South Africa travel guide
About South Africa
With golden beaches, jagged mountains and national parks overflowing with wildlife, South Africa is the Africa you’ve always imagined. While memories of a troubled past remain, the republic is well on the way to regaining its throne as the holiday capital of Africa, visited by nearly 10 million people every year.
Topping a long list of attractions is the republic’s spectacular wildlife and natural scenery. National parks and nature reserves preserve an incredible variety of landscapes – rolling plains, towering mountains, arid deserts, coastal fynbos (shrubland) and pure blue oceans – home to an incredible variety of wildlife, from lions and elephants to great white sharks and playful penguins.
South Africa's cities are no less varied. In the far south, lorded over by iconic Table Mountain, Cape Town is South Africa’s most accessible gateway, with gorgeous beaches, vibrant, multicultural neighbourhoods, famous vineyards, a lively nightlife and fine dining to rival any European capital. You’ll find a similarly cosmopolitan vibe in Johannesburg, the energetic capital, and in beachside Durban, where the hot sunshine is matched by the scorching curries cooked up by the South Asian community.
In between you can lose yourself for days on safari. The undisputed top spot for wildlife spotters is world-famous Kruger National Park, where the Big Five – lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes and rhinos – are joined by hundreds of other African species.
If the landscape sounds diverse, wait until you meet the people. South Africa boasts 11 official languages and more than a dozen tribes, living alongside communities from Africa, Europe and the Indian subcontinent – little wonder this is known as the Rainbow Nation. This diversity is tangible everywhere, from the architecture and language to the nation’s spectacular cuisine.
Nevertheless, huge inequality remains, still sharply marked out along racial lines. To understand modern South Africa, everyone should visit Johannesburg’s moving Apartheid Museum, and Robben Island prison, where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years. Or you could join a township tour in Soweto, which, like the rest of your trip, you’ll never forget.
1,219,912 sq km (471,011 sq miles).
46 per sq km.
Cape Town (legislative); Pretoria (executive); Bloemfontein (judicial).
President Cyril Ramaphosa since 2018.
President Cyril Ramaphosa since 2018.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for South Africa on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the presence of the B.1.351 variant of COVID-19 in South Africa (also known as the Beta variant), travel restrictions are in place on arrivals from South Africa to the UK. All visitors arriving into the UK who have been in or transited through South Africa in the previous 10 days will be denied entry. British and Irish citizens, and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK, may enter the UK and must adhere to strict rules governing arrivals from red-listed countries. If you only hold a visit visa for travel to the UK, you will not be able to enter if you have been in South Africa in the past 10 days.
If you are eligible to enter England from South Africa, you must follow the requirements for quarantining in a hotel on arrival and taking additional COVID-19 tests. You will need a PCR test before you leave South Africa. Different rules apply for arrivals into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
From 1 January 2021 those with residence rights include: holders of Indefinite Leave to Remain; holders of existing leave to enter or remain (i.e those with biometric Residence permits) or an entry clearance/visa that grants such leave e.g. students, workers, etc (excluding visit visas); holders of EU Settlement Scheme (“EUSS”) leave; those who have rights of entry under the Withdrawal Agreements (including returning residents with a right of residence under the EEA Regulations and EEA frontier workers); family members of EEA nationals with rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Third countries are frequently updating their rules regarding entry from South Africa. If you are travelling from South Africa, you should check the entry requirements published by that country to make sure you understand any specific restrictions for arrivals from South Africa. Airline schedules may change at short notice, and airlines may have additional requirements in place, for example specifying the type of face mask that must be worn on board. If you have a flight booked, you should read their requirements in detail and check with your airline before travelling.
PCR (polymerase chain reaction) COVID-19 tests are widely available from private medical facilities and some chemists in South Africa. If you need help finding a COVID-19 PCR test provider you should call The National Institute for Communicable Diseases helpline of (+27) 0800 029 999 for advice on possible testing facilities.
Entry and borders
There are additional entry requirements in place during the coronavirus pandemic. See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do before and when you arrive in South Africa.
Returning to the UK
When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.
You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities. See International travel for further information.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact your health insurer for advice. You should also call the South African government local emergency hotline (0800029 999) or consult the online advice. South Africa’s detailed guidance on coronavirus testing, self-isolation and contact tracing can be found on their dedicated website, https://sacoronavirus.co.za/. People who test positive are expected to self-isolate in their private accommodation. If you have tested positive for coronavirus and require assistance, please contact us on +27 12 421 7500 and follow the consular options.
