South Africa Travel Advice
Security travel advice for South Africa
How safe is South Africa?
Threat level: High
The current travel safety advice for South Africa is to remain cautious when visiting. Many visits to South Africa are without any troubles, however there is a high risk of violent carjacking, muggings and fraud in certain locations. More recently, extremist terrorism has been highlighted in the areas popular for westerners. These may be targeted, especially through the Ramadan season.
There is a current terrorism threat alert to the country, which has been recently implemented by the U.S. and the U.K. governments (June 2016).
Durban has seen vicious riots and protests recently, it is advised that you refrain from visiting this area and to check the local and international news for the area you are visiting. Please be aware that there have been mentions of governmental media blackouts and therefore, express caution and check social media for corroboration of status.
The main threats when visiting this country are not targeted particularly at tourists, and much of the country’s crime rate is internal to some town-ships and drug-related, this violence often involves firearms, so please be cautious that you do not put yourself directly in harm’s way when leaving tourist areas.
Please remain extra vigilant when visiting the country, especially at identified areas, such as the shopping areas and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town, due to this recent threat from ISIS.
There is a high risk of fraud and credit card scams in South Africa presently, please be cautious when using your credit card in public.
Although the South African government gives the protection of tourists a high priority, down to having a specialised tourism police; extreme caution should be taken at all times. Movement at night and walking between hotels and bars etc, should be avoided at all cost.
Crime is more affluent in areas where there is a large gatherings of persons. Please be extra vigilant at these locations. Locations to be extra cautious are:
- Shopping areas in Johannesburg and Cape Town
- Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg
Stay cautious and avoid if possible areas within a ten mile radius of all airports. This is due to a higher risk of incident at informal settlements.
There are many scams that can take place with regards to vehicle hijackings and robbery. Please be aware that criminals work in groups. Tactics such as spraying your vehicle windows with dirty water, with an additional person waiting nearby to rob you when you exit your vehicle to clean your windows.
There are vehicle spotters at traffic lights which will view inside your car to see belongings on seats, who may grab items if you leave windows and doors unlocked at a further stopping point. Vehicle immobiliser jammers are being used on cars when being locked. Please make sure you check the vehicle is locked before leaving.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape and sexual assault in the world, with more than 66,000 reported sexual offenses in 2012-2013, a rate of 127 sexual offenses per 100,000 population. While most rape victims are local residents, foreign visitors are also victims of rape. All victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical attention, including antiretroviral therapy against HIV/AIDS.
It is advised you do not carry large amounts of cash on your persons, if a credit card is brought with you on holiday to bring one with a restricted limit. It is also advised that you should keep a low financial wealth profile and do not wear expensive jewellery.
Demonstrations can occur at any time or place in the country, these generally happen around governmental buildings. It is advised that you stay away from such public gatherings.
South Africa is a very complex country with many historical social issues between white and black South Africans. These problems often compounded by an overzealous police force and corruption throughout the administrative and political structure of the country.
South Africa's International Relations
South Africa is a leading international actor, enjoying good relationships with other African countries and playing a major role in resolving conflicts and political crises in Africa. It is a member of the African Union (AU), the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the United Nations. South Africa benefits from a number of trade partnerships with major countries, including the United States, the EU, Benelux and country members of BRICS.
Travelling around South Africa
Please consider vacuum wrapping your suitcases, as there have been known issues at transport hubs and airports. It is advised all valuables are to be taken in carry-on luggage.
It is recommended that you do not use local "hail for" taxi services, due to legitimacy and possibly use services such as Uber. Be aware of fighting and attacks between taxi drivers.
If a sim card is required to be purchased in country, please bring a photocopy of your passport, plane ticket and hotel address. This is required by FIKA/RIKA to assist with the tracking and tracing of numbers.
If you are tailed by a police officer at night, you do not have to stop, put on your emergency lights. Please make your way to the nearest police station and exit the vehicle there.
Please be aware that many people have drowned due to the strong sea currents. Please only swim in life-guarded areas.
Most cases of violent crimes occur in the townships and incidents of vehicle hi-jacking and armed robbery are common, particularly after dark. Vehicles are often at most risk when stationary at junctions or traffic lights and this is often when attacks take place with "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles. There has also been incidents where large stones and man-made blockades have been created to stop travellers.
Areas to be extra cautious are:
- Northern KwaZulu Natal and Zululand
- Durban’s city centre and beach front area
- Kruger Park
- Table Mountain
Emergency services in South Africa
Police emergency: 10111
Medical emergency: 10177
GSM emergency number: 122
Netcare911*: 082 911
*Netcare911 are one of largest private emergency response companies. They will respond to emergencies whether you are a member or not.
South Africa Overview
Currency: South African rand (ZAR)
Time now in Pretoria:
Consular information for South Africa
U.S. Consulate General, Pretoria
877 Pretorius St
Telephone: 011 290 3000 (Johannesburg)
Emergency Telephone: 079 111 1684 (Johannesburg)
Telephone: 021 702 7300 (Cape Town)
Emergency Telephone: 079 111 0391 (Cape Town)
Telephone: 031 305 7600 (Durban)
Emergency Telephone: 079 111 1445 (Durban)
British High Commission Pretoria
255 Hill Street,
Telephone: +27 12 421 7500
Visa requirements for South Africa
A visa isn't required for a stay of up to 90 days to enter South Africa.
All children under 18 require their full certified copy of birth certificate to enter the country. A parental consent affidavit (PCA) must have a certified copy of the parent’s/guardian’s identification (i.e passport) attached to it.
The Republic of South Africa implemented biometric capturing at all ports of entry, requiring tourists travelling through the ports of entry to provide their fingerprints and photograph.
Healthcare and Immunisations
It is advised that visitors to South Africa are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is recommended for most travellers to also consider getting Tetanus, Typhoid and Hepatitis A.
If you are coming from a country where there is a risk of Yellow Fever, or transiting for longer than 12 hours in an at risk country, you will have to provide a certificate of Yellow Fever vaccination. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
It is imperative that you check your travel insurance will cover you for your stay in case of medical emergency. Please make sure you carry a copy of your medical insurance card with you in your wallet and another in your vehicle. Persons found not to have these upon them have been directed to further away public hospitals, which has resulted in higher risk of death.
Medical facilities are very good in South Africa, more so in the cities. In rural areas, it is advised to get to the nearest city and not attend local medical centres.
Malaria is an issue within the northern parts of the country. Use of antimalarial medication is advised.
Schistosomiasis (parasitic infection also known as bilharzia) is also an issue, so contact with fresh water including activities such as swimming, bathing or paddling in fresh water lakes and streams is advised against.
The viral illness Dengue Fever that is transmitted to humans by mosquito bites is an issue in South Africa. There is no vaccine and prevention is through avoidance of mosquito bites.
Personal hygiene must be paramount, the local water supply avoided at all costs and bottled water inspected prior to consumption. There have been a number of cases of bottled water being refilled with tap water and re-sold.