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

To enter South Africa, a passport valid for at least 30 days after the intended date of departure is required by all nationals. Passports must have at least two blank visa pages for entry stamps. Our recommendation is to ensure you have three or even four blank visa pages if you are travelling through more than one country. If there are insufficient pages, entry will be denied.  Please note that even if you do not require a visa to enter South Africa, blank visa pages are still required in your passport for the applicable entry and exit stamps. It is imperative to check visa requirements with the South African embassy, as these may vary according to your nationality. If you intend to travel between South Africa and its neighbouring countries, it is advised that you apply for multiple entry visas. Once again, it is a mandatory requirement that you travel to Africa with at least two consecutive blank visa passport pages, per country visited, and that your passport is valid for a minimum of 30 days after your date of travel. To comply with regulation 2(1) (a) of the Immigration Regulations 2014, only Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTDs) will be accepted to enter South Africa. Extended passports will no longer be accepted. For this reason, travellers are advised to check their travel documents.

IMPORTANT: Regulations for Families Travelling with Children

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.

Ready to start planning your journey?