Frequently Asked Questions

Visas and Passports

  • Visitors on holiday from most Commonwealth countries (including Australia and the UK), most Western European countries, Japan and the USA don’t require visas. Instead, you’ll be issued with a free entry permit on arrival. These are valid for up to 90 days, and your passport must be valid for at least 30 days after the end of your intended visit. Unless you request otherwise, the immigration officer may use the date of your flight out as the date of your permit expiry.
  • If you aren’t entitled to an entry permit, you’ll need to get a visa (R425) before you arrive. These aren’t issued at the borders, and must be obtained at a South African embassy or consulate, found in most countries. Allow at least a month for processing; for more information, visit the Department of Home Affairs.
  • If you do need a visa (rather than an entry permit), get a multiple-entry visa if you plan to make a foray into Lesotho, Swaziland or any other neighbouring country. This avoids the hassle of applying for another South African visa.
  • For any entry – whether you require a visa or not – you need to have at least one completely blank page in your passport, excluding the final blank page.

Money and Forex

  • South Africa’s currency is the rand (R), which is divided into 100 cents. There is no black market. The coins are one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and R1, R2 and R5. The notes are R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200. There have been forgeries of the R200 note, and some businesses are reluctant to accept them. The best currencies to bring are US dollars, Euros or British Pounds in a mixture of travellers cheques and cash, plus a Visa or MasterCard for withdrawing money from ATMs. There are ATMs in all cities in South Africa, most of which give cash advances against cards belonging to the Cirrus network. Credit cards are widely accepted in South Africa, especially MasterCard and Visa. 

Budgeting for your trip

  • Travelling in South Africa is not as cheap as in many less-developed African countries. However, it usually works out to be less expensive than travelling in Europe or North America, and the quality of facilities and infrastructure is generally high. Among the best deals are national parks and reserves, which offer excellent and accessible wildlife-watching at significantly less cost than you would pay in parts of East Africa. At the budget level, it’s quite possible to get by on about R250 per day with a bit of effort, by camping or staying in hostels or self-catering accommodation, and using public transport. For midrange travel – where the best value and most choice are found in South Africa – plan on about R450 per person per day; more if you hire a vehicle and less if you stay in self-catering places (many of which are quite comfortable). Life in the luxury lane starts at about R1400 per person per day, and can climb to more than five times this if you decide to ensconce yourself in some of the continent’s top wildlife lodges.

Crime

  • As in all other contries you have an element risk that you will also face in South Africa. However, try to keep things in perspective, and remember that despite the statistics and newspaper headlines, the majority of travellers visit the country without incident.
  • The risks are highest in Johannesburg, followed by some township areas and other urban centres. Daylight muggings are common in certain sections of Johannesburg, and the city’s metro train system has had a problem with violent crime. No matter where you are, you can minimise the risks by following basic safety precautions, remaining alert and exercising common sense.
  • If you are a victim of crime in South Africa, it’s most likely to occur at an ATM. There are dozens of scams that involve stealing your cash, your card or your personal identification number (PIN) – usually all three. Thieves are just as likely to operate in Stellenbosch as in downtown Johannesburg and they are almost always well-dressed and well-mannered men. The ATM scam you’re most likely to encounter involves the thief tampering with the machine so your card becomes jammed. By the time you realise this you’ve entered your PIN. The thief will have seen this, and when you go inside to report that your card has been swallowed, he will take the card – along with several thousand rand. Choose the ATM you use carefully, and try to avoid using them at night and/or in secluded places.

Recommended vaccinations

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends all travellers be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, as well as hepatitis B, regardless of their destination. The consequences of these diseases can be severe, and outbreaks do occur. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends all travellers be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, as well as hepatitis B, regardless of their destination. The consequences of these diseases can be severe, and outbreaks do occur. According to the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention, the following vaccinations are recommended for South Africa: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid, and boosters for tetanus, diphtheria and measles. Yellow fever is not a risk in the region, but the certificate is an entry requirement if you’re travelling both from an infected region to some of South Africa’s neighbouring countries such as Mozambique.