South Africa 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.
South Africa has 11 official languages, with English being the lingua franca in business and government settings. English is also the most commonly spoken second language by those for whom either Afrikaans or one of the nine indigenous languages is a mother tongue.
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, with stamps issued on arrival. It is advised to carry the departure ticket. If you have recently been through the yellow fever belt in Africa or South America, you might be required to show a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
Government offices and businesses are generally open Monday-Friday from 8am to 5pm, with lunch usually lasting from 1-2pm. Malls and shops are typically open from 10am until 6pm or 7pm, and close earlier on Saturdays and Sundays.
The South African rand comes in note denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200, as well as 2 and 5 rand coins. The rand breaks down into 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins. ATMs and currency exchange vendors are found throughout most of the country, and most establishments in urban centres accept credit and debit card payments.
As most employed in the service sector fetch small salaries, tipping for most tasks is expected and greatly appreciated.
Health & Safety
Private hospitals and clinics exist in and near most urban centres. Well-stocked pharmacies can be found across the country. While crime remains an issue, it has been decreasing and incidents are avoidable if one avoids unsafe areas.
SIM cards for local pre-paid mobiles can be purchased from most operators, but require a passport. Pre-paid phones can be topped up with printed codes that can be bought from most petrol stations, supermarkets and convenience stores. Post-paid subscriptions are only available for long-term residents. The international access code for South Africa is +27.
Dial-up and broadband internet access are available through a large number of competing providers, and pre-paid internet and data bundles can be purchased for smartphones for as little as R60 ($5.20) a month. Internet cafes can be found in most areas, and pay-as-you-use Wi-MAX is available in many cafes, hotel lobbies and airports.
The 15-amp round-pin, three-prong plug is used, with a power supply of 220/230 volts AC.
The most common form of public transport are white minibus taxis, which pick up and drop off passengers along pre-established routes. As they rarely carry signs and are mostly used by locals familiar with the system, they are not recommended for new visitors. There has been a major effort by the government to roll out more dependable public bus services with varying results and take-up.
Gauteng province is home to the country’s first commuter rapid rail service, known as the Gautrain, which links Johannesburg’s business district with OR Tambo International Airport, the surrounding suburbs and Pretoria. Private drivers are available through most hotels and travel agencies. The popular global car service Uber also operates in South Africa. Car rental agencies are plentiful and well priced, and the road system is fairly easy to drive and navigate.
In terms of air travel, the national carrier, South African Airways, has an extensive network of routes to most major global destinations. South Africa has three international and six domestic airports, which are served by a number of competing carriers.
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