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About South Africa

The quick guide to South Africa for interns

What languages do South Africans speak? Is South Africa a democracy? Are there big cities with modern amenities? Are the roads tarred? How far will my money go? You've got three minutes to spare? Here's the lowdown on why South Africa 's going to surprise you ...

Welcome to the southern tip of Africa . Here, two great oceans meet, warm weather lasts most of the year, and big game roams just beyond the city lights.

This is where humanity began: our ancestors' traces are still evident in fossilised footprints 80 000 years old, and in the world's oldest rock paintings.

Today, this country is the powerhouse of Africa , the most advanced, broad-based economy on the continent, with infrastructure to match any first-world nation.

You can drive on wide, tarred highways all 1 600 kilometres from Messina at the very top of the country to Cape Town at the bottom. Or join eight million passengers who disembark at our airports every year.

Two-thirds of Africa 's electricity is generated here. Forty percent of the phones are here. Twenty percent of the world's gold is mined here. And almost everyone who visits is astonished at how far a dollar will stretch. Welcome to the Republic of South Africa.

What languages do people speak?

There are 11 officially recognised languages, most of them indigenous to South Africa . Forty percent of the population speak either isiZulu or isiXhosa. You don't speak either? Not to worry. Everywhere you go, you can expect to find people who speak or understand English. Road signs and official forms are in English. The President makes his speeches in English. At any hotel, the receptionists, waiters and porters will speak English. English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government, of road signs and official documents. Another major language is Afrikaans, a derivative of Dutch. Northern Europeans will find it surprisingly easy to follow Afrikaans.

Africa is full of dictatorships. Is South Africa a democracy?

South Africa is a vigorous multi-party democracy with an independent judiciary and a free and diverse press. The world's newest - and most progressive - constitution protects both citizens and visitors. You won't be locked up for shouting out your opinions, however contrary. But be careful about smoking cigarettes in crowded restaurants!

Who lives in South Africa?

Some 43 million people live here. Almost 77% are black (or African), 11% white and 9% "coloured", the local label for people of mixed African, Asian and white descent. Just over half the population live in the cities. Three-quarters are Christian, with the largest church the indigenous Zion Christian Church, followed by the Dutch Reformed and Catholic churches. Most of the other major world religions are represented here, but none has a following greater than 2%.

What's the weather like?
Summery, without being sweltering. In Johannesburg , the country's commercial heart, the weather is mild all year round, but can get cool at night. Durban , the biggest port, is hot and sometimes humid, a surfing paradise. And in Cape Town , where the tourists flock to admire one of the world's most spectacular settings, the weather is usually warm, but temperamental. If you're visiting from the Northern Hemisphere, just remember: when it's winter over there, it's summer over here. Bring sunglasses and suntan lotion; leave the mackintosh at home.
Is it a big country?
To a European, yes. The country straddles 1.2-million square kilometres, as big as several European countries added together. To an American, maybe not - it's an eighth the size of the USA . Still, it's a two-day drive down the highway from Johannesburg in the north to Cape Town in the south, with the topography ranging from lush green valleys to semi-desert.

Does South Africa have big cities with modern amenities?

There's more to Africa than lions. Johannesburg , a city of skyscrapers, sprawls wider than London or New York . The lights work, the water flows, there are multi-lane highways and - unfortunately - traffic jams. You can book into a Hilton or a Hyatt or a Holiday Inn and eat at cosmopolitan restaurants serving anything from sushi to burgers to crocodile steaks. Or you can just lie back on a couch and choose from five analogue and 53 digital TV channels.

What are the big cities?

There are two capitals. Cape Town , the oldest city, is the legislative capital, where Parliament sits. Pretoria , 1 500 kilometres to the north, is the executive capital, where the government administration is housed. Next door to Pretoria , and close enough that the outer suburbs merge, is the commercial centre of Johannesburg , once the world's greatest gold mining centre, now increasingly dominated by modern financial and service sectors. The second-biggest city is Durban , a fast-growing port on the eastern coast, and the supply route for most goods to the interior.

You say the roads are tarred?

Yes, even in the smallest towns, where main roads often date back to the 19th century, and are wide enough to turn ox-wagons. Outside the cities, there are 8 000 kilometres of tarred and regularly maintained national highway, plus a thousand more kilometres of toll roads. Almost 1 500 kilometres of those routes are dual carriageway, with this number constantly rising. The national railway has 30 600 kilometres of rail track connecting the smallest hamlets. Some 3 600 locomotives pull 124 000 wagons of freight each day. There are three international airports big enough to land jumbos, 10 national airports large enough for most big commercial jets, and another 700 smaller airports.

