Here's some good
practical information you might need to know to enjoy a smooth visit
to South Africa!
Need to know something that isn't listed here?
Contact us, we'd be happy to
hear from you!
Passports and Visas
Banks and Money
Health and Safety
Hospitals and medical care
Food and water
South Africa operates two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time
throughout the year, making it an hour ahead of Central European
Winter Time, seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time,
seven hours behind Australian Central Time, and 10 hours behind
New Zealand time.
Johannesburg International Airport (O.R Tambo International) is the major airport in South
Africa and is the hub for 45
airlines from all five continents.
Flights from Europe are generally overnight and just a sleep
away - an aperitif, dinner, sound sleep, and a good breakfast -
and voila, you're in South Africa! The direct flights between
the USA and Johannesburg or Cape Town are about 15 hours, and
flights between London and Johannesburg take about 12 hours.
Passports and Visas
For the majority of foreign nationals who travel to South Africa
for vacation, entry is straightforward and hassle-free. All
visitors to South Africa must be in possession of a valid
passport in order to enter the country, and in some cases, a
Travelers from certain regions of the world (Scandinavia, Japan,
the USA, and most Western European and Commonwealth countries)
do not need to formally apply for a visa. Upon arrival in South
Africa, countries falling into this category will automatically
be given a free entry permit sticker that outlines how long they
may remain in the country. This automatic entry permit is
usually for a maximum of 90 days, though the immigration officer
may tailor the time period according to the airline tickets
held. Foreign nationals from some other countries are offered
this service, but for a maximum of 30 days. If visitors want to
stay for a longer period, they will have to apply formally for a
visa, as opposed to relying on the automatic entry permit.
To determine whether you require a visa to enter South Africa,
have a look at the comprehensive South African Home Affairs
Department website, visit
For South African missions abroad, visit
Banks and Money
The currency unit is the Rand, denoted by the symbol R, with 100
cents making up R1 (one Rand). Foreign currency can be exchanged
at local banks and Bureaux de Changes. Most major international
credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard,
Visa and their affiliates are widely accepted.
Most restaurants do not add a service charge to bills - thus it
is customary to leave a 10-15% tip. Parking and petrol station
attendants should be given whatever small change you have
available. This is always appreciated, even though it may seem a
Value-added-tax (VAT) is charged on most items. Foreign tourists
to South Africa can have their 14% VAT refunded provided that
the value of the items purchased exceeds R250.00. VAT is
refunded at the point of departure provided receipts are
Generally speaking, our facilities for disabled visitors can be
improved, and this is an area our government is working on. An
increasing number of accommodation establishments have
wheelchair ramps and bathroom facilities for the disabled.
Almost every national park has at least one accessible chalet
and many accommodation establishments have one or two
wheelchair-friendly rooms. Most of our sports stadiums have
accessible suites, stands or areas for wheelchairs near
accessible parking as well as special toilet facilities. Most
public buildings also cater for wheelchair access.
The seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are directly opposite to
those of the Northern Hemisphere. For summer months, lightweight
(cottons and linens), short-sleeved clothes are best, although a
light jersey/jumper might be needed for the cooler evenings.
Umbrellas and raincoats are essential for the summers and the
Western Cape winters. Warmer clothes are needed for the winter
South Africa's electricity supply: 220/230 volts AC 50 Hz
Exceptions: Pretoria (230 V) and Port Elizabeth (200/250 V)
Most plugs have three round pins but some plugs with two smaller
pins are also found on appliances. Adaptors can be purchased but
may be in short supply. US-made appliances may need a
Health and Safety
Many foreigners are unaware that South Africa has a
well-developed infrastructure, high standards of water treatment
and medical facilities equal to the best in the world. Here we
address any health and safety questions you may have.
Hospitals and medical care
In a great many medical disciplines, South Africa is a global
leader. In fact, South African trained doctors are sought after
all over the world, so this should give an indication of the
standard of medical care available. There is a large network of
public and private hospitals countrywide, offering excellent
service. However, clients must have adequate health insurance to
cover the fees private hospitals charge.
