Facts for the Visitor
Visas, Currency, Climate, Cost of Visiting, Driving - all you need to know for your holiday in SA
Few visitors to South Africa will arrive with no preconceived ideas about the country. Its turbulent history has meant that it has had a prominent place in the news broadcasts of the last few decades. However, the reality of South Africa today is quite different. In many respects the mechanics of travelling in South Africa are remarkably similar to travelling in North America, Australia, or Europe, and this section covers essential travel information to help ensure you are prepared for your trip.
Holders of the following passports do not require a visa to enter South Africa when travelling as a tourist for stays up to 90 days:
United Kingdom; United States of America; Canada; Australia; New Zealand; Ireland; Belgium; Netherlands; Italy; France; Germany; Spain.
If you are a passport holder from another country, please contact your local South Africa High Commission or Embassy for up-to-date visa requirements, as citizens of certain countries are required to obtain visas before travelling. Please note that if you are applying to the Embassy for your visa, some visas can take a long time to be processed so please do take this into consideration, as it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa in place before you travel.
Please note that anyone travelling to South Africa should have a valid return ticket and a valid passport. There are several different official sources, each of which give slightly different advice - ranging from no less than 30 days after the expiry of intended visit (SA High Commission in London) to 6 months from date of entry (Irish Embassy in Pretoria). We therefore advise, if possible, to err on the side of caution and have 6 months validity from the date of entry. The passport must also have sufficient pages for entry/exit stamps - AT LEAST 2 BLANK PAGES FACING EACH OTHER.
Please note the important changes to South Africa's immigration rules from 01 June 2015 for anyone travelling to or from South Africa with children younger than 18 years at the date of travel. The requirements apply regardless of nationality.
Parents travelling with children must produce an unabridged birth certificate for the child, showing full details of the child's parents. If the birth certificate is in a language other than English, it must be accompanied by a sworn translation issued by a competent authority in the country concerned.
If the child is adopted, the adoption certificate must be produced.
If only one parent is travelling, said parent must also show consent in the form of an affidavit from the other parent named on the birth certificate authorising the child to travel (the affidavit must be no more than 3 months old from the date of travel), or a court order granting full parental responsibilities to the travelling parent, or (where applicable) a death certificate for the deceased parent.
Legally separated parents should also provide a court order when the other parent does not give consent.
Where a person is travelling with a child who is not their biological child, he/she must produce an unabridged birth certificate for the child supplemented by affidavits from the child's parents/legal guardian giving consent for the child to travel and copies of the identity documents or passport of the parents/legal guardian PLUS their contact details.
There are also additional rules for unaccompanied minors - available on request.
PLEASE NOTE: In the case of foreign countries that do not issue unabridged birth certificates, a letter to this effect issued by the competent authority of the foreign country should be produced.
All documents must be original or copies certified as a true copy of the original by a commissioner of oaths or the equivalent commissioning authority, should commissioners of oath not be a practice in the country concerned.
For more information, contact the South African High Commission (http://southafricahouseuk.com/) or the South African Department of Home Affairs (http://www.dha.gov.za/).
PLEASE NOTE: Travel Butlers have made every effort to ensure that the information displayed here is correct and accurate, but the onus still remains with the traveller to verify the information with their local South African High Commission or Embassy.
Arriving from a yellow fever risk country
South Africa requires all travellers journeying from yellow fever risk countries to show proof of yellow fever vaccination by means of a valid yellow fever certificate. This also applies to those who have travelled to low risk countries such as Tanzania or have transited through a yellow fever risk country.
The certificates, which are valid for 10 years, must be approved by the World Health Organisation, and should be administered at a yellow fever approved vaccination centre at least 10 days before departure to South Africa, as the vaccine only offers protection 10 days after administration. Failure to produce a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate at a South African port of entry could lead to refusal of entry, or quarantine until the traveller’s certificate becomes valid. Quarantine will not be longer than 6 six days. Those who have an exemption certificate due to medical reasons will be allowed entry, but will be required to report any fever or other symptoms to the health authorities, and will be placed under surveillance.
other medical considerations
The Western and Eastern Capes are malaria free, as are Johannesburg and around Sun City, so you don’t have to worry about malaria if you are just visiting these areas. Malaria is, however, prevalent through some other areas of South Africa – namely the Kruger National Park, the Lowveld around Hazyview and other areas of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal. If you intend travelling to these areas we recommend that you take precautions against malaria and also use an insect repellent at all times. You should also ensure that your vaccinations are up to date.
driving in south africa
Although as a country South Africa is vast, it is relatively easy to drive around and see many highlights in a 2 or 3 week holiday. You will need a full driving licence printed in English in order to hire a car. South Africans drive on the left hand side of the road, and all signposts are written in English. It is law to wear a seat belt at all times, and using a mobile phone when driving is prohibited. You can read more in our guide to driving in South Africa.
language and people
The 11 official languages are Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Pedi, English, Tswana, Sotho, Tsonga, Swati, Venda and Ndebele. Whilst many visitors will hear at least a couple of the tribal languages during the course of their stay, it is possible to travel extensively and comfortably with just English as a language.
