Your Health and Money When Travelling to South Africa

International travel can be an exciting opportunity to discover new cities and even to expand networks. As the continent’s leading emerging market and a popular tourist destination for those looking to take in the southern sun, South Africa has often found itself ranked amongst the top destinations in the world. However, planning your trip to South Africa requires an understanding and knowledge of some important factors that could not only determine your eligibility to enter the country, but that could also affect how you experience your trip. At the very top of your list should be a clear understanding of what health and money concerns you should bear in mind.

Here are some things to consider when preparing for your travels to South Africa:

Make Sure You Have Travel Insurance for South Africa

international travel insuranceTravel insurance when travelling to South Africa goes beyond simply covering any unforeseen losses or damages to your personal belongings. Having travel insurance with good medical cover is important as it acts to keep you covered as well as to give you access to particular services while in the country, including any unforeseen medical emergencies.

You Will Need An International Certificate of Vaccination

passport and yellow fever certificateIt goes without saying that health concerns have become a top priority for those travelling around the world. When travelling to South Africa, you will be required to produce two specific health declarations, the first being a negative PCR or COVID-19 test certificate, the second being an International Certificate of Vaccination (more commonly referred to as a Yellow Fever Certificate). International law requires that any traveler moving through, to or from countries where yellow fever is endemic, to have yellow fever vaccinations. It is important to take note that the certificate only becomes valid 10 days after you have received your vaccination. If you arrive in South Africa without your certificate, you may be denied entry into the country or quarantined until your certificate becomes valid.

Malaria in South Africa

Apart from common concerns around yellow fever, another common health concern is that of malaria in the country.

Malaria transmission is seasonal and mainly cause for concern to those who are travelling to malaria risk areas in South Africa. These areas are located primarily along the border areas of the country in locations like Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal.

It is worth noting that while the government is working to eliminate malaria in South Africa, it is both a preventable and curable disease. However, if it is not treated and diagnosed early, it can be fatal. Here are some ways in which you can prevent getting malaria:

  • Find out whether you are at risk of getting malaria based on your travel destinations and locations that you will be frequenting while in the country. You should also take into consideration the time of year that you are planning your travel and stay.
  • Avoid sleeping outside or in an area with lots of mosquitos.
  • Use a net when sleeping and make sure the net is not damaged or torn.
  • Use mosquito repellent and remember that your sunscreen should be applied before you apply the repellent.
  • Opt for long sleeves.
  • Consider anti-malaria medication where necessary and depending on the risk factor.

Again, it is important to highlight that not all locations in South Africa are malaria risk areas.

malaria risk areas in South Africa

Navigating Customs

There are some very specific customs regulations at O.R Tambo Airport and you will be required to ensure that as you make your way through the entry port, you have made the necessary declarations on all items that carry a duty and value added tax (VAT). You may not, however, enter the country with the following items in your luggage: vegetables, groundnuts, firewood, honey, used pneumatic tyres, raw animal wool and hair, electric blankets, coins, video recorders and reproducers, revolvers and pistols. You may be allowed to travel into the country with some personal effects, as well as certain sporting and recreational equipment. For more information about customs and declarations, visit the SARS website.

Stay Hydrated

South Africa is known for its hot weather conditions and beyond taking care of your skin by using and applying sunscreen of an SPF50 or higher, it is also important to make sure that you stay hydrated throughout the day. You’ll be pleased to know that tap water is safe to drink in South Africa so there is no need to go for store bought water every time you want to hydrate. However, it is recommended that you avoid drinking tap water in rural areas.

Currencies and Foreign Exchange

South Africa is a hub of business activities from one end of the country to the other. Naturally, money matters are a consideration for any traveler looking to navigate these activities either directly or indirectly. Here is a guide to some important factors to bear in mind where currency and foreign exchange are concerned:

Get Local Currency When in South Africa

South African currencyWhile most venues, restaurants, locations and spaces accept international debit and credit cards, many vendors, small businesses and tradesmen may not accept these or may not even accept cards entirely. Over and above that, for any “cash only” businesses, you may find it very difficult to use any foreign currency. It is advisable to take advantage of currency exchange facilities to ensure that you have local currency. South Africans make use of Rands (ZAR) and cents.

Foreign Exchange

The exchange rate for foreign currency is favorably low for most travelers, particularly those traveling from the Americas and Europe. Exchanging your foreign currencies can be done at most commercial banks and there are many authorized companies providing specialist services to assist you in navigating your exchange. You can even easily withdraw local currency from an ATM.

ATM’s are always open while banking services in South Africa operate from around 8h00 daily to 15h00 on weekdays and 13h00 on weekends. To make banking easier, it is advised to take advantage of the many currency exchange facilities at O.R Tambo International Airport upon landing.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance is a cover plan that protects you from specific financial and medical risks while travelling to any particular destination. Travel insurance when traveling to South Africa is important to cover you against loss, damage, theft, dread and disease, as well as to be able to access and make use of certain emergency services while you are in the country.

Will my travel insurance when travelling to South Africa also cover any COVID related cancellations?

For information on travel insurance when travelling to South Africa, it is advised that you contact your insurer directly to find out what they will and will not cover.

What vaccinations do I need before travelling to South Africa?

You will need to produce a negative PCR or COVID-19 test certificate as well as an International Certificate of Vaccination. International law requires that any traveler moving through, to or from countries where yellow fever is endemic to have yellow fever vaccinations.

How much cash should I take into South Africa?

This will depend entirely on your travel plans and the duration of your stay. However, you must note that you cannot bring more than R25,000 cash or the equivalent in foreign currency, gold coins or stamps into the country. Any amount over R25,000 must be declared.

Can I use a travel money card in South Africa?

Yes, some multi-currency travel cards are accepted in South Africa, but it is important that you confirm this with your bank and/or travel agent beforehand to ensure that your specific travel money card is accepted in South Africa.

Please note all information in this article is correct at time of publishing and is subject to change without notice.

Related websites: King Shaka International Airport | Cape Town Airport