Here's all the practical information you need to know to
enjoy a smooth visit to South Africa!
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
and seven hours behind Australian Central Time.
Johannesburg International Airport 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
Travellers 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.
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
visa. However, it is important to note that under South Africa's
Immigration Act of 2002 (Act. 13 of 2002) in force since 7 April
2003, (a) Immigration Act, 2002 the passport shall contain at
least ONE unused page when presenting the passport for
endorsements'. This requirement, reflects the requirements of
many of the world's top travel destinations, in line with the
majority of global destinations' requirements and failure to
have a clear page can result in entry being refused.
To determine whether you require a visa to enter South
Africa, visit the comprehensive South African Home Affairs
Department website at:
For South African missions abroad, visit
The currency unit is the Rand (ZAR), 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 caters 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 carr.y 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 +27 (0) 83 123 2345. This number may also be used for
practical assistance in replacing lost documents or reporting
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.
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 120kmph on the open road, 100kmph on smaller roads
and between 60 and 80kmph 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 an
autobahn. 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 compulsory
and 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.
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