Penguins in South Africa

What do I need to know about South Africa?

Find all the must-know travel requirements and destination information on South Africa before you embark on your adventure.

In terms of personal safety, the same rules apply as to every international destination in the world. Keep your belongings close and guarded at all times, don’t go wandering about alone at night and, when in the cities, be on the alert for pickpockets.

Some areas in South Africa are malaria-free and others are not. Make a note of your destination and ask your doctor whether you need to get anti-malaria medication. Also remember that it tends to get very hot in summer (with temperatures of over 30ºC or 86ºF).

Currency

Banking hours at most commercial banks are Monday to Friday from 09h00 to 15h30 and on Saturday from 08h00 to 11h00.

ATMs are found throughout the country, at airports, petrol stations and shopping centres.

The currency is the South African Rand. R1 is made up of 100 cents. Please check with your hotel for daily exchange rates. No other currency is accepted as a form of payment.

Visa, American Express, Diners Club and MasterCard are honoured by most restaurants, shops, hotels, car rental firms and other points of sale. Proof of identity may be requested, so be sure to carry a passport or some form of photo identification at all times. Visa and MasterCard are accepted at most petrol stations.

You will be required to declare all foreign currency in any form when entering/exiting South Africa and therefore we advise that you only change money as required. Most international airports have banks where money can be changed and facilities are usually available at reputable hotels and lodges. The unit of currency is the South African Rand (R), which is divided into 100 cents.

Please note that 14% Value Added Tax is levied in South Africa.

Safety

It is advised you check with your tour operator or hotel concierge – they will know if there are any potentially unsafe areas along your travel route.

It is wise to avoid deserted areas, particularly at night, and if you are on a self-drive adventure then please ensure your car is locked at all times – park in well-lit, busy areas.

Dress-down (i.e. don’t wear excessive jewellery) when exploring Africa’s diverse cities. Concealed travel wallets are recommended.

Stopping for hitch hikers is not recommended.

South Africans are a very warm and hospitable nation – please do not hesitate in asking for assistance at any time.

Health

Please consult your doctor for advice on malaria precautions before travel to South Africa. Anyone who takes any special medication should take enough supplies to last the visit.

Yellow fever certificates are required for entry into South Africa if you travelled through the Yellow Fever belt.

Be aware of ticks on safari. Like most wilderness areas, ticks can be found in the bush. To avoid getting bitten guests are advised to take precautions when going on bush walks by wearing long trousers, socks and boots. If you are bitten, a tick bite could lead to tick bite fever. Symptoms include fever, headaches, and painful enlarged lymph glands in the area of the bite. If you experience these symptoms after returning home please visit your doctor and advise them of the possibility of tick bite fever.

Water

Tap water is safe to drink in South Africa but bottled mineral water is available for purchase.

Gratuities

It is customary to tip 10 to 15% of the bill at hotels and restaurants and 10% of the fare to taxi drivers. It is also the custom to tip local guides and drivers. Hairdressers and theatre ushers are not usually tipped for their services.

Photography

Most types of film material are readily available in all major centres and holiday resorts. Please be sensitive when photographing people. South Africans are renowned for being friendly; however it is courteous to ask permission before snapping away.

The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones) is not allowed in any of the conservation areas we manage until such time as their impact on wildlife and anti-poaching initiatives can be assessed. This rule will apply throughout Africa, as our partners in various countries and regions have adopted a similar stance.

Passport & Visa Requirements

It is a mandatory requirement that you travel to Africa with at least two blank passport pages per country visited and that your passport is valid for 30 days after the date of travel if you are visiting South Africa and 6 months after the date of travel if you are visiting the rest of Africa. Our recommendation is that you have at least 3 blank pages in your passport (or even 4 if you are travelling through more than one country on your journey). If there is insufficient space in the passport entry into a country could be denied. Visitors who intend travelling to South Africa’s neighbouring countries and back are advised to apply for multiple entry visas.

New Regulations for Families Travelling with Children

Parents of children under the age of 18 will be required to produce the following documentation when entering or leaving the borders of South Africa:

*Both parents travelling with a child

  • The unabridged birth certificate of the child, which must include the full names of both the father and the mother.

*One parent travelling with a child

  • The unabridged birth certificate of the child, which must include the full names of both the father and the mother.
  • An affidavit signed by the other parent and authorising the parent who is travelling with the child to do so.
  • If the parent who is travelling with the child has been granted full parental rights and responsibilities or is the legal guardian of the child, he or she must produce the court order granting them those rights.
  • If the other parent is deceased, the parent who is travelling must produce their death certificate.

*An adult travelling with a child who is not their biological child

  • A copy of the child’s unabridged birth certificate.
  • An affidavit from the child’s parents or legal guardians confirming that he or she has permission to travel with the child.
  • Copies of the identity documents or passports of the child’s parents or legal guardians.
  • The contact details for the child’s parents or legal guardians.

*Children travelling unaccompanied

  • Proof of consent for the child to travel from one or both parents or a legal guardian in the form of a letter or affidavit. If only one parent provides proof of consent, the child must also travel with a copy of a court order granting that parent full parental responsibilities.
  • A letter from the person in South Africa who is to be responsible for the child on arrival. This letter must contact that person’s residential address, as well as contact details for where the child will be staying in South Africa.
  • A copy of the identify document, passport, visa or permanent residence permit of the person who is to be responsible for the child on arrival.
  • The contact details of the child’s parents or legal guardians.
  • If you are planning to travel to South Africa and will exit the country after 1 June 2015, please remember that you will need to bring these documents with you for use at your time of departure. Families travelling with children under the age of 18 will be restricted from leaving the country without the above mentioned documentation.

Should you need any additional details regarding these policies, we ask that you contact your nearest South African consulate.

*Unabridged birth certificate: Please note that this must show the full details of the child, as well as both parents, including ID numbers and place of birth.

Supporting documents should either be the originals or certified copies of the originals.

What the Experts Say

  • Internet facilities are available in all cities and most rural areas.
  • Hospitals, transport and educational facilities are world-class.
  • Accommodation ranges from guesthouses and boutique hotels to exclusive tented camps.
  • If you are going into game parks by yourself, remember to remain in your car and not get out to photograph the wild animals.
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