Essential Info for South Africa

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Flag of the Republic of South AfricaOfficial name: Republic of South Africa

Population: 54 million

Capital city: Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial)

Other major cities: Durban, Port Elizabeth

Neighbouring countries: Along South Africa's northern border from west to east are Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Mozambique. Lesotho is situated in the eastern side of South Africa, and is entirely surrounded by the Republic.

Geography: South Africa's geography is varied. The interior consists of vast, mostly flat areas, whereas the long coastline stretches about 1,55miles (2,500 km) along the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. The south and south-western parts of the plateau is known as the Great Karoo, which consists of sparsely populated scrubland. To the north the Great Karoo fades into the even drier and more arid Bushmanland, which eventually becomes the Kalahari Desert in the very north-west of the country. The mid-eastern, and highest part of the plateau is known as the Highveld. This relatively well-watered area is home to a great proportion of the country’s commercial farmlands. To the north of Highveld the plateau slopes downwards into the Bushveld, which ultimately gives way to the Limpopo lowlands or Lowveld.

Political system: Constitutional parliamentary republic

Major religions: Freedom of religion is enshrined in the South African constitution. Christianity, Islam and Hinduism are the most prominent religions.

Main languages: South Africa has 11 official languages, though English is the standard form of communication. Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho are also spoken and vary in prevalence depending on geographic location.

Money: The South African Rand (ZAR), which is divided into 100 cents. Opening a bank account is usually easy and possible with identification and proof of address. ATMs are widespread and plentiful, but might be scarcer in some rural areas. Internet banking is widely available.

Tipping: 10 percent (or more for good service) is common. 

Time: GMT+2

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Typically, three-pin round plugs are standard.

Internet domain: .za

International dialling code: +27, plus the relevant city code, e.g. (0)21 for Cape Town and (0)11 for Johannesburg.

Emergency contacts: 10111

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the left. Despite the introduction of rapid transport systems, public transport is generally of a low standard and most expats purchase a vehicle. Roads are generally of good quality, but certain rural roads may be in disrepair.

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