You will be coming to a country where being an individual is a necessity!

Probably the most diverse element in South Africa is its people and their cultures. As a country with 11 official languages, namely Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, tshiVenda, and Xitsonga, you can imagine how vibrant, colourful and interesting life in South Africa can be.

Geographical Diversity

South Africa, a country situated at the southern end of the African continent, is a quilt of landscapes, fauna and flora. Each of the country’s nine provinces offers visitors a unique view into some aspect of South African life, and that which Africa is so popular for, its natural wild side.

Each of South Africa’s provinces, the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, North West Province, Northern Province, Mpumalanga and Gauteng, is divided into one of the three identified geographical regions, namely, plateau, mountains and coastal belt.

Cultural Diversity

Probably the most diverse element in South Africa is its people and their cultures. As a country we have 11 official languages, namely Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, tshiVenda, and Xitsonga.

South African cuisine has unusual variety, derived from the culinary traditions of its diverse population. Traditional foods include: bunny chow (curry in a half-loaf of bread), samp (corn) and beans, bobotie (a curried mince dish of Malay origin), milk tart, koeksusters (sweet syrupy deep-fried twisted pastries), and biltong (salty dried meat). South Africans are very fond of meat and enjoy a ‘braai’ (a barbecue which can include steaks, chicken, sosaties (marinated meat on a skewer), and boerewors (spicy sausage)). Potjiekos (meat & vegetable stew) and potbrood (baked bread), both cooked over coals in cast-iron pots, are also local favourites.

South African wines are among the best in the world, and there are also good local beers. There are a variety of restaurants in Port Elizabeth: including Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Italian, Greek and seafood restaurants, as well as numerous steak houses. There are also many coffee shops (which serve light meals) and fast food / take-away restaurants.

People who visit the country do not only take home a curio but also a little of the spirit of Africa. This spirit of Africa gets into your bones, into your soul and makes you remember this country of sweet sorrow, and amazement, which can leave you breathless at times.

Natural Diversity

South Africa is famous for its breathtaking scenery and abundance of wildlife. Wildlife does not roam free in cosmopolitan areas, but is confined to farms, uninhabited ‘veld’ fields, private game lodges and national parks.

Five famous inhabitants of the wild are especially popular, not only with tourists, but also with the locals. The ‘Big Five’, as they are known, are found mostly in the bigger national parks, however, in the last five years these animals can also be seen at some of the private game lodges. The Big Five includes: elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo. Other African icons like the hippo, giraffe, cheetah and whales can also be seen.

With over 200 mammal species it is hard to identify those that stand out, but the samango monkeys, baboons, dassies and meerkats are the most entertaining and interesting.

As a country that is bounded by the Indian Ocean in the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, it is no surprise that eight whale species can be viewed in South African waters. Another interesting fact about our waters is that 2000 other fish species, 16% of the world’s total, swim around in these waters.

Economical Diversity

South Africa’s economy is supported by a diverse variety of businesses. From big conglomerates and international companies to small, family businesses and street vendors, South Africa’s workforce is indeed as diverse as the country.

What do I bring with me?

First Semester (February - June)

If you will be joining the NMMU from its first semester, i.e. February to June, you should bring summer clothes and of course beach attire. January to March is warm and hot, with some humid and windy days. During these months we also experience some showers. From the end of April to middle June, we experience cool evenings, and some chilly days, with more regular rainfall.


Port Elizabeth's weather can change in a heartbeat and we are renowned for our 'four seasons in one day.

Second Semester (July - November)

If you will be joining the NMMU from its second semester, i.e. July to November, you should bring more winter than summer clothes, but just in case, bring along your beach attire. July to August is cold and rainy, and with the occasional breeze it can get really icy during these months. However, it is not as cold as European winters. During these months we experience showers, over-cast days and icy-cold winds. From the end of August to November, Port Elizabeth gets its colourful jacket back as spring is in the air. We experience sunny days with cool breezes and most Port Elizabethans venture outside during this time.

As an international student you will be required to bring your own bedding when coming to South Africa. Students do not have to bring extra coffee, toothpaste and other toiletries. These can be purchased in South Africa. Bedding (linen, blankets, pillowcases etc.) can be bought at a variety of stores, and prices vary from cheap to expensive. However, it’s recommended that you bring a sleeping bag in the interim.

NMMU Accommodation does not have air-conditioning or central heating so make sure you bring warm duvets and blankets should you not want to purchase them here.

General Facts


The South African Standard Time is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). There are no ‘zone’ or seasonal variations.

Electricity Voltage & Measurements

220 / 230 Volts AC at 50Hz. Appliances with a lesser voltage will require a transformer. Three-pin round plugs are in use. Adaptors can be purchased at airports and major shopping centres.

Most international student accommodation has pre-paid electricity meters. You will be able to buy electricity at various selling points. Please keep in mind that you will be responsible for ‘topping-up’ these meters and thus you need to keep an eye on the electricity meter at all times.

