Hours of Operation
The most surprising aspect of South Africa's business hours, especially for tourists who come to shop, is that shopping centers, including enclosed secure indoor malls, almost always close by 6 pm. This is starting to change in Cape Town's malls, with summer hours increased until 7 or 8, but don't expect it. It's rare for a store to remain open after dinner.
Business hours in major South African cities are weekdays from about 9 to 5. Most banks close in midafternoon, usually about 3:30, but dedicated currency exchange offices usually stay open longer. In addition, post offices and banks are open briefly on Saturday morning from about 9, so get there early. In rural areas and small towns things are less rigid. Post offices often close for lunch, and in very small towns and villages, banks may have very abbreviated hours.
Most museums are open during usual business hours, including Saturday morning, but some stay open longer.
Most pharmacies close about 6, but there's generally an all-night pharmacy in towns of a reasonable size. If not, look for an emergency number posted on a pharmacy.
Many gas stations are open 24 hours, and urban gas stations have 24-hour convenience stores, some of which have an impressive range of goods.
National holidays in South Africa are New Year's Day (January 1), Human Rights Day (March 21), Good Friday, Easter, Family Day (sometime in March or April), Freedom Day (April 27), Workers Day (May 1), Youth Day (June 16), National Women's Day (August 9), Heritage Day (September 24), Day of Reconciliation (December 16), Christmas Day (December 25), and Day of Goodwill (December 26). If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is also a public holiday. Election days are also public holidays, so check calendars closer to your time of travel for those, which are not on fixed dates.
In Cape Town, January 2 is also a holiday, known as tweede nuwe jaar (second new year). School vacations vary with the provinces, but usually comprise about 10 days over Easter, about three weeks around June or July, and then the big summer vacation from about December 10 to January 10.