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 Western Cape, including the city of Cape Town, has water restrictions in place. Follow the advice of local authorities, including complying with water restrictions. More information:
City of Cape Town.
- The frequency of most types of crime is significantly higher than in Australia. Robberies are frequently reported on the roads and at shopping centres. Visitors to shopping malls should remain vigilant at all times. See
Safety and security.
- Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations as they can quickly turn violent. See Safety and security.
- Be cautious when using public transport. Avoid using minibus taxis due to safety and security concerns.
- 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.
- 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, including rape, should seek immediate medical assistance. See
Entry and exit
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
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. Leaving South Africa and re-entering South Africa will not automatically give you another 90 days. 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 a visa by travelling to a neighbouring country and attempting to return to South Africa.
South Africa no longer issues fines to travellers who have overstayed. Travellers are instead declared undesirable and will not be able to re-enter South Africa for a period of one to five years. The undesirable status can be appealed. For more information contact the South African High Commission of the South African Department of Home Affairs.
More information: South African Department of Home Affairs
South African dual nationals can’t enter or depart South Africa with a foreign passport. See
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 should have 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, in one of the 11 official languages of South Africa.
Check the requirements for other situations, such as legal guardianship or unaccompanied travelling minors, with the South African Department of Home Affairs.
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 both 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 full/sole parental responsibilities and rights or legal guardianship
The legal document approving travel must be an Affidavit that is no more than three months old. The document must:
- contain the full names, addresses, contacts, and passport details of both parents registered on the birth certificate
- contain the full name, address, date of birth and passport details of the travelling child
- be accompanied by a certified copy of the passports of non-travelling parents
- specify the travel destinations of the parent and children, and
- be signed by both parents registered on the birth certificate.
If there is only one parent registered on the birth certificate, he/she has sole responsibility for the children.
If you don't comply with these entry requirements, you may be stopped from boarding your aircraft.
Check the expiry date of your Australian passport before you travel. Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave the country.
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 may be 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.
If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.
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, including violent crime, is a serious issue in South Africa. Most types of crime occur at significantly higher rate than in Australia. Be alert.
Don't expect the same level of service from South African police as you would in Australia.
Police resources may be stretched dealing with the high number of aggravated crime. You may not get the level of service you would in Australia, especially for more routine crimes such as theft and fraud.
The South African Police Service doesn't 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
- Crime in and around airports occurs, particularly in Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport. Criminals operating out of the airports have followed arriving passengers to ATMs, foreign currency exchange facilities or accommodation and robbed them.
- Theft from luggage occurs. Don't place electronics, jewellery, cameras and other valuables in checked luggage.
Crimes in other settings
A range of crimes occur in South Africa, including:
- murders, rape, muggings, robbery and other forms of theft, often involving weapons and violence
- carjackings and ‘smash and grab’ thefts from vehicles are common, particularly on major routes and intersections after dark
- robberies at shopping centres have been on the rise, including with violence. Be alert at all times
- assaults and robberies on local commuter and metro trains between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and on commuter trains in Cape Town
- assaults and robberies of travellers after their food or drinks were spiked
- 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:
- Central Business Districts (CBD) particularly after dark
- townships, unless with an organised tour run by a reputable company
- isolated beaches, lookouts and picnic areas.
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.
Do not leave valuables unattended in your car.
There have been incidents of attacks against hikers.
Hike in groups. Be vigilant of your surroundings and circumstances.
Money and credit cards
Many ATMs are found in major cities and few in rural areas.
ATM and credit card fraud are common. Criminals also loiter near ATMs waiting to rob people withdrawing cash.
- 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 skimming devices are used to copy card details from the magnetic strip onto a blank card that the criminal uses.
- Secure all ATM and credit card payment slips.
- Keep your credit card in sight at all times when using it.
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 by phone at +27 11 970 5300.
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.
There is a risk of terrorism globally, including in South Africa. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping areas.
Terrorist threat worldwide
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.
Be particularly cautious when using public transport. Avoid using minibus taxis due to safety and security concerns. 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.
Tensions between metered taxi and Uber drivers can escalate to violence. Exercise caution when using either service, particularly around train stations, or when travelling to and from airports. Avoid catching an Uber in proximity to a metered taxi.
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.
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
To drive in South Africa, you must have a valid Australian driver's licence. Driving without the correct licence 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.
If you intend to ride a motorcycle, check that your travel insurance policy covers motorcycle riding. Exercise extreme caution on the roads and follow the advice for road safety and driving.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in South Africa.
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.
Arrested or in prison
Penalties for drug offences are severe and may include lengthy imprisonment.
More information: Carrying or using drugs
If you're visiting for commercial surrogacy arrangements, first seek legal advice.
More information: Overseas births, adoptions and surrogacies
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
Staying within the law
South African dual nationals, can’t enter or depart South Africa with a foreign passport. You may be fined and turned away from border points 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
Get 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.
- 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.
Physical and mental health
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.
Take prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry 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
A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required for all passengers over one year of age arriving in or transiting through South Africa from a yellow fever endemic country or region, as listed by the (WHO).
If you can't show proof of yellow fever vaccination, you may be refused entry. You can't be vaccinated on arrival.
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.
Malaria is common 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.
- Use insect repellent.
- Wear long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing.
- Ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof.
Cholera occurs predominately in rural areas, with more serious outbreaks occurring periodically.
- Boil 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.
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.
The standard of medical facilities varies throughout the country. The standard of public medical facilities is generally low by Australian standards while private hospitals are generally better equipped. Many regional hospitals only provide basic facilities.
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 AUD10,000.
Decompression chambers are at:
- Kleinmont Hospital in Cape Town
- St Augustine's Hospital in Durban
- Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg and
- Eugene Marais Hospital in Pretoria.
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.
Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
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. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Emergency phone numbers
- National emergencies: 10111
- Fire and ambulance emergencies: 10177
- Criminal issues, contact police: 10111
Always get a police report when reporting a crime.
Tourism services or products
For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.
More information: South African Government consumer 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
Pretoria, South Africa
Phone: (27 12) 423 6000
Fax: (27 12) 342 8442
Australian High Commission in South Africa
High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
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 from overseas or 1300 555 135 within Australia.