South Africa’s is a diverse, mixed and free society and there is little in the way of cultural norms or sensitivities which, if not adhered to, could cause offense. Business etiquette is very much similar to that of Europe and North America.
The South African rand (R) comes in note denominations of 10, 20. 50, 100 and 200, and 2 and 5 rand coins, and is broken down into 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent coins. ATMs and currency exchange points are found throughout the country and most establishments in urban centres accept credit and debit cards.
Nationals of most Western countries, as well as some designated South American and African countries, can visit South Africa for tourist or business purposes for up to 90 days multi-entry, with stamps issued on arrival. It is advised that one carries their departure ticket, and if you have recently been through the “yellow fever” belt in Africa or South America, you might be required to present a vaccination certificate.
South Africa has 11 official languages, with English used as the “lingua franca” in business and government settings. English is also typically the most commonly spoken second language by those for whom either Afrikaans or one of the nine indigenous languages is their mother tongue.
Health & Safety
World-class private hospitals and clinics exist in and near most population centres, and well-stocked pharmacies can be found throughout the country. While crime remains an issue, it has been coming down in recent years and is avoidable so long as one follows the necessary precautions, practices common sense, and avoids unsafe areas.
As most employed in the service sector fetch small salaries, tipping for most tasks is expected and greatly appreciated.
Government and business work from Monday to Friday and are generally open from 8.00am to 5.00pm, with lunch usually from 1.00pm to 2.00pm. Malls and shops are open from 10.00am until 6.00-7.00pm, and close earlier on the weekends.
The 15-amp round-pin, three-prong plug is commonly used, supplying 220/230 volts AC.
SIM cards for local prepaid mobiles can be purchased on the spot through most mobile operators but requires registration and passport details. These prepaid SIMS can then be topped up through printed codes that can be purchased from most petrol stations, supermarkets and convenience goods retailers. Postpaid subscriptions are normally only available for long-term residents. The international access code for South Africa is +27 and dialling abroad requires a double 00 before the dialling code. Both dial-up and broadband internet access are readily available through a large number of competing providers, and prepaid internet and data bundles can be purchased for smart phones for as low as R60 ($5.70) per month. Internet cafes can be found in most areas throughout the country, and pay-as-you-use Wi-Max is available in a number of cafes, hotel lobbies and airports.
In major cities and most towns, the most common form of public transport are white minibus “taxis” that pick up and drop off passengers at unmarked spots along pre-established routes. As they rarely carry destination signage and are patroned by locals, these are not recommended for new visitors. There has been a major effort by the government in recent years to roll-out more dependable and safer public bus services with varying results. Gauteng province recently opened the country’s first commuter rapid rail service, linking Johannesburg’s CBD with OR Thambo airport, surrounding suburbs and the capital city of Pretoria.
If using a taxi, always ask the driver to put the metre on. It is required by law. Private drivers are also available through hotels and travel agencies. Car hires are well priced and the roads easy to navigate.
The national air carrier is South African Airways, with a network of routes to most major global destinations. South Africa has three international and six domestic airports and several competing domestic carriers, some of which serve destinations in other African countries.
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