Why go to South Africa

Archibishop Desmond Tutu once described South Africa as being a “Rainbow Nation” due to the thoroughly bitterly divided racial ‘mess’. However, merely some two decades later, and as a result of Nelson Mandela’s tenure in office, South Africa now enjoys over 9 million tourists annually.

Why as many as this? The hosting of the World Cup during 2010 had a lot to do with the promotion of the country’s main attractions around the globe – everything from the peoples to landscapes and food. Due to the sheer size of the country, with a landmass approximately equaling five times that of the UK, and a coastline stretching for over 1,500 miles, the geography is diverse to say the very least – anything from the cool vineyards in the south to northern desert of the Kalahari.

Furthermore, there are five big game reserves to choose from, along with spectacular beaches – from friendly little coves to vast stretches of empty sand, wilderness that has been entirely untouched, sporting and cultural activities galore – I could go on!
Regardless its’ vastness, South Africa is in fact fairly easy to traverse. Highways are generally well maintained and driving regulations are – on the whole – similar to those in the UK (signposts are written clearly and in English, and you drive on the left).
There are three international airports to choose from – Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban, as well as plenty of domestic airports. The buses are air-conditioned and there are lots of trains, albeit not as well maintained as the bus services.

Although officially, there are eleven national languages spoken in South Africa, most of those working within the tourist sector speak relatively good English. All the same, this is not a country where you want to get lost. Petty crime and violent car-jackings are rife due to the fact that some 40 percent of inhabitants live below the poverty line. Nevertheless, in comparison to the rest of Africa, South Africa represents a fairly safe tourist destination.

Getting Around South Africa

The major cities within South Africa have a number of airlines offering a connection. Fares range from economy to first-class.
There are three main international gateways – Cape Town International Airport, Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, and King Shaka International Airport in Durban. A further seven airports are used for domestic flights alone. These airports are located in:

  • Bloemfontein
  • East London
  • Port Elizabeth
  • George
  • Kimberley
  • Upington

Although there are six major domestic airlines operating in the country, in addition to a variety of smaller charter airline companies, for most routes, one of the cheapest available is that of Mango Airlines. Mango offers cut-price flights for the more popular routes, with connections to:

  • Johannesburg
  • Durban
  • Cape Town
  • Port Elizabeth
  • George
  • Nelspruit

Mango Airlines represents a no-frills airline which is operated by South African Airlines. They provide single-class flights.

For domestic flights, you need to arrive promptly at the airport at least one hour prior to your flight’s departure.

Driving in South Africa

Almost all reputable car-hire companies have offices located within airports. The best deals are to be had through fly-drive packages, where you book your car together with your flight. In order to book a car, you need to be over 23 years of age and have held your driving licence for over 5 years.
Petrol stations are relatively common and are always manned. Attendants do expect a small tip for their services. Speed limits are set at 120kph (75mph) on the motorways, 80 to 100kph (50 – 62mph) on secondary roads, and in urban areas it’s set at 60kph (37mph).