Here is all the practical visitor information you need to enjoy a smooth visit to South Africa and Clarens if you’re in the area!
BANKS AND MONEY
The currency unit is the Rand, denoted by the symbol R, with 100 cents making up R1 (one Rand). Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks and Bureaux de Changes. Major international credit cards such as MasterCard and Visa and their affiliates are widely accepted, while American Express and Diners Club are accepted in very few places.
Car hire companies are located in Bethlehem (38km from Clarens) as well as all major Airports. Contact car hire companies in Bethlehem on:
In Clarens, the climate is warm and temperate. In winter, there is much less rainfall than in summer. This climate is considered to be Cwb (Subtropical highland climate) according to the Köppen-Geiger climate classification. The temperature here averages 13.7 °C.
Summer: (November to February)
Clarens summers (November to February) are mild, and whilst you may encounter the occasional thunder storm, temperature and humidity levels are such that you can enjoy most activities throughout the day without getting too hot. The evenings and early mornings are slightly cooler, and you may need a light jersey if you wish to sit outside – and why not – Clarens is a malaria-free area.
Autumn: (March – May)
Night temperatures start dropping in autumn and the deciduous trees take on their autumn colors, making Clarens one of the most photographed destinations in South Africa.
Winter: (June – August)
Winter nights can be very cold, and whilst the days are usually clear and sunny, there is often a bite in the wind coming off the snow-capped mountains.
Spring: (September – October)
Spring in Clarens is particularly beautiful as all the fruit trees come into flower. The days start warming up and the wind looses its bite. The countryside however is usually still dry and doesn’t turn green until the summer rains arrive.
As with most mountainous areas, climatic conditions can change very quickly. Visitors to Clarens are advised to take this into account: always have a hat, sunscreen, and something warm to hand. Days throughout the year are usually sunny and bright, but given the lack of cloud cover temperatures can drop sharply once the sun disappears behind the mountains, and winter night temperatures have been known to drop to -14°C. (On the upside – the stars are particularly bright on cold winter nights.) Rainfall occurs mainly in the summer months, and storms are mostly of a very short duration. Clarens is in a low-rainfall area, and the atmosphere is therefore generally very dry. Visitors from moister climates are advised to pack some skin moisturizer.
Snow in Clarens is very unpredictable. The mountains around Clarens are often dusted with snow during the winter months, as are the Maluti Mountains, and given the clear skies this makes for postcard perfect photographic opportunities. During winter visitors can go skiing at Afriski in Lesotho – only a few hours away – and there is a regular shuttle service between Clarens and Afriski during this time.
The general opinion is that the autumn and spring seasons are a good time of year to visit. As the tree filled town of Clarens offers a wonderful display of colourful blossoms in spring time, while the abundance of cosmos is a sign that the town is nearing the end of summer; and in the autumn shades of the season’s colours – oranges, reds and rustic browns of the Lombardy poplars is an attraction.
Not forgetting the towns other attractive features – its mountains, which are usually a green wonderland in the spring time, with the fresh light green willows and colourful blossoms of the many fruit trees offering an unforgettable sight in this season.
The seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are directly opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere. For summer months, lightweight (cottons and linens), short-sleeved clothes are best, although a light jersey/jumper might be needed for the cooler evenings. Warmer clothes are essential for the winter months.
Generally speaking, our facilities for disabled visitors can be improved, and this is an area our government is working on. An increasing number of accommodation establishments have wheelchair ramps and bathroom facilities for the disabled. Almost every national park has at least one accessible chalet and many accommodation establishments have one or two wheelchair-friendly rooms. Most public buildings also cater for wheelchair access. It is advisable to check about facilities ahead of time.
Non-residents are permitted to drive with a driving license issued and valid in their own country provided it bears the photograph and signature of the holder and is in English. If your driver’s license does not meet these requirements, an international driver’s license is required. Driving is on the left and the wearing of seatbelts is compulsory.
South Africa’s electricity supply: 220/230 volts AC 50 Hz
Most plugs have Type D three round pins, and some plugs also use the two smaller pin Type C Euro standard. Adaptors can be purchased but may be in short supply. Most hotel rooms have 110 volt outlets for electric shavers and appliances. US-made appliances may need a transformer.
FOOD AND WATER
Generally, tap water in South Africa is safe to drink as it is treated and is free of harmful microorganisms. It is safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks – a good thing, too, after a day out hiking or up in the mountains.
Clarens is a small town situated in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the Free State province of South Africa and nicknamed the “Jewel of the Eastern Free State“, it is situated 286 km from Bloemfontein, 390 km from Durban & 340 km from Johannesburg.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Many foreigners are unaware that South Africa has a well-developed infrastructure, high standards of water treatment and medical facilities equal to the best in the world.
