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Important Travel Information

Important Travel Advice For South Africa

Passport, Visa, and Medical Advice

Passport & Visa

Latest Travel Updates

For up-to-date travel information from the UK government, please check:

UK Government Advice: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-africa


Normally, 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; Ireland; Belgium; Netherlands; Italy; France; Germany; Spain, Switzerland.

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 (including New Zealand) 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.

Children under 18 years of age who require a visa to enter South Africa may be required to provide additional information when applying for the visa including an unabridged birth certificate and affidavit if travelling with only one parent.  There are also additional rules for unaccompanied minors and/or South African children - details available on request or via the SA Department of Home Affairs at http://www.dha.gov.za.

Please note that anyone travelling to South Africa should have a valid return ticket and a valid passport. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 30 days from the date of exit from South Africa. However, some immigration officials still request that a passport should have at least 6 months validity from the date of entry to South Africa so to avoid problems on arrival, we advise that your passport meets this requirement instead. The passport must also have sufficient pages for entry/exit stamps - AT LEAST 2 BLANK PAGES.

South Africa has implemented biometric capturing at all ports of entry. This may result in some delays at land borders so you should allow additional time for border crossings.

PLEASE NOTE: Countries can change their entry requirements at any time. Travel Butlers try to ensure that the information displayed here is correct, but the onus remains with the traveller to verify the information with the relevant High Commission or Embassy and ensure that they can comply with the applicable entry requirements.



You are advised to contact your doctor or clinic around 4-8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations and to get their professional medical advice regarding travel to South Africa.

To help avoid heatstroke, drink plenty of bottled water/fluids, and keep out of the midday sun.

Tap water is purified and safe to drink in major cities and towns, however, we do advise that you do not drink the water in more remote places such as the camps in the National Parks - the water may be safe to drink, but it simply is not worth the risk, as bottled water is widely available.

Whatever you do, do not drink water from any river lake without firstly purifying the water. Always take water with you when you go on a hike, and have a bottle in the car on a long journey to avoid dehydration.

There is a risk of malaria in and around the Kruger National Park/Mpumalanga Province, the Limpopo (Northern) Province, and the north-eastern part of KwaZulu-Natal - check with your doctor about suitable antimalarial tablets. Try to avoid mosquito bites wherever possible - wear loose long-sleeved clothing and trousers, and use a repellent on clothing and exposed skin.

There is no risk of yellow fever in South Africa, so a yellow fever vaccination is NOT required for travellers whose sole destination is South Africa. However, in accordance with International Health Reguations, South Africa requires all travellers over one year of age arriving from a yellow fever risk country, or having been in transit longer than 12 hours at the airport of such a country, to have a yellow fever certificate. These countries include Kenya and Uganda but it is up to the traveller to check the full list here https://nathnacyfzone.org.uk/factsheet/60/yellow-fever-maps

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 10177 and ask for an ambulance.


Time Zone

South Africa Standard Time is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2) and they do not operate Daylight-Saving Time.


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.

The South African society is quite liberal, as gay marriage was legalised in 2006 nationwide and everyone’s rights are protected under the constitution. In some more rural areas, however, the local people may not be quite as liberal thinking, so whilst everyone is of course entitled to their own sexual preferences and gender identity, we would advise all clients of the LGBT+ community to refrain from public displays of affection (including kissing and holding hands) and to be as discrete as possible about their relationship if travelling to a rural/remote area.


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.

Visa and MasterCard are generally more widely accepted than any other credit card. Some establishments will only accept card payments using a chip and pin machine, so if your credit card does not support this we advise taking additional cash. 

Electricity in South Africa

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. These are available online through sites such as Amazon, and most airport shops sell adapters for foreign plugs.  They can also be bought in many hardware and grocery shops in larger towns.

In recent years South Africa has implemented “load shedding”, which is the term locally used for rolling black outs due to energy supply in the country being inadequate to meet the growing demand as electricity is rolled out to more remote areas and townships.  The timing and duration of these blackouts is beyond the control of individual businesses, however the majority of hotels and many restaurants have generators or solar power as a back-up supply.  When load shedding occurs there can be a temporary interruption to lights, power sockets, Wi-Fi, hot water supply and TV networks before any back-up supply starts. The load shedding tends to last between 2-4 hours at a time, and again there can be a brief interruption to services when they switch back from any back-up supply to the national grid.

