Caution
October 19, 2023

Worldwide Caution

Update
January 10, 2024

Information for U.S. Citizens in the Middle East

International Travel

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Learn About Your Destination

South Africa

South Africa
Republic of South Africa
Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to crime and civil unrest.

Updated to reflect safety consideration when using GPS navigation. 

Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to crime and civil unrest

Country Summary:  Violent crime, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles, is common. There is a higher risk of violent crime in the central business districts of major cities after dark.

Using GPS navigation can lead to unsafe routes. GPS navigation may suggest shortcuts through townships as the quickest preferred route but can lead to increased risks of crime.

There have been incidents in which tourists traveling in Cape Town while using GPS navigation apps have been routed through residential areas with high rates of violent crime. The safest approach to return a rental car to Cape Town International Airport is to take the N2 highway and follow signs to Airport Approach Rd (exit 16). Alternatively, request the rental car company to collect your vehicle and subsequently arrange an airport transfer from established taxi companies or established ridesharing services to reach the airport.

Demonstrations, protests, and strikes occur frequently. These can develop quickly without prior notification, often interrupting traffic, transportation, and other services; such events have the potential to turn violent. 

Please see our Alerts for up-to-date information. 

Read the country information page for additional information on travel to South Africa. 

 If you decide to travel to South Africa: 

  • Research your route in advance, stay on major highways, avoid shortcuts through townships, and avoid reliance on GPS navigation apps.
  • Avoid walking alone, especially after dark. 
  • Avoid visiting informal settlement areas unless you are with someone familiar with the area. 
  • Do not display cash or valuables. 
  • Drive with doors locked and windows closed. 
  • Always carry a copy of your U.S. passport and visa (if applicable). Keep original documents in a secure location. 
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. 
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter
  • Review the Country Security Report for South Africa. 
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist
  • Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel. 
... [READ MORE]

Embassy Messages

Alerts

Quick Facts

PASSPORT VALIDITY:


30 days beyond your intended date of exit from South Africa..

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:


2 consecutive empty visa pages per entry (not including endorsement pages).

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:


No, if visiting 90 days or less.

VACCINATIONS:


Yellow fever at least 10 days before arrival is required for travelers originating from or transiting through WHO-designated yellow fever countries.

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:


ZAR 25,000; Foreign currency unlimited if declared; No Kruger coins.

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:


ZAR 25,000; Foreign currency unlimited if amount was declared on entry; Up to 15 Kruger coins if proof purchased with foreign currency.

Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Pretoria
877 Pretorius Street, Arcadia
Pretoria 0083
South Africa
Telephone: +(27)(12) 431-4000 / 012-431-4000
Fax: +(27)(12) 431-5504 / 012-431-5504
The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria does not provide consular services to the public.
Facebook
Twitter
Email: ACSJohannesburg@state.gov

Consulates

U.S. Consulate General Johannesburg
1 Sandton Drive (opposite Sandton City Mall)
Johannesburg 2196
South Africa
Telephone:+(27)(11) 290-3000 / 011-290-3000 (Monday – Thursday: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(27) 79-111-1684 / 079-111-1684 (from within South Africa)
Fax: +(27)(11) 884-0396 / 011-884-0396
Email: ACSJohannesburg@state.gov

U.S. Consulate General Cape Town
2 Reddam Avenue, West Lake 7945,
Cape Town, South Africa
Telephone: +(27)(21) 702-7300 / 021-702-7300 (from within South Africa)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(27) 702-7300 / 079-111-0391 (from within South Africa)
Fax: +(27)(21) 702-7493 / 021-702-7493 (from within South Africa)
Email: americanscapetown@state.gov

U.S. Consulate General Durban
303 Dr. Pixley KaSeme Street (formerly West Street)
31st Floor Delta Towers
Durban 4001
South Africa
Telephone: +(27) (31) 305-7600/031-305-7600 (from within South Africa)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(27) (31) 305-7600 or +(27) 079-111-1445 / (031) 305-7600 or 079-111-1445 (from within South Africa)
Fax: (+27)(31) 305-7691 / 031-305-7691 (from within South Africa)
Email: ACSDurban@state.gov

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

South Africa strictly enforces entry and exit requirements and other immigration laws. Failure to observe these requirements may result in the traveler being denied entry, detained, deported, or deemed inadmissible to enter South Africa in the future.

Please visit the Department of Home Affairs website for the most up to date entry and exit requirements.

Please visit the Embassy's COVID-19 page for more information on entry/exit requirements related to COVID-19 in South Africa. 

The Embassy of the Republic of South Africa is located at 3051 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 232-4400. Visit the Embassy of South Africa for the most current visa information.

