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.
Before you travel, check the ‘Entry requirements’ section for South Africa’s current entry restrictions and requirements. These may change with little warning. Monitor this advice for the latest updates and stay in contact with your travel provider.
If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.
It is more important than ever to get travel insurance and check your cover. See the FCDO’s guidance on foreign travel insurance.
There are regular protest marches, demonstrations, and periodic incidents of public disorder across South Africa, which can become violent. See Protests and demonstrations
Over 280,000 British tourists visited South Africa in 2022. Most visits are trouble-free, but a small number of British people encounter problems. You should take sensible precautions to protect your safety.
South Africa has a high rate of crime including petty theft, carjacking, house robberies, rape and murder. The risk of violent crime to visitors travelling to the main tourist destinations is generally low, but all visitors should remain vigilant. Most violent crimes tend to occur in townships, central business districts (particularly after dark) and isolated areas. However, armed robberies and violent crime have taken place in other places, including popular tourist spots such as Table Mountain and the surrounding area of Numbi gate, outside Kruger National Park. Crime can also take place in and around shopping malls and transport hubs, including airports. See Crime and Airports sections.
South Africa experiences regular planned power outages known as “load-shedding.” See Critical Infrastructure for details of sensible precautious you should be taking.
There are special requirements for travelling to South Africa with children under the age of 18. See Travelling with children
Beach conditions and local safety provisions vary considerably throughout the South African coastline and every year several people drown due to the strong sea currents. See Water safety
Terrorists are very likely to carry out attacks in South Africa. See Terrorism
British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists. See Fraud and scams
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest other things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
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.
You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities. See International travel for further information.
Flights between the UK and South Africa have largely returned to normal following the Coronavirus pandemic. Be aware that third countries may change their transit requirements at short notice. You should check with your airline to understand their requirements for travel.
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
You no longer need to present a PCR test or vaccine certificate on arrival in South Africa. However, other entry requirements still apply. See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do before you arrive in South Africa.
If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. 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. South Africa’s guidance on coronavirus can be found on their dedicated website. People who test positive and have symptoms 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
All COVID-19 related restrictions have been lifted within South Africa.
Healthcare in South Africa
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact your health insurer for advice. You can also 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.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
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 rate of crime, including carjacking, house robbery, rape, and murder. The risk of violent crime to visitors travelling to the main tourist destinations is generally low. The South African Tourism Police prioritise protecting tourists and are deployed in several towns and cities. However you should always remain vigilant, as police resourcing can be limited.
The most violent crimes tend to occur in townships on the outskirts of major cities or in isolated areas, but violent crime is not limited to these areas. Violent crime, including rape, sexual assault and robbery, can take place anywhere, including in public areas such as popular tourist spots and transport hubs. Try to travel with a friend, or ensure that a friend or responsible person is aware of your itinerary.
If you choose to visit a township, you should use a responsible and reliable tour guide and should not travel to townships without one.
Central business districts (CBDs) of major cities have a greater threat of crime than suburban areas, and the threat increases after dark. If you are visiting the CBD of any major city, follow basic security advice: remain alert, do not leave valuables on show, and take safe and reliable transport to and from your destination, be wary of people who approach you, and do not walk around after dark.
Following a violent attack resulting in the death of a tourist, SANParks have urged visitors to avoid the Numbi gate entrance to Kruger National Park. There have been protests and violent incidents on the R538 road leading to the gate and you should follow the SANParks advice on using alternative entrances. If you are staying outside the park, we recommend you contact your lodge ahead of time to understand if there are any disruptions that will affect your trip. You can stay up to date with SANParks news here.
Be wary of criminals posing as officials. If in doubt, ask to see their ID and move into a safe, public and open space. All police officers must carry their Appointment Certificate on them. If you have any concerns, you can call the police on 10111 or emergency services on 112, or alert someone who can assist.
If you’re hiking in national parks, South African National Parks advise that you hike in groups of four or more and stick to popular designated trails on popular days (e.g. weekends). You should plan your route, be prepared for bad weather and inform someone of when you expect to return. There have been violent attacks on hikers and tourists within 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 in remote areas or on beaches after dark or when beachgoers have left.
Fraud and scams
British nationals are increasingly targeted by scam artists. Scams can pose a physical danger and financial risk to victims. Scams come in many forms including romance and friendship, business ventures and promises of employment opportunities or visa facilitation.
