Important travel info for tourists visiting South Africa
Currency in South Africa:
South Africa’s currency is the rand (ZAR), which offers visitors great value for money. The rand comes in a range of coins (R1 = 100 cents) and note denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200.
South Africa has great banking facilities, as well as forex banking. It is however advised to carry some South African Rands with you. Not all Airport shuttle companies in Johannesburg have card facilities in the vehicles (FOR CONVENIENCE TASA HAS CARD SWIPING FACILITIES.)
A quick meal or beverage can be paid for in cash money instead of swiping your international bank card and the bank charging you a large sum for exchange rate. A fee that costs you more than the meal in South Africa.
It is also important to note that there are some tour destinations like the bush safari tours in South Africa where you will not have any ATM's to withdraw money.
- Tip: Download / bookmark a currency convertor to your mobile to assist in quick transactions in South Africa.
It is advised against arriving in South Africa without a plan on who will collect you, ensure booking an airport taxi / shuttle prior to arrival in South Africa. Have a clear idea of how you want to travel South Africa by use of rental vehicle or make use of a taxi / shuttle service from a reputable company like TASA. South Africa have very well maintained road, air and rail systems linking all SA Provinces.
Johannesburg has the advantage of a bus and high speed train system to link commuters to some tourist hot-spots within Johannesburg only. See below Gautrain link to see maps times and pricing.
- Tip: Ensure you book a reputable shuttle / taxi like TASA prior to arrival in South Africa. Greater Africa does not have developed taxi / rail services and it is advised you book through a travel agent to ensure your overland experience into greater Africa is not ruined by not having the correct vehicle or supplies while driving across the South African borders.
South Africa has a temperate climate and is known for its long sunny days, hence the title: ‘Sunny South Africa’. Most of the provinces have summer rainfall, except for the Western Cape (winter rainfall). Winter creeps in from May to August; Spring from September to October; Summer from late October to February and Autumn is from March to April.
- Tip: Keep a glass bottle full of cold water, sun screen and insect repellent with you in summer, while on safari / overland touring in Southern Africa.
We have three major cellphone / mobile networks that operate within South Africa. Namely MTN, Vodacom (Vodaphone) and Cell C. The network DATA and call charges can be significantly higher in South Africa than what you are used to. If you travel cross the borders of South Africa, ensure you do your research as to which ones have the best connectivity in the country outside of South Africa for you.
NB! In order to obtain a sim card for a phone in South Africa you require the necessary RICA documentation. See more on how to RICA a SIM card: https://www.vodacombusiness.co.za/mobile/main/support/rica
NB! Store important contact numbers prior to travel on your phone.
- Travel insurance and medical aid
- Tour operator contact in South Africa
- Contact details of per-arranged taxi / cab / shuttle services in South Africa (TASA TOURS)
- South African Emergency Services
- ICE (in case of emergency - some one back in your country that needs to be alerted in case of emergency)
- Personal bank contact details
- Embassy details in country you visiting.
Try have contact numbers all stored under the name ICE on your mobile device. (IE: ICE - Travel Insurance , ICE - Medical Aid, ICE - mom and dad)
Note to have these details on your person in writing if possible, for if your phone cannot be accessed
- NB! Yellow Fever
South Africa requires a valid yellow fever certificate from all foreign visitors and citizens over 1 year of age traveling from an infected area or having been in transit through infected areas. For visa requirements, please contact your nearest South African diplomatic mission.
- NB! Bring certified copies of all travel docs and travel insurances. especially for minors traveling with you. Leave some certified copies back home with family in case they need to scan and send them off to you. store documentation in a sling over or shoulder bag that will stay with you at all times.
South African Tourism engages on a regular basis with the Department of Home Affairs on issues relating to improving the ease of access of visitors to South Africa.
Tourism Visas are not required by all countries, and South Africa regularly updates information and reviewing the list of visa and visa free countries.
South Africa took a strong stance on child trafficking in 2014 and in June 2015 increased its requirements with regard to tourist visitors traveling with children. South Africa now requires a certified copy of the full unabridged birth certificate for children and consent form for traveling signed by both parents with contact details as well as copies of the parent identity documents or passports in order to obtain a visa and to enter the country. This does take some time to organise, but the embassy and visa service staff are on hand to assist and support visitors to comply with this requirement. South Africa welcomes families and children traveling to our country – and being exposed to the beauty of South Africa and its wildlife and culture.
In order to obtain a visitors visa – South Africa requires
- Proof of valid return air ticket or land transport booking
- Proof of sufficient financial means to take a vacation in the country
- A valid passport with at least two free pages
The following countries do not require Visas for entry to South Africa – but must still comply by having full birth certificates and letter of consent for children (under the age of 18) traveling. Please check the Department of Home Affairs web-site for the latest information. http://www.dha.gov.za
For more information, visit: http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/applying-for-sa-visa
Visa free countries:
Africa & Middle East
Botswana, DRC, Israel, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, United Kingdom & British Islands and overseas territories, Sweden, Switzerland
Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela
Australia, Japan, Russian Federation, Singapore
Crime TIPS for travellers in South Africa
Safety is key. Make sure you know exactly who you are dealing with in South Africa.