Travel in South Africa
Some internal flights are operating.
Public transport is operating with reduced passenger numbers. You must wear a mask if using public transport.
Children aged six years or younger are not required to wear a face mask.
Failure to comply with South African government regulations could result in a fine or arrest.
Hotels, guest houses and private rental accommodation are open, with protective measures in place. Upon arrival at your accommodation, you will normally be subject to a temperature test and asked to complete a health questionnaire. Some accommodation providers will request your travel history. You should contact your accommodation provider for more information.
Public spaces and services
The South African authorities have published COVID-19 guidelines and advice and have introduced a number of measures to limit the spread of the virus. Failure to comply could result in a fine or arrest.
South Africa has introduced a risk-based, five-level approach to lockdown restrictions. Level three restrictions are currently in place across the country.
Level three lockdown restrictions are in place across the country. There is a curfew between 10pm and 4am. All non-essential businesses are required to close by 9pm. Alcohol sales are allowed but for reduced hours. You are legally required to wear a face mask when in public and may face a fine or imprisonment for breaking this rule. You should ensure you are in your accommodation before the curfew begins. Road blocks are used to enforce curfew in some places. International and interprovincial travel are permitted subject to COVID-19 precautions
You should comply with the regulations set out by the South African government.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in South Africa
Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live. We will update this page when the Government of South Africa announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.
The South African national vaccination programme started in January 2021 and British nationals resident in South Africa are eligible for vaccination. The South African Department of Health is managing the process of vaccine procurement, distribution and administration throughout the country. The details can be found on South Africa’s Government website.
At this stage the vaccine is being distributed to healthcare workers, the over 35s and people in communal settings, such as retirement homes. Registration is now open for anyone in this group. Vaccinations for 18 – 35 year olds are expected to begin on 1 September. If you live in South Africa and are in one of those categories, you can register for your vaccine by one of four ways:
- Online, at http://vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za
- Over the telephone by calling this free number: 0800 029 999
- Using your mobile phone by dialling 134832IDnumber# (or if you have no ID number, just dial *134832#)
- Using WhatsApp by sending the word REGISTER to 0600123456 You should follow the advice given to the general public to access vaccines in accordance with the phased roll out.
Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.
If you’re a British national living in South Africa, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.
Healthcare in South Africa
South Africa is currently experiencing a third wave of COVID-19 infections.
If you take regular medication, make sure you can access a repeat prescription if you need to. Most medicines that require a prescription from a doctor in the UK will require a ‘script’ in South Africa (‘script’ is the widely used term in South Africa for ‘prescription’). If you need a prescription in advance, you can visit a local doctor. The doctor might prescribe on the basis of your visit, or they may ask you to obtain an electronic prescription from your medical practitioner in the UK to allow them to write a script. Pharmacies are readily available, with larger pharmacy groups Dis-Chem and Clicks having stores across the country. Some (but not all) of these stores have medical practitioners on site who can write prescriptions.
For contact details for English speaking doctors, visit our list of doctors.
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact your health insurer for advice. You can also call the South African government local emergency hotline (0800029 999) or consult the online advice. There is more information about what to expect if you test positive for COVID-19 under the Coronavirussection.
View Health for further details on healthcare in South Africa.
See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
The British and Irish Lions Tour to South Africa
The British and Irish Lions are on tour in South Africa in July and August 2021. Fans are not allowed into stadia for the Lions’ matches. See link to latest government restrictions and Entry requirements for more information about currently entering South Africa. Follow Travel Advice for the latest information regarding travelling to South Africa.
Call the police (on 10111 or on 112 from a mobile phone) at the first sign of danger. Mobile phone reception is generally good in major towns and cities but can be intermittent in more remote spots.
Crime increases in areas where large crowds gather, so be particularly vigilant if you’re attending sporting or other events that attract large numbers.
South Africa has a high level of crime, including rape and murder. The risk of violent crime to visitors travelling to the main tourist destinations is generally low. The South African authorities prioritise protecting tourists and tourism police are deployed in several towns and cities. The most violent crimes tend to occur in townships on the outskirts of major cities and isolated areas. You should use a reliable tour guide if you visit a township, and should not travel to townships without one.
Central business districts (CBDs) of major cities have a greater threat of crime (including armed robbery) than suburban areas, and the threat increases after dark. If you’re visiting the CBD of any major city, remain alert at all times, do not leave valuables on show, and take safe and reliable transport to and from your destination.
