Important information for visitors and tourists to South Africa, including the lowdown on visa requirements, exchange rates and currency, malaria prophylaxis (if and when required), weather and climate, choosing suitable accommodation in South Africa, tipping, etc.

Need To Know

South African Standard Time

South African Standard Time is two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +2), one hour in advance of central European winter time and seven hours in advance of United States eastern standard time throughout the year. There are no time zone differences within the country.

Visa Requirements

Every person seeking to enter South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport for travel to South Africa and, where necessary, a visa. Enquiries can be directed to South African diplomatic representatives abroad or the Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria. Visitors who intend travelling to South Africa's neighbouring countries and back into South Africa are advised to apply for multiple entry visas.

In terms of existing arrangements, passport holders of certain countries are exempt from visa requirements. Tourists must satisfy immigration officers that they have the means to support themselves during their stay, and that they are in possession of return or onward air tickets. They must also have valid international health certificates.

Vist the South African Department of Home Affairs for more info.

Innoculations

No international immunisation is needed when entering South Africa. The only inoculation requirement is a yellow fever vaccination certificate from travellers over one year of age entering South Africa within six days of leaving an infected country. Visitors who travel through or disembark in these areas are advised to be inoculated against the disease before visiting South Africa.

Malaria Risk Areas

This disease is to the larger extent under control in South Africa. City centres like Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town are free from malaria and safe for travellers of all ages. Regions that are affected are the Limpopo Province and Mpumalanga, northern KwaZulu Natal and Zululand. The risk of contracting the disease is negligible provided that you take the standard precautions. Malaria tablets, a good insect repellent particularly in the evening, long-sleeved shirts and mosquito coils are advisable precautions.

See Malaria-Risk Areas for more information, including who is at higher risk and suggested precautions.

Security and Safety

As South Africa is a developing country, crime does exist, so we would advise you to take a few basic precautions. All valuables, passports, cameras, should be locked in the safe of your hotel. Valuables should be carried discreetly when walking in cities. Gold and other expensive items offered for sale by street vendors are likely to be fakes or stolen property. Do not participate in pavement games as they are operated by well organised gangs and money can be stolen while you are distracted.

Limited public transport is available in South Africa, and taxi services and Uber are becoming popular and affordable. Please do not hitch-hike. Local residents will advise you on safe transport. If driving, do not pick up hitch-hikers and ensure that your car doors are locked at all times. The South African Police are easily recognised in their blue uniforms and by their white and blue patrol vehicles.

As in any country, as a foreigner, one needs to be careful. We recommend checking with your host hotel, guest house or rental property whether they have any precautionary advice (advice on areas to avoid and what to look out for, etc). We also recommend checking the international site Travel Scams (South Africa page) for current or new precautions to take whilst on holiday in South Africa or anywhere in the world - travel scams are not unique to SA, they exist worldwide, especially in popular tourist destinations.

Also see

Plugs, Electricity and "What on earth is loadshedding?"

220/230 volts AC at 50 cycles per second. Three pronged plugs are universal, so take an adapter. Most hotel rooms have 110 volt outlets for electric shavers and small appliances.

Loadshedding, sheduled power outages per neighbourhood, is allegedly done to prevent a nation-wide blackout when the national electricity grid is under pressure. With a little luck you won't experience loadshedding while you're in our country, but please try to be understanding of restaurants, hotels and service providers if you should.

Languages

English is spoken everywhere you go. English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government and official documents. All our road signs and official forms are in English and at any hotel, B&B or guest house, the service staff will speak to you in English.

There are 11 official languages including English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda and Zulu.

View more information about each South African Language including its origins and where it is spoken in South Africa. Includes some "South Africanisms" and useful Xhosa and Zulu phrases.

Currency, Banking and Exchange Rates

One Rand (R) = 100 cents (c). Notes issued R200, R100, R50, R20, R10; coins R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c. Automated teller machines (ATMs) are found in most towns and operate on a 24 hour basis. They accept most credit and debit cards and will issue local currency with a standardised transaction fee per withdrawal. Please do not accept assistance from anyone at an ATM for your safety. Currency exchange rates are available at banks and published daily in the press.

Banks are open Monday to Friday from 09h00 to 15h30 and Saturday from 09h00 to 11h00.

Travellers cheques are no longer popular, but you could exchange these at larger banks.

Tipping / Gratuities

Tipping is customary in South Africa. A guideline for visitors is the following

  • Porters R5 per item
  • Taxi drivers 10%
  • Waiters and waitresses in restaurants 10-20%

VAT Refunds

As a visitor to South Africa, you can spend as little as R250.00 on goods intended for export, and claim a VAT refund. The user-friendly procedure allows you to claim your money before you even leave South African territory.

Who can claim?
Non-residents on a temporary visit to South Africa are eligible to claim a VAT refund in respect of movable goods exported through a designated point of departure within 90 days from the date of purchase.

Maximum payment in cash allowed is R3,000.00. Claims exceeding this limit or claims requiring further audit, will be posted, or your credit card will be refunded.

Please note
Goods consumed in South Africa or services rendered in the country do not qualify for VAT refunds.
Only original Tax Invoices will be considered for refunds.
The goods must be presented for inspection on departure.
Goods must be exported within 90 days of the date of purchase and the claim lodged within 3 months from the date of export.
An administration fee of 1.5% of the inclusive value of the claim will be deducted, subject to a minimum of R 10.00 and a maximum of R 250.00.
Diplomats posted to South Africa should contact their embassies for details of the applicable refund scheme.
Special provisions apply to antiques, 2nd hand goods and registerable goods.

How to claim your tax refund
Simply identify yourself as a tourist to shop assistants, and request a Tax Invoice for the goods you have purchased.

A valid tax invoice must contain the following information

  • The words "Tax Invoice"
  • A Tax Invoice number
  • The seller's VAT Registration number
  • Date of Issue of the Tax Invoice
  • The seller's name and address
  • The buyer's name and address
  • A full description of the goods purchased
  • The cost of the goods in Rands
  • The amount of VAT charged or a statement that VAT is included in the total cost

SA-Venues.com 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.