051915 South Africa – Region Status Report

The risk information in this report is retrieved from U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and International SOS. It provides general guidance for UT Dallas travelers. Please note the revision date (mmddyy) of this report, printed on the title of the post,  and go to the direct sources listed above for the most up-to-date information.  The information in this report may change without prior notice.

UT Dallas travelers and trip organizers of a trip to this location are encouraged to use this report, the sources listed above and the Traveler Toolkit in the development stages of: a study abroad program, pre-departure Orientations, mitigation and prevention training, as well as group and personal emergency management plans.

Report Sections

Exit, Entry and Visa Requirements

  • Passport. Passport must be valid for at least 30 days after date of departure from South Africa. Passports must have at least two fully blank and unused visa pages upon entry for endorsing visas, permanent residence permits, and entry/departure stamps.
  • Visa.
    • Not required if visiting for 90 days or less. Visitor visas will be issued at the port of entry in South Africa.
    • All other travelers, including tourists intending to stay beyond 90 days, visiting professors, students pursuing a course of study, entrepreneurs, workers, intra-company transferees, and volunteers, must obtain appropriate visas before traveling to South Africa or they risk being denied admission and being returned to their point of origin.
    • See the DHA website for information about how to apply to extend the period of stay.
  • Entry Restrictions.
    • No currency restriction.
    • Two fully blank passport visa pages. Travelers who do not have these pages will be refused entry into South Africa, fined, and returned to their point of origin at their own expense.
    • Rules for Children – To be enforced on 01 June 2015. These rules apply to children who are entering or departing South Africa. Therefore, the required documents should be retained in all circumstances throughout the stay of the child in South Africa.
    • Travelers entering South Africa from WHO-designated yellow fever countries are required to present their current and valid “International Certificate of Vaccination as approved by the World Health Organization (WHO)” (commonly called a “yellow card”) or statement of medical exemption (also located on the same yellow card).
  • Dual Nationality. See the U.S. Department of State dual nationality webpage.
  • HIV/AIDS. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of South Africa.

