There are 11 official languages in South Africa. Afrikaans, Zulu, English, Xhosa and Sotho are just a few of the many languages spoken.

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South Africa’s official currency is the rand, which breaks down into 100 cents. ATMs are easy to find and you can exchange money at banks, larger hotels and exchange bureaus. Major credit cards are widely accepted, but gas stations are cash only. Be careful when using ATMs; there are high levels of credit card fraud associated with ATM use. Some of the larger hotels and shops will accept traveler’s checks or foreign currency, but they will charge commission.

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South Africa’s international country code is 27. To call another country from South Africa, dial 00 followed by the appropriate country code. You won’t be able to use international phone cards, but you can get pay-as-you-go SIM cards for your cell phone. There are also plenty of pay phones that take both coins and cards. Internet cafes are easy to find.

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Waiters customarily get 10 percent tips, unless a service charge has already been included in the bill. Porters, taxi drivers, gas attendants and golf caddies expect tips. People calling themselves “car guards” will offer to watch your parked car. They are usually immigrants looking for work and should be tipped at least two rand.

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South Africa has high crime rates. Incidents are concentrated around townships, but opportunistic crime can happen anywhere. Always lock your car door when driving. Be very cautious in Berea and Hillbrow in Johannesburg, where the risk is high.

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No vaccinations are required, unless you are coming from an area infected with yellow fever. Then you will need to provide a yellow fever vaccination certificate. The low-lying areas of Mpumalanga, including Kruger National Park, northeastern Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Northern Province have a risk of malaria. There are also high rates of HIV/AIDS. The tap water in urban areas is safe, but needs to be sterilized elsewhere. Cholera outbreaks occur in the poor, rural communities, especially in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Northern KwaZulu Natal provinces. There have also been extensive outbreaks of drug-resistant TB. Avoid public hospitals. Private hospitals are good, but require cash up front. Make sure you have health insurance coverage.

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South Africa’s electrical current is 220 and 230 volts, 50Hz and uses round, three-pinned plugs.

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Melisse Hinkle
A New England native but explorer at heart, Melisse has lived in four U.S. cities, spent a summer in Hawaii, made her way through wine-producing regions in Australia and New Zealand, and traveled around Europe while studying abroad in London. She is the Content Manager for the U.S. and Canada at Cheapflights.
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