You Go

Forward planning is essential to any successful trip. Be prepared for all eventualities by considering the following points before you travel.

Passports and Visas

Citizens of the UK, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most European Union countries can stay in South Africa visa-free for up to 90 days on production of a passport at the point of entry. The passport should be valid for at least 30 days after the proposed date of departure and must have at least one empty page to receive a temporary visitor’s permit. Those who do require a visa must buy one in advance at a South African embassy; check with South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs for details. Visas to enter Swaziland are issued free of charge at the border. Visa requirements for Lesotho depend on your nationality; check the country’s E-Visa website for details.

Controversial immigration requirements for children were introduced in 2015 as part of anti-trafficking measures, requiring travellers under the age of 18 to travel with an unabridged copy of their birth certificate stating the names of both mother and father. These rules were relaxed slightly in December 2018, but some ambiguity remains, and immigration officials still have the right to demand to see such a certificate. If a child is not accompanied by both parents, additional documentation may be required, so seek advice.

Department of Home Affairs


Travel Safety Advice

Visitors can get up-to-date travel safety information from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US Department of State and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.




Customs Information

Current customs legislation allows visitors to import the following duty-free goods: 250 ml (8 fl oz) of perfume, 2 litres (3½ pints) of wine, 1 litre (1¾ pints) of spirits, 250 g (9 oz) of tobacco, 200 cigarettes and 20 cigars. Non-residents can claim back the 15 per cent VAT on goods bought in South Africa when leaving the country.


South Africa does not have reciprocal health care agreements with other countries, so take out comprehensive medical travel insurance to cover all eventualities including emergencies. State and provincial hospitals offer adequate facilities, but tend to be under-funded and under-staffed, so members of medical insurance schemes are usually admitted to a private hospital. It is wise to take out an insurance policy covering the loss of belongings, cancellations and delays.


If you arrive from a country where yellow fever is endemic, you will need a vaccination certificate. Malaria is still prevalent in lower-lying parts of Mpumalanga, Limpopo and northern KwaZulu-Natal, so you might want to consider taking prophylactics when visiting these regions.


ATMs are widespread, including at all airports. You can use them to draw local currency with any major international credit or debit card and they generally offer the best rate of exchange. Banks and bureaux de change are also plentiful. Most businesses accept major credit cards, but keep your card in sight when making a payment, especially in restaurants, to reduce the risk of it being “cloned”. Informal traders do not usually accept credit cards, and it is advisable to carry some cash with you in rural areas just in case.


Accommodation ranges from backpacker dorms to luxury five-star resorts and can be easily booked online. SANParks and KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife both have excellent online booking portals for accommodation in national parks and reserves.

KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife


Travellers with Specific Needs

The rights of people with disabilities are enshrined in South Africa’s constitution, and legislation requires that they are accommodated wherever possible in public buildings. All modern shopping malls, museums and tourist attractions have ramps, lifts and reserved parking. Local airlines provide assistance for disabled passengers, and newer urban transport systems, such as Cape Town’s MyCiTi bus and Johannesburg’s Gautrain, accommodate wheelchairs. South Africa also has a growing number of hotels that cater for people with limited mobility and most national parks have specially adapted chalets.


South Africa has 12 official languages: Afrikaans, English, IsiNdebele, IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, North Sotho, SeTswana, SiSwati, South African Sign Language, South Sotho, TshiVenda and XiTsonga. English is very widely spoken, especially in the tourist industry.

Need to know Before You Go

At a Glance


South African rand (ZAR)

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Average daily spend

Need to know Before You Go


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The longest days are in December and the shortest in June.

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Temperatures vary greatly between regions, from highs of 50° C (122° F) in summer to lows of -16° C (3° F) on winter nights.

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The east is generally wetter than the west.

Need to know Before You Go

Electricity Supply

Power sockets are type F and L, fitting two- and three-pronged plugs. Standard voltage is 220–230v.

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Need to know Before You Go


1 Jan New Year’s Day
21 Mar Human Rights’ Day
Mar/Apr Good Friday, Family Day (Easter Monday)
27 Apr Freedom Day
1 May Labour Day
16 Jun Youth Day
9 Aug National Women’s Day
24 Sep Heritage Day
16 Dec Day of Reconciliation
25 Dec Christmas Day
26 Dec Goodwill Day
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