Water in South Africa

Tap water is purified and safe to drink in major cities and towns, however, we do advise that you do not drink the water in more remote places such as the camps in the National Parks - the water may be safe to drink, but it simply is not worth the risk, as bottled water is widely available.

Whatever you do, do not drink water from any river lake without firstly purifying the water. Always take water with you when you go on a hike, and have a bottle in the car on a long journey to avoid dehydration.

Using The Phone in South Africa

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 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.

South African emergency telephone numbers are as follows: 10111 - Police; 10177 - Ambulance; 10178 - Fire Department. You can also call 1022 which is a general main number for the Police, Ambulance and Fire emergency services.

Driving In South Africa

Driving in South Africa is easy and enjoyable, as the main roads and highways are generally maintained in a good condition, and are straight, long and fast. There are very few roads in South Africa where you would need a 4WD - even in safari areas, the roads are good and a 2WD can adequately cope with the odd bit of unevenness.

South Africans drive on the left hand side of the road, and all signposts are written in English.

The speed limit varies from 40 km per hour in towns and built up areas to a maximum speed limit of 120 km per hour (75 mph) on the motorways and open national roads.

It is law to wear a seat belt at all times, and using a mobile phone when driving is prohibited.

The majority of roads are tarred, and although you may come across the occasional pot-hole, overall they are maintained in good condition. Many of the major main road are toll roads, in order to help maintain them in their present good condition. Tolls range from a few Rand to nearly R50, and depending on where you are, you have the option to pay either by cash, or some toll booths will take Visa or MasterCard credit cards. Many hire car companies also now fit their vehicles with an automatic toll reader, so the car captures the toll fees instead and these are billed back to you at the end of the rental period.

The majority of petrol stations in South Africa accept overseas credit cards, and there are no self-service stations. Many larger petrol stations will also have an ATM that will accept VISA/Mastercard or Cirrus if the credit card facility is down for whatever reason. It is a good idea to keep some change handy to be able to tip the attendants (R5-R10 tip is customary).

All drivers must be in possession of a VALID driving licence from their country of residence. If the driving licence is not in English, then an International Drivers Licence is required. The licence must also contain a photograph of the holder and be valid beyond the point of returning the vehicle. UK citizens do NOT need to request a unique code from Gov.UK or the DVLA as you do not need confirmation of any penalty points to hire a car in SA. Please note that the various car hire companies have different regulations regarding the length of time you need to have held a driving licence, so it is advisable to check with your hire car company about their requirements. Most hire car companies also insist that you leave a credit card number as a security deposit when you pick up your car. The credit card HAS TO belong to the named driver - a person who is not the named driver cannot supply the credit card.

You must carry your driving licence with you at all times when driving in South Africa. It is also a good idea to keep a photocopy of your drivers licence separate in your luggage, and also leave a copy at home with family or friends.

Speed cameras operate in cities and towns.  If you are caught on camera, the fine will go straight to the hire car company, who will simply debit your credit card with the amount. A more common speeding trap is on the outskirts of towns, where traffic police wait for the unsuspecting driver to come racing out of the built up area.

If you are caught speeding by traffic police, the correct procedure is to give the traffic officer your details (name, car rental agency details and car registration number) and ask him to issue you with a speeding fine ticket. You can hand the ticket into the hire car company when you return the car but if you forget, don't worry - the fine is automatically be sent to the car rental company in any case, who will then redirect the cost of the fine to you together with an admin fee.You also have the option of taking the speeding ticket to a local police station and paying it directly - however, this may not be a feasible option as it may involve a long detour and eat into valuable holiday time.

In a few areas, it is worth mentioning that some traffic officers are asking for an on-the-spot cash fine instead of writing you a speeding ticket - if you feel comfortable refusing to pay this, please do, as on-the-spot fines actually do not exist under SA traffic law. 

If you are planning on taking your hire car across from South Africa into a neighbouring country (such as Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana or Eswatini), do remember to clear this with your hire car company beforehand - many companies will need to issue you with a Letter of Authority to show at the border post.

General Info - Safaris in Southern Africa

A Typical Day, What To Take, Tipping On Safari, And More

Going on a safari, whether it is your first time or you are a seasoned safari goer, is still an exhilarating experience and will undoubtedly be one of the main highlights of your trip to Southern Africa. You spend your days taking exciting game drives through the bush to spot the animals in their natural environment, and going to sleep lulled by the night sounds of the African bush – there cannot be a better way to pass the time!

