Here’s all the information you’ll need when planning a visit to sexy sunny gay South Africa.
Gay friendly South Africa is located at the bottom tip of Africa. It boasts a population of just over 50 million people from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.
LGBT rights are protected under the Constitution and the country boasts full marriage equality and a vibrant gay and lesbian community.
Select one of the topics below for more info…Climate - The best time to visit and what you should bring to wear.
South Africa is considered a “sunny country” with a high number of daylight hours, averaging eight to ten hours a day around the year. The seasons are the reverse of those in the northern hemisphere. Winters are mild and the summers are hot, although rarely uncomfortable. The best time to visit the country is during our summer between November and March, with the peak summer months being December and January.
During September (spring), average temperatures range between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius during daytime. Evenings are slightly cooler but seldom drop below 18 degrees Celsius.
Annual average rainfall is less than 10 inches in the west and 40 inches in the east. Cape Town and the southernmost part of the Western Cape have a Mediterranean-type climate, with warm to hot summers. Winter brings gentle rain showers around Cape Town and the West Coast. KwaZulu-Natal enjoys a subtropical and sunny climate all year. Snow sometimes falls in the Drakensberg and Cape mountains in winter. The interior is dry and warm in winter, with cool nights. Summers are hot with more frequent rain. There is a high Ultra Violet (UV) risk in South Africa and it is recommended that you use sunscreen and wear a hat or cap when outdoors.
Clothing: Lightweight clothing is the norm during the South African summer. In winter, a jacket or coat may be needed, particularly in the evenings. At game reserves, wear neutral colours.
Temperatures are given in degrees Celsius (Centigrade). Ten degrees Celsius is equivalent to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, 20°C = 68°F, 30°C = 86°F.
For a look at current weather and forecasts click here.
Please note that the South African Police Service does not support the practice of cruising primarily because it is dangerous. Nevertheless, the following safer cruising tips are recommended:
- If you are going to cruise, go to a club or bath house.
- If you insist in cruising in parks or public spots try to stay in well-lit areas.
- Always pay rent boys.
- As far as possible, let someone know where you are going.
- Choose a spot with a ready escape route.
- Regard all strangers with a healthy degree of suspicion.
- If you have suffered an attack call the police.
- Use a condom! South Africa has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world.
The currency of the country is the Rand (R) (100 cents equals R1.00). Currency and travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks and major international credit cards such as American Express, Bank of America, Diners, MasterCard, Visa and their affiliates are accepted. However, use may be restricted in small towns and country areas. The relatively low value of the Rand to other major currencies makes the country financially attractive to the foreign gay traveller.
South Africa has a sophisticated, world-class banking system that operates much like in developed countries. Automatic teller machines (ATMs) are situated outside most banks in towns and cities and operate 24 hours a day. Most commercial banks are open from 09.00 – 15.30, Mondays to Fridays, and from 08.30-11.00 on Saturdays.
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South Africa boasts a vibrant outdoor lifestyle offering hiking trails, hot-air ballooning, bungee jumping, river rafting, surfing, all water sports and eco-adventures. Take a guided tour of the famous Soweto township – a melting pot of old and new. You can even experience the ancient Africa of traditional healers and tribal villages. Other activities for the more butch include abseiling, canyoning, caving, cycle tours, foot safaris, four by four driving, hang gliding, horse-riding, gliding, mountain bicycling, paragliding, rock climbing, kayaking, shark-cage diving, skydiving, snorkelling, and whale-watching.
South Africa has a vibrant gay club life, although limited to the major cities (Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town). Clubs/bars range from township venues to house/hardcore dance spots. Visit our Hotspots or What’s On sections for more details.
There is no shortage of restaurants, especially in the larger centres. Menus are cosmopolitan, including everything from McDonalds to Indian or Thai food, Portuguese cuisine and traditional African fare. The nightlife is vibrant with theatres, cinemas, bars, casinos and nightclubs in the cities to keep you awake into the early hours.
Wildlife and Nature
The world renowned Kruger National Park is run by the South African National Parks, and one of twenty in the country. It offers a wildlife experience that ranks among the best in Africa. Established in 1898, the Kruger Park covers nearly 2 million hectares. It is regarded as the flagship of South Africa’s national parks and is home to 336 tree species, 49 kinds of fish, 34 amphibian species, 114 reptile species, 507 bird species and 147 mammal species.
