In 1997, during visits by members of the International Olympic Committe because Cape Town was shortlisted to host the Olympic Games, some comittee members were surprised to find tarred roads and first world standards.

So what should you expect on a first visit to South Africa?

As a tourist you'll find the same standards that you would expect anywhere else.  And you will be aware of how affluent, first world standards contrast to the poverty nearby.

The following refers mainly to the larger cities although some unforgettably good memories will be found in the country areas.

Accommodation
You really are spoiled for choice - ranging from some of the leading hotels in the world to guest houses and B&B's that provide outstanding hospitality and value for money, to internationally renowned game lodges, golf estates and more.  Click here for more.

Banking
South Africa has a very sophisticated banking sector and many innovations that were introduced elsewhere in the world were trialled in South Africa first.

Banking hours are generally between 09h00 and 15h30 on Mondays to Fridays and 09h00 to 11h00 on Saturdays but you will find some branches with adapted or extended hours.

You will find ATM's everywhere although some do shut down after business hours if they are in areas that are not particularly safe.  If you need to use an ATM and are concerned about security - which is a good idea - rather use ATM's in shops or petrol stations, many of which are open 24 hours a day.

Dining out
Dining out is comparatively cheaper than many other countries, especially when it comes to fine dining, and liquor costs are almost always lower.

And, depending where you go, you can expect a dining experience second to none.  British Airways cabin crews voted Cape Town the best city in the world for dining out.

Electricity
Much has been made of the shortcomings of South Africa's power utility in recent years.  They have promised no power outages during World Cup.  But after the bitter experience of the past few years, most hotels, shopping centres and other businesses installed emergency power generators.

Electrical current in South Africa is 220 volt and adaptors for foreign plugs can be purchased at many supermarkets and luggage stores.

Medical emergencies
South Africa has a proud history of medical achievements, notably the world's first heart transplant.  While state hospitals have become run down in recent years, private hospitals provide excellent healthcare services.

Personal safety
Providing you take care where you go and practice good common sense, you are as safe in South Africa's main tourist areas as you would be anywhere else in South Africa.  You're bound to have been told how dangerous it is so for an explanation click here.

Public transport
While intercity trains like the Blue Train and Rovos Rail are world renowned, South Africa's inner city commuter service hasn't attracted travellers by choice, although new rolling stock is promised for the World Cup.  One exceptional city train trip, hwoever, is from Cape Town to Simon's Town. The section from Muizenberg to Simon's Town is right on the water's edge of False Bay.

Roads
The first thing to remember is that you have to drive on the left.  The second thing is that the legal limit for alcohol in your blood is a very low 0.24% and there are frequent road blocks by police and traffic officers.  You must carry your driver's licence and international driving permit while driving.

The speed limit in towns is 60km/h and in rural areas it is 100km/h unless 120km/h is shown.  Most freeways are 120km/h except in urban areas where it is less.

Most cities in South Africa do not have good road signage and many South Africans use SatNav to find there way.

The quality of road surfaces has deteriorated, largely as a result of the increase in heavy truck traffic and reduced spending on maintenance.

With the exception of the Western Cape where the only toll roads are Chapman's Peak Drive and the Huguenot Tunnel on the N1, toll roads abound elsewhere along the national routes, especially around Johannesburg and Pretoria.  Tolls are generally between ZAR20 and ZAR40.

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