Bloemfontein sits at a crossroads in South Africa, with Johannesburg to the north, Cape Town to the south, Durban to the east and Kimberley and Namibia to the west. As a result it oftens serves as a stop-off point for travellers going somewhere else, but it's actually a nice, quiet place to spend a day or two if you have the time. It was also, rather surprisingly, the birthplace of famous fantasy authour J.R.R. Tolkien, who was born in 1892 and lived there for three years.
Bloemfontein, lies plum in the middle of the Free State, at the heart of South Africa and is embraced by several of South Africa’s provinces and shares a border with the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.
Knows as the City of Roses, Bloemfontein serves as something of an oasis as it is the only major city for miles around, it is also the sixth largest city in the country. Despite being situated in an area of dry grassland, Bloemfontein more than lives up to its name, with thousands of rose bushes lining the city and more than 4000 rose trees having been planted in the rose gardens in Kings Park.
For an interesting introduction to the city's mix of architectural styles, visitors should take a walk down President Brand Street. The Oliewenhuis Art Gallery stocks a good collection of painting and sculpture, and is set in some beautiful green gardens.
The big upcoming event on the South African horizon is of course the FIFA World Cup beginning on the 11th of June 2010. One of the most prestigious and popular world sporting events, the World Cup 2010 promises to bring throngs of passionate supporters from around the globe. Held once every four years, it's a football tournament (known as soccer in South Africa) where 32 world nations vie for the famous golden trophy.
Bloemfontein will be hosting some of the World Cup matches at the Free State Stadium, which has a capacity of 48,070.
Bloemfontein has a fairly moderate climate compared to many other parts in the country. Temperatures average beteween 25 and 30 degrees Celsius from October to March and between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius from May to August. Nights are roughly around 12 to 16 degrees during winter, but only slightly above zero in June and July. Extremes of 38 degrees and -9 degrees have been recorded. May to September is fairly dry, November to March is the rainy season. Annual rainfall is around 500 mm.
Shosholoza Meyl has the following trains:
If you would like to travel around by car, and it is suggested you do, due the fast distances in the Free State, then there are numerous car rental companies available. Car hire companies include Avis, Hertz, Budget as well as many others. Usually, the local ones are cheaper but don't have the same standard as the international ones, which have more branches throughout the country and therefore are able to help you more quickly if needed.
Big cities and most of the popular places in the country usually have an internet café though they are not as abundant as in, for example, Asia or South America. It's also relatively expensive, usually 20-30 rand an hour, sometimes even more. Many of the accommodation options have internet access available, either wireless with your own laptop or by their own computer(s). Wireless access is also available throughout the country in more and more cafes and eateries, sometimes free and sometimes for a small fee. Note that you usually have to login anyway and agree with the terms and conditions. It is cheapest to buy a prepaid cell phone starter pack (less than R10) and access the Internet with GPRS or 3G. Generally R2 per MB for out of bundle data from most providers (50c for Virgin Mobile), but it becomes a lot cheaper if you buy a data bundle. In general coverage is good except the more rural parts of the northern and northwestern parts of the country (especially Northern Cape).
See also International Telephone Calls
South Africa's country code is 27. Telephone numbers in South Africa are 10 digits, including the local area code. There are also some prefixes like 0800 (toll free), 0860 (charged as local call) and 0861 (flat-rate calls). The general emergency number is 10111, ambulance is 10177 and police is 1011.
South Africa has very good phone facilities, which are also becoming more and more competitively priced, now that more operators are active on the market. The main ones are Neotel and Telkom South Africa. Local phone calls are cheap (about one Rand an hour), domestic long-distance calls are about twice as expensive. International calls start at around 6 Rand an hour but can be (much) higher to less usual countries. Note that public phones are about twice as cheap as new private phone centres. Phone calls tend to be the cheapest during the weekend and during business hours (8:00am to 5:00pm) on weekdays and more expensive during the evening and nights at weekdays.
There are also good mobile-phone facilities, with GSM and 3G networks. There are five cell phone providers in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C, Virgin Mobile and 8ta. SIM card prepaid starter kits are available from R10. You will need a passport and a proof of residential address and it has to be registered before you can call or receive calls. You can buy credit for prepaid phones just about everywhere, remembering you will usually need cash to do so from service stations.
The SAPO (South African Post Office) is the nation's postal service. They have a track & trace system for parcels as well. Post offices are open from 8:30am to 4:30pm from Monday to Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Domestic and international deliveries are reliable but can sometimes take up to several weeks. If you want to send something oversees of any value, try using one of the private mail services, like Postnet. Also international courier companies like TNT, UPS and DHL tend to be fast, very reliable and competitively priced.
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