South Africa

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 17 April 2014.   It has new information under the Summary and Civil unrest/political tension (National Parliamentary and Provincial Assembly elections will be held across South Africa on 7 May 2014). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in South Africa due to the high level of serious crime.

South Africa overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in South Africa due to the high level of serious crime.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in South Africa is very high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.
  • National Parliamentary and Provincial Assembly elections will be held across South Africa on 7 May 2014. Although we do not anticipate disturbances or violence, we remind Australians to avoid demonstrations and political rallies.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of South Africa for the most up to date information.

To enter South Africa you are required to have a passport valid for no less than 30 days after the end of your intended stay, and at least two completely blank pages on which your entry permit can be endorsed. If your passport does not comply with this requirement you will either be prevented from boarding the aircraft at your point of departure, or risk deportation on arrival in South Africa.

South African border authorities do not accept provisional travel documents (one page travel document) as a valid document to enter South Africa. Authorities will, however, accept an emergency passport issued by a Commonwealth country. If you need to travel into South Africa using a travel document other than your passport, please contact the Australian High Commission in Pretoria for more information. Please contact your nearest Australian High Commission or Embassy for assistance with an emergency passport.

It is illegal for an adult who holds South African citizenship to enter or depart South Africa using a non-South African passport (see under Laws: dual nationals).

Foreign nationals are permitted to enter South Africa carrying a maximum of R5,000 (local currency). Foreigners may be required to declare their currency holdings on arrival or departure.

A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required for all passengers over one year of age who arrive or are transiting through South Africa, from a country or region listed by the World Health Organization as endemic for yellow fever. South African authorities will require all travellers arriving from yellow fever endemic countries to show proof of yellow fever vaccination, including travellers transiting through South Africa. Travellers unable to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate issued at least 10 days before arrival in South Africa may be refused entry or placed in quarantine. There is no discretion for travellers without a vaccination certificate to be vaccinated on arrival.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

South Africa will hold elections for the National Parliament and Provincial Assemblies on 7 May 2014. We recommend that travellers avoid demonstrations, and political rallies. While we do not anticipate significant disturbances or violence associated with the elections, travellers should monitor local news and follow advice given by local authorities.

Although the political situation is stable in South Africa, nationwide strikes and demonstrations can occur. Strikes can often turn violent and become dangerous. You should avoid large gatherings and demonstrations because of their potential to turn violent. You should monitor the media and other local information sources for information about possible demonstrations or public gatherings and avoid relevant areas.

Crime

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in South Africa because of the high level of serious crime. Muggings, rape, armed robbery and other forms of theft are common. Murders and carjackings involving foreign tourists have also been reported. Travellers have been robbed and assaulted after having their food or drinks spiked.

The South African Police Service does not have “Tourist Police”. Criminals, however, have posed as “Tourist Police” to extort and rob tourists, including by stopping tourists buses to check proof of identity and search luggage.

Crime is significantly higher after dark in the centres of major cities and in township areas. The inner suburbs of Johannesburg (Berea and Hillbrow) and the beachfront in Durban are particularly prone to crime and you should avoid travelling to these areas. As crime rates are generally high in the townships, you should only visit township areas with an organised tour run by a reputable company. You should also avoid isolated beaches, lookouts and picnic areas.

Due to the very high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

When travelling by car, you should keep the doors locked, the windows up and valuables out of sight. Thieves posing as vendors or beggars target cars on highway off ramps, stopped at intersections and at traffic lights. Criminals can place debris on roads to stop vehicles. You should not stop to clear debris off the road.

Valuables such as cameras, mobile phones and jewellery should be kept out of sight, and you should exercise vigilance in public places. Bags and backpacks have been stolen in public places including restaurants and bars.

There is a luggage theft and pilferage problem at Johannesburg and Cape Town airports. Use an airport plastic wrapping service when available and avoid placing electronics, jewellery, cameras and other valuables into checked luggage.

Theft from hotel rooms and guest homes is common. Luggage and valuables should never be left unattended and should be placed in safekeeping facilities.

