South Africa Traveler Information - Travel Advice
Travel Advice with a Travel Advisory overview from the US State Department. Here we cover Visa, Safety & Security, local Laws and Insurance in our South Africa Traveler Information guide.
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Note: Always check that your destination country is one approved for travel by your travel insurance provider.
PASSPORT VALIDITY: 30 days.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: 2 consecutive empty visa pages per entry.
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: No, if visiting 90 days or less.
VACCINATIONS: Yellow fever at least 10 days before arrival is required for travelers originating from or transiting through WHO-designated yellow fever countries.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY: ZAR 25,000; Foreign currency unlimited if declared; No Kruger coins.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT: ZAR 25,000; Foreign currency unlimited if amount was declared on entry; Up to 15 Kruger coins if proof purchased with foreign currency.
Embassies and Consulates
U.S. Embassy Pretoria
877 Pretorius Street, Arcadia
Telephone: +(27)(12) 431-4000 / 012-431-4000
Fax: +(27)(12) 431-5504 / 012-431-5504
The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria does not provide consular services to the public.
U.S. Consulate General Johannesburg
1 Sandton Drive (opposite Sandton City Mall)
Telephone:+(27)(11) 290-3000 / 011-290-3000 (Monday – Thursday: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone:+(27) 79-111-1684 / 079-111-1684
Fax: +(27)(11) 884-0396 / 011-884-0396
U.S. Consulate General Cape Town
2 Reddam Avenue, West Lake 7945,
Cape Town, South Africa
Telephone: +(27)(21) 702-7300 / 021-702-7300 (from within South Africa)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(27) 702-7300 / 021-702-7411(from within South Africa)
Fax: +(27)(21) 702-7493 / 021-702-7493 (from within South Africa)
U.S. Consulate General Durban
303 Dr. Pixley KaSeme Street (formerly West Street)
31st Floor Old Mutual Centre
Telephone: (+27)(31) 305-7600 / 031-305-7600 (from within South Africa)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(27) 079-111-1445 / (031) 305-7600 or 079-111-1445 (from within South Africa)
Fax: (+27)(31) 305-7691 / 031-305-7691(from within South Africa)
See our Fact Sheet on South Africa for information on U.S. – South Africa relations.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
South Africa strictly enforces entry and exit requirements and other immigration laws. Failure to observe these requirements may result in the traveler being denied entry, detained, deported, and/or deemed inadmissible to enter South Africa in the future.
Please visit the Department of Home Affairs website for the most up to date entry and exit requirements.
The Embassy of the Republic of South Africa is located at 3051 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 232-4400. Visit the Embassy of South Africa for the most current visa information.
Two Consecutive Blank Visa Pages: South Africa requires travelers to have two completely blank visa pages in their passports upon every arrival in South Africa. You will be denied entry and forced to return to your point of origin if you do not have two blank visa pages.
Traveling with minors: There are special requirements for minors traveling through South African ports of entry. Visit the Department of Home Affairs website for the most up-to-date requirements for traveling with minors to or from South Africa.
Immunizations: Travelers entering South Africa from WHO-designated countries with risk of yellow fever virus (YFV) transmission must present their current and valid International Certificate of Vaccination as approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) (“yellow card”). See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s South Africa page.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of South Africa. However, South Africa has a high HIV/AIDS prevalence.
Safety and Security
Messages regarding demonstrations and strikes, explosive device/suspicious packages, and weather-related events are posted on the Embassy’s website.
In South Africa the equivalent to the “911” emergency line is 10111.
The following paragraphs provide a summary, but please read the Department of State’s most recent Overseas Security Advisory Council Crime and Safety Report on South Africa, which provides detailed information about safety and security concerns for travelers to South Africa.
Civil Unrest: Strikes and demonstrations occur frequently. These can develop quickly without prior notification and occasionally turn violent, and may include the burning of vehicles, buildings, or tires – which may serve as road blocks; throwing rocks or other objects; or physical attacks. Strikes and demonstrations can also interrupt traffic and provision of electricity, water, public transportation, fuel, and other goods and services. Periodic incidents of mob violence directed against refugees and immigrants from other African countries have occurred in South Africa.
- Avoid demonstrations and use vigilance during your movements around the country. Even events intended to be peaceful can become violent.
- Maintain caution in areas frequented by foreigners.
- Monitor news and consular messages.
Crime: South Africa has a very high level of crime. Violent crimes, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles affect visitors and residents alike. Crime can occur anywhere, and U.S. government staff and visitors have been robbed in the immediate vicinity of our diplomatic facilities. You should exercise particular caution in the central business districts (CBDs) of major cities, especially after dark. Crime victims have also been targeted in the arrivals hall of OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, followed, and then robbed once they reach their home or hotel.
- Avoid walking alone especially after dark.
- Avoid visiting informal settlement areas unless you are with someone familiar with the area.
- Do not display cash and valuables.
- Drive with doors locked and windows closed.
- Always carry a copy of your U.S. passport and visa (if applicable). Keep original documents in a secure location.
Student Groups: There have been instances of student groups being robbed while conducting outreach and service visits to township schools. On these occasions, student groups coordinated with officials to conduct service visits and upon arrival were held and then robbed by armed perpetrators.
Victims of Crime:
U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault or domestic violence should first contact the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate General at the numbers in the Embassy Information section of this page.
