The Embassy of South Africa in Israel

Useful facts for tourists

What facilities are open on public holidays?
In the major cities most stores, cinemas and restaurants are open on most public holidays. The exceptions are Christmas Day, 25 December and New Year’s Day, 1 January.

The calendar of South African public holidays for 2010 is:

1 January New Year’s Day
21 March Human Rights Day 
22 March Public holiday 
2 April   Good Friday (Friday before Easter Sunday)
5 April  Family Day (Monday after Easter Sunday)
27 April Freedom Day 
1 May Workers Day
16 June Youth Day 
9 August National Women’s Day 
24 September Heritage Day 
16 December Day of Reconciliation 
25 December Christmas Day
26 December Day of Goodwill
27 December Public holiday 
If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday following becomes a public holiday.

Where can I smoke?
The law prohibits smoking in most public spaces, including airports and railway stations. Most restaurants have designated smoking and non-smoking areas.

South African time
South Africa does not change its clocks during the year, and there are no regional variations within the country. South African Standard Time is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean (or Universal Standard) Time, one hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, and seven hours ahead of the USA’s Eastern Standard Winter Time.

Tipping
Tipping is common practice in South Africa for a range of services. In restaurants the accepted standard is around 10% of the bill, although sometimes a gratuity will be included (often in the case of a large party). Barmen are tipped a similar percentage.

Petrol stations are manned by attendants who will expect a tip of two or three rands for filling up with petrol, checking oil, water and tyre pressure and cleaning windscreens. Hotel porters should be tipped two to five rands. It is also appropriate to tip taxi drivers, tour guides and even hairdressers.

If you park a car in a populated area such as near a shopping centre, street security guards will usually ask whether they can watch over your car and in return should be paid a small fee – anything from two rands upwards.

The seasons

Summer – mid-October to mid-February

Autumn – February to April

Winter – May to July

Spring – August to October

Weather

Tips for staying out of trouble

Crime, like anywhere else in the world, can be a problem, but you really need not do much more than take all the usual sensible precautions.

Know where you’re going before you set off, particularly at night, watch your possessions, don’t walk alone in dodgy areas, lock your doors at night. Much like anywhere else.

And, like anywhere else in the world, there are some areas of major cities which are more dodgy than others. It is easy to avoid these and still have a good time.

When walking through areas that are considered risky, avoid wearing visible jewellery or carrying cameras and bags over your shoulder. Keep cellphones (mobile phones) and wallets tucked away where no one can see them. Check beforehand that the areas you plan to visit are safe by asking hotel staff or police. It is not advisable to use local commuter and metro trains as attacks on foreigners have occurred.

Other sensible advice is not to hitchhike or accept or carry items for strangers. Our airport security is quite strict so, to avoid delays in checking in, remove all sharp objects (even nail files and hairclips) from your hand luggage.

Car jackings
Those who choose to drive private cars, either borrowed or hired, should be aware that car hijackings do occur, although precautions can be taken to avoid this.

Drivers should always be on the alert when they come to a halt at traffic lights or stop streets, as well as when they are arriving at or leaving premises. Doors should be locked at all times, and while the temptation is to keep windows open in sunny weather, they should be kept closed. Plan your travel route beforehand. Make sure that you do not leave valuables in clear view of people on the side of the road.

Articles such as cellular phones and handbags left on seats are favoured targets of smash’n'grab thieves.

When parking at night choose well-lit or security-patrolled parking areas. Street security guards will usually ask whether they can watch over your car and in return should be paid a small fee – anything from two rand upwards.

ATMs and con artists
Watch out for con artists. A favoured target is the automated teller machine (ATM).

Under no circumstances allow a stranger to assist you in your transactions. Should your card become stuck in the ATM, enter your PIN three times whereupon the machine will retain your card. You can then approach the bank to release it, or call the helpline number that can usually be found at ATMs for assistance.

Beware, too, of confidence tricksters who try and persuade you to invest in their schemes, requiring you to disclose confidential banking details.

Stay out of jail!
And, while on the subject of crime, do bear in mind that committing a criminal offence in any foreign country is always more of a problem than doing so at home.

You’re probably not planning to, but there are a few actions which could land you in one of our not-too-luxurious jails. These include smuggling, bilking, and trading in, or using, recreational drugs – with the exception of tobacco and alcohol.

Poaching is probably far from your mind but, just in case you’re tempted to “harvest” a rhino horn as a souvenir, remember our game scouts are armed.

Lost passports
Should you lose your passport, report the loss as soon as possible to your country’s embassy or consulate, and to the local police.