Travel to Cape Town

Cape Town

Cape Town, the Mother City, is the oldest city in South Africa and one of three capitals, the legislative capital. With the Atlantic Ocean and iconic Table Mountain dominating the landscape Cape Town has something for everyone for at least a week.

When visiting Cape Town on a South African vacation enjoy the sun on the white sand beaches and great water activities like sailing, whale watching or even kite-boarding. For the adventure seeker, the Table Mountain area offers paragliding, mountain climbing and rappelling. Shopping, great food and local entertainment can be found at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens grows only indigenous South African plants and offers walks, restaurants and picnic spots to enjoy tea or a good Cape wine on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. You can also take in an important part of South African history by visiting Robben Island, where South African President and Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during the apartheid era. Visit the largest township in the Western Cape, Kayalitsha Township, and buy stunning tin flowers (roses, sunflowers, daises) made from discarded tin cans.

On a day trip or a weekend getaway just outside Cape Town you can see the some of the worlds most rarest plants at the wild flower reserves, stop by quaint seaside villages or visit Cape Point, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. It is the southwestern most tip of Africa!

Great wine and adventure vacations can also be found just outside Cape Town at Cape Winelands area. Take a self-drive or guided tour of one or more of the 200 wine estates featuring red, white, pink, sweet, dry and sparkling wines. Stay a few days and enjoy some horseback riding, ballooning, hiking, biking or skydiving adventure. Relax at one of the great vineyard spas and boutique accommodations after all that fun.

Overview

South Africa is a breathtaking blend of game-rich wildlife reserves and wilderness, miles of pristine beaches, magnificent wine and cuisine, sunny weather and a unique African pulse that make it a supreme vacation location.

When it comes to wildlife and scenery a South Africa vacation has a plethora of places to see, including a number of World Heritage Sites and incredible game reserves. One of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town is built among an entire, unique Cape Floral Kingdom, one of only six Plant Kingdoms that cover the Earth. There are more naturally occurring, different species of flowers just around Cape Town than there are in the whole of North America or the whole of Europe! On the other side of the spectrum are the deserts and arid areas, including the world’s first National Park that traverses the borders of two countries, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

The coastline of South Africa is enormous, offering superb scenery, such as sandy beaches and sheer, fynbos-covered cliffs on the Garden Route, as well as amazing wildlife opportunities, from southern right whales breaching off Cape Town to pristine coral reefs on the KwaZulu-Natal Coast. The pride of South Africa’s natural heritage is the Kruger National Park. At 2 million hectares and over 186 miles long, this enormous area encompasses a savannah landscape with 147 mammal species including the Big 5 (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo), over 400 bird species and numerous reptiles, amphibians and insects.

This diversity is echoed in its peoples. Ancient rock art is a silent testimony to the vanished culture of the first human inhabitants - the San or Bushman people - and the powerful civilisations of Mapungubwe and Thulamela who traded with Chinese and Arab traders a thousand years ago remain entrenched in the ruins of their rock-walled hilltop cities. Later the subregion became a stepping stone between Europe and the spices of the East, and then its own mineral riches were discovered. At the beginning of the 21st century this is a country filled with a colorful mixture of people and cultures, a heady history and not least, a natural heritage that has South Africans defining their land as “a world in one country.”

People

The people of South Africa welcome visitors to experience their hospitality. Feel the rhythm and soul of Africa. Encounter the majestic wildlife. Have a memorable journey through South Africa’s ancient and recent past. Enjoy the nation’s many natural wonders. Get to know the many cultures of The Rainbow Nation.

Language

English and Afrikaans are the two official languages of South Africa.

History

Historically, South Africa was the pariah of the world under its infamous apartheid regime, but caught the imagination of all with Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, followed by the peaceful, first democratic elections in 1994. Since then, it has become one of the top travel destinations, blending elements of both ‘Africa of old’ with modernity. On one hand, one can escape to wild, remote areas and experience exceptional game viewing and true wilderness on a safari getaway. Then, there are modern cities and hotels that compete with the best in the world. With 11 official languages and a diverse range of cultures and ways of life, it is no wonder that Mandela has named South Africans “the rainbow nation”.

Travel Guide

Currency

The rand is the official currency of South Africa. It may be possible to tip and buy items at markets using USD, but rand are preferred. Rand can be obtained at ATMS and exchange kiosks in major airports.

Weather

There is no bad time to travel to South Africa. When to travel all depends on what you want to see and do. Great bird watching can be found mid-October. Cape flower season is after the winter rains are over - July and August through September is best for game safari as the visibility is best and it’s birthing season. Surfing, diving and hiking are best after the summer’s peak.

Also take into account the major South African holiday seasons. Festive Season is mid-December and early January and is the busiest period. Mid-winter is another prime time when locals head for warmer weather.

Health Requirements

Prevention against malaria is recommended for all travel to the Lowfeld of Mpumalanga (including Kruger National Park), Limpopo and on the Maputoland coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Malaria is at low risk in the winter months – however, it is advisable to use mosquito nets and insect repellent to avoid being bitten. Consult your doctor for advice on medical precautions against malaria. No vaccinations are required but please seek current travel advice from your GP at least 4 – 6 weeks prior to travel. Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Polio and Tetanus-Diphtheria are currently recommended. If entering South Africa from a yellow fever zone, possession of a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate is essential.

For more information, please visit:  http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/

Visa Requirements

No visa required for US passport holders staying up to 90 days but it is important to ensure that you have at least two consecutive clean pages in your passport. A validity of at least 6 months remaining on your passport following your trip is required.

Tipping & Porterage

• In restaurants and bars, 10% is the accepted tipping standard
• Parking attendants and security guards are common in parking lots and at roadside bays. A tip of R2 and up should be offered, depending on the length of your stay
• In South Africa there are still attendants at gas stations to fill up vehicle tanks, check oil, water and tire pressure, and clean the windshields. From R2 up is an acceptable tip
• Airport porters is around R5 per piece of luggage
• Roadside newspaper vendors are traditional in South Africa. It’s custom to give the seller a few cents - rounding off the cost of your newspaper should be sufficient
• Some of the other service providers you may want to tip are taxi drivers, tour guides and assistants in hairdressers and beauty salons a small monetary amount

Credit Cards

All major credit cards are accepted in South Africa, particularly MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Diners Club. Be aware, however, that you can’t purchase fuel on a credit card. In most restaurants credit cards machines are portable an your card will be swiped in your view so you don’t have to lose sight of your card.

Electrical Appliances

Visitors to South Africa should be aware that:
• The South African electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ
• Most plugs are 15 amp 3-prong or 5 amp 2-prong, with round pins
• US-made appliances may need a transformer
• Most hotel rooms have 110 volt outlets for electric shavers and appliances

Water

Drinking water in South Africa is quite safe when taken from the tap or faucet - in fact it is said to be some of the safest and cleanest in the world.  Some tap and natural water may have a slight brown tinge from humic acid, which is harmless and does not affect drinking water quality in South Africa.

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This Destination

Cape Town

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