Malaria is found only in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo
and on the Maputaland coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Malaria is not
much of a risk in the winter months. Although the incidence of
malaria is rare, it would be best to take adequate precautions
if you choose to visit these areas.
Our government has embarked on an extensive anti-malaria
programme (in co-operation with Swaziland and Mozambique) and
the incidence of malaria is decreasing. One reassuring thing
about malaria is that there is absolutely no way at all that you
can contract it unless you are bitten by an infected mosquito.
And with modern insect repellents and some common sense one can
reduce the chances of being bitten to close to zero.
The cheapest, safest and most effective measures against malaria
are physical barriers such as a mosquito net, and the use of a
good insect repellent. If you decide to take malaria
prophylaxis, it is essential that they take the drugs according
to the directions on the package insert. You will need to start
a week or two before entering a malaria-endemic area and should
continue taking the drugs for four weeks after leaving the
malaria risk area. It is advisable to consult a medical
professional before embarking on a course of malaria
prophylaxis. Note that expectant mothers should avoid malaria
For tourists, South Africa is as safe as any other destination
in the world. South Africa boasts a vast array of cultures,
communities, sites and attractions. Most parts of the country
can be safely visited by tourists provided they take basic
common-sense precautions (for example not walking alone in
deserted areas at night and being circumspect about how much
photographic equipment or flashy jewellery you carry. Most of
the crime that takes place in South Africa is between people who
know each other and random acts of violence are the minority of
cases. Most major cities run organized crime prevention
programmes Basic Safety Tip guidelines will be available at
hotels and tourism information offices
If you are in doubt as to the safety of a particular area or
attraction, contact the National Tourism information and Safety
Line on 083 123 2345. This number may also be used for practical
assistance in replacing lost documents or reporting incidents.
Food and water
As a rule, tap water in South Africa is safe to drink as it is
treated and is free of harmful micro-organisms. In hotels,
restaurants and nightspots, the standards of hygiene and food
preparation top-notch. It is safe to eat fresh fruit and salads
and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks - a good
thing, too, after a day on the beach or in the bush.
Our transport infrastructure is excellent and our roads are in
good condition. However, the distances between towns are
significant, so if you're planning to self-drive, it is a good
idea to plan your itinerary to ensure they don't drive long
distances as fatigue is a major cause of road accidents. Avoid
long car journeys that necessitate driving at night as it always
carries more risk. Also, in some of the more remote rural areas,
the roads are not fenced so there may be stray animals on the
road - which could be very dangerous at night. (Cows don't have
We have very strict drinking and driving laws - with a maximum
allowable alcohol blood content of 0.05%. Translated that means
about one glass of wine for the average woman and perhaps 1.5 or
two for the average or large man. Our speed limits are 120kph
on the open road, 100kph on smaller roads and between 60 and
80kph in towns. Be aware that even major national roads cut
through residential areas so there may be a speed limit of 80 or
60kmph on a road that looks like a motorway. This is to protect
pedestrians, especially children, so we really do encourage
people to comply.
All visitors intending to drive are required to obtain an
international drivers permit, visitors found driving without a
permit will be fined and not permitted to continue on their
journey. Visitors will also not be able to rent a car without a
valid driver's permit. The wearing of seatbelts is always a good
idea and in South Africa is compulsory, it is strictly enforced by law.
Visitors who are entering South Africa from a yellow fever zone
must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation
certificate. Only infants under the age of one year are exempt.
Immunisation against cholera and small pox are not required and
no other vaccinations are required when visiting South Africa.
Please consult your doctor for the updated information and
Most major shopping centres and malls operate 7 days a week, but
you will find that in the smaller towns and rural areas that
shops are closed on a Sunday.
Monday - Saturday: 09:00 to 17:00
Sunday: 09:00 - 14:00