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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution because of the high level of serious crime. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor media and other sources of information about possible new security risks.
  • The frequency of most types of crime is increasing. Robberies are frequently reported on the roads and at shopping centres. Visitors to big malls should remain vigilant at all times.  See Safety and security.
  • Travellers should be particularly cautious when using public transport. Avoid using minibus taxis due to safety and security concerns. Many of these vehicles are in poor condition, drivers, often unlicenced and almost invariably uninsured, drive erratically, and disputes between rival drivers may become violent.
  • Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations as they can quickly turn violent. See Safety and Security.
  • Parents and guardians must carry, and produce on request, a full (unabridged) birth certificate as well as a valid travel document (passport) for children under the age of 18. There are additional conditions for minors travelling with only one parent or unaccompanied. See Entry and exit.
  • There is a threat of terrorism in South Africa. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping centres. See Safety and security.
  • The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in South Africa is very high. Exercise precautions with activities exposing you to risk of infection. Victims of violent crime, especially rape, should seek immediate medical assistance. See Health.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
 

Entry and exit

Visas

If you're visiting South Africa for tourism purposes for a period of up to 90 days, you don't need a visa. In other circumstances, you'll need a visa. Be aware that significant changes have been made to some regulations governing immigration issues, including but not limited to:

  • overstaying visas
  • working in or migrating to South Africa
  • changing visa status
  • extending visa by travelling to a neighbouring country and attempting to return to South Africa.

More information: South African Department of Home Affairs

Other formalities

Australian-South African dual nationals should be aware that it's illegal to enter or depart South Africa using their Australian passport. See Laws.

Authorities don't accept provisional travel documents (one-page travel documents), though Australian emergency passports are accepted.

Travelling with children

Immigration regulations apply to children travelling under the age of 18. All children travelling must have a valid passport and a full (unabridged) birth certificate that identifies the parents. These documents must be produced on request. 

  • If your birth certificate isn't in one of South Africa's 11 official languages, which includes English, you'll need to provide an English translation from an accredited translator;
  • If you don't have an original birth certificate, you can provide a certified copy that is less than three months old. If the birth certificate is not in one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, which includes English, you will need to provide an English translation from an accredited translator.

Be aware of all requirements before travelling.  

Children travelling with one parent

 

Children travelling with one parent must have a valid passport and a full (unabridged) birth certificate that identifies the parents. In addition, they must have a:

  • legal document signed by non-travelling parents, giving approval for the child to travel OR
  • death certificate of a parent registered on the birth certificate of the child OR
  • court order granting sole custody.

This court order granting sole custody can be a legal Statutory Declaration or an Affidavit (original or certified copy) that is no more than three months old. These must:

  • contain the full names and passport details of both parents registered on the birth certificate and the children
  • contain the contact details for non-travelling parents
  • be accompanied by a certified copy of the birth certificate of non-travelling parents
  • specify the travel destinations of the parent and children.

If there is only one parent registered on the birth certificate, that person has sole responsibility for the children.

If you don't comply with these entry requirements, you'll risk deportation on arrival or being stopped from boarding your aircraft.

More information:

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia. Your passport must also have at least two completely blank pages on which your entry permit can be endorsed. Carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas. 

If your passport doesn't comply with these requirements, you'll risk deportation on arrival or being stopped from boarding your aircraft.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

By law, you must report the loss or theft of your passport to the Australian Government as soon as possible.

More information:

Money

Foreign nationals can enter South Africa with a maximum of Rand (ZAR) 25,000 (local currency) or US$10,000 (or equivalent foreign currency).

You may be required to declare the amount of money you're carrying when you arrive or depart.

Safety and security

Crime

Crime, including violent crime, is a serious issue in South Africa. Most types of crime are increasing. Be vigilant.

Don't expect the same level of service from South African police as you would in Australia.

The South African Police Service does not have 'Tourist Police'. Some criminals pose as 'Tourist Police' to extort and rob tourists, including by stopping tourist buses to check proof of identity and search luggage.


Crime at airports

  • Criminals operating out of Johannesburg's airport sometimes follow overseas visitors to their accommodation and rob them.
  • Luggage theft occurs at Johannesburg and Cape Town airports. Use an airport plastic wrapping service if available. Don't place electronics, jewellery, cameras and other valuables in checked luggage.
  • Robberies have occurred at ATMs in airports and people withdrawing from airport ATMs have been followed and robbed elsewhere.