If you’re hiking in National Parks, try to hike in groups and stick to popular trails on popular days (e.g. weekends). There have been violent attacks on hikers and tourists on Table Mountain National Park. Take care in quieter areas of the Park, especially early in the morning or just before the park closes. Cape Town residents use social media (Meet up, Facebook) to coordinate hikes in larger groups. More advice on hiking on Table Mountain is available on the South African Nationals Parks website.
Across South Africa, avoid isolated beaches and picnic spots. Don’t walk alone, especially in remote areas or on beaches after dark or when beachgoers have left.
Fraud and scams
There is a high incidence of credit card fraud, fraud involving ATMs and ‘card skimming’. Make sure you hide your PIN when withdrawing money from an ATM or making a transaction in a shop. Refuse offers of help from bystanders. Don’t change large sums of money in busy public areas. Try to use ATMs in banks or secure shopping malls and be discreet when making withdrawals.
Protect any documents containing details of credit cards or bank accounts and do not give personal or financial account information details to anyone. There are organised crime gangs operating in South Africa, who may target visitors and charities.
British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists. The scams come in many forms including romance and friendship, business ventures and work or employment opportunities. Scams can pose great financial risk to victims. The British High Commission and Consulate General will never contact members of the public regarding personal financial matters including on behalf of any UK banks or other financial institutions. You should to report these calls to the police.
There is an increasing threat of kidnap throughout South Africa. Kidnaps are generally for financial gain or motivated by criminality. In recent years several foreign nationals, including British nationals, have been kidnapped.
British nationals can be perceived as being wealthier than locals and may be at particular risk of kidnap for financial gain.
There have been incidents involving people being followed from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to their destinations and then robbed, often at gunpoint. Be vigilant in and around the airport and when driving away.
Thefts from baggage can occur at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Consider vacuum-wrapping luggage where local regulations permit. Keep all valuables in your carry-on luggage.
The South African authorities publish indicative statistics on crime on the Statistics South Africa website.
Protests and demonstrations
Gauteng and KwaZulu-Nata provinces recently experienced violent incidents, looting and arson, with some transport routes disrupted. The President has deployed the military in affected areas to support the police. The unrest has stopped, but the military continue to have a visible presence in affected areas.
As well as these recent incidents, there are regular protest marches and strike related demonstrations, and periodic incidents of public disorder across South Africa, which can turn violent. Such protests, marches and demonstrations can occur anywhere in South Africa, sometimes at short notice. You should avoid areas where protests, demonstrations, or marches are taking place, especially in city centres and townships. Don’t attempt to cross protester roadblocks as this could provoke a violent reaction. You should monitor local and social media for updates, including local radio.
Licences and documents
You can drive in South Africa with a valid UK photocard driving licence for up to 12 months. If you have a paper licence, you should also get an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you travel. If you’re living in South Africa, you should exchange your UK licence for a local licence within 12 months of your arrival. See our Living in South Africa guide for more information.
Incidents of vehicle hijacking and robbery are common, particularly after dark. Keep to main roads and park in well-lit areas. Vulnerable areas include, but are not limited to: traffic lights, junctions, petrol stations and when approaching or pulling out from driveways. Take care at all times and be aware of your surroundings. Try to avoid being stationary in your vehicle for prolonged periods of time, (e.g. by paying inside the shop rather than waiting in the car when you stop for fuel). Keep your windows closed, especially when stationary at junctions. Criminals have been known to employ various methods in order to force a vehicle to stop. Common tactics include throwing spikes (that may have been hidden in plastic bags), stones or glass in front of the vehicle in order to rob the occupants. Should your vehicle be targeted then drive as far as safely possible before you stop.
Don’t pick up strangers or stop to help apparently distressed motorists, as this is a technique sometimes used by hijackers. It is better to continue and report any incident to the police. If you are involved in a hi-jacking, remain calm and surrender your valuables, and your vehicle if asked. Do not try to resist.
There are frequent incidents of car windows being broken and valuables taken while cars are waiting at junctions. Keep valuables out of sight. You can protect yourself further by asking your hire care company for a vehicle with ‘smash and grab’ film installed on the windows.
There are ongoing tensions between Uber and metered taxi drivers, which at times escalate into armed violence. Tensions have been particularly strong at taxi ranks outside some Gautrain stations and airports. Uber passengers have reported being on the receiving end of harassment from metered drivers. The Uber app generally reports where the trouble spots are, but you should exercise caution when using either service.
