South Africa is one of the most popular tourist countries on the continent. With dazzling cityscapes, varied ecosystems, national parks, and beaches aplenty, South Africa has something to offer for every traveller.
Travellers to Cape Town sometimes forget they’re not in Europe. The cosmopolitan city along the western coast is one of the world’s most multicultural cities, and is Africa’s most popular tourist destination. Cape Town has a distinctive bowl appearance because of surrounding Table Mountain. That mountain is a major tourist attraction in and of itself, and travellers frequently take the cable car or hike to the top for panorama views from Devil’s Peak. Whether it’s beaches, surfing, shopping, or architecture you desire, travellers won’t be disappointed by Cape Town.
Cape Town is also the jumping off point for Shark Alley cave diving adventures and encounters with an African penguin colony at Boulders Beach.
Travellers setting their sights on safaris visit Kruger National Park in the northeast, one of the largest game reserves on the continent. The park is home to the Big Five game animals, and has excellent lodges and rest camps for travellers, regardless of their budget.
South Africa’s other major cities include Johannesburg, Durban, and Pretoria. Whether making the iconic overland tour across South Africa or destination hopping by plane, make sure you soak in all South Africa has to offer.
The Public Health Agency (PHA) recommends travellers see a travel medicine specialist six weeks before leaving for South Africa. The following vaccinations and medical concerns should be discussed:
- Typhoid Fever: This vaccine is recommended for travellers to South Africa. The illness is caused by consuming food or drink that has come into contact with fecal matter. The risk is highest for those travelling to rural regions.
- Yellow Fever: While there is no risk in South Africa, a Yellow Fever certificate is required for travellers coming from or transiting through a country where there is a risk of the disease.
- Hepatitis A: A somewhat common illness, hepatitis is spreads through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. This vaccination is recommended for all travellers to South Africa.
- Hepatitis B: This contagious liver disease is contracted through the exchange of bodily fluids or contact with contaminated needles or piercing tools.
- Rabies: This vaccine should be considered for travellers coming in close contact with animals or taking part in extensive outdoor adventures.
There is a risk of contracting malaria in South Africa. The KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga provinces are risk areas, as is Kruger National Park. The overall risk for most travellers is considered low. Share your itinerary with a travel medicine specialist to see if an antimalarial regime is right for you.
The medical care in most South African cities is comparable to Italy. Treatment may be significantly more expensive and require payment upfront. Facilities are very limited in rural areas.
For more details on any of the above vaccinations, visit our detailed vaccination pages or make an appointment with your International Health Passport Travel Specialist. To book your appointment either call +39 392 0056499 or start booking online now.
What Is the Climate Like in South Africa?
South Africa has a more diverse climatic range than most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Here is what to expect in a few key destinations:
- Cape Town: Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate and with mild winters and warm summers. Temperatures during the year range from 11º Celsius in July and August to 20º Celsius in January and February. The summer months of February and March can bring a strong mountain wind from the interior, which make the city quite hot. Unlike the rest of the country, Cape Town experiences more rain in the winter months.
- Johannesburg: Johannesburg has a subtropical highland climate, meaning the summer months have hot days and cool evenings, and the winter days are dry and sunny. The climate is impacted by the city’s elevation of 1,750 metres. June and July are the coldest months, with temperatures averaging 9º Celsius. Historically, snow is rare. Summer temperatures can reach the mid-20s.
- Pretoria: Located in northern South Africa, Pretoria has a humid subtropical climate. It has hot and rainy summers and mild winters accompanied by cool nights. The average temperature throughout the year ranges from 12º Celsius to 23º Celsius, though temperatures can get as low as 5º Celsius during winter months.
Criminal activity against travellers is high in South Africa. This can include violent crimes such as rape, armed assaults, and murder. These crimes often occur in areas popular with tourists. If you are involved in a robbery, give up your belongings immediately and avoid making eye contact with the people involved.