Crimes in other settings

Many types of crime have been reported and can be common in many places and situations, including:

  • Assaults and robberies on local commuter and metro trains between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and on commuter trains in Cape Town.
  • Muggings, rape, robbery and other forms of theft, often involving weapons.
  • Murders and car jackings involving foreign tourists.
  • Assaults and robberies of travellers after their food or drinks were spiked.
  • Robberies at shopping centres are on the rise. While these have been mostly non-violent, remain vigilant at all times.
  • Theft from hotel rooms and guest homes, including within game parks. Don't leave luggage and valuables unattended. Place in safekeeping facilities.

Crime rates are significantly higher after dark in major city centres and township areas. Avoid travelling to:

  • inner suburbs of Johannesburg (Berea and Hillbrow)
  • beachfront in Durban
  • townships, unless with an organised tour run by a reputable company
  • isolated beaches, lookouts and picnic areas.

Vehicles

When travelling by car, keep the doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight.

Be aware that thieves posing as vendors or beggars target cars on highways off ramps, at intersections and at traffic lights. Criminals also place debris on roads to stop vehicles. Don't stop to clear debris.

Keep valuables such as cameras, mobile phones and jewellery out of sight. Be careful with bags and backpacks which have been stolen in public places including restaurants and bars. Exercise vigilance in all public places.

Hikers

Hikers have been attacked on tracks on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town and on the Drakensberg Mountain in the Royal National Park, KwaZulu, Natal. 

Hike in groups. Be vigilant of your surroundings and circumstances.

Money and credit cards

Many ATMs are found in major cities. They aren't many in regional and rural areas. 

ATM and credit card fraud are common. Criminals also loiter near ATMs waiting to rob people withdrawing cash. 

Tips for protecting your money: 

  • Keep withdrawals from ATMs to a minimum.
  • Refuse offers of help at ATMs.
  • Avoid ATMs that open onto the street—use ATMs in controlled areas, such as in banks, shops and shopping centres.
  • Secure all ATM and credit card payment slips.
  • Keep mobile phones and card skimmers safe; criminals use these to copy credit card details.
  • Keep your credit card in sight at all times when using it.

Scams

Scams are common. If you receive a scam message, don't be fooled: if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

If you're a victim of a scam don't travel to South Africa to seek restitution because of the risk of physical assault from perpetrators.

Bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes operate from some African countries. These typically result from connections made through Internet dating schemes or chat rooms. With a virtual friendship, you may be asked to send money so your 'friend' or prospective marriage partner can travel to see you in Australia.

In some cases, the relationship is terminated with little chance of recovering funds. In other cases, you may be lured to Africa to meet your friend or prospective marriage partner and become a victim of crime, including kidnapping, assault and robbery.

Report fraud and scam incidents to the Commercial Crimes Unit of the South African Police Service in Johannesburg on telephone +27 11 970 5300.

More information: International scams

Civil unrest and political tension

Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations as they can quickly turn violent. Avoid taking photographs or video footage of demonstrations and protests, there have been reports of bystanders’ property being damaged by protestors.

Attacks directed at refugees or immigrants from other African nations have increased with some targeted victims and bystanders killed. Most focus on low-income neighbourhoods and informal settlements (townships), but some have taken place throughout the country. Spontaneous incidents of mob violence have been difficult for local authorities to control. Avoid areas where these are likely to take place.

Terrorism

There is a threat of terrorism in South Africa. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping areas. 

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Rolling blackouts occur in parts of South Africa. This leaves areas without electrical power for several hours and can lead to lengthy traffic delays when traffic lights are affected.

Travellers should be particularly cautious when using public transport. Avoid using minibus taxis due to safety and security concerns. Many of these vehicles are in poor condition, drivers, often unlicenced and almost invariably uninsured, drive erratically, and disputes between rival drivers may become violent. Seek advice on the use of other forms of public transport from accommodation providers or tour guides. A safer option is to book local transport through a reputable provider. 

 

Wildlife

Respect wildlife laws. Maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. Only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators. Follow park regulations and the advice of wardens.

Be cautious about swimming in lakes and rivers because of water-borne diseases and attacks by wildlife in some areas.

Road travel

 

Roads are generally good, although road conditions vary, especially in rural areas. Excessive speed and poor driving skills, including in difficult conditions, cause a large number of serious accidents in urban and rural areas. Pedestrians and animals straying onto roads present a common driving hazard, especially at night. Incidents of drunk driving also increase at night. You're four times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in South Africa than in Australia. 

More information: Road safety and driving 

Driver's license

If you want to drive in South Africa, you must have a valid Australian driver's licence before you depart. You must also have a valid International Driving Permit, which may be required by car rental companies. Also check for special requirements for motorcycle licenses before you depart. Driving without the correct licenses can affect your insurance.

