International visitors

Time zone

South Africa operates two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year, making it an hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time and seven hours behind Australian Central Time.

Passports and visas

For the majority of foreign nationals who travel to South Africa for vacation, entry is straightforward and hassle-free. All visitors to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport in order to enter the country, and in some cases, a visa. It is advisable to ensure that your passport is valid for six months beyond your intended departure date from South Africa at the end of your holiday.

Travellers from certain regions of the world (Scandinavia, Japan, the USA, and most Western European and Commonwealth countries) do not need to formally apply for a visa. Upon arrival in South Africa, citizens of countries falling into this category will automatically be given a free entry permit sticker that outlines how long they may remain in the country. This automatic entry permit is usually for a maximum of 90 days, though the immigration officer may tailor the time period according to the airline tickets held. Foreign nationals from some other countries are offered this service, but for a maximum of 30 days. Visitors wishing to stay longer have to apply formally for a visa, as opposed to relying on the automatic entry permit. 
Under South Africa's Immigration Act of 2002 (Act. 13 of 2002), the passport must contain at least one unused page when presented for endorsements. These requirements are in keeping many of the world's top travel destinations and in line with the majority of global destinations' requirements. Failure to have a clear page can result in entry being refused.

Banks and money

South African bank notes feature Nelson Mandela on the one side, with images of the Big 5 on the other side

The currency unit is the rand, denoted by the symbol R before the numbers. There are 100 cents (100c) in R1 (one rand). Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks and bureaux de changes. Most major international credit cards, including American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and their affiliates, are widely accepted.

Tipping

Most restaurants do not add a service charge to bills - thus it is customary to leave a 10-15% tip. Parking and petrol station attendants should be given whatever small change you have available up to about R5. This is always appreciated, even though it may seem a small amount.

Tax

Value-added-tax (VAT) is charged on most items. Foreign tourists to South Africa can have their 14% VAT refunded, provided that the value of goods purchased exceeds R250. VAT is refunded at the point of departure from the country, provided receipts are produced. VAT on accommodation and services will not be refunded.

Electricity

South Africa's electricity supply: 220/230V AC 50Hz. Most plugs have three round pins, but some plugs with two smaller pins are also found on appliances. Adaptors can be purchased but may be in short supply. US-made appliances may need a transformer.

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