South Africa's currency is the Rand (R). South African bank notes come in R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200 denominations. There are 100 cents to R1, and coin values are 1c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R5.
Cost of visiting south africa
South Africa is not an exceptionally cheap destination to visit, nor is there any reason why it should be. The country is still struggling to address the imbalances between the richest and poorest segments of its society, and this has meant costs have increased as a minimum wage and improved employee rights have been introduced, and taxes have risen to ensure clean water and electricity are available in the poorest areas of the sprawling townships.
The strengthening of the Rand, which is essentially a vote of confidence in the economy of South Africa, has compounded the increase in local prices, and many visitors returning to the region are astonished to see how much prices have increased. Prices for accommodation and car hire may now be approaching the levels we see in Europe and North America, but accommodation and service standards are generally far higher.
Food and drink remain inexpensive - it is certainly possible to spend R700+ on an outstanding meal for 2 in a fashionable restaurant in Cape Town or one of the other large cities, but by and large a decent meal for 2 including a bottle of wine will cost less than half that amount.
Overall it is probably fair to say that South Africa is a good value destination with world class attractions rather than being just a cheap place to visit.
Night in a good bed and breakfast (per person sharing): R600-R800
Night in an exceptional small guest house or hotel (per person sharing): R1,000-R1,500
Night in an international 5* hotel (per person sharing): R2,500-R4,500
Night in a private game reserve (per person sharing): R1,800-R7,000
Night in an air-conditioned room in a National Park (per person sharing): R450-R650
Mid-range car hire (Toyota Corolla or similar) per day: R500
Petrol (gas): R12-R15 per litre
Lunch in a bar or informal restaurant for 2: R200
Dinner in a formal or fashionable restaurant for 2: R700
Glass of wine in a Waterfront bar in Cape Town: R25-R45 per glass
Bottle of beer in a bar: R12-R15
Full day of organised tours (per person): R800
One thing that does surprise visitors to South Africa is how much the weather conditions vary across the country. Because the country is so vast, there are distinct climatic zones as you go across the country. If you watch the weather forecast on the news in the evening, it is amazing to learn that tomorrow's weather is going to be warm and wet in Cape Town, hot and sticky in Durban, hot and dry in Kruger, and just very pleasant in Jo'burg!
The Western Cape
Around Cape Town, the Cape Winelands and the Garden Route, average daytime temperatures in the SA summer months are very pleasant, ranging between 14°C up to 26°C. On most days you will have 11 hours or more of sunshine, extending into warm evenings with the very occasional rain shower. The summer south-easterly 'Cape Doctor' wind, however, can when it feels like it blow into an uncomfortable gale.
In the winter months (June to August), daily temperatures range between 7 to 20°C, but the bracing sea breeze can make the temperature feel colder, and this is also the main rainy season. Snow can fall on the highest mountain peaks.
Around Johannesburg and Sun City
Johannesburg has a pleasant all year round mild climate. Partly due to its elevation of over 1,750m above sea level, Johannesburg is fortunate to have warm summer days and pleasant summer evenings, with average temperatures around 25°C. Although this is the rainy season, rarely does the weather feel too humid.
In the winter months, the temperatures are around 18 to 20°C with crisp, clear nights.
Around Kruger National Park
Summers are extremely hot and humid. Temperatures can soar over 40°C and this is also the rainy season. However, many animals give birth during the height of summer, so it is an excellent time to visit if you want to see lion cubs at play or wobbly zebra foals following closely behind their mothers.
The winter months are substantially cooler and dryer, and generally better for game viewing. Water is scarcer, so the animals are more reliant on waterholes, so game-viewing around these areas is particularly good. The bush is also much drier, making it easier to spot the animals too!
The Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal
The Eastern Cape coastal regions enjoy pleasant warm summers, with an average daily temperature of 21°C and around 7 hours of sunshine. Winters are cooler. Certain areas along the Eastern Cape will have rain all year, albeit it sporadic.
KwaZulu-Natal has a sub-tropical climate, with hot and humid summers and mild dry winters. Average daily summer temperatures are around 22°C, with high rainfall during January and February adding to the humidity. Hardly any rain falls during the mild winter months, and average daily temperatures are normally around 13°C. It can snow in the Drakensberg during winter.
mobile phone coverage
The international dialling code for South Africa is +27, followed by the regional code and then the number. Mobile phone coverage is generally extremely good throughout South Africa. Overseas visitors can use their own mobile phone with 'international roaming' enabled (remember to activate this before leaving home), but this can be extremely expensive - a much cheaper (and easy) option is to switch to using a local provider during your stay in the country - the 2 main mobile phone providers are MTN and Vodacom.
The South African power is 220 - 240 volts, 50Hz, which is delivered through a 3 pin round socket. Although the socket is 3 pin, it is not the same as a UK socket, so an adaptor will be needed. Most airport shops sell adapters for foreign plugs, or they can be bought in selected hardware shops in larger towns.
South Africa Standard Time is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2) and they do not operate Daylight-Saving Time.