There is a high incidence of credit card fraud, fraud involving ATMs and ‘card skimming’. Hide your PIN when withdrawing money from an ATM or making a card payment. Be aware of potential fraudsters, for example strangers offering to “help” when your card doesn’t work; or who try to lure you to an ATM. Do not 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 documents containing details of credit cards or bank accounts and do not give personal or financial account information details to anyone.
Sophisticated scam artists may use social media and dating platforms to engage with victims. Be wary and do not meet up if you have any doubt about the person.
If you choose to retain the services of a visa agent, be wary of fraudulent agents who promise faster turnaround times. Always make sure to follow the correct visa application process through the department of Home Affairs.
Do not send money to somebody you do not know. The British High Commission and Consulate General will never contact you regarding personal financial matters including on behalf of any UK banks or other financial institutions. You should report these calls to the police.
Be wary of criminals posing as officials for financial or personal gain and follow the precautions in the Violent Crime section.
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. There have been reports of young children being kidnapped from within shops, shopping malls and on beaches.
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. There have also been incidents of crime in and around the airport itself. Be vigilant in and around the airport and when driving away. You should stick to main roads and highways to and from airports. Once outside the baggage hall, pass through public areas rapidly, avoiding isolated areas. If you are unfamiliar with the airport, consider arranging to be met on arrival, for example by your hotel or tour operator. If you are in transit, proceed quickly to your connecting flight.
Opportunistic thefts, including of baggage and valuables, can occur at airports in South Africa. Consider vacuum-wrapping luggage where local regulations permit. Keep all valuables in your carry-on luggage, and look after it.
See guidance on using Ubers in the Road travel section below.
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. Always take care and be aware of your surroundings. Using a GPS when driving is recommended. However, you should always check for hazards on your route before and during travel and you should be careful your navigation app does not automatically redirect you e.g. to less safe routes/areas.
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 (these 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.
Car remote jamming is used by criminals to disable a vehicle’s central locking system. You should always double check that your car doors are locked before you walk away from your car.
There have been incidents of “blue light crime” where armed criminals pose as police and use blue lights on plain (often white) vehicles in order to stop motorists to steal the vehicle. If you are suspicious of an unmarked blue light vehicle trying to stop you, do not stop, put hazard lights on and continue to a police station, petrol station or other place of safety and call the national police.
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.
Uber scams do occur in major cities. Uber is generally safe to use in South Africa, but you should ensure you check the registration of the vehicle, and the identity of the driver, before embarking on your journey. It is safest to avoid waiting in the street for your Uber if you can and not to have your phone or other valuables on display. At airports, be wary of unregulated drivers posing as Uber drivers. If you order an Uber, go to the designated area and vehicle as displayed in the app. In the vehicle, ask the driver to close rear windows and lock doors if you are not able to do so yourself.
The South African authorities publish indicative statistics on crime on the Statistics South Africa website.
There are ongoing nationwide power shortages with rolling power cuts. The national energy provider, Eskom, regularly implements scheduled power outages, known as load shedding. Load shedding can result in areas being without electricity for numerous hours a day. In recent months, the frequency and length of such outages has increased. These outages can affect private accommodation, shops, banks and ATMs, public lighting, traffic lights, security systems as well as some petrol stations. Other aspects of critical infrastructure, including water provision and telecommunications, can also experience unpredictable outages due to periods of severe load shedding.
Power cuts may increase risk of criminal activity. This includes crime at junctions where traffic lights are out or residential robberies where security infrastructure, such as electric fences or security alarms, are unable to operate (see violent crime and vehicle crime sections). You should check with your accommodation provider what measures they have in place to mitigate the impact of load shedding e.g. generators or solar power. You can also check planned municipal power outages on the Eskom website or via “load-shedding” apps.
You should prepare in advance for prolonged power outages by following these tips:
- Memorise or record important emergency contact numbers and carry a notepad and pen.
- Have an emergency communication plan. Carry a power bank with additional charging cables for any electronic devices you rely on.
- Carry portable lighting options with you i.e., torch, head torch, camping lights.
- Ensure you have enough medicine and first-aid supplies for you and those you are travelling with.
- Identify safe areas close by in case you need help, such as hotels, hospitals and police stations that may have power.
