South Africa

One of the most culturally and geographically diverse places on earth, South Africa, fondly known by locals as the 'Rainbow Nation', boasts 11 official languages, and its inhabitants are influenced by a fascinating mix of cultures. Discover the gourmet restaurants, impressive art scene, vibrant nightlife, and beautiful beaches of Cape Town; enjoy a local braai (barbecue) in the Soweto township; browse the bustling Indian markets in Durban, or sample some of the world’s finest wines at the myriad wine estates dotting the Cape Winelands. Some historical attractions to explore include the Zululand battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and Robben Island, just off the coast of Cape Town. Above all else, its untamed wilderness is astonishing: wildlife roams freely across massive unfenced game reserves such as the world-famous Kruger National Park.


Banking and Currency

Currency

The currency is the Rand, which is divided into 100 cents. There are R200, R100, R50, R20 and R10 notes. Coins come in R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c.

Banking

Banks are found in most towns, and are generally open from 09h00 to 15h30 on weekdays and 08h30 to 11h00 on Saturdays (Closed Sundays and Public Holidays). Most of them offer foreign exchange services - with cash, bank & credit cards as well as travellers cheques. You can also obtain cash from automatic teller machines (ATMs). Several international banks have branches in the main city centres. Always advise your bank that you are travelling outside of the country as they might block your purchases if they are not informed. 


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Travelling around South Africa is relatively easy by air, road and rail.

Several‌ ‌airlines‌ ‌operate‌ ‌domestic‌ ‌routes‌ ‌with‌ ‌regular‌ ‌links‌ ‌between‌ ‌Johannesburg,‌ ‌Cape‌ ‌Town,‌ ‌Durban,‌ ‌George,‌ ‌Nelspruit‌ ‌and‌ ‌Port‌ ‌Elizabeth‌ ‌and‌ ‌relatively‌ ‌frequent‌ ‌flights‌ ‌to‌ ‌several‌ ‌smaller‌ ‌towns‌ ‌and‌ ‌cities‌ ‌too.‌ ‌

An extensive tarred road system makes travelling in South Africa by vehicle convenient and easy. You will find gravel roads in rural areas though. Please note that a valid international driver's licence is required. We drive on the left-hand side of the road. Most global car hire firms have branches in South Africa and Uber is available.

Another means of getting around South Africa are inter-city bus services. Metrobus buses are available for in-city transport. Metered taxis must be ordered by telephone.There is the popular MyCityBus system in Cape Town as well as a hop-on-hop-off tourist bus in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The rail system includes the long-haul, inexpensive Shosholoza Meyl Metrorail trains and some more luxurious options are available. There is also the Gautrain rapid transit railway system in Gauteng Province.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Standards of hygiene in relation to food health and safety in South Africa, are generally high in hotels, restaurants, pubs and nightspots. Tap water in South Africa is safe to drink and cook with when taken from taps in urban areas. Not all tap water in rural areas is safe for consumption, so take precautions if necessary.

It is safe to eat fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, and put ice in your drinks. South Africa's fish, meat and chicken are of excellent quality, so there is no need to limit yourself when enjoying the local cuisine.

Restaurants are subject to South Africa's food safety control legislation, which is implemented by local government.  Regulations include certification and regular inspections by health inspectors to ensure hygienic standards are maintained.

Street food is not as common in South Africa as it is in other countries, although vendors selling traditional snacks and meals can be found in city centres and townships. Food safety in such instances cannot always be guaranteed.


Climate and Weather

South African temperatures, which are measured in centigrade, average at highs of 28°C to average lows of 8°C in the summer months while winter temperatures range from 1°C at night to around 18°C in the day.  Average annual rainfall is on the low side at under 500mm a year, making the country somewhat dry.  Much of the rain falls in the Western Cape in the winter, differing from the rest of the country, which experiences summer rainfall. On the plus side, the South African climate boasts more than its fair share of sunshine, recording an average of 8.5 hours a day.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Summer

Bring clothes that are cool, light and comfortable because summer temperatures can get well into the 30 - 40 degree Celsius range in some areas. Also bring an umbrella or raincoat during summer as this is when most of the country gets its rain, but don't forget a swimming costume (bathing suit).