You must be at least 18 years of age to drive in South Africa. If you're an Australian resident in South Africa, you can exchange your Australian driver licence for a South African licence within the first 12 months of your residency.

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in South Africa.

More information: Air travel.

Laws

Local laws

You are subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular services charter. But we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail.

If you're detained or arrested, South African authorities may not automatically notify the Australian Government. As soon as possible, ask police or prison officials to notify the Australian High Commission in Pretoria.

More information: Arrested or in prison

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences in South Africa are severe and may include lengthy imprisonment.

More information: Drugs

Commercial surrogacy

If you're visiting South Africa to commission commercial surrogacy arrangements, first seek legal advice. 

More information: Overseas births, adoptions and surrogacies

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Australian-South African dual nationals should be aware that it's illegal to enter or depart South Africa using their Australian passport. You may be turned away from border points and could be fined or imprisoned for up to 12 months. 

If you're uncertain if the South African Government will treat you as a South African national, contact the South African Department of Home Affairs or the nearest Embassy or Consulate for advice.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you cannot afford travel insurance, you cannot afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy.
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

Remember to extend your insurance if you extend your trip.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

It's important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Take prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry on your person a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, your dosage and that it is for personal use only.

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. You could be arrested or have your medicine confiscated if you bring in restricted medication or do not have correct documentation. This includes countries where you are only transiting and do not leave the airport, as well as your final destination.

Before you leave Australia check if your medication is legal in each country you are travelling to, and the requirements to take that medication into the country.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Yellow Fever

A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required for all passengers over one year of age arriving in or transiting through South Africa. This certificate must be issued for a country or region listed by the World Health Organization as endemic for yellow fever. It must have been issued at least 10 days before you arrive.

If arriving from a yellow fever endemic country, you must show proof of yellow fever vaccination. If you can't, you may be refused entry or placed in quarantine. You can't be vaccinated on arrival.

HIV

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in South Africa is very high. Exercise precautions with activities exposing you to risk of infection. Victims of violent crime, especially rape, should seek immediate medical assistance.

Cholera

Cholera occurs predominately in rural areas, with more serious outbreaks occurring periodically:

  • boil all drinking water or drink bottled water (tap water in major cities is generally safe to drink)
  • avoid ice cubes
  • avoid raw and undercooked food
  • maintain strict hygiene standards if travelling in rural areas.

More information: World Health Organization website

Malaria

Malaria is prevalent in some remote areas in the far north and east of South Africa, including Kruger National Park. The 90-kilometre strip running along the border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe is a designated malaria risk zone. Some adjoining areas experience malaria risk at some times of the year. Other insect-borne diseases (including filariasis) are also prevalent.

Take prophylaxis against malaria if travelling to an area where it's prevalent. Other precautions include:

  • using insect repellent
  • wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases

 

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. These include drug-resistant tuberculosis, hepatitis, measles, rabies, Rift Valley Fever and typhoid.

If you're intending to visit farms and/or game reserves, avoid contact with animal tissues or blood. 

Don't drink milk that hasn't been pasteurised or homogenised. Don't eat raw meat. 

Don't swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases, such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). 

Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in South Africa is generally low by Western standards. Many regional hospitals only provide basic facilities. The standard of medical facilities varies throughout South Africa. They're good in urban areas and in the vicinity of some game parks, but may be limited elsewhere.

There's no reciprocal medical agreement between Australia and South Africa. Before admitting patients, hospitals usually require:

  • guarantee of payment
  • confirmation of medical insurance
  • up-front deposit for services.

In remote areas, air evacuation to a major city is sometimes the only option for medical emergencies. Costs for such an evacuation can exceed A$10,000.

Decompression chambers are at:

  • Kleinmont Hospital in Cape Town
  • St Augustine's Hospital in Durban
  • Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg
  • Eugene Marais Hospital in Pretoria.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer, or airline.

Emergencies

  • National emergencies: 10111
  • Fire and ambulance emergencies:  10177
  • Criminal issues, contact police: 10111  Always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Tourism services or products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

More information: South African government consumer assistance

Australian Government assistance

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australian High Commission, Pretoria

292 Orient Street
Arcadia
Pretoria, South Africa
Telephone (27 12) 423 6000
Facsimile (27 12) 342 8442
Email consular.pretoria@dfat.gov.au
Website southafrica.embassy.gov.au 

Information on opening hours and temporary closures, see High Commission website.

In a consular emergency, if you're unable to contact the High Commission, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Tsunamis

The Indian Ocean experiences more frequent, large and destructive tsunamis than other parts of the world because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. 

In the event of a natural disaster, follow the advice of local authorities.

More information: Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

Additional resources