Criminals may cause diversions for drivers in order to steal valuables or the car. This can include creating fake roadblocks or accidents, and throwing paint and stones onto cars causing drivers to pull over. It is recommended to never pull off the road, even if flagged by a potential police officer. The Italian Government suggests putting on hazard lights and driving to a gas station or other populated area to meet the officials. Always lock your doors and roll up the windows.
As in most major cities, criminal activity increases after dark. Certain areas should be avoided, including Victoria Wharf in Durban, and walking from the downtown area to the waterfront in Cape Town. The best way to keep up with large scale criminal activity is to watch and read local news reports.
Be vigilant and smart in hotel rooms, and do not leave valuables exposed. Do not open the door to strangers, and confirm with reception if someone knocking at the door claims to be a member of the hotel staff.
Do not hail taxis from the street, and have a hotel or reliable contact arrange a driver in advance. Sit in the back seat of taxis, ensure doors are locked, and keep bags at your feet.
Shark diving is a popular activity for travellers to South Africa. The country’s coast – particularly Shark Alley near Cape Town – is home to more than 90 shark species, including the Great White Shark. Shark diving outings are available from a number of companies, though travellers should ensure the reputation of an operator before heading out. Do your research into different operators before hand, keeping in mind feeding techniques and conservation.
Travellers may also wish to pack motion sickness medication. The nerves and boat ride to the diving spot may affect your stomach.
Here are some essential items to consider for your trip to South Africa:
- Proof of an onward or return ticket: In the past, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs has asked travellers to provide a deposit for a ticket home. Having a printout of your itinerary beyond South Africa will ensure this doesn’t happen to you. Any deposit is returned when travellers leave the country.
- Functional and fashionable clothing: Whether you’re on safari or spending a night out in Cape Town, the clothing you bring to South Africa should be able to accommodate both. The country’s cities are quite cosmopolitan and bringing a nice fleece sweater, for example, may be a better choice than an old jacket.
- Warm clothing: South Africans are notorious for not using central heating, meaning when the weather is cold the buildings may be too.
- Unlocked cell phone: There are very few public phones around South Africa. Bringing an unlocked smartphone will help you save money on hotel telephones and will help you navigate the cities.
- Laundry soap: While many fly-in safari camps will have laundry facilities or do your laundry, some are hesitant to wash underwear. Have a spare bar of soap on hand for washing your under garments.
All Italians visiting South Africa should register with the Embassy in South Africa before departure. This will inform the office of your travel plans within the country and will allow them to reach out in the case of an emergency or evacuation. If you plan to purchase a local SIM card you can also enter your phone number to receive SMS updates from the office.
Ambasciata d’Italia a Pretoria
796, George Avenue,0083 Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel +27 12 4230000
Emergency only: +27 82 7815972
Visit the Italian Embassy website prior to your departure to confirm correct contact details for the office. There are also a Consulate of Canada offices in Durban and Cape Town.
Visa requirements for Italians visiting South Africa changed in May 2014. Tourist visas are not required for Italian travellers staying up to 90 days. Travellers must, however, ensure they follow the correct procedures to get a South African Temporary Residence Visa. This document will allow travellers up to 90 days in the country. These visas must be issued by the South African Department of Home Affairs and travellers should check its website for new policies prior to visiting.
There are also new rules for travellers leaving and re-entering South Africa from neighbouring countries. If uncertain about their itinerary, travellers should contact the Department of Home Affairs prior to departure.
Travellers should have a return or onward ticket out of South Africa. If not, customs may require a temporary deposit to cover your fare home.
Italian passports should be valid for at least 30 days beyond the intended date of departure. They should also have two blank pages for the South African Temporary Residence Visa.
If you have any questions about travelling to South Africa or are wondering what shots you may need for your trip, schedule an appointment with your international Health Passport travel clinic. Call us at +39 392 0056499 or book online now and protect yourself today.