Some foreign travellers need a visa to visit South Africa and the South African Department of Home Affairs website provides detailed information on how to obtain one. Europeans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and Americans can visit South Africa for 90 days without a visa.
Travelling with Children - All minors require the consent of their parents when travelling into or out of the country. Children under 18 travelling with parents will need to show full, unabridged birth certificates (including the details of both parents). Consult your travel agent or the South African Department of Home Affairs website for more information.
South Africa is known for its moderate temperature and sunshine and even the winter months (May to the end of July) have extremely moderate temperatures. It gets cold, but there’s no need for thermals and snow boots. If Cape Town is on your itinerary, remember that the Western Cape gets most of its rainfall during winter, so it’s best to travel there during summer.
Phones can be hired, or a good 3G-enabled phone and SIM card can be bought at any airport. If you are social-media savvy, you can enhance your holiday experience with real-time updating of all your networks
Get your rands from a local ATM. Exchanging money at your hotel, bank, or other foreign currency exchange window is likely to carry larger fees and a worse exchange rate than if you simply withdraw cash from an ATM. ATMs are plentiful, connected to all of the major US and European networks, and generally offer the best exchange rates. There are at least two major ATMs as soon as you leave customs in the Johannesburg International Airport.
You CAN drink the water. In general, the water quality is very good. From time to time, tourists have been known to suffer from a tummy ache or two. You may want to order bottled water to drink, but you needn’t be hyper vigilant. You can certainly use ice made from tap water, and eat fresh fruits and vegetables that have been washed with tap water.
Customary tipping in restaurants is 10 percent. Of course you can pay more, but it is good to know what the expectation is. When you get your bill at a restaurant, you must indicate in writing what your tip will be PRIOR to your credit card being run — at the same time you give the waiter your credit card. Once the card is run, unlike in the US and Europe, you will NOT have an opportunity to add a tip.
When asking Africans a question (“Where is the entrance to the mall?” for example), the custom is to greet the person first. It’s wise to say: “Hello. How are you?” No one will get mad at you, but you are more likely to get a positive response if you greet a person first.
Race Relations - Expect the best from everyone. Don’t approach race relations with any preconceived notions. Many Africans follow Nelson Mandela’s leadership in terms of forgiveness. Many have fond feelings for white South Africans. Many white South Africans were part of the liberation struggle, and are very liberal in their political views.
Keep jewelry and expensive clothes to a minimum. Don‘t flash cash when dealing with street vendors or frankly anytime. (For example) trade your big fancy camera and lenses for a point and shoot pocket model
It's natural that all guidebooks and travel websites will need to resort to generalization when offering broad-spectrum advice. You should still be fully prepared to venture off the usual beaten track and really get into all the nooks and crannies of South Africa, feel the rhythm of the people and ‘go local‘ whenever possible. You will find them to be warm and delighted to share their corner of Africa with you (as a general rule of course!) Also, South Africa has a staggering 11 official languages, most of them indigenous to the country. Around 40% of the population speak either isiZulu or isiXhosa though almost everywhere you go you will be able to get by with English which is commonly spoken in all major towns and cities, hotels, banks, and government departments. Another major language is Afrikaans, a derivative of Dutch, which northern Europeans will find surprisingly easy to follow.
Most importantly, understand that South Africa is like nowhere you‘ve ever been. The famous South African Desmond Tutu described South Africa by saying “We of many cultures, languages and races are become one nation. We are the Rainbow People of God." In such a diverse country it‘s important to remain alert and understand the nuances of the lifestyles, but be sure to keep your head up don‘t miss a moment of soaking in a most unique worldly experience.