Another notable national park is St Lucia which is positioned on a rich estuary bursting with wildlife including crocodiles, hippos and many others and is an official World Heritage site. Table Mountain, is another World Heritage site and national park. It can be reached by hiking or via a hi-tech cable car and overlooks the city of Cape Town, offering one of the most breathtaking vistas on earth.
In South Africa, homosexuality is legal, LGBT rights are protected and same-sex marriage is legal. There are active and visible gay and lesbian communities in the major cities. For information on gay nightlife and events visit our Hotspots or What’s On sections for more details.
Johannesburg: The annual Joburg Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade, held at in October, is the largest and oldest gay and lesbian event on the African continent, having first taken place in 1990. The event traditionally sees around 5,000 people taking to the streets in a colourful parade. Visit the Johannesburg Pride Facebook page for details.
Cape Town: The Cape Town Pride Parade usually takes place in February. It is well attended and very festive, although not as large as Joburg’s event. It is also usually accompanied by a week-long festival of events. Visit www.capetownpride.org for details.
Other cities/areas have smaller Pride events such as Soweto Pride, which is highly significant for its political impact, and Durban Pride.
Neighbouring countries: Remember that outside South Africa homosexuality remains illegal in most neighbouring countries (except Mozambique), although this is rarely enforced. Nevertheless, we suggest discretion. There are gay communities in these countries but they tend to keep a low profile.
South Africa is a parliamentary democracy with one of the most progressive constitutions in the world – homosexuality is legal, LGBT rights are protected and same-sex marriage is legal. The country is large and contains a wide range of landscapes including striking deserts, stunning beaches, majestic mountains and modern cities.
The country is a fascinating mix of the “first-world” and the developing world with cities offering the most modern of amenities. There are eleven official languages, but English is widely spoken and is understood by the majority of the population.
Throughout the year, standard time in South Africa is two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time and seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard (Winter) time. Our world-class infrastructure, astonishing vistas, mix of cultures, hospitality and gay nightlife make South Africa a veritable haven for gay tourists. For more information on the “World in one Country”, visit the official South African tourism website.
Current is 220/240 volts at 50 cycles per second. A three-point round-pin adapter plug should be brought for razors and hairdryers.
Telecommunications and Internet Access
Most city hotels have direct international dialling from the phone in your room or you can be connected via the switchboard. They will also have internet access of some kind on offer.
3G internet mobile access is available across the country on main routes and in cities. Wi-Fi access is also offered in numerous coffee shops and restaurants.
Mobile phones (“cell phones” in South Africa) are widely used. South Africa uses the GSM Mobile Phone network and Mobile Phones can be hired at all airports and in major centres. The international code for South Africa is +27, which should be preceded by your international prefix (i.e. 00 if calling from the UK). When dialling from outside South Africa the ‘0’ at the front of the local area code should be omitted, but it should be used when dialling within the country.
Every person wishing to enter South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport for travel to South Africa and, where necessary, a visa.
Visitors who intend travelling to South Africa’s neighbouring countries and back into South Africa are advised to apply for multiple entry visas. Passport holders of certain countries are exempt from visa requirements. For information on countries that do not need visas to visit South Africa click here.
As is the case with travel to most countries, tourists must satisfy immigration officers that they have the means to support themselves during their stay, and that they are in possession of return or onward tickets.
South Africa boasts excellent medical facilities in the major centres. However, all medical treatment must be paid for, so travel insurance is highly recommended.
Tap water is safe to drink throughout South Africa and bottled water is not necessary. You shouldn’t swim in rivers and lakes in the eastern and northern regions, as the bilharzia parasite may be in the water. Warning signs are usually posted.
You should take anti-malaria tablets in advance of visiting the game reserves and parks of the Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces (Including the Kruger National Park). They are available without prescription at South African pharmacies.
Visitors from the yellow-fever belt in Africa and South America, as well as those who travel through or disembark in these areas, have to present proof of inoculation.
Gay friendly clinics
There are a number of gay-friendly clinics that provide services specifically for gay men and men who have sex with men – including the provision of PEP, ARVs and HIV testing as well as counselling. These are located in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town. If you have unsafe sex, contact one of the clinics within 72 hours for medication to avoid infection. Visit www.health4men.co.za or www.out.org.za for more details.