I'll be able to phone home?

The phones work, and they dial abroad. The country's telecommunications operator Telkom, part government and part foreign owned, is the 28th largest in the world, and accounts for 39% of the phone lines on the African continent. It is well ahead of targets on an ambitious scheme to push telecommunications into the remotest rural communities. Cellular phones are ubiquitous in South Africa , where there were 11.2 million users in January 2001 - a figure that grows by 9 000 each day.

What about apartheid?

Over a dozen years ago, South Africa was known for "apartheid" or white-minority rule. But the country's remarkable ability to put centuries of racial hatred behind it in favour of reconciliation was widely considered a social "miracle" and inspired similar peace attempts elsewhere, such as Northern Ireland and Rwanda . These days, post-apartheid South Africa has a government comprising all races, and is better known as the "rainbow nation", a phrase coined by Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Are there modern banks?

You can use Visa and Mastercard almost everywhere, and bank by ATM or online. There's a sophisticated financial sector, abreast of all the latest technological trends. There are 13 commercial and merchant banks, and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is the world's 15th largest in terms of market capitalisation.

How far will my money go?

Okay, not as far as it would have some years ago, when South Africa 's currency was well over 10 to the US dollar. Now the rand is a lot stronger (in July 2005 it was at around R6/$, R8/€ and R11/£), but with the exchange rate still definitely in your favour, you'll find South Africa a very inexpensive destination.

What about mineral resources?

This is one of earth's great treasure troves. South Africa is the world's leading producer of gold (20% of the world total), vermiculite (75%), vanadium (62%), ferrochromium (44%), chrome (48%) and alumino-silicates (60%). It is number two in the world in platinum (43%), zirconium (26%) and titanium (23%), and number three in manganese (14%). And all that excludes diamonds - some of the world's most spectacular stones come from here.

And the animals?

The animals alone are reason to visit. One of the world's first wildlife conservation areas was South Africa 's Kruger Park , more than a century old. Today it is just one part of a single broad conservation area that spans private and public game parks, and even stretches across national borders into neighbouring Mozambique and Zimbabwe . An hour's drive from such urban jungles as Pretoria and Johannesburg , you can see lions, elephants, buffalo and hundreds more species in their natural environments. South Africa is also a bird watchers' paradise.

Of course there are other reasons for holidays too: like golden beaches, some of the world's best surf, spectacular scenery ranging from mountains to deserts, eco-systems found nowhere else in the world, an opportunity to experience African culture . and dollar for dollar, one of the least expensive holiday places you'll find.

Travel info

Getting to South Africa

Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesberg is the major airport in South Africa and is the hub for 45 airlines from all five continents. Flights from Europe are generally overnight and just a sleep away - an aperitif, dinner, sound sleep, and a good breakfast - and voila, you're in South Africa! The direct flights between the USA and Johannesburg or Cape Town are about 15 hours, and flights between London and Johannesburg take about 12 hours.


Time differences

South Africa operates two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year, making it an hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time and seven hours behind Australian Central Time.


Passports & visas

All visitors to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport in order to enter the country, and in some cases, a visa. The passport must contain at least ONE unused page when presenting the passport for endorsements.

Travellers from certain regions of the world (Scandinavia, Japan, the USA, and most Western European and Commonwealth countries) do not need to formally apply for a visa. Upon arrival in South Africa, countries falling into this category will automatically be given a free entry permit sticker that outlines how long they may remain in the country. This automatic entry permit is usually for a maximum of 90 days, though the immigration officer may tailor the time period according to the airline tickets held. Foreign nationals from some other countries are offered this service, but for a maximum of 30 days. If visitors want to stay for a longer period, they will have to apply formally for a visa, as opposed to relying on the automatic entry permit.

To determine whether you require a visa to enter South Africa, visit the South African Home Affairs Department.
Find South African missions abroad



Visitors who are entering South Africa from a yellow fever zone must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate. Only infants under the age of one year are exempt. Immunisation against cholera and small pox are not required and no other vaccinations are required when visiting South Africa.


Banks and money

The currency unit is the Rand, denoted by the symbol R, with 100 cents(c) making up R1 (one Rand). Coins come in 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R 5 denominations. Notes come in R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200 denominations. Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks and Bureaux de Changes. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, American Express and Diner’s Card less so. You can also use Visa Electron and Maestro cards to access money at cash machines(ATM’s).