Water restrictions may be applied within dry areas when water levels are critically low. These restrictions can include limiting daily water usage or banning of hosepipes and garden sprinklers. Municipalities occasionally issue advice to avoid drinking tap water if there are concerns over water quality. You should follow the advice and rules of local authorities where restrictions are in place.
Protests and demonstrations
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.
Using a GPS can also help you identify blocked routes, as protests and demonstrations can change course at short notice.
Licences and documents
Visitors and non-residents can drive in South Africa with a valid UK photocard driving licence. If you have a paper licence, you should also get an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you travel. If you become a permanent resident in South Africa, you should convert your UK licence for a local licence within 12 months of obtaining permanent residency status. See our Living in South Africa guide for more information.
If you rent a car in South Africa, ensure you save the emergency roadside assistance numbers. You should download an offline map for your destination in advance, if you do not have access to a GPS.
The standard of driving in South Africa varies. Road accidents resulting in death are common, particularly around major public holidays. 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 due to power outages, the first vehicle to arrive generally has priority. On larger roundabouts, you should give way to the right, although this rule is often ignored. Small roundabouts (called circles) are treated the same as a 4-way stop.
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 management as a car with good ground clearance may be required. Drive cautiously, obey speed limits and avoid unfamiliar rural areas at night. To avoid running out of fuel on your journey, you should keep fuel levels above half a tank. You can learn more about road safety awareness by visiting the Arrive Alive website.
The following transport options are generally safe and reliable in South Africa:
- The “Gautrain” high speed commuter train service which runs between Johannesburg, Pretoria and the OP Tambo International Airport. Walking to and from Gautrain stations after dark is not advisable.
- The MyCiTi bus service in Cape Town. This bus service operates predominately in the CBD and Atlantic Seaboard and generally experiences less crime. Do not travel into townships by MyCiTi bus; there have been violent attacks on MyCiTi buses in Khayelitsha.
- Airport shuttle buses through internationally recognised hotels.
- Internationally recognised ride-hailing apps, where bookings are confirmed through the App only.
You’re advised not to use the mini-bus taxis, Metrorail train services or long distance public train and coach services. These services can be unreliable and there have been reports of criminal activity including theft of infrastructure and violence towards vehicles and passengers.
Beach conditions and local safety provisions vary and every year significant numbers of people drown due to the strong sea currents. On beaches where there is no equipment or 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. You can learn more about rip currents on the National Sea Rescue Institute website. In case of emergency call 112 or NSRI emergency line on +27 87 094 9774.
Emergency contact numbers
You can save the following contact numbers before you travel.
|All emergencies from mobile cell phones||112|
|South African Police Service||10111|
|Ambulance & Fire||10177|
|National Sea and Rescue institute (NSRI)||+27 87 094 9774 or 112|
|Search and Rescue||10177 or 10111|
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 very likely to carry out attacks in South Africa.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.
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 builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.
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. 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.
This page has information on travelling to South Africa.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in South Africa set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how South Africa’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
You can travel to South Africa for any purpose for up to 90 days without a visa. You should check the expiry date of your visa or entry stamp and make sure you do not overstay.
You may need to complete a health form to enter South Africa.
See Visas and Passport validity sections for more information.
South Africa has lifted its coronavirus travel restrictions. You no longer need to present proof of vaccination status, or a PCR test.
If you’re transiting through South Africa
The rules set out above also apply to travellers wishing to transit South Africa.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
If you are visiting South Africa, your passport should be valid for 6 months from the date you arrive.
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.
Your passport should have at least two blank pages when you arrive in South Africa.
If you’re visiting South Africa for tourism or business purposes for a period of up to 90 days, you don’t need a visa. You should check the expiry date of your visa or entry stamp and make sure you do not overstay.
For more information on visas, contact the South African High Commission.
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.
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.
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.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
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.
UK Emergency Passports
UK Emergency Passports are accepted for entry for life-threatening emergencies only. If you need assistance for a medical evacuation from a neighbouring country, call +27 12 421 7500 and follow the options for consular assistance.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
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).
Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of South Africa. More information about altitude sickness is available from TravelHealthPro.
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.
Most medical practitioners speak English, particularly in major cities and tourist areas. Visit our list of doctors.
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 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. 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.
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 that is registered with the South African Department of Social Development
- 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, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.