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Practical Information About South Africa

Access By Air and Flying Times

Several international airlines, including South African Airways, link the country with the rest of the world. Flying times between Johannesburg and some International destinations are as follows :

Bombay8 hours 40 min
Buenos Aires11 hours
Frankfurt11 hours
Hong Kong13 hours 15 min
London11 hours
Miami18 hours
Nairobi4 hours
New York17 hours 30 min
Perth9 hours 15 min
Rio de Janeiro9 hours
Singapore10 hours 15 min


The following banks offer foreign exchange services :

Allied, First National, Nedbank, Standard, Trust, United and Volkskas. Major national banks are found in every large town. Several international banks have branches in the main cities. Most commercial banks are open from 09:00 to 15:30 on week days and from 08:30 to 11:00 on Saturdays.

Automatic teller machines (ATMs) are situated outside banks in most towns and cities and offer a 24-hour service.


Despite regional differences, South Africa's climate is generally mild throughout the year. Snowfall is usually limited to the highest mountain peaks (in Kwazulu Natal and the Cape). Winter takes place from the beginning of July to the end of September. During this time cold conditions are experienced in most of the country, and rain in the Western Cape. The expected temperatures in Pretoria during the Conference will be 0 C (32 F) at night and ranging from 15 C (59 F) to 20 C (68 F) during the day.

May and June bring warm days and cool nights. The climate is at its best in most parts of the country during these autumn months. Autumn (fall) and spring are the best seasons for hiking.

During December and January, the main summer holiday months, holiday makers generally flock to the beaches.

Communication Services

A direct dialling service connects all centres except for villages in the more remote rural districts. An international telephone service links South Africa with countries around the world.

Calls from hotels generally carry a surcharge. Most hotels are equipped with fax machines. The international dialling code for South Africa is 27, followed by the area code (minus the first zero) and then the client's number.

Telephone cards can be used at green public telephones. These cards are obtainable at post offices and at the Conference. The cards are sold in multiples of R10.00. As the local system is not yet linked to satellite, the cards can only be used in South Africa. Cellular phones can be hired on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Credit Cards

Major international credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted in South Africa. However, small retail shops will generally not accept credit cards and, in small towns and country areas, the Automatic teller machines (ATMs) are situated outside most banks in towns and cities, and operate 24 hours a day. N.B. In South Africa, petrol (gasoline) can also be paid for with a special "garage card" or cash. Ordinary credit cards may NOT be used for the purchase of petrol.


The currency unit is the Rand, denoted by the symbol R1 = 100 cents. South Africa has recently introduced new notes and coins, but the old currency is still in circulation. The following coins and notes (old and new, are in use:

Foreign currency can be exchanged at commercial banks, American Express and Rennie's Travel. Banks can easily exchange the following currencies : U.S. dollars, Pound Sterling and German Marks.

Exchange Rate

The exchange rate when going to press with this publication was USD 1 = R4.40


City and town power systems are 220/230 volts AC./50 cycles

Health Hazards

Please note that Pretoria is not a malaria region. Malaria regions include Northern Province, Mpumalanga and the north of Kwazulu Natal.

The following precautions are only necessary if you travel to a malaria region.


No international immunisation is needed when entering South Africa. The only inoculation requirement is a yellow fever vaccination certificate from travellers over one year of age entering South Africa within six days of leaving an infected country. Visitors who travel through or disembark in these areas are advised to be inoculated against the disease before visiting South Africa. Immunization against cholera and smallpox is not required.


South Africa currently has 11 official languages. However, English is spoken throughout the country.

Medical Services

Medical services in South Africa are readily available. It has world class hospitals and medical care. Doctors are listed under "Medical" hospitals under "H" in all telephone directories. As South Africa has no national health scheme, it's advisable to purchase travel insurance which covers medical expenses during the period of your stay.

Major hotels have contracts with physicians and dentist. Visitors are advised to bring any supplies of specialised medication they may require with them. Medicine may be purchased at pharmacies (drugstores) and emergency pharmacies are open at night.

Passports and Visas

As for all international travel, the visitor to South Africa is required to be in possession of a valid passport. Travellers from certain countries also need a visa.

Enquiries can be directed to South Africa diplomatic representatives abroad or the Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria at Civitas Building, Struben Street, Private Bag X114, Pretoria, 0001, Tel (012) 314 8911, Fax (012) 314 8516.

Visas are issued free of charge. Visitors who intend travelling to South Africa's neighbouring countries and back to South Africa are advised to apply for multiple entry visas. In terms of existing arrangements, passport holders of certain countries are exempt from visa requirements.

Preferred Air Carrier

We have arranged special reduced fares for people travelling to GCOWE '97 via South Africa Airlines, which is the preferred carrier for the conference.

When making your reservation with SAA, please ensure that you make reference to the "GCOWE '97" Conference. This will alert them to give you the special conference fare.

Safety Guidelines

It's sensible to take the same precautions in major cities that you would in any of the world's metropolitan areas. Never leave luggage unattended in front of the hotel or in lobby. Deposit your valuables in the hotel's safety deposit box. Don't stroll around the streets after dark. Always lock your car doors and keep the window closed.

Time Differences

Throughout the year, Standard Time in South Africa is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, one hour ahead of Central European Winter.

VAT (Value Added Tax)

Currently set at 14 %, VAT is included in the marked/quoted price of most goods and services.

Foreign visitors are not exempt from paying VAT on purchased goods. They may, however, claim back VAT paid on items taken out of the country when the total value exceeds R250.00. The refund may be claimed at the airport of departure, at various harbours and at customs offices. The following documentation is required : original tax invoice, VAT refund control sheet and foreign passport. The items on which a refund is claimed must also be presented.


In the major cities and towns tap water is purified and 100 % safe to drink.

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