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.

South African observes the following public holidays*:


  • 1 January – New Year’s Day
  • 21 March – Human Rights Day
  • 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


* If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday following becomes a public holiday.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday are also public holidays. The dates on which they fall are determined by the ecclesiastical moon. That varies each year but Easter generally falls between late March and late April.

Where can I smoke?

The law prohibits smoking in public spaces, including airports and railway stations. Most restaurants and pubs have designated smoking and non-smoking areas. No one under the age of 18 may buy cigarettes, or enter a designated smoking area. Both the venue operator and the smoker can face stiff penalties if they ignore the law.


Tipping is common practice in South Africa for a range of services. In restaurants the accepted standard is around 10% to 15% 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 staffed by attendants who can be tipped around R5 to R10 for filling up with petrol, checking oil, water and tyre pressure, and cleaning windscreens. Hotel porters are tipped around R20. 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, informal car guards will usually ask whether they can watch over your car and, in return, should be paid a small fee – anything from R5 upwards.

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.

The seasons

    • Summer: mid-October to mid-February
    • Autumn: February to April
    • Winter: May to July
    • Spring: August to October


Read more: South Africa’s weather and climate

SAinfo reporter

Reviewed: August 2013

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