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South Africa

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Capital: Pretoria (administrative), Cape Town (legislative) and Bloemfontein (judicial)
Population: 50 million (2010)
Currency: Rand, R1 = 100 cents
Official languages: South Africa has eleven official languages: Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga
Time difference: UTC +2
South Africa...
...is located in the southernmost part of the African continent. South Africa is largely surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Indian Ocean in the south and east. In the north, South Africa is bordering to Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe and to the east to Mozambique and Swaziland. Lesotho forms an enclave in South Africa's eastern part.

South Africa is a scenic and culturally rich country that is largely surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Since apartheid was abolished, tourism has increased significantly and the flow of international visitors rises annually. South Africa has a lot to offer in terms of both experiences, adventures, golf, diving, and, not least, stunning scenery and a rich wildlife and tourism is one of South Africa's fastest growing industries.

With its 50 million residents, South Africa is the largest economy on the African continent, and economic growth has led to increased investment in public services and infrastructure. South Africa is well known for its large diamond and gold resources, and this represent 50% of the country's total exports. In addition to gold and diamonds, South Africa is also the world's largest producer of the metals manganese, platinum and chromium.

The population of South Africa is ethnically very complex and there has been a lot of immigration from other African countries as well as from Europe and Asia. The largest group consists of blacks who belong to different Bantu speaking people. These are, on the basis of linguistic and historical traditions, divided into four main groups - Nguni, Sotho, Venda and Tsonga. The people of European descent are mainly Afrikaans and English speaking, but there are also large groups of Greeks, Italians and Portuguese. The Asian part of the population consists mainly of descendants of Indian immigrants and Malays.

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South Africa has freedom of religion and about 4/5 of the population profess Christianity, but also Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and traditional African religions are widespread throughout the population.

Geologically, South Africa can be divided into three different zones - the broad inland plateau, the surrounding mountainous areas and the narrow coastal strip.

The area along the southwestern coast, that has winter rain, has a temperate vegetation with Mediterranean touches, while the southeastern coast has more of subtropical vegetation. South Africa's inland consists mainly of savannah and steppe vegetation that, when getting further to the north and west, changes into semi-desert and desert. South Africa has a very rich flora and fauna, and large nature areas has been recognised as protected national parks.

South Africa's climate is considered to be mostly subtropical, but given that it's a very big country there are large regional variations.

The Cape has its own weather pattern that is completely different to anywhere else in Africa - and this explains why the flora of the Cape is so unique! From about November to March, while it's raining in the rest of southern Africa, these parts of the country offers warm, sunny and dry days, and generally it's a perfect time for a holiday. Christmas and New Year's are beautiful in the Cape, but this also results in a lot of South Africans spending their holidays there.

The eastern parts of South Africa receives considerably more rain, between 500 mm and 1000 mm per year, and this is because of the trade winds. Most of the rain falls during the summer months. South Africa is always threatened by drought and about half of the country receives less than 400 mm of precipitation a year. Because of the heat the evaporation is significant.

From about April to August, it will be cooler and there will also be a bit of rain. During these months, it may be nice and dry one moment, but stormy and wet the next. The amount of rainfall is the highest around June and July, but the weather in the Cape is notoriously variable; locals say that you can have "four seasons in one day". Nonetheless, this area is still nice to visit, as long as you do not expect to sunbathe all day.

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In September and October rain becomes less common, the sun comes out more and more and the temperature rises again. September is the beginning of spring, when large parts of the fynbos begins to flower in Namaqualand (north of Cape Town). In the western parts of South Africa, the climate is relatively dry and becomes drier the further north you get, and the annual rainfall is below 200 mm. Northern Cape, including the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, follow Botswana's weather patterns.

Additional information
Depending of your country of origin, you might need a visa to travel to South Africa on holiday, please check with the South African Consulate or Embassy in your country for more information.

Some parts of South Africa are high risk area for malaria and it’s recommended that you obtain malaria prophylaxis prior to departure if you are going to visit these areas.

South Africa’s tap water is safe to drink but in some areas drinking water contains a lot of minerals and although it is safe to drink it, it sometimes does not always taste that good. If you travel to the countryside or stay in the bush it may in some areas be unwise to drink the tap water.

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Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted in South Africa. There are also plenty of ATMs in South Africa, unless you're visiting remote areas.
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