Winter

The winters are generally mild, comparing favourably with European summers.  But there are days when temperatures dive, especially in high-lying areas such as the Drakensberg, so be prepared with jerseys and jackets. Cape Town gets its rain during the winter season so it’s advisable to bring rain gear along.

General

Always bring a hat, sunglasses and sunblock as the sun can be strong even in the winter months.

Walking shoes are a good idea all year-round, with warm socks in the winter.

If you are doing business in the country, business attire  (suit and tie) is generally called for in the corporate sector, but media for example generally dress more casually.

For game viewing, a couple of neutral-toned items will be useful, but there's no need to go overboard. A good pair of walking shoes is also advisable.

For the evening, if you are dining at an upmarket restaurant or seeing a show, smart-casual attire is recommended.


Internet Availability

Most accommodation offer Wifi (free or paid) in their business centres, rooms or restaurants. Internet cafes are found in most business areas and shopping malls. In addition, some South African restaurants offer WiFi access (free or paid).

There are also outlets such as PostNet that offer internet, fax and postage facilities.  


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electrical sockets in the Republic of South Africa are Type M (SABS-1661).  If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all types.

Electrical sockets in South Africa usually supply electricity at 230 volts AC / 50 Hz frequency. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 230 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance isn’t compatible with 230 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.


Kenya

Resting in the magnificent Great Rift Valley and presided over by the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, Kenya is characterised by hauntingly beautiful natural landscapes of forested hills, patchwork farms, wooded savanna and vast forests brimming with an extraordinary abundance of wildlife. The nation’s diverse range of traditional African cultures is influenced by over 70 unique ethnic groups from the Maasai, Samburu, Kikuyu, and Turkana tribes to the Arabs and Indians that settled on the coast. Add to this: an exquisite tropical coastline fringed with breathtaking golden sand beaches; gorgeous coral gardens providing excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities; and a slew of lively beach resorts, and it is easy to see why so many visitors flock here from around the world to experience a truly unique African adventure in one of the world’s most pristine safari destinations.


Banking and Currency

Currency

The currency of Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling (KES; symbol KSh) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of KSh1,000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. Coins are in denominations of KSh20, 10 and 5. Residents may import up to KES 500,000 and must declare if currencies exceeding US $10,000. Non-residents may import local and foreign currencies without restrictions but amounts exceeding US $10,000 must be declared.

Banking 

Banking hours: Monday -Friday 09h00-15h00, and Saturdays 09h00-12h00. Banks in Mombasa and the coastal areas open and close half an hour earlier. Banks in airports tend to open earlier and close later; typical hours are 07h00-19h00.

ATMs are common especially in major tourist destinations.

Mastercard and Visa Credit Cards are widely accepted; American Express and Diners Club less so. Major hotels accept payment by credit card, as do major safari companies, travel agencies and restaurants. 

Very few banks or foreign exchange bureaus accept travellers cheques; when they do, they charge high commissions.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Nairobi has two airports for domestic and regional flights: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport. Kenya has over 150 domestic airports and airstrips and there are daily flights to the most popular destinations. In addition to the scheduled airlines, several private charter companies operate out of Wilson Airport.

Kenya Airways, Air Kenya, Fly 540, Mombasa Air Safari, and Safarilink serve the most popular safari destinations, plus many others such as Lake Victoria. 

All other types of transport are good and efficient. Quality on trains can differ depending on which ‘class’ you buy. 

Drive on the left side of the road.

Road conditions vary, and are improving.



Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Meat in Kenya is generally outstandingly good, and ‘nyam achoma’ (barbecued meat) is ubiquitous at any major feasts or popular dining spots. Beef and chicken are readily available, but goat is the most-widely eaten among locals and certainly a must try for carnivorous visitors. Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine is also popular, as are fresh-water fish inland, and sea fish along the coast.

Drinking the tap water is not recommended as the supply is not reliable, but bottled water is available in most places. When buying bottled water, check the seal of the bottle is intact. Alternatively, bring your own reusable water bottle with a filter or use water purification tablets. Avoid ice and washed salads and fruit except in top hotels and restaurants. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Food prepared by unlicensed vendors should be avoided at all times.

Tipping is optional. Most hotels and restaurants include a 10% service charge in the bill. If they don't, a small tip is customary for good service.


Climate and Weather

Kenya has three types of climate: temperate subtropical climate in the west and southwest highlands (where Nairobi is located), hot and humid along the coast, and hot and dry in the north and east.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

For Nairobi and the coast: lightweight cotton and linens are advised. Warmer clothing is needed in June and July, while rainwear is advisable between March and June, and October and December.

For safari: loose-fitting and light neutral tones are recommended. If you are visiting a luxury lodge, pack a nice set of clothes for dinner is recommended.


Internet Availability

Wi-Fi is readily available in major cities and hotels, as well as in luxury game lodges.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electrical sockets in Kenya are of the ‘Type G (BS-1363)’. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all types.

Electrical sockets in Kenya usually supply electricity at 220-240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance isn’t compatible with 220-240 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.



Rwanda

The first thing that springs to most people’s minds when thinking of Rwanda is its turbulent political history. But today’s Rwanda is a far cry from the nation it was in the mid-90s: the country has emerged from the shadows and has much to offer visitors, most notably the tracking of endangered mountain gorillas in the lush Virunga National Park, which extends across the peaks and jungle-covered slopes of the volcanic Virunga Mountains. Other major tourist attractions include expansive Lake Kivu, ancient Nyungwe Forest with its rich population of primate species, and the game-rich savannah lands of Akagera National Park.


Banking and Currency

Currency

Rwanda Franc (RWF) = 100 centimes. Notes are in denominations of RWF 5,000, 2,000, 1,000 and 500. Coins are in denominations of RWF100, 50, 20, 10 and 5.

The import and export of local currency is limited to RWF5000. The import and export of foreign currency is unlimited, but must be declared upon arrival and exchanged within 8 days.

Banking

Banking hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1200 and 1400-1700, Sat 0800-1200.

Credit cards are only accepted at a few hotels in Kigali. MasterCard and Visa are the preferred cards.

International Visa cards are accepted at the ATMs at Ecobank head office in Kigali and at Kigali airport. They can also be used at the ATMs at Access Bank head office in Kigali. However, these ATMs are often affected by power cuts. It is best to travel with US dollars, some banks won’t accept pound sterling.

It may be difficult to change traveller's cheques outside Kigali.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Akagera Aviation provides helicopter flights all over the country. Rwandair flies internally to the southeastern town of Cyangugu.

There is a lot of work being done to improve the roads, and in some places you will find smooth tarmac, while in others you will be going along pot-holed dirt paths.A 4-wheel drive vehicle is needed for some local roads. There can be landslides on some of the major roads during annual rainfall in spring and autumn.Extra care should be taken at night, as headlight use is erratic. During rainy season some roads can become impassable.

There are no international car hire companies operating in Rwanda, but there are several local companies. You will find these listed in the Eye magazine given away at the airport and in hotels. 

Taxis can be found in large towns and cities. Look for the official orange stripe. Fares are reasonable, but should be agreed in advance (ask a local if you think you are being overcharged). Tipping is not expected.

Bicycle and scooter taxis are the quickest and cheapest way to get around in the towns, however they are risky.

Minibus taxis provide links to and from all towns and some villages. Although it is not common for foreigners to travel this way, they are quite safe and efficient. However you will have to wait until they are full before departure if you get on at the start of the route. The Virunga Express (www.virungatravel.com) and Onatracom Express provide more direct intercity links.

