The mail service in South Africa is reasonably reliable, but mail can take weeks to arrive, and money and other valuables may be stolen from letters and packages. You can buy stamps at post offices, open weekdays 8:30 to 4:30 and Saturday 8 to noon. Stamps for local use only, marked "standardized post," may be purchased from newsstands in booklets of 10 stamps. PostNet franchises—a combined post office, courier service, business services center, and Internet café—are in convenient places like shopping malls and are open longer hours than post offices.
All overseas mail costs the same. At the post office a postcard is about R6.05, and a letter ranges from R5.90 to about R26.90, depending on size and weight.
Note that the first floor of a building is the one between the ground floor and the second floor. Mailing addresses are pretty straightforward. If they're not a street address, they're either a P.O. Box or a Private Bag—essentially the same, just differing in size. The only vaguely tricky variation is a postnet suite, which consists of a number, followed by a private bag and then a post office (e.g., Postnet Suite 25, Private Bag X25, name of town, postal code). Even the smallest town has its own postal code, and suburbs may have different postal codes—one for a street address and one for P.O. boxes.
If you make a purchase, try your best to take it home on the plane with you, even if it means packing your travel clothes and items into a box and shipping those to your home, or buying a cheap piece of luggage and paying the excess weight fees. If you buy something from a store accustomed to foreign visitors, it will likely already have a system for getting your items to you, often in a surprising few weeks' time.
Federal Express and DHL offer more reliable service than regular mail, as do the new Fast Mail and Speed Courier services, yet even these "overnight" services are subject to delays. PostNet, South Africa's version of Kinko's, also offers courier services. A parcel of up to about a pound (half a kilogram) will cost around R360 to send to the United States, and a one-kilogram parcel (2.2 pounds) will cost around R700.
DHL. 0860/345–000; www.dhl.co.za.
FedEx. 87/742–8000; 080/00–3339; www.fedex.com.
PostNet. 0860/767–8638; www.postnet.co.za.