Two Consecutive Blank Visa Pages: South Africa requires travelers to have two consecutive completely blank visa pages in their passports upon every arrival in South Africa. YOU WILL BE DENIED ENTRY if you do not have two consecutive blank visa pages in your passport. This does not include the endorsement pages.

Traveling with minors: There are special requirements for minors traveling through South African ports of entry. Visit the Department of Home Affairs website for the most up-to-date requirements for traveling with minors to or from South Africa.

Immunizations: Travelers entering South Africa from WHO-designated countries with risk of yellow fever virus (YFV) transmission must present their current and valid International Certificate of Vaccination as approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) (“yellow card”). See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s South Africa page.

The U.S. Department of State is not aware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of South Africa. However, South Africa has a high HIV/AIDS prevalence.

Other: Find information on dual nationalityprevention of international child abduction and customs regulations on our websites.

Safety and Security

Alerts regarding important safety and security information such as demonstrations, road security, and weather events are posted on the Embassy’s website.

In South Africa the equivalent to the “911” emergency line is 10111.

  • The following paragraphs provide a summary, but please read the Department of State’s most recent Overseas Security Advisory Council Country Security Report on South Africa, which provides detailed information about safety and security concerns for travelers to South Africa.

Civil Unrest: Strikes and demonstrations occur frequently. These can develop quickly without prior notification and occasionally turn violent, and may include the burning of vehicles, buildings, or tires – which may serve as roadblocks; throwing rocks or other objects; or physical attacks. Strikes and demonstrations can also interrupt traffic and the provision of electricity, water, public transportation, fuel, and other goods and services. Periodic incidents of mob violence directed against refugees and immigrants from other African countries occur in South Africa.  During labor protests, strike breakers or those perceived to be strike breakers have been violently attacked.  Protests involving taxis and ride hailing services can turn violent.  See Travel and Transportation section below for guidance.

Precautions:

  • Avoid demonstrations and use vigilance during your movements around the country. Even events intended to be peaceful can become violent.
  • Maintain caution in areas frequented by foreigners.
  • Monitor news and Alerts.

Crime: South Africa has a very high level of crime Violent crimes occur where people live, work, while in transit or out and about.  Violent residential crimes include armed home invasions by organized criminal groups resulting in assaults, rapes, and murder.  Popular tourist destinations and major hotel chains employ their own security that largely minimize such incidents on their properties.  Armed robbery, rape, kidnapping for ransom, carjacking, mugging, and "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles affect visitors and residents alike. Extra vigilance at traffic lights and on/off ramps where cars slow or stop is warranted.  To avoid robbery outside higher end stores when buying jewelry or electronics, many vendors will deliver your purchase to your home or hotel for a fee.  Crime can occur anywhere and anytime, including in and around Kruger National Park, and U.S. government staff and visitors have been robbed in the immediate vicinity of our diplomatic facilities. You should exercise particular caution in the central business districts (CBDs) of major cities, especially after dark. Crime victims have also been followed from the arrival hall of OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg and then robbed once they reach their home or hotel.

Theft can be bold and in broad daylight.  Travelers and U.S. diplomats report having cell phones stolen from their hands, as well as purses or wallets taken off counters while paying for goods at stores.  Car theft and hijacking continues to plague the country, particularly in large cities.  Travelers should choose secure parking options and double check locked doors before leaving a parked car.

Throughout South Africa, U.S. citizens should:

  • Avoid walking alone especially after dark.
  • Avoid visiting informal settlement areas unless you are with someone familiar with the area. Please note that U.S. mission staff are required to use fully armored vehicles when visiting many townships in and around the Cape Town area and visiting hours are restricted to between 0700-1500 hours.
  • Do not display cash and valuables.
  • Avoid cash-in-transit vehicles both on the road, as well as ATMs when being refilled.  Armed criminal gangs frequently target cash-in-transit vehicles while stopped at customer sites, but also ambush cash-in-transit vehicles while on the road.  Such violent armed attacks involve automatic weapons, explosives, and gangs of criminals.  Criminals frequently use remote jamming and signal interceptors with success.
  • Drive with doors locked and windows closed.
  • Always carry a copy of your U.S. passport and visa (if applicable). Keep original documents in a secure location.
  • Avoid driving during periods of load shedding (rolling blackouts) as the roads can become extremely congested due to a lack of traffic signals. These traffic jams and slow-moving traffic can provide opportunities for smash and grab robberies.

Student Groups: There have been instances of student groups being robbed while conducting outreach and service visits in townships. On these occasions, student groups coordinated with officials to conduct service visits and upon arrival were held and then robbed by armed perpetrators.

Demonstrations occur frequently. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events.

  • Demonstrations can be unpredictable, avoid areas around protests and demonstrations.
  • Past demonstrations have turned violent.
  • Check local media for updates and traffic advisories.

