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Kimberley is located right in the centre of South Africa and is the capital of the Northern Cape province. The city has about 175,000 inhabitants and is the birthplace of the De Beers diamond company, the largest in the world. It has kind of a Wild West feeling and can feel a little rough around the edges (like uncut diamonds!) but it's a great place to spend a day or two and visit its main feature: The Big Hole!
Come and visit what Kimberley is all about: the The Big Hole. This is the largest hand-dug hole in the world and still is owned by De Beers Consolidated Mines company. There are tours lasting about an hour and admission costs 80 rand. It's open every day from 8am until 5pm, except Good Friday (Friday before Easter) and the 25th of December. The tour is surprisinly objective and the downside of mining is also portrayed. Tours include a 20-minute film and walk around to the viewing platforms, where you can see how deep the Big Hole actually is: a massive 800 metres! A turquoise lake fills up most of it though, except the last 150 metres or so. There is also a simulated mining experience which provides a great insight into how bad the life of miners actually was.
Kimberley has a dry and warm climate. Summers last from November to March when temperatures are mostly around or above 30 °C while nights are actually rather pleasant. Temperatures can get above 40 °C during some days though. Winters last from June to August when it's mostly very clear with blue skies and sunny conditions. Temperatures are way lower but still pleasant at around 20 °C. Nights can get cold though and frost is not unheard of. Although Kimberley is dry, there are showers from September until April.
Shosholoza Meyl is the national railway and several trains stop in Kimberley:
Kimberley is at the crossroads of the N8 east towards Bloemfontein and the N12 between Vryburg and Britstown, eventually meeting the N1 towards Cape Town.
Sample distances from Kimberley are:
Several bus companies serve Kimberley, among which is Translux. Daily buses go to Johannesburg and Pretoria taking about 7 hours. Daily buses to Cape Town take about 12 hours. Minibuses also travel on these routes and take a little less time. There are also minibuses on a regular basis to Bloemfontein (2.5 hours), Kuruman (2 hours) and Upington (4 hours)
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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