Friday, May 28, 2010

South Africa: How To Stay Connected

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The 2010 FIFA World Cup kick-off on June 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa is not long from now, so if you are a football fan, you probably can’t wait to get prepared for the event.

One of the most important concerns for football fans like you is how to stay connected with home affordably while visiting the country for 2010 World Cup. Let’s look at some of the options available:

• Using a hotel or a pay phone.
It would certainly be convenient to connect from your hotel, but normally hotels often charge a massive mark-up and the phone expenses could be very expensive. Using pay phones in South Africa requires a minimum of 80¢ for a local call, it's worth purchasing a telephone card (used in specific pay phones) for international calls - these card pay phones are also often the only ones working.

• Using Internet
If you carry your own computer, more and more hotels, resorts, airports, cafes, and retailers are going Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity), becoming "hotspots" that offer free high-speed Wi-Fi access or charge a fee for usage. And, if you are without your own computer, there are plenty of cybercafés in South Africa's urban areas.

• But what if you really need to stay in touch with home while traveling?
For those times when you just need to get in touch with someone in South Africa or back home, South Africa SIM cards offer you the benefits of using your own phone at local rates.  Make sure you have the international cell phone which will require a SIM-unlocked GSM 900 compatible international cell phone. Simply replace your SIM card with a prepaid South Africa SIM card and you will be set up to make all those important phone calls and send quick messages across the world, without paying excessively high roaming costs.

So, now you can stay in touch with your family and friends while enjoying the game.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

South Africa: Tragic Death by Bacterial Meningitis

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South African opera singer Siphiwo Ntshebe has died from meningitis.


The 34-year-old, who was chosen by Nelson Mandela to perform at the opening ceremony of the World Cup, was admitted to hospital last week and died on Tuesday in Port Elizabeth.

The singer who was once told by a teacher, "Mozart is not for you. Blacks can't sing Mozart", was supposed to sing the song “Hope”, which is the official anthem of the football/soccer tournament, at the opening ceremony on June 11.  His new track was to be released - along with his new album - at the same time of the World Cup, to coincide with the tournament.

The source of his infection has not been reported. The singer, who studied in Australia and London, will be missed by family, friends and fans.


What is Meningitis?
 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

South Africa: Documents Needed for Entry

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U.S. citizens do not need a visa for tourist or business travel staying up to 90 days in this country. A valid U.S. Passport is required.

A visa is required for Religious Mission travel.

Any other U.S. citizen who wishes to travel to the Republic of South Africa for any purpose other than tourism or business negotiations (e.g. work, study, religious activity, adoption, immigration, or stays longer than stipulated in the entry requirements) should contact directly, the embassy or nearest consulate.

Below are the South Africa embassy locations in the U.S. and in South Africa.

Diplomatic representation in the US:
Chief of mission: Ambassador Welile NHLAPO
Embassy: 3051 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: [1] (202) 232-4400
FAX: [1] (202) 265-1607

Diplomatic representation from the US:
Chief of mission: Donald Gips
Embassy: 877 Pretorius St., Arcadia 0083
Mailing address: P.O. Box 9536, Pretoria 0001
Telephone: [27] (12) 431-4000
FAX: [27] (12) 342-2299.

Check this out if you are visiting South Africa soon.

Monday, May 24, 2010

South Africa: Currency

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The world’s strongest currency is the South African Rand. The name derives from “Witwatersrand” the ridge upon which the Johannesburg is built and most of South Africa’s gold deposits are found. Rand is available in bank notes of 10,20,50,100 and 200, and there are 9 coins- 1,2,5,10,20,50,1R,2R,5R. There are currency conversion charts available, and a number of international banks operate branches in South Africa; Citibank, Deutsche Bank, and HSBC to name a few.


So is travel to SA going to cost an arm and a leg? If you will be driving when you arrive to SA, the most expensive toll gate in South Africa is the Machado plaza on the N4 between Pretoria and Nelspruit and the cost is R49 for a normal car. In total, road tolls between Pretoria and Nelspruit or between Johannesburg and Cape Town will cost you just under R100.

