Advice levelsWhat does this mean?
- Violent incidents and looting occurred in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng provinces in July 2021. Shopping malls and other business premises were targeted. Avoid areas where protests are taking place. Don't attempt to cross protester roadblocks. Shelter in place if caught in a violent situation. Monitor local and social media for updates. Don't take photos or video footage.
- Crime and violence are serious issues across South Africa. Crimes include murder, rape, assault, food and drink spiking, robbery and carjacking. Be particularly alert in major city centres and township areas, and when travelling after dark.
- Criminals target travellers and their bags at airports and on public transport. Vehicles parked or stopped at intersections are often targeted. Criminals have posed as fake tourist police to extort and rob tourists.
- ATM and credit card fraud are common. Criminals wait near ATMs to rob people who have withdrawn cash. Only withdraw small amounts. Keep your credit card with you at all times.
- Respect local wildlife laws. Only use professional guides or tour operators. Follow park regulations and advice from wardens. Don't swim in lakes and rivers, due to the risk of wildlife attacks and disease.
- Scams occur often. If you're a victim of a scam, don't travel to South Africa. The risk of assault is high.
Full travel advice: Safety
- COVID−19 is present in South Africa. The new COVID-19 ‘Omicron’ variant of concern is present in the community in South Africa and may pose an increased risk to your health.
- HIV/AIDS infection rates are high in South Africa. Take steps to reduce your risk of exposure.
- Malaria and other insect-borne diseases, such as filariasis, are common. Make sure your accommodation is insect-proof. Use insect repellent.
- You must present a yellow fever vaccination certificate, if you're over one year old and travelling from a country where yellow fever is widespread.
- Private hospitals are generally better equipped than public facilities. Medical evacuation is your only option in remote areas.
Full travel advice: Health
- If you go out, you must always wear a face mask in public places. Failure to comply with a verbal instruction by an enforcement officer to wear a face mask is a criminal offence. Other restrictions are in place (see 'Travel').
- Drug offences carry severe penalties, including long jail terms.
- Dual nationals must enter and exit South Africa on their South African passport. Penalties for travelling on another passport include fines, refusal of entry and jail.
Full travel advice: Local laws
- South Africa has lockdown restrictions in place across the country. Wear a face mask in public and follow the advice of local authorities. See the South African Government website for more information.
- International travel (through Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban airports) is possible.
- To enter South Africa, you'll need a printed certificate of a negative COVID-19 test (PCR) taken no later than 72 hours before your departure. Children under 5 do not need a test. It isn't mandatory but South Africa recommends you have travel insurance.
- Cruise ships are not allowed to disembark passengers at South African sea ports. Small craft are allowed entry into sea ports. You can travel between provinces and accommodation options are open.
Full travel advice: Travel
- The Consular Services Charter tells you what the Australian Government can and can't do to help when you're overseas.
- The Australian High Commission in Pretoria can provide consular help to Australians in South Africa.
- If you choose to travel at this time, be aware consular services may be limited due to local measures.
Full travel advice: Local contacts
Crime and violence are serious issues in South Africa.
Crime rates in South Africa are significantly higher than in Australia.
Police in South Africa deal with a high volume of aggravated crime. Their resources are stretched. You may not get the level of service you would in Australia, especially for less serious crimes such as theft and fraud.
The South African Police Service doesn't have a 'Tourist Police' force. Criminals have posed as 'Tourist Police' to extort and rob tourists. This includes stopping tourist buses to check proof of identity and search luggage.
Crime at airports
Crime in and around airports can occur.
Criminals have robbed arriving passengers, following them from the airport to:
- foreign currency exchange facilities
- tourist accommodation
Theft from luggage also occurs. To avoid this, don't place valuables in checked-in luggage.
Crime in South Africa includes:
- food and drink spiking
- mugging, robbery and theft, sometimes with weapons and violence
Robberies involving violence can occur at shopping centres. Be alert at all times.
Assaults and robberies on local commuter and metro trains happen:
- between Johannesburg and Pretoria
- in Cape Town
Theft from hotel rooms and guest houses does happen, including within game parks.
