Travel Advice for South Africa from the FCO

There is a very high level of crime, but the most violent crimes occur in townships and isolated areas away from the normal tourist destinations.

The standard of driving is variable and there are many fatal accidents.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a health warning for Rift Valley Fever.

479,192 British Nationals visited South Africa in 2009 (Source: Statistics South Africa). Most visits are trouble-free. See General – Consular Assistance.

There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks, although unlikely, could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by expatriates and foreign travellers. See Safety and Security – Terrorism.

You should get comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See General – Insurance.

You should have two blank pages in your passport on arrival.

Safety and Security

Safety and Security – Terrorism
There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks, although unlikely, could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by expatriates and foreign travellers.

Safety and Security – Crime
South Africa has a very high level of crime, including rape and murder (there have been several cases of murder involving resident British Nationals during 2009/10). Most cases of violent crime occur in the townships. Consult a reliable tour guide if you visit a township. The risk of violent crime to visitors travelling to the main tourist destinations is generally low. The South African authorities give high priority to protecting tourists. Tourism police are deployed in several large towns. See our Rape and Sexual Assault Abroad page.

During 2007 and 2008 there were incidents involving foreigners being followed from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to their destinations by car and then robbed, often at gunpoint. You should exercise particular caution in and around the airport and extra vigilance when driving away.

There are frequent incidents of car windows being broken and valuables (e.g. handbags) taken whilst cars are waiting at junctions (smash and grab).

South Africa actively promotes an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. But given the high level of HIV/AIDS in the country, seek immediate medical advice if you are sexually assaulted or otherwise injured. See the Health section of this Travel Advice.

As elsewhere, thieves operate at international airports and bus and railway stations. Keep your baggage with you at all times. Due to theft of luggage at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, you should vacuum-wrap luggage where local regulations permit. You should keep all valuables in carry-on luggage.

Passport theft is common. It is usually opportunistic and non-violent (and increasingly occurs at airports on arrival or departure), although some passports are taken during muggings. Carry photocopies of your passport with you.

Keep large amounts of money, expensive jewellery, cameras and phones out of sight. Do not change large sums of money in busy public areas.

Do not give personal or financial account information details to anyone. There are international fraud rings operating in South Africa, as there are in other parts of the world, who may target visitors, foreign businesspeople and charities.

Safety and Security – Local Travel
Johannesburg, like other major international cities, has specific risk areas. You should avoid Berea and Hillbrow. There is a high level of muggings around the Rotunda bus terminus in the Central Business District.

In all areas of South Africa, you should be cautious when out after dark. Streets, even in urban areas, are not brightly lit at night. Be vigilant at all times in Durban’s city centre and beach front area. Keep to main roads and avoid driving at night when visiting Northern KwaZulu Natal and Zululand, as there have been incidents of hi-jacking and robbery, particularly on isolated secondary roads.

Park in well-lit areas. Do not pick up strangers. Do not stop to assist apparently distressed motorists, as this is a technique sometimes used by hijackers. It is better to report the incident to the police.

Be vigilant on the approach roads to and from Kruger Park where there have been cases of car hijacking. The local authorities have increased police patrols in this area.

Avoid isolated beaches and picnic spots across South Africa. Walking alone anywhere, especially in remote areas, is not advised and hikers should stick to popular trails. Call the police (on 10111 or on 112 from a moible phone) at the first sign of a threat.

There have been violent attacks on hikers and tourists on Table Mountain. Be cautious when in quieter areas of the Park, especially early in the morning or just before the park closes. Park authorities are attempting to address the problem andrecommend that visitors should walk in groups and take precautions.

Mobile phone reception is generally good in major towns and cities but can be intermittent in more remote spots.

Safety and Security – Local Travel – Road Travel
A UK Driving Licence is accepted in South Africa for up to 12 months after entry, provided it carries the photograph and signature of the holder.

The standard of driving in South Africa can vary greatly and there are many fatal accidents every year.

On highways overtaking can occur in any lane including, occasionally, the hard shoulder. On single-lane roads the hard shoulder is also sometimes used by trucks and slower vehicles to allow faster vehicles to overtake – it is regarded as a courtesy to acknowledge this, usually with a brief flash of hazard warning lights. Four-way-stops are commonly found at the quieter intersections – the first vehicle to arrive has priority. On roundabouts, you should give way to the right, although this rule is often ignored.

Road standards are mostly very good, but some roads in remote areas are less well maintained and potholes may be encountered. You should drive cautiously at all times, obey speed limits and avoid unfamiliar rural areas at night. Thieves have been known to employ various methods to make a vehicle stop, enabling them to rob the occupants. Be aware that one such method is the placing of large stones in the middle of the road.

Flash flooding has damaged some roads in the Cape Provinces. Seek local advice on which routes are best avoided.

Safety and Security – Local Travel – Air Travel
The EU has a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the community. Check to see whether this will affect your travel – European Commission Transport – Air.

Safety and Security – Political Situation

South Africa Country Profile

Drug-taking and smuggling is an offence. The punishments can be severe. Homosexuality is legal, and the authorities have introduced legislation which bans any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

You must supply a yellow fever certificate issued at least 10 days before arrival in South Africa if you have travelled from a country with yellow fever. If you do not have a valid certificate, you will be denied entry to South Africa.

Entry Requirements – Visas

British nationals visiting South Africa on holiday for less than 90 days do not require visas. After entry, extensions of stay may be sought from the Department of Home Affairs. If you have overstayed without authority you may be required to pay a fine, either on exit or at the nearest South African mission on your return to the UK (or elsewhere). Re-entry to South Africa will not be permitted until the fine has been paid in full. However, serious overstayers may be arrested on departure and detained before appearing in court. In such cases you may face a very substantial fine and then be deported at your own expense.