Internet romance and financial scams are prevalent in South Africa. Scams are often initiated through Internet postings/profiles or by unsolicited emails and letters. Scammers almost always pose as U.S. citizens who have no one else to turn to for help. Common scams include:

  • Romance/Online dating
  • Money transfers
  • Lucrative sales
  • Gold purchase
  • Contracts with promises of large commissions
  • Grandparent/Relative targeting
  • Free Trip/Luggage
  • Lotteries
  • Inheritance notices
  • Work permits/job offers
  • Bank overpayments

Travelers need not surrender their credit card to any vendor.  They will bring a credit card machine to customers.

ATM and Credit Card skimming is common and visitors should be cautious about using ATMs outside of banks and reputable hotels.  Skimmers have also been found on machines used to pay parking tickets at shopping malls and office buildings.  Paying parking fees with cash avoids this risk.

See the FBI pages for information.

Victims of Crime:

U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault or domestic violence should report crimes to the local police at 10111. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

The U.S. Consulates General in South Africa can:

  • help you find appropriate medical care
  • assist you in reporting a crime to the police
  • contact relatives or friends with your written consent
  • explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
  • provide a list of local attorneys
  • provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
  • provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
  • help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
  • replace a stolen or lost passport

Terrorism Threat: Extremists with ties to international terrorist organizations, such as al-Qai’ida, al-Shabaab, and ISIS, historically have used South Africa as a logistical hub to conduct recruitment and financial facilitation. There has been increased activity by ISIS sympathizers and supporters locally, including the placement of incendiary devices and kidnapping for ransom operations. South African authorities have periodically arrested individuals and charged them with terrorism related crimes. The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has publicly designated ISIS members operating in South Africa who have provided technical, financial, or material support to the terrorist group.  Check the Mission’s website to review Alerts to U.S. citizens, and register with the U.S. Mission to South Africa to receive new Alerts by email during your travels.

Game parks and outdoor safety: Visitors have been injured and killed by wild animals in South Africa. It is dangerous to leave your vehicle in game parks outside of designated areas. Observe all park regulations and follow the instructions of guides. Be mindful of sharks when swimming. Rip tides are common and very dangerous. Do not swim alone in isolated areas or dive into unfamiliar waters.

Hikers must be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions and ensure they have proper clothing and supplies. Many areas, especially in the Western Cape province, experience brush fires during the summer months (December-February). These fires can burn for several days. Monitor local media and follow fire crew instructions regarding road closures and evacuations.

Tourism: The tourism industry is generally regulated and rules regarding best practices and safety inspections are regularly enforced. Hazardous areas and activities are identified with appropriate signage and professional staff is typically on hand in support of organized activities. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is widely available throughout the country. Outside of a major metropolitan center, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to arrive on the scene and provide life-saving assistance. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

Infrastructure: Currently, periodic scheduled blackouts (known locally as “Load Shedding”) are common throughout the country.  These controlled rolling blackouts are employed to safeguard the country’s electrical grid and has resulted in nationwide outages of up to six hours or more without power daily. These electricity outages negatively impact businesses which do not possess an alternative power supply (e.g., diesel generators) including hotels. Additionally, during periods of load shedding, traffic lights will cease functioning creating traffic jams which provide opportunities for smash and grab crime. Load shedding can also impact water availability and safety, cell phone signal, fuel pumps (and therefore fuel availability), and residential security features especially in rural areas.

Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be deported, arrested, or imprisoned. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business.

Furthermore, some crimes are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the nearest U.S. Consulate in South Africa immediately. See our webpage for further information.

Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:

LGBTQI+ Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in South Africa.[ER1]

See our LGBTQI+ Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights Report for further details.

Travelers with Disabilities: South Africa law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but these laws are rarely enforced. Some tourist attractions, and restaurants near tourist attractions, are equipped with ramps and other options to facilitate access. Conditions vary significantly across the country.

The law in South Africa prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual and mental disabilities, and the law is enforced unevenly. Social acceptance of persons with disabilities in public is as prevalent as in the United States. Expect accessibility to be limited in public transportation, lodging, communication/information, and general infrastructure.

Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.

Women Travelers:  See our travel tips for Women Travelers.

Special Circumstances:  Parts of South Africa may face drought conditions, water scarcity, and rainfall patterns that may be erratic. Water supplies in some areas may be affected. Water-use restrictions may be in place in the affected municipalities.

Health

For emergency services in South Africa, dial 10111.

Ambulance services are

  • not widely available and training and availability of emergency responders may be below U.S. standards;
  • not present throughout the country or are unreliable in most areas except in major cities and may;   
  • not be equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment.
  • We do not pay medical bills. U.S. Medicare does not cover you overseas. Healthcare providers, including ambulances require payment in cash before services are performed.

Private medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks but limited elsewhere. Private medical facilities require a deposit before admitting patients. Pharmacies are well-stocked, but you should carry an adequate supply of prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. HIV and AIDS is a major public health concern.