In South Africa we use the Metric System of measurement. (eg. metre and kilogram)

Tap Water

High-quality tap (faucet) water is available almost everywhere in South Africa. It is treated to be free of harmful micro-organisms, and in any area other than informal or shack settlements, it is both palatable and safe to drink straight from the tap. In some areas, the water is mineral-rich, and you may experience a bit of gastric distress for a day or two until you get used to it. Bottled mineral water, both sparkling and still, is readily available in most places.

Currency, Credit Cards & Travel Cards

The currency in South Africa is the Rand. One Rand (R) = 100 cents (c). Bank notes currently available are R200, R100, R50, R20 and R10; and coins are R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c and 10c. There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency being brought into the country, as long as it is declared to the Customs Officers on arrival.

Most international credit cards such as Master Card and VISA are accepted, as well as travel cards. Money can be drawn from local ATM’s using most foreign bank cards, please check with your bank beforehand. Foreign currency is not accepted in South Africa and will have to be converted into South African Rands (see agencies below).

Exchange Agencies:

American Express Foreign Exchange
The Boardwalk
Tel: +27 (41) 583 2025

Rennies Foreign Office
Bidvest Bank, Greenacres
Tel: +27 (41) 363 1185

Please Note: A commission fee is charged every time you exchange currency.

VAT (Value Added Tax)

Currently, 14% is included in the price of most goods and services. Foreign visitors may claim back VAT paid on items taken out of the country when the total value exceeds R250. VAT is refunded at the point of departure (Oliver Thambo - Johannesburg & Cape Town International Airport) provided that receipts are produced.


Tipping is common practice in South Africa for a range of services. In restaurants, the accepted standard is around 10% of the bill, although sometimes a gratuity will be included (often in the case of a large party). Service station attendants will expect a tip of two or three Rand for filling up with petrol, checking oil, water and tyre pressure and cleaning windscreens. It is also appropriate to tip taxi drivers and tour guides. Uniformed parking attendants will offer to safeguard your car for a tip from two Rand and upwards.

Immunizations / Vaccinations

Travellers entering South Africa from countries where yellow fever is endemic are often required to present their yellow World Health Organization (WHO) vaccination record or other proof of inoculation, or they must be inoculated at the airport in order to be permitted entry. It is recommended that students planning to study nursing, social work or any other subject, which involves working with the underprivileged community, have a course of Hepatitis B inoculations starting, if possible, nine months prior to arrival in South Africa. It is recommended that you consult your personal physician in your home country for further advice and information on inoculations.

The Eastern Cape is a malaria-free area. Precautions should be taken if travelling to the Kruger National Park and other low altitude game parks and surrounding areas. Malaria prophylaxis should be taken before arriving in, during your stay in, and after departure from, these areas. Remember that to be effective, these anti-malaria drugs must be taken regularly and in strict accordance with the doctor’s instructions (

For more information on South Africa, visit:

Estimated Living Expenses

Books are excluded from the student fees.
R 3 000.00 - R 4 000.00 per month
Books and stationery
R 3 000.00 - R 4 000.00 per semester
Medical Aid*
R 3 500.00 – R 4 000.00 per year **
Transport to the University (students living off-campus)
R 300.00 – R 400.00 per month

* Please refer to the how to apply page
** Rates depend on which option you chose.

Meals: Self-catering accommodation
R 2 500.00 per month
Sport clubs and societies
R 600.00 (optional) per year
R30.00 per 5kg load
Electricity (students living off-campus)
R350.00 per month

Please Note: These costs are estimates. South African food prices fluctuate on a regular basis.

Culture Shock

South Africa, a country situated at the southern end of the African continent, is a quilt of landscapes, fauna and flora. Each of the country’s nine provinces offers visitors a unique view into some aspect of South African life, and that which Africa is so popular for, its natural wild side.


Upon arrival in a new country, you feel "excited and elated", according to Tsang-Feign this will last for up to several weeks when everything and everyone is "fresh and new".


When the excitement wears off, a person is confronted with daily life in the new society, where everything can be quite different from back home. Some people refuse to adapt to the new culture, associating only with their own crowd and remaining aloof from the local population.


After about nine months, [a person] feels more familiar with the environment and begins to see the good side of the new culture. You gradually adopt the new ways of living. Sometimes people in this stage may go to another extreme, rejecting their own culture and viewing everything back home as “unsophisticated” or not as attractive.


"When people learn how to integrate the "old" and "new", they can fully appreciate their own origin as well as the new culture." So if you experience any of the above, be patient, because it will pass.

The NMMU Counselling Services also offer a range of skills workshops such as 'Adjusting to University Life' that could address loneliness and long-distance relationships.

In South Africa especially, the people around you will be glad to help, but do take precaution, and do not be too trusting, foreigners are sometimes easy targets for theft.