Entry Requirements – Passport validity

Your passport must be valid for no less than 30 days after the end of your intended visit. South African authorities state officially that only one blank passport page is required for entry. However, visitors have been refused entry and sent back to the UK as some officials are insisting on two blank pages. We advise that you have two blank pages in your passport on arrival.

Entry Requirements – Travelling with children

Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.


Hospital treatment in large cities of South Africa is good but can be expensive. Medical facilities in rural areas can be basic. In remote areas, air evacuation is sometimes the only option for medical emergencies.

A German tourist is reported to have contracted Rift Valley fever following a visit to the Eastern and Western Cape provinces; she has since recovered. Most human infections of the viral illness are contracted through direct contact with animal blood or flesh. If you are planning to visit game reserves you should take particular care.

TB, rabies, malaria and cholera are common to South Africa. Malaria is common to Kruger Park and parts of the Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu Natal (particularly the Wetlands area around St Lucia) provinces.

In August 2010 two cases of rabies were confirmed in Sophiatown, Johannesburg. Two other cases were reported during July 2010 in other parts of Johannesburg (Elodrado Park and Kibler Park). State veterinarians are vaccinating animals in the area and Gauteng state veterinarians are offering free vaccinations for domestic pets. The Gauteng Agriculture and Rural Development Department advises all domestic pets should be vaccinated (this is compulsory for cats aged over 3 months and all dogs), and that you should not approach sick animals.

In 2008 a case of rabies was reported in a woman from Northern Ireland who had worked with animals in South Africa in December 2006. The Health Protection Agency is working with colleagues in South Africa and Northern Ireland to trace volunteers who have worked at the Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation and Environmental Education Centre in Limpopo, South Africa. See Health Protection Agency – Wildlife centre traces volunteers following death from rabies. Country-specific information about rabies is available on the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) – South Africa country information.

There are outbreaks of cholera in poor communities in rural South Africa, especially in Northern KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo provinces. There has been an outbreak of cholera across the Limpopo region, flowing from the major outbreak at Beitbridge on the Zimbabwe/South Africa border. An increase in the number of acute diarrhoea cases has also been reported, including some in other provinces. If you are travelling to Limpopo you should familiarise yourself with precautions needed to avoid cholera, in particular avoiding tap water and ice. If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to South Africa seek immediate medical attention. See

In the 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 5,400,000 adults aged 15 or over (a prevalence rate of around 18.1%) in South Africa were living with HIV compared to a prevalence rate of around 0.2% in the UK. Exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. See our HIV and AIDS page.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to South Africa and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and NHS Scotland’s Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.


General – Insurance
You should get comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling, including cover for medical evacuation. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake, especially extreme adventure sports or wildlife activities. Remember that failure to declare a medical condition could render a policy invalid. See our Travel Insurance page.

General – Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.

General – Money
The amount of currency you can take into South Africa in cash is limited to 5000 ZAR (South African Rand; £440 approx.) or equivalent.

There is a high incidence of credit card fraud and fraud involving ATMs. You should be vigilant to ensure your PIN is not observed by others when withdrawing money from an ATM. Refuse offers of assistance from bystanders. Do not change large sums of money in busy public areas.
Closely protect any documents containing details of credit cards, PINs or bank accounts.

General – Consular Assistance – Statistics
143 British nationals required consular assistance in South Africa between 1 April 2009 – 31 March 2010 for the following types of incident: 70 deaths; 21 hospitalisations; and 18 arrests, for a variety of offences. 832 replacements for lost or stolen passports were also requested.

General – Contact Details

British High Commission, Pretoria

Consular Section:
Liberty Life Place,
Block B,
256 Glyn Street,
Pretoria 0083

Postal Address:
PO Box 13611 or 13612,
Pretoria 0028

Telephone enquiries:
(Local time): Monday-Thursday: 07:45-15:45; Friday: 07:45-13:00;
(GMT): Monday-Thursday: 05:45-13:45; Friday: 05:45-11:00.

Visa Section:

Tel: 082 234 4450
Fax: 012 421 7888
E-mail: Visa Enquiries

Opening hours:
(Local): Monday-Thursday: 07:45-12:00; Friday: 07:45-11:00;
(GMT): Monday-Thursday: 05:45-10:00; Friday: 05:45-09:00.

Passport Section:

Tel: 012 421 7801;
Fax: 012 421 7877;
E-mail: Passport Enquiries

Consular Section:

Tel: 012 421 7800
Fax: 012 421 7877
E-mil: Consular Enquiries

Opening hours:

(Local): Passport Applications: Monday-Thursday: 08:00-13:15; Friday: 08:00-12:00;
Passport Collections: Monday-Friday: 08:00-11:00. (NB: Passports cannot be collected at other times)

We reserve the right to close the waiting room earlier during busy periods for safety reasons and to enable us to process passport applications on the day.

British Consulate-General, Cape Town

15th Floor,
Southern Life Centre,
Riebeck Street,
Cape Town 8001

Postal Address:
British Consulate-General,
PO Box 500,
Cape Town 8000

Office Hours:
(Local): Monday-Thursday: 08:00-12:30 and 13:15-16:30; Friday: 08:00-13:30;
(GMT): Monday-Thursday: 06:00-10:30 and 11:15-14:30; Friday: 06:00-11:30.

Consular Enquiries:

Tel (Switchboard): 021 405 2400;
Fax (Consular): 021 405 2449;
E-mail: Consular/Passport Enquiries

Consular Section:

Opening hours:
(Local): Monday-Thursday: 09:00-15:00; Friday: 09:00-12:30;
(GMT): Monday-Thursday: 07:00-13:00; Friday: 07:00-10:30.

Please note that only emergency travel documents (ETDs) can be issued in Cape Town.


For more information and to register with the FCO’s Locate service see

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