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.

If your health insurance plan does not provide coverage overseas, we strongly recommend supplemental medical insurance and medical evacuation plans.

If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Embassy of South Africa to ensure the medication is legal in South Africa. Always, carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.

The following diseases are prevalent:

Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For further health information:

Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.

The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals. We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.

Health facilities in general:

  • Adequate health facilities are available in urban areas but health care in rural areas may be below U.S. standards.
  • Public medical clinics lack basic resources and supplies.
  • Hospitals usually require advance payment or proof of adequate insurance before admitting a patient.
  • Psychological and psychiatric services are limited, even in the larger cities, with hospital-based care only available through government institutions

Pharmaceuticals:

  • Exercise caution when purchasing medication overseas.  Pharmaceuticals, both over the counter and requiring prescription in the United States, are often readily available for purchase with little controls.  Counterfeit medication is common and may prove to be ineffective, the wrong strength, or contain dangerous ingredients.  Medication should be purchased in consultation with a medical professional and from reputable establishments.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration are responsible for rules governing the transport of medication back to the United States.  Medication purchased abroad must meet their requirements to be legally brought back into the United States.  Medication should be for personal use and must be approved for usage in the United States.  Please visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration websites for more information.

Water Quality

  • In many areas, tap water is not potable. Bottled water and beverages are generally safe, although you should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested. Be aware that ice for drinks may be made using tap water.

General Health Language

  • Use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended mosquito repellents and sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets.  Chemoprophylaxis is recommended for all travelers even for short stays.
  • HIV/AIDS is prevalent in South Africa and by some estimates as many as 1 in 7 South African residents are infected. Infection rates are even higher (1 in 5) among younger residents.
  • Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Resources for Travelers regarding specific issues in South Africa.  

Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: Road conditions are generally good in South Africa, but the road traffic death rate 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. Use extreme caution driving at night. U.S. government employees are discouraged from driving after dark outside of major metropolitan areas, except for highway travel between Pretoria and Johannesburg. Traffic lights are frequently out of order.

Traffic Laws: Traffic in South Africa moves on the left, and the steering wheel is on the right-hand side of the car. Under South African law, all occupants of motor vehicles equipped with seatbelts are required to wear them while the vehicle is in operation. Texting or talking on a cell phone without a hands-free unit while driving is illegal. Treat all intersections with malfunctioning traffic lights as a four-way stop.

South African law does not require an international driver’s license. A valid driver’s license from any U.S. state or territory that has the signature and photo of the driver is valid to drive in South Africa for stays of less than six months.

Please refer to the Road Safety page for more information. Also, visit the websites of South African Tourism and the South African National Roads Agency for more information regarding local transportation trends and laws.

Public Transportation:

Taxis: The use of individual metered taxis dispatched from established taxi companies, hotel taxis, and tour buses is recommended. U.S. government personnel are not allowed to use minibus taxis or hail taxis on the street or use a taxi stand. Minibus taxi drivers are often unlicensed and drive erratically.

Transportation Network Companies: Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), such as Uber, also operate in South Africa. U.S. government personnel may only use TNCs with a dispatch application that provides vehicle description, license plate number, and the driver’s name, picture, user rating, and the ability to share trip information. The user should verify the information provided by the company, such as the vehicle make/model, license plate number, and driver’s name/picture, prior to entering the vehicle. TNCs should not be used to travel outside major metropolitan areas. Pick up and drop off should not be done near a traditional taxi stand due to tensions between rideshare and taxi drivers that have resulted in altercations.

Rail Service: The long-distance rail service, Shosholoza Meyl; the rapid rail Gautrain in Gauteng Province; and luxury rail services, such as Shosholoza Meyl Premier Classe, Blue Train, and Rovos Rail are generally safe and reliable, though mechanical problems and criminal incidents do sometimes occur. U.S. government personnel are not allowed to use the Metrorail commuter rail service because of safety and crime concerns. There have been recent reports of fires being set on Metrorail train cars.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization aviation safety standards for oversight of South Africa’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to South Africa should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts on the Maritime Administration website. Information may also be posted to the websites of the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Geospace Intelligence Agency (select “broadcast warnings”).

For additional travel information

International Parental Child Abduction

Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in South Africa. For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.

Last Updated: November 6, 2023

Travel Advisory Levels

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Consulate General Johannesburg
1 Sandton Drive (opposite
Sandton City Mall)
Johannesburg 2196
South Africa
Telephone
+(27)(11) 290-3000 (from South Africa 011-290-3000)
Emergency
+(27) 79-111-1684 / 079-111-1684 (from within South Africa)
Fax
+(27)(11) 884-0396 / 011-884-0396 (from within South Africa)

South Africa Map