Despite news reports about crime, South Africa is largely a safe place for international tourists. Visitor numbers are growing yet only a tiny percentage have any experience of crime. Nevertheless, the normal safety precautions should be exercised in South Africa as with anywhere else in the world.
Traveller safety tips include:
- Do not draw attention to yourself by flaunting large amounts of cash or jewellery.
- A camera round your neck identifies you as a tourist – carry it in a shoulder-bag.
- Avoid dark, unlit places.
- When returning to your hotel or motel late in the evening, use the main entrance.
- Be observant and look around before entering car parks.
- Park in well lit areas and never pick up strangers.
- Ensure that car doors are kept locked at all times.
- Do not leave packages or personal items on the seat of the car, put them in the boot.
- Plan your route in advance be informed and use maps.
- Close the door securely when you are in your hotel room and use all the locking devices provided.
- Put valuables in the hotel safety deposit boxes.
- Do not needlessly display guest room keys in public or carelessly leave them on restaurant tables, at the swimming pool, or other places where they can be easily stolen.
- Always keep your baggage or handbag close at hand and never leave items unattended.
In South Africa, shops are usually open from 09.00 to 17.00 Mondays to Fridays and from 09.00 – 13.00 on Saturdays (in the main centres and larger malls, opening hours are longer). Most South Africans shop in malls, of which there are large-examples in the cities. Traditional South African craftwork, such as bowls, clay pots, beadwork, carvings, tapestries and paintings are popular with tourists. Jewellery is also worth looking out for.
Because of the advantageous exchange rate, clothing and footwear is relatively inexpensive and of good quality. International brand stores can be found in the larger cities.
You can tip waiters and taxi drivers 10 – 15 percent of the bill, unless a service charge has been added in advance. Five Rand per piece of luggage is recommended for porters. Car-guards or parking-attendants are usually given R2 to R5.
No more than 200 cigarettes and 20 cigars per person. No more than 250g of cigarette or pipe tobacco per person. No more than 50ml perfumery and 250ml eau de toilette per person. No more than 2 litres of wine per person. No more than 1 litre in total of spiritous and other alcoholic beverages per person. In addition to the personal effects and consumables allowances, travellers are allowed new or used goods in accompanied baggage to the value of R5 000. No person under 18 is entitled to the alcohol or tobacco allowance. Duty is levied at 20% thereafter. You can buy duty-free goods at the Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban airports.
South Africa is accessible by air from most world capitals with numerous weekly flights from Europe and the USA. The primary airports are OR Tambo International in Johannesburg and Cape Town International from which there are internal links to all the centres in the country. Most of the large international airlines have regular flights to South Africa.
Visitors must hold a valid passport that is valid for six months after departure from South Africa and visas may be needed. Passport holders of certain countries are exempt from visa requirements. For information on countries that do not need visas to visit South Africa click here.
If travelling to neighbouring countries and back to South Africa, apply for a multiple-entry visa. Visitors should have a return ticket and show that they can support themselves during their stay.
There are international airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Pilanesberg.
South Africa’s roads are good and driving is a great way of getting round. Any valid international driver’s licence is accepted in South Africa, provided it bears the photograph and signature of the holder and is printed in English. If your licence does not comply, you should obtain an International Driving Permit before departure. Driving is on the left and local cars are right-hand steering. Road sign distances and speed limits are in kilometres, speed limits range from 60km/h (37 mph) in urban areas, to 120km/h (75mph) on freeways. (For a quick conversion of kilometres into miles divide by eight and multiply by five.)
Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence, and traffic laws are strictly enforced. Some South African highways and roads are tolled so make sure you have currency. There are a number of international and local car hire companies that offer a range of good-quality vehicles to suit all needs and budgets.
There are variety of bus companies that offer services between the major centres. Buses also operate in cities, but rarely late into the night.
There are passenger services within the metropolitan areas but these are not usually recommended for tourists. There are also standard train services between the cities but these are basic and slow. More comfortable options include Rovos Rail and the famous Blue Train – said to be the most luxurious train in the world.
Johannesburg and Pretoria have recently been linked by the Gautrain which provides a high speed train service between the two cities as well as to and from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
Taxis can be called by your hotel reception or caught at ranks which will be found in key locations throughout major cities and towns. A tip, usually 10% to 15%, is acceptable. These taxis cannot be stopped on the street but minibus taxis used by many commuters can be, although these follow pre-determined routes and you may require help from other commuters to use the service.