Criminals have stolen bags and backpacks from public places including restaurants and bars. Be alert in all public places.
To avoid theft:
- don't leave luggage and valuables unattended
- place your luggage and valuables in safekeeping facilities
Crime rates are significantly higher after dark.
To protect yourself against crime, avoid travelling to:
- central business districts, particularly after dark
- townships, unless with an organised tour run by a reputable company
- isolated beaches, lookouts and picnic areas
There's a threat of kidnapping across South Africa. Kidnaps are generally for financial gain or motivated by criminality. Foreign nationals, have been kidnapped in the past. Pay attention to your personal security.
Crime involving vehicles
Thieves posing as vendors or beggars target cars:
- on highways off ramps
- at intersections
- at traffic lights
‘Smash and grab’ thefts from vehicles and carjacking are common, particularly:
- on major routes
- at major intersections
- during traffic congestion
- after dark
Criminals also place debris on roads to stop vehicles. Don't stop to clear debris.
To prevent theft when travelling by car:
- keep doors locked and windows up, even when driving
- keep valuables out of sight
Attacks against hikers
Criminals have attacked hikers in South Africa.
To prevent attacks when hiking:
- hike in groups
- be alert to your surroundings and circumstances
Crime involving cash and credit cards
ATMs in major cities are common. ATMs in rural areas are more rare.
ATM and credit card fraud is common. Criminals use skimming devices to copy your card details onto a blank card.
Criminals wait near ATMs and rob people withdrawing cash.
To protect yourself against cash and credit card crime:
- only withdraw small amounts of cash at ATMs
- refuse offers of help at ATMs
- keep all ATM and credit card payment slips secure
- keep your credit card in sight at all times when using it
Don't use ATMs that open onto the street. Only use ATMs in controlled areas, such as:
- shopping centres
Scams are common.
Don't be fooled by scams. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
If you're a victim of scam, don't travel to South Africa to try and get your money back. The risk of assault is too high.
Fake internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes operate from some African countries. These typically take place on internet dating sites or chat rooms.
Someone you meet online may ask you to send money so they can travel to Australia to visit you. As soon as the scammer receives the money, they end their relationship with you.
Some may ask you to travel to Africa to meet them. When you arrive in Africa they may kidnap, assault or rob you.
Report fraud and scams to the Commercial Crimes Unit of the South African Police Service in Johannesburg on +27 (11) 970 5300.
Civil unrest and political tension
Demonstrations and protests
Violent incidents and looting occurred in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng provinces in July 2021. Shopping malls and other business premises were targeted.
Avoid areas where protests are taking place.
Don’t attempt to cross protester roadblocks as this could provoke a violent reaction.
There have been reports of protesters damaging property belonging to bystanders. Avoid taking photographs or video footage of demonstrations and protests.
If you're caught in a protest, find shelter until it's safe to leave.
Monitor local and social media for updates.
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
An attack could happen anywhere and any time.
- Consider likely terrorist targets and the level of security provided, including places visited by foreigners such as shopping centres.
- Always be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
- Report any suspicious items or activities to police.
On 2 July 2020, ISIL (Daesh) issued a warning, via its digital newspaper, that its fighters would start attacking Western gas interests in Mozambique 'sooner or later', and also warned it could conduct attacks in South Africa because of South Africa's involvement in anti-ISIL operations in Mozambique.
To reduce your risks:
- take official warnings seriously
- monitor the media for threats
- follow the instructions of local authorities.
If there's a terrorist attack:
- leave the affected area immediately if it's safe
- avoid the area afterwards in case of more attacks.
Respect local wildlife laws. Maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife.
Only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators.
Follow park rules and the advice of wardens.
Be cautious about swimming in lakes and rivers due to the risk of wildlife attacks or waterborne disease.
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave.
Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won’t pay for these costs.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many thousands of dollars up-front for medical care.
- what activities and care your policy covers
- that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away.
