The South African Rand

South Africa has a fond place in the hearts of millions of travellers for its diversity, natural bounty, and undeniably exquisite landscapes. But, it is also a popular destination for its favourable exchange rate with many countries. This means that many more foreigners can afford to have an extended holiday and get the most out of this beautiful country without breaking the bank. This is excellent news for potential travellers, as South Africa remains the destination of choice for family getaways, honeymoons and corporate travel.


The local currency is the rand - international shorthand ZAR and local shorthand R. The rand is made up of 100 cents. The note denominations are R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200; and the coins are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R5.


South African banks enjoy a world-class status and are found abundantly in all major cities, towns and even villages. It is only in very rural areas that banks may be a little scarce, although there are still likely to be ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) scattered around. Bureau de change facilities are also found throughout the country, and are well indicated.

The ATMs are linked to all major international networks, accepting Maestro cards, major credit and debit cards, and Cirrus cards.

Banks are usually open from 09h00 every day, but closed on Sunday. This may be a little earlier in major metropolises. They close at 15h30 during the week and at 11h00 on Saturdays. Note, though, that banks and bureau du change facilities in airports have adjusted their hours to suit the needs of travellers.

The major banks in South Africa are

  • Absa Bank
  • Capitec
  • First National Bank
  • Nedbank
  • Standard Bank

Credit and Debit Cards

All of the major credit cards can be used in South Africa and are widely accepted. Cards with a chip will require the users to enter a PIN, as will debit cards.

  • American Express South Africa
  • Diners Club South Africa
  • MasterCard South Africa
  • Visa South Africa

Foreign Exchange

All travellers that will need to use the foreign exchange facilities are reminded to carry your valid passports with you at all times, as you need to present these to the Forex desk. It is only legal to buy or sell currencies using authorised dealers.

Travellers’ cheques from Thomas Cook and American Express can be cashed at any bureau de change or bank. There are a number of institutions that are authorised to deal in foreign exchange. These include:

  • Bank of Baroda (SA branch)
  • Bank of China (Johannesburg branch)
  • Bank of Taiwan (SA branch)
  • Bidvest Bank/Rennies Foreign Exchange
  • Calyon Corporate Bank: Crédit Agricole (SA branch)
  • China Construction Bank Johannesburg
  • Citibank, South Africa
  • Deutsche Bank AG (Johannesburg branch)
  • Habib Overseas Bank
  • HBZ Bank South Africa
  • HSBC (Johannesburg branch)
  • Investec South Africa
  • JPMorgan Chase (Johannesburg branch)
  • Mercantile Bank
  • Sasfin Bank
  • Société Générale (SA branch)
  • South African Bank of Athens
  • Standard Chartered Bank South Africa (Johannesburg branch)
  • State Bank of India South Africa


VAT (Value Added Tax) is included in the price of almost everything that you will buy. Tourists have to pay this too. However, if you plan to take items worth more than R250 out of the country, you are likely able to claim this VAT back if you have a tax invoice for the goods. VAT is currently 15%.


Almost every fuel station has an ATM on site. Most also accept debit and credit cards, but this should be established with the attendant prior to getting fuel. It is customary to give the attendant about R5 as a tip, if the service has been good.

Road Tolls

On major motorways, there are road tolls between large metropolises. The fee can be as little as R10 or as much as R200, depending on the location of the toll. These can be paid using your MasterCard or Visa, or with cash.

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South Africa. Explore. Experience. Stay® has been assisting travellers with their South Africa travel plans since 1999, and is the largest, independent online travel guide for South Africa available in both English and German.