You can buy three McDonald's burgers (a hamburger, cheese burger and chicken burger) for around R18 or a sit down lunch in an average restaurant will cost you between R80 and R140 per person. Prices in shops are fixed, but prices in open markets or from street vendors are open to barter. Tipping is the norm in restaurants and at gas-stations (which are all full-service).



Remember to be discreet when handling cash and valuables, the best place to carry your cash is inside a money belt that you can wear under your clothes!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

South Africa: Airports

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Often times when you’re flying into a major city, it’s a good idea to look at airports other than the main airport for that city in case one of the smaller area airports has cheaper flights. Although it isn’t always the case, but it’s almost always worth looking!

How to Fly to Johannesburg
Johannesburg is South Africa’s biggest city, so it’s not surprising that it has two airports to choose from. The primary airport (and the busiest in South Africa) is O.R. Tambo International Airport and it’s a hub for South African Airways. The other airport serving Johannesburg is Lanseria Airport.

How to Fly to Cape Town
Cape Town has South Africa’s second-busiest airport, Cape Town International Airport , which is a hub for South African Airways. Other domestic airlines serving Cape Town include South African Express, South African Airlink, and Comair - and other budget airlines to look at to reach Cape Town are Air Berlin, TUIfly, kulula, 1time, and Mango.

How to Fly to Durban
Durban’s international airport, cleverly called Durban International Airport, is the 3rd busiest behind Johannesburg and Cape Town but gets far less traffic than either of those two. Some of the airlines serving Durban are South African Express, South African Airlink, Comair, kulula, 1time, Mango, British Airways, and Emirates.

How to Fly to Port Elizabeth
The coastal city of Port Elizabeth has its own (small) airport - Port Elizabeth Airport (airport code PLZ). Airlines serving Port Elizabeth are 1time, Airlink Airlines, kulula, South African Airways, South African Express, and Comair.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

South Africa: Etiquette

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One important thought to keep in mind during your travels to South Africa is to remain adaptable. South Africa is a melting pot, with people of African, European, and Indian backgrounds, and it is reflected in their culture. Below is a list of South African etiquette tips, but when in doubt, follow the lead of those who live there!

1. Dining etiquette and table manners will vary depending on who you’re eating with. Try to finish all of your food, and place your knife and fork closely together next to your plate to indicate when you are done eating. As for tipping: 10-20% is expected, but make sure to check the bill before to make sure the tip hasn’t already been included.

2. When socializing, be aware of South Africa's racial terminology. Black is the preferred term for those of African ancestry and white are for those of Caucasian ancestry who speak English or Afrikaans. Don’t call Afrikaners "Dutchmen" and don't call Afrikaans "Kitchen Dutch." Afrikaners don't consider themselves Dutch.

3. If you traveling on business, standard business etiquette is assumed. Arrive on time, use titles and last names, and schedule meetings at least 2 weeks in advance. Bringing gifts is optional but it is greatly appreciated!

4. Safaris are an amazing opportunity to see wildlife in their natural habitat. However it is vitally important that you remember to respect the natural surroundings and wildlife.
      o Do not remove any natural material from wildlife reserves. Take ONLY take memories and photos.
      o Refrain from smoking on game drive- dry African bush ignites very easily, and a flash fire can kill many animals.
      o Remember to tip your Safari guide as a polite way of saying thank you!

Monday, May 17, 2010

South Africa: Staying Safe

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Many people question their safety before traveling to South Africa. Our response is a confident assurance that: it is in fact safe! This is especially true if you take a few precautions that are necessary any time you travel abroad.

• Avoid taking valuable jewelry, watches, expensive purses, or even costly articles of clothing.

• You should try to blend in as much as is possible. Wearing modest clothing with no obvious flashy jewelry or cameras is a good idea.

• Your passport is one of your most valuable possessions. Keep it somewhere that you know it will be safe, such as a hotel safety deposit box or your room safe, where available. Keep a photocopy with you if necessary.

• Never count your money in public. This attracts unwanted attention.

• One great trick is to carry two wallets. Use one to hold your credit cards and the bulk of your cash and use the other as a decoy. Put money and some insignificant cards, papers, etc into the decoy wallet to make it appear real. Then if a thief confronts you give him/her your decoy wallet.

Are you heading out to SA for the World Cup?
Here are a few things that you need to know.