The standard of driving in South Africa varies. In 2018, there were more than 12,000 deaths as a result of road accidents. On highways, overtaking or undertaking can occur in any lane including 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. At most intersections, including 4-way stops and where traffic lights are out of service, the first vehicle to arrive generally 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 may have potholes. If you are travelling to a lodge in a remote area, you should check the condition of the roads with the lodge owners as a car with good ground clearance may be required. Drive cautiously, obey speed limits and avoid unfamiliar rural areas at night.
You’re advised not to use the Metrorail suburban railway in the larger cities of South Africa and the long distance train services operated by the Passenger Rail Authority of South Africa (PRASA). Both are unreliable and have high crime levels including theft of infrastructure and criminal activity on board trains.
The ‘Gautrain’ high speed commuter train service which runs between Johannesburg, Pretoria and the Oliver Tambo International Airport is secure and reliable. Walking to and from Gautrain stations after dark isn’t advisable.
Beach conditions and local safety provisions vary and every year significant numbers of people drown due to the strong sea currents. Most beaches do not have warning signs, flags or life-saving equipment. In the absence of warning signs, you can speak to local people who are familiar with the conditions. If in doubt, do not enter the water. On busier tourist beaches, follow instructions from lifeguards and any warnings that may be displayed. Watch this video to understand how to avoid being caught in a rip current, and contact the National Sea Rescue Institute in case of emergency.
Always carry a copy of your passport data page and the page containing your visitors permit or residence permit for South Africa. South African officials may request identification and proof of legal residence at any time.
It’s safer to keep your passport in a hotel safe or another secure location rather than carry it on your person unless you need it for official identification purposes.
The use of cannabis for private consumption was legalised in 2018. While private use is legal, it is illegal to purchase or sell cannabis and its use in public remains prohibited. Public and private use of Cannabidiol oils (CBD oils) is also legalised. The use, sale and purchase of other drugs is an offence.
It is illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade any of its parts without a permit. South Africa is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) under which there is a ban on trade in ivory and rhino horn. Anyone caught buying or trafficking banned goods will be prosecuted. Check UK customs requirements before buying meat and other products to take back to the UK.
Homosexuality is legal, and the South African authorities have introduced legislation which bans any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in South Africa.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners such as shopping areas in major cities.
The main threat is from extremists linked to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL). In February 2018, two South African-British nationals were kidnapped and killed.
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.
There is also a threat from individuals who may have been inspired by terrorist groups, including Daesh, to carry out so called ‘lone actor’ attacks targeting public places including where foreigners may gather.
South African authorities have successfully disrupted several planned attacks and made a number of arrests related to terrorism offences including alleged plots to attack Jewish targets and western diplomatic missions. South African authorities have also been effective against right-wing extremists.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Entry to South Africa
Strict health protocols are in place for international travellers to South Africa. You will need to produce a paper copy of a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) COVID-19 test to border officials upon arrival in South Africa. The test must have taken place no more than 72 hours before your departure. It should be conducted by a certified medical practitioner, and should have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted the test marked clearly on it, as well as the time at which the sample was taken.
We advise that you carry several paper copies of your test, as you may need to present it more than once on your journey. If you do not present proof of a test upon arrival, you will be required to take a COVID-19 at your own expense and may be required to quarantine at your own cost. You will be asked to fill out a health questionnaire on the plane before you enter South Africa.
You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.
Business travellers providing services across the borders between South Africa and the Southern African Development Community are allowed multiple entry subject to producing a certificate of negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure. It should be conducted by a certified medical practitioner, and should have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted the test marked clearly on it, as well as the time at which the sample was taken. This certificate is valid for 14 days. Entry and exit to South Africa via some land borders is restricted.
Foreign nationals in South Africa with an expired visa that was issued for up to 90 days may legally remain in South Africa until 30 September 2021 without being declared as undesirable when leaving. For all other visas and permits that have expired, you should apply for extensions to the Department of Home Affairs on or before 30 September 2021.
For any questions regarding the process to enter South Africa, you should speak to your local South African High Commission.
Transiting South Africa
It is possible to transit South Africa and travel to a third country via air. If you wish to transit through South Africa, you must bring a paper copy of a negative PCR COVID-19 test result. The test should not be older than 72 hours from the time of departure. It should be conducted by a certified medical practitioner, and should have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted the test marked clearly on it, as well as the time at which the sample was taken. We advise that you carry several paper copies of your test, as you may need to present it more than once on your journey. If you cannot produce a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test then you may have to quarantine at your own cost.