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Safety and Security

  • Mobile phones. Travelers are advised to carry mobile phones. U.S. mobile phones may not work in South Africa, but rental mobile phones are widely available and may be rented from kiosks at major airports.
  • Public demonstrations. There are no guarantees that a demonstration will not turn violent. Avoid demonstrations. Get relevant alert messages through the International SOS Assistance App or the U.S. Mission to South Africa website.
  • Xenophobic attacks. South Africa has seen a number of attacks directed at refugees or immigrants from other African nations in recent years. Both targeted victims and bystanders have been killed. Listen to local media for reports of such incidents and avoid areas (primarily–but not limited to–townships) where they are likely to occur.
  • Luggage theft. Travelers are encouraged to lock their suitcases when possible and avoid placing valuables in checked baggage. A good practice, regardless of destination, is to make an inventory of items and contact your air carrier immediately if you experience a loss.
  • Violent crime. South Africa has a very high level of crime and crime is the primary security threat for travelers. Violent crimes, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and “smash-and-grab” attacks on vehicles, are frequent and affect both visitors and residents alike. Minibus taxis and buses have been targeted by criminal elements for hijacking and robbery.
    • Muggings near U.S. diplomatic facilities. The risk of mugging includes the areas near the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria and U.S. Consulates General in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg. Be aware of your personal security and carry as little money and valuables as possible.
    • Assault, armed robbery, and theft. These can be particularly high in areas around hotels and public transportation centers, especially in major cities. Theft of passports and other valuables is most likely to occur at airports, bus terminals, and train stations.
    • Armed robbery on the road from airport to lodgings. Travelers have been robbed at gun point while traveling in motor vehicles or their vehicles have been stopped from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to their place of lodging. Select shuttle or taxi services with care, use reputable companies recommended by major hotels or shuttles provided by hotels, and use only licensed taxis parked at marked taxi locations at the airport. Avoid changing money at the airport, and avoid displaying expensive or flashy jewelry, watches, or luggage while traveling.
    • Criminal gangs. These target individuals and commercial businesses at shopping centers and other public places. Criminals sometimes follow targeted victims back to their residences or hotels where they are robbed. Such robberies often involve weapons and violence and can quickly escalate, especially if you resist. If you are confronted by an armed assailant, give up your valuables.
    • Cash-in-transit (armored vehicle) robberies are common. Avoid traveling near these vehicles and personnel during a cash delivery or pick-up, particularly at shopping centers or other public locations.
    • Rape and Sexual Assault. South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape and sexual assault in the world. While most rape victims are local residents, foreign visitors are also victims of rape. All victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical attention, including antiretroviral therapy against HIV/AIDS. Questions about how to receive such treatment should be directed to the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy.
    • Hijackings and robberies by bogus police. There have been reported incidents of fake South African Police Services (SAPS) or other South African law enforcement vehicles masquerading as official vehicles involved in hijackings or robberies. When in doubt and as a precaution against being stopped by “bogus” police, motorists are advised to put on their hazard lights and to drive slowly to the nearest South African police station or to a well-lit or well-populated area such as an open gas station, supermarket, or hospital to establish if they are being stopped by genuine police.
    • Car Thefts and Carjacking. Carjacking and thefts from cars are serious problems.
      • “Smash-and-grab” robberies are common throughout South Africa, particularly in urban areas, at traffic lights, stop signs, and highway off-ramps.  Keep your car doors locked and the windows rolled up at all times. Hide bags, cell phones, and other valuables from view at all times and be extremely cautious when approaching intersections.
      • Be cautious when pulling over or parking.
        • If you see a car pulled over to the side of the road do not stop to offer assistance, call the police to report the vehicle’s location so that authorities can render assistance.
        • Criminals, working in groups, have placed debris on the road (rocks, bricks, shards of metal, etc.) in an effort to puncture a vehicle’s tires.
        • Another less-frequently used tactic is for criminals to throw rocks, bricks, paint, or eggs from freeway overpasses onto moving vehicles to damage cars and disorient drivers. The drivers are robbed by accomplices after pulling over to inspect the car for damage.
        • Park your car in well-lit areas, preferably in a parking lot with security guards. Physically check that your vehicle is locked before you walk away. Criminals have perfected the technique of blocking the signal from wireless remote locking devices.
  • ATMs and Credit Cards theft and fraud
    • The “Good Samaritan”. It is a fraud where a criminal attempts to “help” with an ATM transaction. Often the ATM in these situations has been tampered with to record the card information, and the “Good Samaritan” will then take the information and use it to withdraw cash later. Use ATMs located inside shopping malls, hotels, and banks since they are normally high-traffic areas and are monitored by security guards and cameras. Do not accept “assistance” or agree to assist others with ATM transactions.
    • ATM bombings have taken place in the early morning hours in remote or isolated areas, although some attacks have taken place at gas stations and shopping complexes. Avoid using ATMs in dark, remote, or isolated areas.
    • Credit card fraud, counterfeit U.S. currency, and various check-cashing scams have also been reported. When giving your credit card to a store or restaurant employee for processing, do not let the card out of your sight. Most South African restaurants and gas stations have portable credit card machines that can be brought to your table or car.
    • Airports. Criminals are known to also target travelers at ATMs in airports.
  • Hotel Security: Thefts from hotel rooms are common. You should use hotel-provided room safes or lock-boxes at the front desk to store your valuables.
  • Pedestrian Safety: Take extreme care when crossing streets. Collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians are all too common on South African roadways. Pedestrian deaths occur regularly. Drivers are often aggressive towards pedestrians and fail to yield the right-of-way, even in marked crosswalks. The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria and Consulates General in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban are located on busy city streets, and visitors should exercise caution when walking to and from these facilities.
  • Game Park/Safari/Hiking Safety.
    • Game parks and reserves. It is dangerous to leave your vehicle or be on foot, even in the presence of a guide. You should observe all local or park regulations and exercise appropriate caution in unfamiliar surroundings. Visitors have been seriously injured and killed by wild animals in South Africa. Even in the most serene settings, animals are wild and can present a threat to life and safety.
    • Hiking. When hiking in mountainous areas, be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions and ensure you have proper clothing and supplies. Additionally, be aware that muggings and attacks have occurred along popular hiking routes on Table Mountain and around Lion’s Head and Hout Bay. Visitors to these sites should be vigilant, hike in groups, and not carry/display valuables.
  • Ocean Safety.   If visiting South Africa’s expansive coastline, be mindful of the possible presence of sharks when swimming or engaging in water sports. When lifeguards and shark spotters are on duty and sight a shark close to the shore, local authorities will sound a warning siren to alert swimmers. Accidents can occur when swimming in the ocean or walking/climbing on shore areas that are not designated lifeguard-patrolled beaches. Visitors from the United States and elsewhere have drowned when swimming in coastal waters, where riptides, tides, and wave patterns can change unexpectedly and overwhelm even excellent swimmers. Do not swim alone in isolated beach areas. Do not dive into unknown bodies of water, as hidden rocks or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death.
  • International SOS Travel Risk Rating. Medium. HIGH TRAVEL RISK for deprived urban areas.

