Also known as the Republic of South Africa, South Africa is located at the very southern tip of the African continent. The southern borders of the country enjoy the temperate waters of the South Atlantic and Indian oceans, making it a popular travel destination with international travelers. On her northern borders, South Africa’s neighbors include Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia, while on her northeastern borders are found Swaziland and Mozambique. South Africa is home to over 53 million people composed of multi-ethnicities, a variety of religions, cultures, and languages. Because of its diversity, South Africa is commonly known as the “Rainbow Nation”.
South Africa has a long and fascinating history, with archaeological human fossil remains found that date back approximately 170,000 years. In the 1600s, the colony of Cape Town was founded by the Dutch East India Company. The Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost tip of South Africa, was a popular seat portage route for centuries, and control of the area caused numerous battles and wars between the Dutch, the English, and native Africans. South Africa has a history of numerous wars, including the Boer Wars of the 1820s that lasted on and off until the turn of the 20th century. In 1961, South Africa became a republic that strongly supported apartheid, its own version of racial segregation that had developed after the Second World War. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that apartheid was discouraged.
Languages and Religion
A large number of languages and dialects are spoken in South Africa and the constitution recognizes 11 official languages. The two most commonly spoken languages in the country are Afrikaans and English. A large majority of South Africans speak Bantu languages and the most common after Afrikaans is Northern Sotho and Southern Sotho.
The main religion practiced in South Africa is Christian, with nearly 80% of the population belonging to various Christian denominations including Dutch Reformed, Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Pentecostal. A small number of the population practice Muslim, Hindu, or traditional African religions.
The climate in South Africa is temperate due to South Africa’s location. From the Kalahari Desert in the north to the coastal belts, South Africa is typically warm year-round, with a weather pattern similar to that of the Mediterranean.
Places and Cities to Visit
Because of her people, culture, and her geography, South Africa is popular with international tourists. Travelers from around the world envision South Africa as a prime location for safaris and lounging on thousands of kilometers of beautiful coastlines. Some favorite travel destinations in South Africa are not to be missed.
- Scenic Garden Route – the drive along the Scenic Garden Route is staggering in its beauty. The section of road winds from Mossel Bay to Storms River with a variety of stopping points along the way. This particular route South Africa incorporates nearly a dozen nature reserves.
- Visit the historical town of Stellenbosch, the oldest in South Africa, first established in 1679. The area today is known as wine country, with large productions of different types of wines.
- Ride an ostrich at Oudtshoorn.
- Visit the beaches of Durban. Durbin is one of the most popular travel destinations in South Africa, known for her beautiful beaches, friendly people and delicious food options. The “Golden Mile” of Durban beaches are shark free zones, and also home to the Marine World Aquarium and the Victoria Indian Street Market.
- Kruger National Park – you can’t go to Africa without taking part in a safari at Kruger National Park. Founded in 1898, Kruger National Park is one of the most famous in Africa, located within a five-hour driving distance of Johannesburg.
Of course, there are many other beautiful, interesting and historical sites to see in South Africa. When planning your visit to the country, plan on renting a car for at least a portion of your stay so that you can drive to some of these most beautiful and famous locations at your leisure.
Car Hire Services
Renting a car in South Africa is relatively easy. Like any other country, you need a variety of documents that include your driver’s license, an international driving permit or license, and your passport. Also be aware that you are required to have had a valid driver’s license for the prior five years in order to rent a car in South Africa.
Many visitors to South Africa are surprised by the excellent condition in which the roads are maintained, and four-wheel-drive vehicles are generally not necessary. Be aware that rental cars in South Africa are equipped with right-side driving wheels. You drive on the left side of the road. Seat belt use is compulsory in the front seat, but is also certainly encourage for backseat passengers as well. In South Africa, you’re not allowed to use a cell phone when driving. Many roads are not lit at night, so avoid driving at night time if at all possible.
Compare rates and options through some of the most popular car rental agencies located at airports and major cities in South Africa:
When in South Africa, obey the rules of the road. The maximum speed limit in South Africa, on both the national and metropolitan highways is 120 kph (75 mph). On public non-city roads, the speed limit averages 100 kph (60 mph). Inside urban, city or town limits, the speed limit is 60 kph (35 mph). Observe speed limits posted on road signs.
Also be aware that traffic circles are relatively common throughout South Africa. Drivers must yield to traffic already inside the traffic circle, and always enter such circles with extreme caution. South Africa also has strict drunk driving laws. The maximum blood-alcohol content level allowed a 0.05%. Last but not least, be aware that it is illegal to park your vehicle on opposite sides of the roads facing oncoming traffic in South Africa.