Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the European Union do not require a visa to stay in South Africa for visits of up to 90 days.
The currency used in Cape Town is the South African Rand (R). South Africa has introduced new coins and notes, but old coins are still common so your change can be confusing. Beware that the R200 note looks a lot like the R20 note.
The most popular languages are Afrikaan and English although you will find various other African languages.
Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate with an average temperature range of 7-27 degrees Celsius. Generally the winter months are between April and August with summer being from September to March. Summers are warm and dry and winters cool and wet.
Before travelling to South Africa it is advised that you get vaccinated against typhoid. You will find pharmacies in most city suburbs, while its premier hospital is the Groote Schur Hospital, where the world’s first heart transplant was performed.
Cape Town is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
Most banks are open M-F 8.30am-3.30pm and on Saturdays 8am-11am. Main branches are easy to find in the shopping areas of the city centre, the middle-class suburbs and at the Waterfront.
The Cape Town Tourism office is located in the Pinnacle Building at the corner of Burg and Castle Streets. Opening hours are between 8.00am and 5.00pm from Monday to Friday, 8.30am and 2.00pm on Saturday and 9.00am and 1.00pm on Sundays.
The rate of value added tax in South Africa is 14%.
Most banks change travellers cheques in major currencies, usually at a commission of around 1%. Although the First National Bank has a higher minimum charge, it takes a lower commission so it can work out cheaper if you're changing a few cheques. Keep a few exchange receipts as you'll need them to reconvert your Rands when you leave. 24 hour ATM machines are found in most towns.
Credit cards and bank cards can be used at ATMs to withdraw cash, once they show the Cirrus symbol and credit card logos.
3-pronged plugs are used in South Africa and the voltage rate is 220-230V/50 Hz.
The code for South Africa is 00 27 and the area code for Cape Town is 21. Phone numbers in various areas of South Africa are being changed as the country progressively upgrades and expands its network. If you have a problem getting through, contact the free directory enquiry service on 1023. There are public phone booths all over Cape Town taking phone cards and coins. Phone cards are available at Telkom offices, post offices, and newsagents.
The main branch is on Parliament St. This office has an enquiry desk and you can make cash calls from the phones here. Open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 8am–4.30pm, and Saturday 8am–noon.
Tipping is more or less mandatory because of the very low wages. The usual tip expected is 10 to 15%.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In South Africa they take place on January 1st, March 21st, Good Friday, April 16th and 27th, May 1st, June 16th, August 9th, September 24th, December 16th, 17th, 25th and 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.