Physical and mental health
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition. Consider whether you may be in a vulnerable category for COVID-19.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
- have a basic health check-up
- ask if your travel plans may affect your health
- plan any vaccinations you need
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
If you bring restricted medication or don't have the right documents you could:
- be arrested
- have your medication confiscated
This includes countries where you don't leave the airport.
If you intend to bring medicine, check if:
- it's legal
- there's a limit on how much you can take
- you need any certifications
If your medication is illegal in South Africa, ask your doctor in Australia about alternatives.
Take enough legal medicine so you remain in good health on your trip.
Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:
- what the medication is
- how much you'll take
- that it's for personal use
COVID-19 remains a risk in South Africa. The new COVID-19 ‘Omicron’ variant of concern is present in the community in South Africa and may pose an increased risk to your health. For advice call the National Institute for Communicable Diseases hotline on: +27 (0) 800 029 999.
For information on South Africa's COVID−19 vaccination program, refer to the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 portal. You should consult your local health professional for advice on vaccine options, including assistance that may be available locally. The Australian Government cannot provide advice on the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines that have been approved for use outside of Australia's regulatory process.
- Coronavirus (South African Government)
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) (Department of Health)
- Coronavirus (COVID-19)
If you're travelling from a country where yellow fever is widespread you'll need a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter South Africa. This does not apply to a child aged under 1 year.
If you can't show proof of vaccination, authorities may not let you enter.
You can't get vaccinated when you arrive.
The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in South Africa is very high.
Take steps to reduce your risk of exposure to the virus.
Victims of violent crime, especially rape, should seek immediate medical help.
Malaria is common in South Africa, especially in:
- remote areas in the far north
- remote areas in the east
- Kruger National Park
The 90km area along the border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe is a designated malaria risk zone. Some areas nearby may have a malaria risk during the year.
Other insect-borne diseases, including filariasis, are also prevalent.
To protect yourself from disease:
- make sure your accommodation is insect proof
- use insect repellent
- wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing
Take medicine to prevent malaria if travelling to an area where it's common.
Cholera mainly occurs in rural areas. More serious outbreaks can happen from time to time.
To protect yourself against cholera:
- avoid ice cubes
- avoid raw and undercooked food, such as salads
- be strict with your hygiene habits if you travel in rural areas
- drink boiled water or bottled water with sealed lids
Tap water in major cities is generally safe to drink.
Other health risks
Waterborne, foodborne and other infectious diseases are prevalent.
- drug-resistant tuberculosis
- Rift Valley virus
- bilharzia (schistosomiasis)
Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.
To protect yourself from illness:
- avoid contact with animal tissues or blood when visiting farms or game reserves
- only drink pasteurised or homogenised milk
- don't eat raw meat
- don't swim in fresh water
- avoid contact with dogs and other mammals
If you're bitten or scratched by an animal, get medical help straight away.
Seek medical advice if you have a fever or diarrhoea.
The standard of medical facilities in South Africa varies.
Public medical facilities are generally low standard compared with Australia. Private hospitals are often better equipped.
Many regional hospitals only provide basic facilities.
There's no shared healthcare agreement between Australia and South Africa.
Before admitting you, hospitals usually ask for:
- confirmation of medical insurance
- up-front deposit for services
- public hospitals will treat foreigners for free, but the level of care varies.
In remote areas, air evacuation to a major city is sometimes the only option in an emergency. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.
Decompression chambers are located at:
- Kleinmont Hospital, Cape Town
- St Augustine's Hospital, Durban
- Milpark Hospital, Johannesburg
- Eugene Marais Hospital, Pretoria
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
If you're detained or arrested, you need to ask officials to tell the Australian High Commission in Pretoria.
Penalties for drug offences are severe and include long prison sentences.
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you’re overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
If you're an Australian-South African dual national, you can’t enter or exit South Africa on an Australian passport.
If you try, you may be:
- turned away from border points
- jailed for up to 12 months
If you're unsure if you will be treated as a South African dual national, check with:
- the South African Department of Home Affairs
- the nearest South African embassy or consulate
Visa-free travel for short stays
You don't need a visa if you're visiting South Africa for tourism purposes for up to 90 days. In other cases, you'll need a visa.