Criminals operate out of the airport in Johannesburg, following some overseas visitors to their accommodation and robbing them. We advise against accepting unsolicited assistance with transport when arriving at the airport in Johannesburg. Assaults and robberies have also taken place on local commuter and metro trains between Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as on commuter trains in Cape Town.

Hikers have been attacked on tracks on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town. We recommend you walk in groups and do not carry valuables.

Commercial fraud scams are common in South Africa. If you receive a scam message, don't be fooled: if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Our information on international scams provides details on common commercial fraud scams. If you are a victim of a scam you should not travel to South Africa to seek restitution given the risk of physical assault from the perpetrators of such crimes. Fraud incidents may be reported to the Commercial Crimes Unit of the South African Police Service in Johannesburg, telephone +27 11 970 5300.

Bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes are operating from some African countries. These scams typically result from connections made through internet dating schemes or chat rooms. Once a virtual friendship develops, the Australian citizen may be asked by their friend or prospective marriage partner to send money to enable travel to Australia. In some cases the relationship is terminated with very little chance that any funds can be recovered. In other cases, foreigners may be lured to Africa to meet their friend or prospective marriage partner and can become victims of crime including kidnapping, assault and robbery.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways of accessing your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques and US dollars cash. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.

There are numerous ATM locations in the major cities of South Africa, but fewer in regional and rural areas. ATM scams and credit card fraud are common. You should keep withdrawals from ATMs to a minimum and refuse offers of help at ATMs. Criminals are known to loiter near ATMs waiting for an opportunity to rob people withdrawing cash. Avoid ATMs that open onto the street and instead use ATMs in controlled areas within banks, shops and shopping centres. Secure all ATM and credit card payment slips and keep your credit card in sight at all times when using it. Mobile phones and card skimmers have been used to copy credit card details.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Although generally South African roads are good, road conditions vary, especially in rural areas. Excessive speed and poor driving skills, especially in difficult conditions, cause a large number of serious accidents in both urban and rural areas. Pedestrians and animals straying onto roads present a common driving hazard, especially at night. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Should you need to contact the local emergency services, the nationwide emergency number is 10111 and the contact number for ambulance services is 10177.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in South Africa, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

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

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

It is illegal for an adult who holds South African citizenship to enter or depart South Africa using a non-South African passport. Dual nationals travelling on a non-South African passport may be turned away from border points and could be fined or imprisoned for up to 12 months. If you are uncertain whether the South African government will treat you as a South African national, you can contact the South African Department of Home Affairs or the nearest Embassy or Consulate of South Africa for advice.

Our Dual nationals page contains further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities throughout South Africa varies. Medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of some game parks, but may be limited elsewhere. Public and private facilities will require either an up-front deposit for services, a guarantee of payment or confirmation of medical insurance before commencing treatment. In remote areas, air evacuation to a major city is sometimes the only option for medical emergencies. Costs for such an evacuation can exceed $A10,000.

Decompression chambers are located at Kleinmont Hospital in Cape Town, St Augustine's Hospital in Durban, Eugene Marais Hospital in Pretoria and Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in South Africa is very high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Cholera occurs in South Africa, predominately in rural areas, with more serious outbreaks occurring periodically. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes, raw and undercooked food, and maintain strict hygiene standards if travelling in rural areas. Tap water is generally safe to drink in the major cities. Further advice on cholera can be found on the World Health Organization (WHO) website.

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

We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria if travelling to an area where malaria is prevalent. Other precautions including using insect repellent, wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis, rabies, measles, Rift Valley Fever and drug-resistant tuberculosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. Travellers, especially those intending to visit farms and/or game reserves, should avoid contact with animal tissues or blood, drinking milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized or eating raw meat. Do not 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.

Where to get help

In South Africa, you can obtain consular assistance from the:

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 http://www.southafrica.embassy.gov.au

Should you need to contact the local emergency services, the nationwide emergency number is 10111 and the contact number for ambulance services is 10177.

If you are travelling to South Africa, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

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

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness page from the Australian Emergency Management Institute.

Wildlife

Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.

You should be cautious about swimming in lakes and rivers because of the risk, in some areas, of water-borne diseases and attacks by wildlife.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.