A Typical Day on Safari

Even though every day will bring a different experience in terms of your wildlife viewing, safaris tend to follow a general pattern, but this can, of course, vary from lodge to lodge.

The day normally starts with a wakeup call before sunrise (this can be as early as 05:00!). The mornings are the best opportunity to follow fresh tracks and see wildlife, as some of the nocturnal animals may still active.Some lodges will even wake you up with a tray bearing hot coffee or tea delivered to your room!

Generally on safari in South Africa, once you have had your tea/coffee at the lodge, you depart on your game drive - depending on what there is to see, the game drive is normally 3 to 4 hours long. When you return to the lodge, breakfast will be waiting for you - normally with a choice of cereals, yogurts and fruit followed by a cooked offering if you are still hungry.

In Botswana and Zambia, you usually sit down to a full breakfast before heading out on your morning game drive. You will return from the game drive around 11:00, where there is then time to quickly freshen up before a delicious lunch is served.

The next few hours are spent resting and relaxing in camp as this is the hottest part of the day and animal activity is minimal. This is also when you can go out on a guided bush walk if this is offered by your lodge.

At around 15:00 or just after, high tea is served before you head off again for an afternoon game drive. If you are in a National Park, the Park regulations require your guide to have you back at the lodge by sunset, however if you are in a private concession/reserve, you will often enjoy a sundowner drink stop out in the bush before experiencing a night drive en-route back to the lodge, aided with a spotlight to search out the nocturnal animals.

On arrival back at the lodge you can sit around the camp fire and enjoy drinks while waiting for dinner. Chatting about your experiences and adventures with your fellow guests is a perfect way to round off the day, and a great feeling of camaraderie soon begins to exist between everyone.

Sometimes dinner is served outside under the stars on the lodge deck, in a 'boma' around an open fire, or even out in the bush itself, with candles or lanterns as the only form of lighting. Many lodges will seat everyone on the same table for all meals, which gives you the opportunity to really get to know other people.

After dinner, drinks may be enjoyed again around the fire however most people find they are tired from the fresh air and early start and are in bed by 22:00.

Safari Clothing

What to pack for a safari is a question that we get asked again and again. Whilst this is not the definitive list, it should give you a bit of a guideline. There are a couple of ‘general rules’ to remember as a starting point.

  • You do not need to invest in a special safari outfit, however you should try to take neutral coloured clothes – so greens, beiges, etc – and avoid taking anything too brightly coloured. Camouflage printed clothing is not necessary but if you do take anything in this style, please note it is not advisable to wear this in towns, at airports or when crossing borders (particularly in Zimbabwe).
  • Take comfortable clothes – remember that your game drive may be long so you don’t want to feel uncomfortable 10 minutes into the drive as you cannot go back to get changed!
  • Try to avoid taking anything white – firstly the dust will soon turn your pristine white t-shirt into a not-so-attractive dirty colour, and secondly white does attract bugs at night.
  • If you are going into an area where Tsetse flies are present (such as South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi in Zambia) then you should also avoid the colours blue and black.
  • Think in layers...when out on game drives, the early morning and evening temperatures are much cooler and you also have the ‘wind chill’ factor of being on a moving vehicle.  Better to layer up in the mornings and take off clothes as required. And do the reverse for the afternoon game drives – whilst it might be lovely and warm when you set off on your game drive, when the sun goes down it will suddenly feel a lot colder!  And if you are going on safari in the Southern Hemisphere Winter months (June, July, August) – the more warm layers, the better.
  • The dress code on safari is very relaxed, so there is no need to worry about packing formal shirts, ties, jackets or cocktail dresses for your time on safari!

Clothing items to take include:

  • Shorts/t-shirts - ideal for walks and the warm midday periods.
  • Long trousers and long sleeved shirts – for the evenings to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • A warm sweater/fleece.
  • A waterproof jacket – especially if you are going on safari during a known rainy season. Some lodges will provide waterproof ponchos in case of rain but this cannot be guaranteed.
  • Woolly hat/beanie, scarf, gloves – definitely needed if on safari during the Winter months in Southern Africa. Most lodges will provide blankets for additional warmth, and some lodges even provide guests with hot water bottles if the Winter temperatures are really chilly!
  • Swimwear - just in case you fancy a cooling dip in between game drives if your lodge has a pool.
  • Ladies may want to consider packing a good support bra, as the game drives can be bumpy.
  • Comfortable walking shoes, trainers or hiking boots – for bush walks and/or for those cooler Winter game drives.
  • Sandals - ideal to wear at meal times and around the lodge area.
  • A sun hat or baseball cap - to stop sunstroke when out on game drives, and help to shade your eyes from the sun when looking for the wildlife.