When it comes to Transport make sure you check if the company is registered, insured for passenger liability and have a reputation of good service.Cheaper is not always better.
When it comes to your stay. The exchange rate is extremely favourable for overseas tourists visiting South Africa. Splash out for the sake of your safety and your family. Spend extra money to stay in decent hotels in upmarket areas in South Africa where safety precautions are taken seriously.Go for the tried-and-tested accommodation options like the larger hotel and resort groups. You want to feel like you apart of the family? Then guest houses and lodges that have been operating for several years and preferably ones with a star grading listed with the "Tourism Grading Council of South Africa". This is important to ensure quality of stay. Don't just trust the star rating online, try read establishment reviews this is always one way to get a true indication of the service you will receive.
Strikes and Protests
A major domestic issue in South Africa is protest (strike) actions and unrest; this problem usually raises its ugly head in the lead up to elections or during wage negotiations. They can get violent and the police are called in. South Africa also has its gang lands and drug lords. This all happens far from the tourist beat and in isolated pockets of poverty and inner-city decay. Speak to your travel agent or tour operator and make sure those high-risk crime zones aren’t on your itinerary. Do not venture / self-drive through South Africa and inner city areas that you have not made yourself familiar with either by online research or by previously visiting the areas. Always ensure safety of you and your family. Follow online news sites and watch out for problems brewing that might erupt while you’re visiting South Africa.Read up on tourist scams in South Africa and how you can avoid falling victim to a crime. Don’t be naïve; our criminals are sometimes very organised.
Terrorism in South Africa
Terrorism has not been a significant threat to South Africa since the end of apartheid over 20 years ago. However, terrorism is a growing threat globally, and where there is a perceived opportunity to gain propaganda value from an attack, terrorist attacks could happen in any country. however Southern Africa is at a low risk to terrorist attacks.
South Africa has legislation in place and works with other governments on counter-terror initiatives to protect citizens and visitors on its soil. South Africa has a specialist counter terrorism, insurgency and hostage rescue special task force known as the NIU (National Intervention Unit) to respond to such situations.
South Africa also has a very strong private security industry which are employed by the private sector to protect life and property. Tourism establishments and attractions around the country are aware of and vigilant about possible terrorist activities and report into the Tourism Safety Initiative as part of broader crime fighting initiatives.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and the State Security Agency (SSA) jointly investigate any terror threats and are responsible for issuing alerts for those found to be credible terror concerns.
With all that scary stuff out the way, We as South African's are a peaceful nation, We help where possible and not everyone is a criminal. Take normal precautions:
- Do not stay out very late without being accompanied by a South African.
- Do not flash your cash in public areas, this includes phones and sparkly jewellery.
- Always lock your doors while in a vehicle
- Do not be a hero and fight a criminal. "That's just silly man"
A light day-pack and a second travel bag that is light and slimline. This can be used for your important travel documents and chronic medication. It should be suitable to wear over your shoulder and under a jacket. Ensure a basic "how to administer" guide is stored with your chronic medication.
Pack a travel umbrella for rainy days and a light windproof jacket. When the wind blows on a hot summer’s day, you don’t want to wear a heavy, thick winter jacket.
Buy cable ties or extra padlocks for your luggage. This is needed for the flight over to South Africa and recommended if you are leaving valuables behind in your hotel who don't have a safe in your room. Put the spare key for your locks in a separate bag.
Preferably purchase luggage made from rigid plastic that can’t be cut and opened by thieves handling luggage at airports. Use a padlock to secure your luggage.
Please do not wrap your suitcase in reams of plastic. There is too much plastic in this world and South Africa doesn’t want all that plastic. Unless the plastic is made from corn starch (recyclable / bio-degradable)
Invest in a good pair of walking shoes, or as we call them in South Africa "takkies". Ensure you wear them in if they new, Don’t start your holiday off on the wrong footing with blisters!
Also pack a pair of closed shoes and long pair of socks for the evening if you are on safari for ticks, snakes and in a malaria area, mosquitoes generally attack lower body.
Plan your wardrobe and pack light. The exchange rate is so favourable for foreigners in South Africa, you’ll definitely buy new "MADE IN SOUTH AFRICA" clothes on your holiday and need that extra space in your suitcase.
Pack your international travel plug, South Africa uses round three prong plugs.
Pack memory cards and perhaps an extra battery pack for loads of travel photos.
See our inventory list on our tours brochure for more info on packing your suitcase.