is not to be confused with the "Type D " Indian plug and socket. In pictures, they look very similar, but the South African type is much larger than the Indian type, and they are physically incompatible. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into.

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Botswana usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.

But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. If you need to use appliances that are not compatible with 220-240 volt electrical input, you will need a voltage converter.