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Health and Medical

  • Medical care. Private medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks, but they may be limited elsewhere. Information about locating private hospitals can be obtained by accessing: Life Health Care, NetCareMediclinic.
  • Prescriptions and medications. Pharmacies are well-stocked, and equivalents to most American medicines are available. However, travelers taking specific medications should bring an adequate supply for their entire stay and a prescription with them. Some prescription drugs may be illegal in other countries. Call South Africa’s embassy to verify that all of your prescription(s) are legal to bring with you.
  • Vaccines required. Yes, if you are entering from a WHO designated yellow fever country, per the U.S. Department of State.
  • Vaccines recommended. The CDC indicates that all travelers should be up to date on Routine vaccines while traveling to any destination, and that most travelers should get Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines. Check additional information on vaccines recommended for South Africa.
  • International SOS Medical Risk Rating. Medium.
  • Outbreaks. None reported by WHO.
  • HIV and AIDS remain major public health concerns in the Republic of South Africa. According to the UNAIDS Report on the global AIDS epidemic (2010), about 5.6 million people are estimated to be living with HIV in South Africa, with 17.8 percent of the adult population (15-49) affected. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in sexual activity, or if you are exposed to a blood source other than that supplied by a hospital for transfusion purposes.
  • Common traveler illnesses:
    • Malaria: While most of South Africa is malaria-free, malaria risk exists throughout the year in rural low-altitude areas of Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, Kruger National Park and neighboring game reserves. Risk also exists in the coastal lowlands of KwaZulu-Natal north of the Tugela River (including in Zululand, but excluding urban areas of Richards Bay). For information on malaria, its prevention, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the CDC’s malaria web page. Prevent mosquito bites. Visit the CDC Avoid Bug Bites page.
    • Diarrhea: Diarrheal illness is common among travelers, even in those staying in luxury accommodations. The CDC has a comprehensive webpage on food and water safety, and offers the free Can I Eat This? mobile app.
    • Cholera: Eating or drinking fecally-contaminated food or water is the main risk factor. The CDC has a comprehensive webpage on food and water safety, and offers the free Can I Eat This? mobile app.
    • Rabies: Rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in South Africa. CDC recommends this vaccine for travelers involved in outdoor activities that put them at risk of animal bites. To see other groups at risk visit the CDC Rabies page.
    • Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in South Africa.  For further information, please consult the CDC’s information on TB.
  • CDC Travel Notice. There are no notices currently in effect for South Africa.

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Local Law

If you violate South Africa’s laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.

  • Identification. You may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you.
  • Drugs. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in South Africa are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
  • Traffic laws.
    • South African law does not require an international driver’s license for U.S. citizen tourists who are licensed to drive in the United States and who are in South Africa for less than six months.
    • Driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail.
    • All occupants of motor vehicles equipped with seatbelts are required to wear them while the vehicle is in operation.
    • Texting or talking without a hands-free unit while driving is a violation of South African law.
  • Insurance claims. Insurance companies for both long-term residents and rental car customers often require proof of a South African or international driver’s license in order to honor an insurance claim, even when such proof was not requested at the time the policy was secured.
  • Photography. You may be taken in for questioning if you take pictures of certain buildings.
  • Sexual conduct and pornography. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or for using or disseminating child pornography.
  • Counterfeit and pirated goods. These are widely available. It is illegal to buy them and to bring them back to the U.S. Do not buy them.
  • Arrest. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.