Other Items To Take On Safari

A quick check list of other useful items to take with you:

  • A small day pack to take out on game drives with you.
  • A water bottle – the lodge will fill this up with water if you ask – great to stop you getting dehydrated on game drives.
  • A good pair of sunglasses.
  • Sun block with a high SPF factor (between 30 and 50) and lip balm.
  • Strong insect repellent - even in malaria-free areas, there are still bugs about that can give you a nasty bite. Some lodges will supply this in the rooms, but better to be safe than sorry and pack your own just in case.
  • First aid kit (plasters, antiseptic cream/wipes, antihistamine tablets/cream or other medication to relieve reactions to insect bites or stings, painkillers, etc).
  • If you wear daily disposable contact lenses it is advisable to bring more than you think you will need, as you may want to take the lenses out inbetween game drives if you get too much dust in your eyes.
  • Malaria tablets and other personal medication.
  • Camera (and if you are into photography in a big way, consider different size lenses and a bean bag, monopod or tripod to to rest the lens on so that you avoid camera shake).
  • One top tip for camera equipment is to take a pillowcase or other cloth bag to keep everything in when out on game drives – some camera bags are big and unweldy so take up valuable seat space, plus you end up having to unzip compartments and while the bag is open dust gets in everywhere – instead consider having everything in a pillowcase that you can keep relatively ‘closed’ and just reach in to retrieve the necessary camera body/lens as required.
  • Spare camera batteries, memory cards and battery charger - there is nothing worse than seeing the perfect shot, only for your camera to die a death or the memory card to be full (bear in mind too that the opportunity to download photos may be limited).
  • Binoculars - the ranger/driver will tend to have a pair of these always to hand, but they are there for everyone to share, so if you are not the sharing kind of person, better to have your own pair to use all the time.
  • A small flashlight may be useful.
  • Books/novels for siesta hours.
  • Wildlife reference books – enabling you to read up about more facts on the animals you have seen during your drive.
  • Bird books – especially if you are an avid birder, as not every bird will be identified by your ranger along the way, so you can quietly look up anything you have seen and identify it yourself.

Are Safaris Demanding?

Generally, safaris are not demanding in terms of heavy physical activity, however there are elements which can be tiring that you need to be aware of.

Game drives tend to be in open 4x4 safari vehicles. Due to the nature of the terrain the roads are often bumpy and can be a little tiring. In Botswana's Okavango Delta, if you are travelling in the Green Season, you also need to be prepared to drive through waterways that flood into the vehicle, meaning you spend a lot of the time with your legs up in the air! Open 4x4 vehicles also leave you completely at the mercy of the elements, meaning greater exposure to the sun in summer and cold winds in winter. Some open safari vehicles will have an overhead canopy to minimise this, however there are some lodges who do not use canopies in order to enhance photographic opportunities for their guests.

Many lodges offer walking activities ranging from one to 3 hours and this is generally the most strenuous activity you will encounter, but individuals of average fitness should experience no problems. Walking in single file over sometimes uneven terrain in potentially hot weather (as the walks tend to take place after breakfast, so just when the sun is starting to warm up nicely), you will be introduced to how to spot tracks in the sand or mud, the uses of many different types of trees, and much more. If you are extremely lucky, will come across wildlife such as impala, giraffe or even something larger!

There are normally age restrictions, however, which will differ from lodge to lodge. Younger children, for obvious safety reasons, are not allowed on any walks - the normal age limit is 16 years of age. Some lodges also have upper age restrictions - Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa, for example, require that all guests over 60 years old wishing to join a guided walk provide a letter or certificate from their doctor confirming they are in good health and are physically fit to do the walk. Regardless of age or the provision of a doctors certificate, the final decision on whether a guest can join a guided walk remains with the guide and lodge manager.