Calling home

South Africa has only one landline telephone provider called Telkom. Making international calls can be quite costly. You can save on calls home by calling during the off-peak period which is between 7p.m and 7a.m the next morning. Telkom also sells World Call cards which offer cheaper international rates.
Some backpacker lodges and internet shops have skype facilities which you can use for a free.
You can also call home or send text messages using your mobile phone.


Mobile phones

Mobile phone operators use the GSM system. Bring along your mobile phone and arrange international roaming before you leave. Alternatively, use ‘pay-as-you-go’ with one of the three mobile networks.



Cities have broadband internet access and some WI-FI spots. Many travellers carry their laptops. Dial-up access is available throughout the country.


Safety & crime

Most parts of the country can be safely visited by tourists provided they take basic common-sense precautions (for example not walking alone in deserted areas at night and being circumspect about how much photographic equipment or flashy jewellery you carry. Most of the crime that takes place in South Africa is between people who know each other and random acts of violence are the minority of cases. Most major cities run organized crime prevention programmes.
If you are in doubt as to the safety of a particular area or attraction, contact the National Tourism information and Safety Line on 083 123 2345. This number may also be used for practical assistance in replacing lost documents or reporting incidents.


Women travellers

South African men may be sexist, but the country is safe for women travellers, even those travelling alone.


Disabled travellers

Generally speaking, our facilities for disabled visitors can be improved. Few backpacker hostels have wheelchair ramps and bathroom facilities for the disabled. Almost every national park has at least one accessible chalet and many accommodation establishments other than backpacker hostels have one or two wheelchair-friendly rooms. Most of our sports stadiums have accessible suites, stands or areas for wheelchairs near accessible parking as well as special toilet facilities. Most public buildings also cater for wheelchair access.



The seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are directly opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere. For summer months, lightweight (cottons and linens), short-sleeved clothes are best, although a light jersey/jumper might be needed for the cooler evenings. Umbrellas and raincoats are essential for the summers and the Western Cape winters. Warmer clothes are needed for the winter months.


Sun protection

South Africans have a good laugh at the expense of lobster red tourists. The sun is dangerously hot and we don’t want you to get sunburn, or even worse, skin cancer. Please pack sunblock, sunglasses and a hat and remember to use them religiously. Try to stay out of the sun between 10a.m and three p.m. If you have to be out, even in windy and cloudy weather, be generous with the sunblock and don’t forget the back of your neck and the tops of your ears. Re-apply frequently.



Many foreigners are unaware that South Africa has a well-developed infrastructure, high standards of water treatment and medical facilities equal to the best in the world. Here we address any health and safety questions you may have.


Hospitals & medical care

In a great many medical disciplines, South Africa is a global leader. In fact, South African trained doctors are sought after all over the world, so this should give an indication of the standard of medical care available. There is a large network of public and private hospitals countrywide, offering excellent service. However, clients must have adequate health insurance to cover the fees private hospitals charge.



Without going into the stats, we can tell you that AIDS is a big problem in South Africa. AIDS does not discriminate between races, but the sad truth is that most victims are black. Many tourists come to our country curious about the sexuality of Africans. Holiday flings between travellers are also common. If you’re going to have sex in Southern Africa with anyone, a local or a fellow traveller, always use condoms. Using condoms is not the African way, that’s why AIDS and HIV statistics in Southern Africa are so sad. It’s also why you alone are responsible for protecting yourself.



Malaria is found only in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo and on the Maputaland coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Malaria is not much of a risk in the winter months. Although the incidence of malaria is rare, it would be best to take adequate precautions if you choose to visit these areas.
Our government has embarked on an extensive anti-malaria programme (in co-operation with Swaziland and Mozambique) and the incidence of malaria is decreasing. One reassuring thing about malaria is that there is absolutely no way at all that you can contract it unless you are bitten by an infected mosquito. And with modern insect repellents and some common sense one can reduce the chances of being bitten to close to zero.
The cheapest, safest and most effective measures against malaria are physical barriers such as a mosquito net, and the use of a good insect repellent. If you decide to take malaria prophylaxis, it is essential that you take the drugs according to the directions on the package insert. You will need to start a week or two before entering a malaria-endemic area and should continue taking the drugs for four weeks after leaving the malaria risk area. It is advisable to consult a medical professional before embarking on a course of malaria prophylaxis. Note that expectant mothers should avoid malaria medications.


Water and food

As a rule, tap water in South Africa is safe to drink as it is treated and is free of harmful microorganisms. In hotels, restaurants and nightspots, the standards of hygiene and food preparation top-notch. It is safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks - a good thing, too, after a day on the beach or in the bush.


