Below are some useful tips and information for travelling in South Africa and around the Elephant Coast.
INFORMATION FOR SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa is 1, 2 million square kilometres in size (=Germany+France+Italy)
Cell phones are available for hire at international airports and most of the country has coverage. The three main
networks are Vodacom, MTN and Cell C.
South Africa is a summer (November-February) rainfall area except in the Western Cape.
Distances are given in kilometres (1 mile = 1,62km)
Temperatures are given in degrees Celsius (centigrade) (20°C = 68F).
Major credit cards (Visa/Master/American Express/Diners) are accepted at most shops, hotels etc. Credit cards are not accepted at petrol stations. All the aforementioned cards are accepted at Sand Forest Lodge (Credit Card Payments will include an additional 5% bank charge to your total booking value).
Currency and banking
The currency in South Africa is the Rand and 100 cents = 1 Rand. Notes used are: R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200.
Banking hours are between 09h00 and 15h30 on weekdays and 08h30 to 11h00 on Saturdays. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are readily available in cities and towns.
Tap water is safe to drink. Only over 18s may purchase alcohol. Drinking and driving is regarded as a serious offence.
South Africans drive on the left and give way to the right. Drivers must have a valid driver's licence or an international driving permit. It is a legal requirement to wear a seatbelt when driving on a public road. The speed limit on most highways is 120 km/hour and 60km/hour in built up areas. Roads are good and generally well signposted.
Current is 200/240 volts AC. Plugs are usually 3-round pin - an adaptor is needed for non-local appliances.
Foreign exchange can be converted into rand at commercial banks, bureaux de change and large hotels.
Vaccinations for cholera and small pox are not required but travellers from a yellow fever zone must have a valid certificate. Malaria occurs in some parts of the north east region of South Africa and visitors to these areas should take necessary precautions. Medical and hospital charges must be paid for immediately and travel insurance is recommended.
South Africa has 11 official languages, the most common of which are English, Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans. English is spoken almost everywhere.
Passports and visas
Visitors must have a full passport, valid for at least 6 months beyond their intended stay. Visas are not required by citizens of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States.
Petrol stations (together with toilets and convenience stores) occur regularly along main routes and are open 24 hours a day. Fuel may only be purchased with cash or South African linked petrol cards. Service is provided by a petrol attendant (tipping is discretionary).
South Africa has a population of around 44 million.
Postal service and telephones
All towns and cities have post offices and public telephones. Business hours are usually 08h00 to 16h00 on weekdays and 08h00 to 12h00 on Saturdays. For international calls to South Africa dial +27 + the area code + the number (leave off the 0 in the area code when dialling into South Africa). For example, dialling Sand Forest Lodge in South Africa would be 035-562 2509 while dialling from outside South Africa would be +27 35-562 2509.
Most shops operate from 08h00 to 17h00 daily and to 13h00 on Saturdays. Major shopping centres and convenience stores are open 7 days a week.
Smoking is not permitted in open or enclosed public areas.
South Africa is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, 1 hour ahead of Central European Winter Time.
Value added tax (VAT), currently at 14%, is levied on most goods and services. Visitors may reclaim VAT on purchases over R250 at international points of departure.
Click here for the latest weather forecasts.
INFORMATION FOR THE ELEPHANT COAST
Given the lack of public transport on the Elephant Coast, and the widely dispersed attractions in the area, the hiring of a vehicle is strongly recommended. Vehicles of all types may be rented from the major car hire companies (who have offices at all the major airports). Avis and Budget are some suggestions.
There are 3 doctors in the town of Hluhluwe (9km away) and a pharmacy. A top class private hospital is in Richards
Bay - an hour's drive from Sand Forest Lodge.
Hluhluwe is the nearest town to Sand Forest Lodge - 9km or 10 minutes drive away.
Though small, the town has all the necessary essentials: petrol stations with 24 hour convenience store, supermarkets, bank (with foreign exchange service), ATMs, pharmacy, post office, doctors, internet café and restaurants.
The nearest city to Sand Forest Lodge is Richards Bay - an hour's drive to the south.
Sand Forest Lodge is situated in a low risk malaria area and therefore anti-malaria medication is not required while staying at the lodge, though this obviously remains a personal choice. The lodge has never had a case of malaria, amongst our guests or staff. Should you be planning to travel further north, however, anti-malaria medication is recommended and advice should be sought in this regard. A local doctor or pharmacist can provide you with the information or visit www.travelclinic.co.za.
Roads from Durban or Johannesburg to Sand Forest Lodge are all tarred, in good condition and generally well signposted. This road is well maintained and normal sedan vehicles will have no problem - one does not need a 4x4 vehicle either to get to Sand Forest Lodge or to enjoy the various attractions in the area.
See information on Hluhluwe above.
The Elephant Coast has a sub-tropical climate with mild winters and hot summers. Summer temperatures are usually between 25C and 40C. December to February are the hottest months. Winters are never cold - temperatures rarely drop below 15C during the day and 10C at night.
What to bring
Bearing in mind which season you come in, the Elephant Coast has a very warm climate though the odd cool snap (10C - 15C) can occur in winter. Therefore, light, cool clothing is recommended with a warm jacket for the odd cool morning or evening.
In addition, we suggest the following:
* Hat/cap * Sunglasses * Binoculars * Sun cream * Swimming costume, towel * Anti-mosquito spray (which can be bought at any supermarket)