First of all- an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever is occurring in South Africa right now.  Make sure you bring with you a mosquito net and proper bug repellent and avoid contact with raw meat.

Second- Be aware that there is a large sex trade in South Africa and nearly 50% of South African sex workers carry the HIV virus.  With the influx of foreign visitors to the area for the World Cup, health officials are worried about rapid spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.  Britain reportedly donated 42 million condoms to help prevent the spread of disease.  Protect yourself and others! Read more here.

South Africa is a beautiful country and many people just like you live here, so it isn't all that bad. Don’t let crime or disease spoil your vacation! Stay alert and be aware and smart. If you take the necessary precautions your trip to South Africa will be worth your while.

Friday, May 14, 2010

South Africa- Food!

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The South African cuisine is a mixture of different influences – traditional African food meets Asian and European dishes. This creates a very interesting “cross-cultural” cuisine, which is unique in the world.

Braai – The Braai is the South African answer to a Barbeque, but never call a Braai a Barbeque in South Africa. At least for South Africans it is not the same. You can put everything on the braai as long as you can braai it. Having a braai is a national institution which is popular throughout all South Africans. It is more than just cooking food. A braai in South Africa is a social happening.



Cape Cuisine – The “Cape Cuisine” is reflecting the multi-ethnic society of the Cape region of South Africa. People from almost everywhere in the world settled here and they all left their marks on the so-called “Cape Cuisine”.

“Cape Cuisine” means a blend of the fruity sweet and sour tastes of the Malayan people with the different European and African dishes.

Potjiekos - "Potjiekos" (poy-kee-kawse) directly translated "pot food" or food prepared in a pot. A "Potjie" is a 3 legged round bottomed cast iron pot, in which you put your ingredients. It simmers merrily over coals while everyone sits around it chatting away and enjoying the food. Everyone usually has his own "secret" ingredients and "Potjie" competitions are very popular at fairs.



Biltong – Biltong is a Southern African dried meat typically made from raw fillets of meat cut into strips following the grain of the muscle, or flat pieces sliced across the grain. It is similar to beef jerky in that they are both spiced dried meats, but differs significantly in typical ingredients, taste, and production process. The word biltong is from the Dutch bil ("rump") and tong ("strip" or "tongue").

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

South Africa: History

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There seems to be general agreement that humankind had its EARLIEST origins in Africa! South Africa is rich in fossil evidence of the evolutionary history of the human family, going back several million years…..

1652 -South Africa was settled by the Dutch as a stopping point for ships on their way to the East Indies. Fruit and vegetables were grown here to battle the problem of scurvy aboard passing ships. The Dutch first settled the area that was to become Cape Town and with time expanded across the entire tip of southern Africa.

1815- After the Napoleonic wars , South Africa changed hands and became a British colony. Many of the Dutch went north to get away from the English.

1910- South Africa became a union, a coalition between the English and Afrikaner states.


1960- South Africa gained independence from British rule and became a republic. This period was to be very difficult time for many people since Apartheid was fully enforced.



During the 90’s- with the release of Nelson Mandela (who eventually became president) and the abolition of the Apartheid laws, South Africa went through an amazing transformation!
South Africa has journeyed through great obstacles to become a nation whose dream of unity is now capable of realization for its entire people!

Present- Its been a long and violent journey for the people of South Africa and though things have come a long way there is still a long way to go.  Check out a great post about the township of Khayelitsha from Alex and Mina of ...Sending Postcards.  It is a story of hardship and hope as the beautiful people of this South African township find happiness in their everyday lives. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

South Africa: What to pack

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South Africa is noted for its warm year-round climate. Summer brings inland temperatures that can shoot well over 110 degrees F, while winter temperatures are cool seaside and dip near freezing in some inland and mountainous regions.