Leaving and re-entering South Africa won't automatically give you another 90 days.
Check South Africa's immigration rules about:
- overstaying visas
- working in or migrating to South Africa
- changing your visa status
- extending your visa by travelling to a neighbouring country and attempting to return
Entry to South Africa
South Africa has lockdown restrictions in place across the country. Restrictions are subject to change.
International travel to and from South Africa is possible but is limited to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban airports.
To enter South Africa you'll need a printed certificate of a negative COVID-19 test (PCR) taken no later than 72 hours before your departure. If you arrive without proof of a negative PCR test, you'll be placed in mandatory quarantine at your own cost. Children under five do not need a test.
Staying in South Africa
Lockdown restrictions are in place across the country:
- See the South African Government website for more information.
- If you go out, you must always wear a face mask in public places. Failure to comply with a verbal instruction by an enforcement officer to wear a face mask is a criminal offence.
- Leisure travel is permitted.
- It isn't mandatory but South Africa recommends you have travel insurance.
If you're in South Africa:
- follow the advice of local authorities
- take care to protect yourself from exposure to COVID-19
- ensure you have arrangements in place for an extended stay
- stay in touch with family and friends so they know you're safe and well
- For assistance in returning to Australia, see our ‘Trying to get home’ page.
Travel with children
Children travelling on a valid passport with one or both parents are no longer required to present a birth certificate, parental consent letter and other supporting documentation. However this is a requirement for other situations, such as unaccompanied minors travelling (under the age of 18) or legal guardianship.
To check the requirements for other situations, such as legal guardianship or unaccompanied travelling minors, visit the South African Department of Home Affairs.
Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you’re just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport’s expiry date before you travel. If you’re not sure it’ll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport.
Your passport must have at least 2 completely blank pages to endorse your entry permit on.
If your passport doesn't comply with these requirements, authorities may stop you from boarding.
Lost or stolen passport
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
- In Australia, contact the Australian Passport Information Service.
- If you're overseas, contact the nearest Australian embassy or consulate.
Carry copies of a recent passport photo with you. You may need to replace your passport while you're overseas.
There are limits to how much money you can bring into South Africa. Foreign nationals can enter with a maximum of either:
- 25,000 Rand (ZAR)
- foreign currency equivalent to $US10,000
You may have to declare the amount of money you're carrying when you arrive or leave.
Inter-provincial and domestic travel is permitted.
Rolling blackouts can happen in parts of South Africa.
- leave areas without electrical power for several hours
- can affect traffic lights and cause heavy delays
Avoid using minibus taxis. Ask your accommodation host or tour guide for advice about using public transport.
Book local transport through a reputable provider.
Taxis and rideshare services
Tensions between metered taxi and rideshare drivers can escalate to violence.
- around train stations
- when travelling to and from airports
Avoid catching a rideshare service that is close to a metered taxi.
To drive in South Africa you must:
- have a valid Australian driver's licence
- be at least 18 years of age
Driving without the correct licence can affect your insurance.
If you move to South Africa, you can swap your Australian driver's licence for a South African licence. You must do so within the first 12 months of your residency.
If you're going to ride a motorcycle, check whether your travel insurance policy covers you. Always wear a helmet.
Use extreme caution on roads.
Road conditions are generally good but can vary, especially in rural areas.
Hazards in urban and rural areas include:
- excessive speed
- poor driving skills
- difficult conditions
- pedestrians and animals straying onto roads, especially at night
- drunk driving, especially at night
You're 4 times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in South Africa than in Australia.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
- friends and family
- travel agent
- insurance provider
Fire and rescue services
Call 10111, or go to the nearest police station.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
Australian High Commission, Pretoria
292 Orient Street
Pretoria, South Africa
Phone: (+27 12) 423 6000
Fax: (+27 12) 342 8442
Facebook: Australian High Commission in South Africa
Check the High Commission website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.
24-hour Consular Emergency Centre
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
- +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
- 1300 555 135 in Australia