Rwandans drive on the right. It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving unless with a hands-free set. Seat belts must be worn in the front. It is advised not to drive after drinking, breathalisers are in use and if found to have more than 0.8 mg of alcohol per 1 litre of blood, you are likely to face imprisonment. Speed limits are 40km/per hour in the city and 60km outside the city. If the car in front is using the left indicator it often means it is not safe to overtake, the right indicator tells you the road ahead is clear.

An International Driving Permit is required. An entry permit is needed if you have travelled from outside the country, insurance document and driving licence.

You can hire a boat to take you from Gisenyi to Kibuye if you ask at one of the lakeside hotels.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Food is generally safe to eat if well-cooked and hot. If in doubt, veer towards larger restaurants in cities and those aimed at tourists, which will have undergone government safety checks. Avoid buying food from the side of the road and don’t drink tap water. Use bottled water or otherwise boil or sterilise. Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised. Avoid dairy products that are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

The majority of the population in Rwanda live off subsistence farming and so their meals rely heavily on starchy crops such as potato, maize and cassava. This is generally served with kidney beans and cabbage and where meat can be afforded it is most often goat. However, the restaurants of Kigali and other towns will generally serve grilled meat with french fries and sometimes rice with spicy stews.

Hotels generally serve a reasonable choice of European dishes, and there are Chinese, Greek, Indian, Italian and Middle Eastern restaurants. Some restaurants also serve Franco-Belgian cuisine and African dishes. A fairly good selection of beers, spirits and wines is available. Beer is also brewed locally.

You will see brochettes on most menus, these are basically a skewer of your chosen meat or fish served with rice or chips. Other local specialities include: tilapia, a white fish found in Lake Kivu and also farmed locally and appears often on menus; Matoke, cooked plantain, which may be served when you are expecting potatoes (and usually tastes a lot like potatoes!)

Primus is the local beer of choice. Mutzig is very similar but more expensive and often comes in large 700ml bottles. The local banana wine is for the brave, it is called urwangwa and you should be able to pick up a bottle in a supermarket to try in the privacy of your room.

There is no clear principle on tipping in Rwanda, but most staff in the bigger hotels have come to expect it, as have guides and trackers. A general rule is to tip 10% in restaurants if you feel inclined and give $5 - $10 to guides, trackers and porters.


Climate and Weather

Despite its proximity to the equator, due to the high altitude of most of the country, Rwanda has a temperate climate with temperatures seldom climbing above 25C. The long dry season is from June to September and there are two annual rainy seasons, the first from mid-March until the beginning of June and small rains from mid-September to December. The best time for gorilla and monkey tracking is the dry season - if only to spare you getting drenched (you can still see them in the rain, they just get a bit grumpy). The dry season is also good if you want to see game in Akagera National Park because thirst will draw the animals to the watering holes. You will also find at this time the roads are less dangerous and the risk of malaria is lower. The rainy season is the best time to see chimpanzees and is also the time when the place is at its most lush and green.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Lightweight cotton or linen clothing is recommended for most of the year with warmer clothes for cooler upland evenings. Rainwear is advisable especially during the rainy season and sunglasses, sunscreen and a sunhat are recommended year round. A good pair of walking shoes is essential.


Internet Availability

Wireless internet is now available throughout the country, either by using a dongle, which can be purchased in Kigali and other major towns, or by using WiFi hotspots. MTN hotspots are widespread and you can access them using your mobile phone credit if you have bought an MTN SIM card. There are also many internet cafes in Kigali and other large towns.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Rwanda are one of the two European standard electrical socket types: The "Type C" Europlug and the "Type E" and "Type F" Schuko. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for both types.

Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Republic of Rwanda (République du Rwanda) usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.

But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. North American sockets supply electricity at between 110 and 120 volts, far lower than in most of the rest of the world. Consequently, North American appliances are generally built for 110-120 volts.


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