  • Check the calendar. South African summers begin in November, with the peak months in December and January. Winter starts in May.
  • Pack lightweight summer clothes when visiting during the hotter months. Take an assortment of shorts, T-shirts, skirts and sundresses. It's wise to have a sweater or long-sleeved button-down shirt for layering, should the evenings get cool, and to keep your skin protected from the sun and insect bites.
  • Stash a swimsuit, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat if you plan to hit any of South Africa renowned beaches. Sunblock and a wider-brimmed hat are advised when spending time on the plains.
  • Bring long-sleeved shirts, long pants and a heavy windbreaker if you plan to visit any wild game reserves. Leave the bright colors at home; neutral tones make you less conspicuous to those you'll be observing.
  • Pack a coat, sweaters and heavier socks when spending time inland during winter.
  • Take sandals if you plan to visit the bigger cities or the beach towns. Comfortable walking shoes or athletic shoes will keep your feet happy while visiting the reserves or doing a light hike in the mountainous areas.
  • Take an umbrella for protection from the afternoon summer showers.
  • Check with your travel clinic about anti-malarial pills if you'll be in the northern inland areas.
  • Bring an electrical converter and adapter.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

South Africa: How To Get Around

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By Air – Domestic flights are numerous and connect most of the major towns and cities. It's a good option if you don't have a lot of time to see the whole country. Kulula.com offers some good rates. Click here for a good overview of all domestic airline services offered.

By Bus – There are several bus companies servicing the main towns of South Africa. They are generally very comfortable and luxurious and cheaper than flying. A reputable company is Intercape Mainliner. Their site has routes and prices as well as a route map. The Greyhound Bus Company is also a good option, although their web site isn't quite as easy to use. For budget travelers, the Baz Bus is an ideal way to get around. The company offers passes where you can get on and off whenever you want. It drops you off and picks you up at your hostel door.

By TrainThe Blue Train is the ultimate in luxury train travel, the kind of experience which includes five forks and five knives in the place settings at breakfast. You have to book well in advance since this train ride is truly a legendary experience. It is certainly not about getting from A to B, the train has one basic route, from Pretoria to Cape Town. Blue train video

The Shosholoza Meyl is an excellent option to get around the country. A luxury train with many routes to choose from it is safe and inexpensive to boot.



By Car – South Africa is an excellent country to rent a car and plan your own trip. The roads are good, gas stations have gas and there are plenty of hotels and lodges to stay at along the way. Find out more about renting a car in South Africa by clicking here. You need a valid driver's license (get an international one if yours is not in English), and a major credit card.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

South Africa: Language

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South Africa is a country that’s rich in diversity and culture! South Africa has 11 official languages, with English and Afrikaans being the most commonly spoken. All South Africans understand, speak and most often write in English, so there is no need to worry about any language barriers.

Goal.com has put together a mini phrase book with a list of useful words and phrases translated into Afrikaans and Zulu, two of the most popular languages, along with English.

In addition to phrase books, a South African entrepreneur/linguistics expert, Thabo Olivier has developed a mobile device application that allows users to quickly learn basic communication phrases in different languages. The software is currently available on MS Windows Mobile platform. Particular application of the software can be used for travelers to the 2010 World Cup.

So show the locals a thing or two with your ability to speak a few words in their language. Trust me; they will love you for it!

Monday, May 3, 2010

South Africa: Top Adventures!

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All nine of South Africa's provinces offer a wide range of activities from deep sea diving and shark cage diving 


to mountain climbing 
and abseiling,


elephant back safaris, fishing, surfing, hang gliding, hot-air ballooning, whale watching ... the list is endless.



When visiting South Africa, whether you are young or old, there's an adventure option within your fitness range that will add a lot of fun to your stay in South Africa. There are plenty of activities to choose from and the choice is growing all the time. The daring, ultra-fit thrill-seekers opt for hair raising stunts such as bungee jumping, riding the rapids, diving with great white sharks, and leaping from the skies with parachutes strapped to their backs. Hikers follow adventure trails, climbers scale the mountain peaks, and anglers stand thigh-high in streams waiting for trout to snatch the fly.

Popular options for the less energetic traveller to South Africa include bird-watching, snorkeling and the ever popular hot air ballooning. South Africa's near perfect climate provides ideal conditions for hot air ballooning, and it doesn't require any exertion. All you do is climb aboard a basket, wait for lift off, relax and enjoy fabulous birds-eye views of the countryside. The wind, the pilot and the crew do all the work, and at the end of the flight, a celebratory glass of champagne and delightful brunch awaits you.