Road safety

Our transport infrastructure is excellent and our roads are in good condition. However, the distances between towns are significant, so if you're planning to self-drive, it is a good idea to plan your itinerary to ensure they don't drive long distances as fatigue is a major cause of road accidents. Avoid long car journeys that necessitate driving at night as it always carries more risk. Also, in some of the more remote rural areas, the roads are not fenced so there may be stray animals on the road - which could be very dangerous at night. (Cows don't have headlights).
We have very strict drinking and driving laws - with a maximum allowable alcohol blood content of 0.05%. Translated that means about one glass of wine for the average woman and perhaps 1.5 or two for the average or large man. Our speed limits are 120kmph on the open road, 100kmph on smaller roads and between 60 and 80kmph in towns. Be aware that even major national roads cut through residential areas so there may be a speed limit of 80 or 60kmph on a road that looks like an autobahn. This is to protect pedestrians, especially children, so we really do encourage people to comply.



All visitors intending to drive are required to obtain an international drivers permit, visitors found driving without a permit will be fined and not permitted to continue on their journey. Visitors will also not be able to rent a car without a valid driver's permit. The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory and strictly enforced by law. Click here for more info



South Africa's electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 Hz. The exceptions are Pretoria (230 V) and Port Elizabeth (200/250 V)
Most plugs have three round pins but some plugs with two smaller pins are also found on appliances. Adaptors can be purchased but may be in short supply. US-made appliances may need a transformer.


Eating out

South Africa is steadily gaining a reputation for it’s excellent restaurants. Tourists are particularly impressed with the quality of beef, lamb and seafood. Adventurous eaters can sample Venison, crocodile and ostrich. Even our home-grown franchise burger joints beat McDonalds anyday. All restaurants cater for vegetarians. Ask your backpacker hostel for their pick of restaurants in the area or visit www.stufftodo.co.za for great ideas



Most restaurants do not add a service charge to bills - thus it is customary to leave a 10-15% tip. Parking and petrol station attendants should be given whatever small change you have available. This is always appreciated, even though it may seem a small amount.



Most major shopping centres and malls operate 7 days a week, but you will find that in the smaller towns and rural areas that shops are closed on a Sunday. General opening hours are 9a.m to 5p.m on weekdays and 9a.m to 2.pm on a Sunday. Don’t be surprised to find supermarkets open for your convenience until 8 at night.
Markets, shops and galleries sell a wide variety of African arts and crafts. You can find exquisite sculptures, beading, jewellery, fabric, grasswork and many other beautiful things. Designs are both traditional and contemporary.




Value-added-tax (VAT) is charged on most items. Foreign tourists to South Africa can have their 14% VAT refunded provided that the value of the items purchased exceeds R250. VAT is refunded at the point of departure provided receipts are produced.


Text sourced from South African Tourism

South Africa, what a amazing place for interns

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About Cape Town

Cape Town is an incredibly vibrant, friendly and beautiful city with all the charm and simplicity of Africa , but with first world business opportunities. Now ranked as one of the world's number one tourist destinations, Cape Town offers a wonderful platform for young people interested in doing an internship in any number of jobs and industries.

Cape Town offers something different from other locations. With the end of apartheid, the country is changing dramatically. An internship in Cape Town is one that you will never forget.

The city of Cape Town is one of the most beautiful places in the world! Historically, the entire country has gone through many changes, but due to the vast array of different cultures and energies, there are many valuable and challenging opportunities for Interns.

Race relations and social integration would be a great internship for those interested in sociology and psychology, and these internships could be found within NGO or non-profit agencies. For those interested in exploring the field of medicine there are clinics or orphanages that are always interested in an extra pair of hands. And of course, there are also many business opportunities for those interested in learning about commerce and finance.

Cape Town offers so many opportunities that we really cannot list them all. It is up to you to tell us what you want to do and we will make the internship happen for you. There are numerous opportunities available - you tell us what your interests are and we will work to find the right internship for you. Your life will only become more complicated, so why not take the plunge and experience a real African adventure!

Because of our diverse background a lot of our words are made up from a couple different languages. Below you will find some of them:

Hello - Howzit
How are you? - Hows it going?
Nice - Lekker
Sidewalk - Pavement
Traffic light - Robot
Now now - in the next 3 hours
Soonish - in the next hour
Right now - in the next 10 minutes
Barbeque - Braai
Drink - Dop
Party - Jol
Free - Gratis
Friend - Bra

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