Report crimes to the local police at 10111. Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Terrorism Threat: Extremists with ties to international terrorist organizations, such as al-Qai’ida, al-Shabaab, and ISIS, historically have used South Africa as a logistical hub to conduct recruitment and financial facilitation. There has been increased activity by ISIS sympathizers and supporters locally, including the placement of incendiary devices and kidnapping for ransom operations. South African authorities have charged 11 individuals linked to ISIS with terrorism following a May 2018 attack on a mosque in KwaZulu Natal. Check the Mission’s website to review Alerts to U.S. citizens, and register with the U.S. Mission to South Africa to receive new Alerts by email during your travels.
Game parks and outdoor safety: Visitors have been injured and killed by wild animals in South Africa. It is dangerous to leave your vehicle in game parks outside of designated areas. Observe park regulations. Be mindful of sharks when swimming. Rip tides are common and very dangerous. Do not swim alone in isolated beach areas or dive into unfamiliar waters.
Hikers must be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions and ensure they have proper clothing and supplies. Many areas, especially in the Western Cape province, experience brush fires during the summer months (December-February). These fires can burn for several days. Monitor local media and follow fire crew instructions regarding road closures and evacuations.
Tourism: The tourism industry is generally regulated and rules with regard to best practices and safety inspections are regularly enforced. Hazardous areas/activities are identified with appropriate signage and professional staff is typically on hand in support of organized activities. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is widely available throughout the country. Outside of a major metropolitan center, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to arrive on the scene and provide life-saving assistance. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. You should know that we are limited in what we can do to assist detainees, and your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or imprisonment.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the nearest U.S. Consulate in South Africa immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report– see country reports
- Human Rights Report – see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in South Africa.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: South Africa law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but these laws are rarely enforced. However, many tourist attractions, and restaurants near tourist attractions, are equipped with ramps and other options to facilitate access.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Special Circumstances: In March 2017, the city of Cape Town declared a state of disaster due to drought, and the Western Cape government declared a state of disaster throughout the province in May 2017. The Government has implemented restrictions on water usage and urges all residents and visitors to minimize their consumption of water. Restrictions and rationing of water may become more stringent as the available supply dwindles. The City of Cape Town website contains current information on reservoir levels and water restrictions.
Private medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks, but limited elsewhere. Private medical facilities require a deposit before admitting patients. Pharmacies are well-stocked, but you should carry an adequate supply of prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. HIV and AIDS is a major public health concern.
You are responsible for all medical costs. U.S. Medicare does not cover you overseas. Healthcare providers, including ambulances require payment in cash before services are performed.
Medical Insurance: If your health insurance plan does not provide coverage overseas, we strongly recommend supplemental medical insurance and medical evacuation plans.
If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Embassy of South Africa to ensure the medication is legal in South Africa. Always, carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.
The following diseases are prevalent:
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For further health information:
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: Road conditions are generally good in South Africa, but the road traffic death rate is nearly three times higher in South Africa than in the United States. The high incidence of road traffic mortality is due to a combination of poor driving, limited enforcement of traffic laws, road rage, aggressive driving, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol. Use extreme caution driving at night. U.S. Mission employees are prohibited from driving after dark outside of major metropolitan areas, except for highway travel between Pretoria and Johannesburg. Traffic lights are frequently out of order.
Traffic Laws: Traffic in South Africa moves on the left, and the steering wheel is on the right-hand side of the car. Under South African law, all occupants of motor vehicles equipped with seatbelts are required to wear them while the vehicle is in operation. Texting or talking on a cell phone without a hands-free unit while driving is illegal. Treat all intersections with malfunctioning traffic lights as a four-way stop.
South African law does not require an international driver’s license. A valid driver’s license from any U.S. state or territory that has the signature and photo of the driver is valid to drive in South Africa for stays of less than six months.
Please refer to the Road Safety page for more information. Also, visit the websites of South African Tourism and the South African National Roads Agency for more information regarding local transportation trends and laws.
Taxis: The use of individual metered taxis dispatched from established taxi companies, hotel taxis, and tour buses is recommended. U.S. Mission employees are not allowed to use minibus taxis or hail taxis on the street or use a taxi stand. Minibus taxi drivers are often unlicensed and drive erratically.
Transportation Network Companies: Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), such as Uber, also operate in South Africa. U.S. Mission employees may only use TNCs with a dispatch application that provides vehicle description, license plate number, and the driver’s name, picture, user rating, and the ability to share trip information. The user should verify the information provided by the company, such as the vehicle make/model, license plate number, and driver’s name/picture, prior to entering the vehicle. TNCs should not be used to travel outside major metropolitan areas or previously disadvantaged areas. Pick up and drop off should not be done near a traditional taxi stand.
Rail Service: The long-distance rail service, Shosholoza Meyl; the rapid rail Gautrain in Gauteng Province; and luxury rail services, such as Shosholoza Meyl Premier Classe, Blue Train, and Rovos Rail are generally safe and reliable, though mechanical problems and criminal incidents do sometimes occur. U.S. Mission employees are not allowed to use the Metrorail commuter rail service because of safety and crime concerns. There have been recent reports of fires being set on Metrorail train cars.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization aviation safety standards for oversight of South Africa’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to South Africa should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts on the Maritime Administration website. Information may also be posted to the websites of the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Geospace Intelligence Agency (select “broadcast warnings”).
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
International Parental Child Abduction
Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in South Africa. For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.
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