Overview of South Africa
As a student you will have different housing options in South Africa. The most obvious one would be to stay at your university’s dormitory; it is usually the cheapest option, and you’ll be able to meet other students from your university. If you want to search on the rental market, you can find advertisements for flats and rooms to rent in most magazines and newspapers, and also in expat blogs and magazines. You can either live in a single apartment or a shared apartment, but each has its pros and cons. A shared apartment would be cheaper and it is a good opportunity to meet new people, especially if you came to the country without knowing anyone, but you will have to share your personal space with others (usually you will have a room for yourself and the other parts of the house are shared). A single apartment will give you more privacy but it is more expensive and can sometimes feel a bit lonely. The last option would be a homestay. It is a great opportunity to discover the everyday life of a South African family.
■ Transportation system
The road network well developed between major cities. Cars are a common way of transportation and can be rented easily. You can also travel by bus or by train. Rail and air facilities are efficient and public transportation is available in every big city. There is even a rapid bus transportation system that links major cities with one another. However, beware of minibus and taxis that are often tourist-traps and can also be quite dangerous.
You will find a large choice of shopping activities in South Africa. You can either choose to visit big department stores and shops (you will find mostly local brands and a few European or Asian brands), or you can make a trip to the local markets, where you can often negotiate prices and find local products. Note that tipping is the norm whenever you receive a service (restaurants, gas stations…).
The South African cuisine is very colourful and tasty, with roasted and grilled meat and vegetables, traditionally cooked on an open fire. Traditional dishes include: Braaivleis, which is meat roasted over an open wood or charcoal fire; Pap, a porridge made with corn meal; or Morogo, a wild spinach on its own or with potato. South African beers and wines are also quite famous.
Restaurants are affordable and you can find the usual fast-food chains and also local ones such as Black Steers and Nando’s.
South Africa has a very painful and complicated history. First colonised by the Europeans who imposed slavery in the country, South Africa was then plunged into the dark period of Apartheid from 1948 to 1994. Nelson Mandela, called “Madiba” by his fellow citizens, was the first elected president of the young republic of South Africa. As a legacy of its turbulent history and of the different peoples that form the South African nation, the culture is diverse and plural. It is filled with influences from African tribes and European settlers. Today, the country is very famous for its arts and crafts. It has a rich literature, with several Nobel Prize winners such as Nadine Gordimer. South Africa is also very famous for its jewellery, its music and theatres. South African people are very festive and lively, and enjoy great outdoors, so you will have plenty of occasions to explore the wild beauty of the country.