Screening on arrival
Screening processes have been introduced at all major ports of entry, including airports, for arrivals, departures and transit passengers. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the authorities. Additional screening may include temperature measurements and check on recent travel to affected areas. If you display any COVID-19 –related symptoms on arrival, or declare that you have been in contact with an infected person, you will be expected to take a mandatory COVID-19 test at your own cost. If the COVID-19 test result is positive, you will need to go into quarantine for ten days, at a designated site, at your own cost.
If you fail to produce a paper copy of a negative PCR test you will be required to do an antigen test on arrival at your own cost. If you test positive for Covid-19, you will be required to self-isolate in line with Government guidelines at your own cost for 10 days. Self-isolation is not required if you have provided the negative PCR test.
The South African government requires you to complete a health declaration form with your details on arrival, including your address, contact information, and recent travel history.
Testing on departure
Screening processes have been introduced at all major ports of entry, including airports, for arrivals, departures and transit passengers. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the authorities. Screening may include temperature measurements and check on recent travel to affected areas. If you feel unwell, you should not attempt to travel. Presenting at the airport with symptoms may result in you being sent to a government health facility for quarantine and further testing.
Regular entry requirements
Your passport should be valid for at least 30 days beyond your intended date of exit from South Africa, in line with South African immigration regulations. However, some immigration officials still request that a passport should have at least 6 months validity on the date of entry to South Africa. To avoid problems at the airport on arrival, you’re advised to ensure your passport is valid for six months.
Travelling with children
There are special requirements for travelling to South Africa with children under the age of 18. There are different requirements for unaccompanied children entering South Africa.
Check the advisory from the South African Department of Home Affairs for more details, and consult your nearest South African high commission or embassy if you have any questions about these requirements.
If you have Permanent Residency in South Africa, you can leave and re-enter South Africa but must carry valid documentation with you proving your permanent residency rights. When re-entering South Africa you will be asked to produce a paper copy of a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test not older than 72 hours from time of departure to port authorities. It should be conducted by a certified medical practitioner, and should have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted the test. Failure to do so will result in you being sent to quarantine at your own cost.
Receipts issued by the Department of Home Affairs for applications to renew a permit will not be accepted by the immigration authorities. For more information, contact the South African High Commission or the South African Department of Home Affairs.
If you hold South African citizenship, you must enter and exit South Africa on your South African passport. It is an offence for a South African citizen aged 18 or over to enter or leave the country on a foreign passport.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
South African authorities advise that UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, transit and exit from South Africa.
ETDs should have a minimum of 6 months validity for entry, transit or exit.
South Africa has implemented biometric capturing at all ports of entry. This may result in some delays at land borders. You should allow additional time for border crossings. See ‘Entry Rules In Response to Coronavirus’ for the latest information about South Africa’s land borders.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for South Africa on the TravelHealthPro website
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in South Africa.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 10177 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Other health risks
According to the 2018 UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic South Africa has the biggest HIV epidemic in the world, with 7.1 million people living with HIV. HIV prevalence is high among the general population at 18.9%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. There is no reciprocal health care agreement between the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Local medical care
South Africa has a very high standard of private medical care, comparable with the UK. Private health care can be expensive, so make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of medical treatment abroad, and repatriation.
Public medical care varies across South Africa, and standards of treatment and hygiene may not be the same as you would expect in the UK.
Private rehabilitation centres are widely accessible to foreigners visiting South Africa. The British High Commission does not usually contact or visit people who have travelled specifically for medical treatment. Further information on medical tourism is available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre. If you do choose to attend a rehabilitation centre in South Africa, you should:
- do extensive research in advance, ensuring you choose a reputable facility.
- ensure you have the appropriate visa for your stay.
- take out comprehensive travel insurance, which includes medical cover suitable for a rehab stay and your particular circumstances.
Substance use abroad can increase your vulnerability; and although travel does not cause substance dependence, it can provide an opportunity to misuse substances or cause relapse in addiction survivors. More information on the impact of travel and substance use is available on the website of the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers
Make sure to organise a contingency plan to cover what will happen if you relapse abroad, if the treatment plan is unsuccessful and/or you require unplanned repatriation to the UK (this plan may need to include additional availability of funds).
There are limits on the amount of currency you can bring into South Africa. For cash in South African Rand (ZAR), the limit is 25,000ZAR. For combinations of cash in other currencies, the limit is US$10,000 (or equivalent). You should declare any amount higher than this on entry to South Africa.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.