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Situated on the banks of the Orange River, Upington is a town in Northern Cape province. It is a gateway to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, in particular the Kalahari Gemsbok section, as well as a base from which to visit Augrabies Falls.
The town was originally called Olyfenhoudtsdrif ('Olive wood drift'), due to the abundance of olive wood trees in the area, but later renamed after Sir Thomas Upington, Attorney-General and then Prime Minister of the Cape. It originated as a mission station established in 1875 and run by Reverend Christiaan Schröder. The mission station now houses the town museum, known as the Kalahari Orange Museum. The museum is also the home of a donkey statue, which recognises the enormous contribution that this animal made to the development of the region during the pioneering days of the 19th century.
The city itself is not very spectacular, but a typical medium sized country town.
The hottest month of the year is January, with average daily temperatures swinging from 36 °C to 20 °C at night, while in the coolest month of July temperatures range between 21 °C and 4 °C at night. Also the driest month of the year, July sees an average rainfall of only 2 millimetres, while the wettest month of March sees 37 millimetres. Upington has been noted as being the sunniest location on the planet for three months of the year, from November through January.
There is a regular overnight train service with TransNamib, the national railway company of Namibia, from Upington to Windhoek in Namibia via Keetmanshoop. The total trip takes about 26 hours. Although the domestic service from Keetmanshoop to Windhoek rides every day except Saturdays, the train between Upington and Keetmanshoop only rides on two days: from Upington on Sundays and Thursdays at 5:00am arriving 11 and a half hours later in Keetmanshoop and from the latter on Wednesdays and Saturdays around 9:00am, taking well over 12 hours to reach Upington.
Sample distances from Upington are:
As with most of South Africa, it is best to get around by hired car. Most car hire companies in South Africa have branches nationwide. Those with branches in Upington include Avis, Hertz, Budget Car & Van Rental, and First Car Rental
The town centre is small enough to negotiate on foot.
There are quite a few nice places to grab lunch or diner in town. Many of them are just on the outskirts, few of them downtown.
Upington does have its fair share of accommodation options. Your best bet will be one of the riverfront guesthouses and B&B's that are great value with the added bonus of a good breakfast and lovely views.
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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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