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Summary: At the southern tip of Africa lies South Africa, which has a vast interior plateau rimmed by hills and mountains, and with narrow plains closer to the coastline. The British and the Dutch Boers dominated the more recent history of South Africa, and after the end of apartheid the economy is strong and based on the natural resources of gold and diamonds, with modern financial, communications and energy sectors, while the government works with the UN to combat AIDS.

Capital: Pretoria
Time Zone: UTC+2
Population: 42,718,530
Languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu
Power: 220/230V, 50 Hz
Currency: South African Rand - Currently 1 ZAR = 0.1487 USD $
Climate: South Africa hs a climate that is mostly semiarid, yet more subtropical along the east coast, and typically has many sunny days and cooler nights.


Pretoria: Although Pretoria, nicknamed the Jacaranda City for its flowers, has beautiful parks and gardens, it is often overlooked for its neighbor Johannesburg. The capital has museums to keep you busy, for art, history and geology, and is best served after a day of enjoyment as a jumping point to other parts of the country. Kruger National Park, about 170 miles to the east of the capital, is one of the world's finest nature reserves with all many of picturebook animals.

Cape Town: Sitting in the far southwestern corner of the country, Cape Town hides between the Table Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, two of many prime attractions for hikers and beachgoers. The Cultural History Museum has fine collections, while the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront attracts more than 20 million visitors every year for the water, the architecture, and the shopping, and you can book an excursion to the nearby Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, where eagles and cormorants fly above rare species of plant and the occasional lynx.

Johannesburg : A city that requires a dash of common sense and a pinch of reality, Johannesburg, or Jo'berg, has the capital close enough to be considered a suburb. The Afrikana Museum is good for displaying the city's and country's history, and the nearby Market Theatre complex, complete with bar and art gallery, is good for catching live productions, then take your pick from the Planetarium, the Johannesburg Art Gallery by Joubert Park, or the SAB World of Beer museum.

Durban: Durban didn't get the same Surf City for nothing ? it is a great getaway spot for the simple life of relaxation, partying and fun in a subtropical city. Surf at the Gremmies, at Ansteys Beach, or one of the more than dozen prime surfing spots, break away for a trip to city hall to see the museum and art collection, then head to a bar and grill to start the night off. Head to the Drakensberg, the Dragon Mountains, to the west for hiking, climbing, or exploring rock painting sites, and bring a sweater if you go mid-year.

Port Elizabeth: Port Elizabeth is one of the finest stops along the Garden Route, the fragrant southern coastline of South Africa. The opera house rivals its Shakespearean counterpart of Stratford in Canada for plays and parks, and the nearby wildlife reserves are within an easy drive. Stop over at the Shipwreck Coast, another 175 miles to the east, where the main hiking trail leads through wilderness for an overnight camping trip after fishing, surfing, or diving around Lock Ard.

Security: Pay attention to your surroundings, lock your doors as soon as you enter your car as carjacking is infrequent but can occur, avoid overt displays of money or tourist trappings, and keep your eye on your purse or wallet in crowded places. In spite of this, the country is politically stable and tourist resorts keep you away from almost any trouble.

Culture: South African culture is surprisingly similar to European or North American culture. Casual dress is just fine, and dressing up for formal events is appropriate. Despite the 11 official languages in South Africa, most road signs are in English and Afrikaans.

Currency: Get familiar with your currency, as bills are similar, and older coins mix with more newly introduced coins. The wide availability of ATMs, along with the wide acceptance of credit cards and traveler's checks, make it easy to get around.

When To Visit: The peak tourist season is split, with one rush from December to January, and smaller rushes periodically from April to September, so traveling outside this period will mean lower rates and quieter attractions and beaches.

Food: South African dishes are strongly influenced by the British, so although more traditional dishes of rice are common, served with meat or vegetarian stews, English meals, like steak and chips, or fries, sausage and boiled vegetables, are just as common. South Africa is rapidly gaining recognition for having great Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tipping: Follow standard tipping rules and add 10% to 15% for good service to your bill, and a few Rand to porters and other service staff.

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