If your itinerary includes a light aircraft flight, these are often very compact and there is a certain amount of stepping and bending to get into the aircraft and manoevering yourself into your (rather small) seat. Travellers are also more likely to experience travel sickness in smaller planes than the larger commercial aircraft and this should be kept in mind.

Just a Few More Things to Remember!

If you have any specific dietary requirements, please let your Travel Butlers consultant know in advance, so that we can pass this information onto the lodge.

Don't be afraid to ask questions of your guide when on a game drive! He/she has a wealth of knowledge and is happy to share this with you! Even if you think the question is silly or irrelevant, chances are someone else will be thinking it as well so will really appreciate you asking! Just please... don't ask to see a tiger...

Although it is of course very tempting to spend the entire time behind the lens of your camera, so that you capture every potential second of the lion walking past, do remember to try to emerge sometimes and just enjoy the experience first hand. Especially on a night drive, unless you have a rock steady hand or you are a professional photographer, don't expect the night shots to win many awards!

Most lodges will offer a laundry service, which will either be included in your rate as specified or it will be an additional cost (if it is the latter, the costs are normally listed per item so you can work out the potential end bill!).  Dirty laundry is normally collected when housekeeping clean the room in the morning, and returned the same day or at worst, the next morning.

The wildlife is just that... wild. There is no guarantee that you will see every living species of the African bush, but if you have something particular that will make your safari move from being 'wonderful' to 'the very best experience ever', just let your guide know and they will do their utmost to ensure that you are not disappointed. But if you don't end up seeing that elusive pangolin or witness lions hunting at night, don't be too upset - just look back at everything else you did see with very fond memories!

Tipping on Safari

It is customary to tip your guide (and tracker if you had one on your game vehicle, or your poler if you take a mokoro in Botswana, or your walking scout in Zambia and Zimbabwe) when you leave, and also to leave something for the housekeeping/general camp staff, especially if they have done a good job of looking after you.

In South Africa and Namibia, Rand is the best currency to tip in, and in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, US Dollars are preferred.

Many lodges will leave guidelines in your room as to what they feel is an ‘appropriate’ tip, but if there are no guidelines given, we would suggest the following tipping levels:

Your ranger/guide - in South Africa and Namibia, the normal tip is ZAR 200-250 per person per day. In Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, the normal tip is USD 10-15 per person per day. Any tip should be given to the ranger/guide at the END of the entire safari trip (so not after every game drive!), and it is normal to discretely 'slip' some folded notes from your palm to his/her palm as part of your 'goodbye and thank you' handshake.

Your tracker (normally only in South Africa) - ZAR 100-125 per day. Again, the tip should be given at the end of the safari trip.

Poler in Botswana/walking scout in Zambia/Zimbabwe - about USD 5 per person per activity would be an acceptable tip.

Housekeeping/general staff - most lodges will have communal tip box where you can 'post' your total tip as you check out, and all the tip money is then pooled and shared between the relevant staff members. In South Africa and Namibia, an acceptable tip level is ZAR 300-400 per room per day; in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, the norm is about USD 20-25 per room per day.

Another thing to consider is taking some envelopes with you, so that you can address the envelopes accordingly and seal the individual tips inside - in this way, the tip is not revealed until after you have departed.

Obviously, tipping is completely optional and what you leave is totally at your own discretion - we would also stress that you should never feel pressured into leaving a tip that you are not comfortable with.

Finally, a lot of guests on safari in South Africa in particular may have a road transfer to get to their lodge from an airport. If your driver is particularly chatty and friendly, then by all means do please think about giving them a tip when you say goodbye - something around ZAR 150 would be ideal.

Personal Safety

There is, or course, an inherent risk associated with going on safari due to the fact that you are in the midst of wild animals. Many camps will ask guests to sign indemnity forms and guests will also be required to abide by the operator’s code of conduct in order to ensure their safety.

Please listen to your lodge manager attentively on safety precautions particular to each lodge and follow their instructions. Some lodges are not fenced, so especially at night, you will need to be escorted between your room and the main lodge area.

When out on a game drive, always listen carefully to your guide. When approaching wildlife, especially the Big 5, please do be quiet and do not, under any circumstances, stand up to take photos unless your guide says that it is OK to do so, as doing so could spook the animal in question to either run away or charge towards you!  If you are on safari in a private reserve, the chances are that you will drive off-road a few times, so watch out for overhanging branches and thorns.


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