Hospitals and medical care
There is a public and private hospital based in Bethlehem (38km from Clarens), offering excellent service. However, clients must have adequate health insurance to cover the fees private hospitals charge.
PASSPORTS AND VISAS
For the majority of foreign nationals who travel to South Africa for vacation, entry is straightforward and hassle-free. All visitors to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport in order to enter the country, and in some cases, a visa. Local South African visitors who are interested in going to Lesotho should carry a valid passport with them in order to enter the country. Please contact the Department of Home Affairs for precise requirements.
TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN
Parents travelling to/from South Africa with children will soon be requested to provide an unabridged birth certificate (including the details of the child’s father as well as the mother) of all travelling children. This applies even when both parents are travelling with their children and it also applies to foreigners and South Africans alike.
Full details on this regulation can be viewed here, and an update on this article can be seen here.
For visitors, South Africa is as safe as any other destination in the world. South Africa boasts a vast array of cultures, communities, sites and attractions. Clarens and the surrounding areas especially can be safely visited by tourists provided they take basic common-sense precautions (for example not walking alone in deserted areas at night and being circumspect about how much photographic equipment or flashy jeweler you carry). Most of the crime that takes place in South Africa is between people who know each other and random acts of violence are the minority of cases.
If you are in doubt as to the safety of a particular area or attraction, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information; if we are unable to assist you at the time we will offer further contact information or assist in finding out where possible.
New Year’s Day 01 January
Human Rights Day 21 March
Good Friday 19 April
Family Day 22 April
Freedom Day 27 April
Workers Day 01 May
Youth Day 16 June
National Women’s Day 09 August
Heritage Day 24 September
Day of Reconciliation 16 December
Christmas Day 25 December
Day of Goodwill 26 December
Where a declared public holiday falls on a Sunday the following Monday shall be regarded as a public holiday.
Our transport infrastructure is excellent and our roads are in good condition. However, the distances between towns are significant, so if you’re planning to self-drive, it is a good idea to plan your itinerary to ensure you don’t drive long distances, as fatigue is a major cause of road accidents. Avoid long car journeys that necessitate driving at night as it always carries more risk. Also, in some of the more remote rural areas, the roads are not fenced so there may be stray animals on the road, which could be very dangerous at night.
We have very strict drinking and driving laws – with a maximum allowable alcohol blood content of 0.05g/100ml. Translated that means about one glass of wine/beer for the average woman and perhaps 1.5 or two for the average or large man. Our speed limits are 120kph on freeways, 100kph on public roads outside an urban area which are not freeways, and between 60 and 80kph in urban areas. Be aware that even major national roads cut through urban areas so there may be a speed limit of 80 or 60kph on a road that looks like a freeway. This is to protect pedestrians, especially children, so we really do encourage people to comply with the law.
An extensive and efficient national and international telecommunication system in South Africa facilitates communication.
It is mandatory to dial the full 10 digit telephone number, including the zero in the three-digit area code, including for local calls.
Calls from an international destination to South Africa must be preceded by the international exit code from the relevant country, the South African international code 27, the local exchange code without the zero (0), followed finally by the local telephone number.
Directory Enquiries 1023
International Calls +27
Dialing codes can be found in the front of the white-page telephone directory.
International Operator 0009
International Directory 0903
Electronic Yellow Pages 10118
Trunk/Collect Calls 0020
SHOPPING & SERVICES
There are a few shops and services in Clarens ranging from groceries, butcheries, bakeries, hardware, delis, a bookshop, gift shops and various other retail shops most of which operate 7 days a week. Some shops may be closed on certain days of the week and most of them operate as per the below hours.
Monday – Sunday: 09:00 to 16:30
Value-added-tax (VAT) is charged on most items. Foreign tourists to South Africa can have their 15% VAT refunded provided that the value of the items purchased exceeds R250.00. VAT is refunded at the point of departure provided receipts are produced. For more information visit www.dfa.gov.za/consular/vat.html
South Africa operates two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+2) throughout the year, making it an hour ahead of Central European Winter Time (+1), seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time (+7) and seven hours behind Australian Central Time (-7).
Most restaurants do not add a service charge to bills – thus it is customary to leave a 10-15% tip. Parking and petrol station attendants can be given whatever small change you have available. This is always appreciated.
Visitors who are entering South Africa from a yellow fever zone must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate. Only infants under the age of one year are exempt. Immunization against cholera and small pox are not required and no other vaccinations are required when visiting South Africa.