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Customs Regulations

  • Importation of weapons. Travelers to South Africa may not import or take in-transit any firearms or ammunition without a temporary import or in-transit permit issued by the South African Police Service. Information on how to obtain a permit for firearms for personal protection and hunting can be found at the South African Police Service’s Firearms website.
  • Additional customs details. Please see the U.S. Department of State website on Customs Information.

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LGBT Rights

  • Laws. Parliament passed a law in 2006 allowing same-sex couples to marry.There have been no reports of official mistreatment or discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • Environment. Although the legal system protects LGBT individuals, public attitudes toward them are divergent. Human rights groups reported the local LGBT community, particularly in the townships, was subject to hate crimes, gender violence, and killings. There have been no reports of violence against U.S. citizens or tourists as a result of their sexual orientation, though tourists are frequently victims of violent crime. LGBT travelers outside of major cities should exercise caution when visiting traditional communities, as they may be less accepting of public displays of affection or LGBT culture than major cities and tourist destinations.
  • Information. For more detailed information about LGBT rights in South Africa you may review the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the U.S. Department of State LGBT Travel Information page and the International Center Risk and Safety LGBTQA Travelers post.

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  • Transportation and Accommodations. South African law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but these laws are rarely enforced. It is not unusual to encounter buildings with entrances that have multiple stairs and elevators that have not been operational for some time. However, many tourist areas are better-equipped with ramps and other options to facilitate access. If you are a traveler with a disability, you should plan ahead to ensure that your lodging and planned activities are able to accommodate any special requirements.
  • Also see the Traffic Safety and Road Conditions section.

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  • Currency restrictions. None
  • Additional money details. Please see the U.S. Department of State website on Customs Information.

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Traffic Safety and Road Conditions

This information is for reference only, and may not be accurate for particular locations or circumstances.

  • Road Conditions. Road conditions are generally good in South Africa; however, excessive speed, poor lighting on rural roads, and insufficient regulatory control of vehicle maintenance and operator licensing have resulted in an increasing number of traffic fatalities.
  • Driving.
    • Traffic in South Africa moves on the left, and the steering wheel is on the right-hand side of the car.
    • Traffic lights are frequently out of order. Treat all intersections with malfunctioning traffic lights as a four-way stop.
    • Avoid pedestrians crossing roads or major highways.
  • Accidents involving motor vehicles.
    • Public transportation accidents involving trains, buses, minibus taxis and private cars are a regular occurrence in South Africa.
    • According to the WHO, the road traffic death rate per 100,000 population is nearly three times higher in South Africa than in the United States. The high incidence of road traffic mortality is due to a combination of poor driving, limited enforcement of traffic laws, road rage, aggressive driving, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • Public Transportation and Rental Vehicles. The use of individual metered taxis from established taxi companies and tour buses is recommended. The Gautrain, which travels between the airport and Johannesburg/Pretoria, is considered a very reliable and safe mode of transportation.
  • Pedestrian Safety: Take extreme care when crossing streets. Collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians are all too common on South African roadways. Pedestrian deaths occur regularly. Drivers are often aggressive towards pedestrians and fail to yield the right-of-way, even in marked crosswalks. The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria and Consulates General in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban are located on busy city streets, and visitors should exercise caution when walking to and from these facilities.
  • For more information. Visit the U.S. Department of State Road Safety Overseas webpage and the South African Tourism and  the South African National Roads Agency websites.

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Victims of Crime

In an emergency:

  • The nationwide emergency number for the police is 10111
  •  the nationwide number for ambulance service is 10177.

It is not necessary to dial an area code when calling these numbers.

The U.S. embassy or consulate can assist U.S. citizens with:

  • Replace a stolen passport.
  • Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
  • Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
  • See the information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

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