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South Africa

If you’re travelling to South Africa, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information. 

Security Status

  • Normal precautions
  • High degree of caution
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Do not travel
  • Overview
  • Safety and Security
  • Local Laws and Customs
  • Health
  • Additional Information
  • Embassy Contact

Overview

Overview

General COVID-19 Travel Advisory in Operation:

Avoid non-essential travel until further notice:

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises against all non-essential travel overseas until further notice. This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. It also includes all travel by cruise ship.

If you are currently travelling outside of Ireland:

Flight restrictions and route cancellations are happening on a daily basis worldwide and there is no guarantee that air routes will continue to operate. For this reason, where commercial flights are still an option, we recommend that people who wish to do so make arrangements to return to Ireland as soon as possible.

We are working with airlines to show maximum flexibility to those passengers who need to change their existing flight arrangements. Where commercial flights are no longer available, we are working side-by-side with our international partners to identify alternative options where possible.

It may not be feasible or possible for everyone who wants to travel back to Ireland to do so in the short term. We ask Irish citizens remaining abroad to make decisions that safeguard their health and well-being and that they follow local public health and safety requirements.  We ask that they remain in close contact with family, friends and their local Irish Embassy or Consulate. 

We know that this is a stressful situation for citizens and our embassy network is working around the clock to provide people with all the information and assistance that we can, bearing in mind the situation is unfolding across multiple countries and is not one under our control. 

What to do on entering Ireland from abroad:

The Irish Health Authorities require anyone coming into Ireland, apart from Northern Ireland, to restrict their movements on arrival for 14 days. Check the Irish Health Service COVID-19 Advice Page for full information on these requirements. This includes Irish residents. Exemptions are in place for providers of essential supply chain services such as hauliers, pilots and maritime staff.

Where to go for more information:

We continue to make updates to our online travel advice for over 200 countries and recommend that you download our TravelWise App and follow us on Twitter. If abroad you should register with your local Irish Embassy or Consulate and regularly check their website and especially their Twitter accounts for details of any local public health measures and travel restrictions.

Security status

Avoid non-essential travel

Travel Update

There is a very high level of crime including rape and murder in South Africa. The most violent crimes tend to occur in townships, remote and isolated areas and away from the normal tourist destinations. Most visits to South Africa are trouble-free, but you should take sensible precautions to protect your safety. Crime increases in areas where large crowds gather, so be particularly vigilant if you're attending sporting or other events that attract large numbers. (See Safety and Security)

The Western Cape has suffered a prolonged drought, but the situation has improved. The Cape Town municipal region was most affected but water restrictions were reduced in October 2018. If you're planning to travel to the area, you should be mindful of water consumption and comply with local restrictions.

Regulations on travelling with children to/from and through South Africa changed in June 2015 – for more information on these important changes, please view the Additional Information tab.

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

A number of COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in South Africa.  

Irish tourists and short-term visitors to South Africa are advised to make arrangements to return to Ireland as soon as possible. Travel options from South Africa to Ireland are becoming more limited due to impact of the travel restrictions imposed by the Government of South Africa and by countries through which flights to Ireland may be required to transit. Citizens without permission to remain in South Africa indefinitely, or who intend to return to Ireland in the near future, are advised to contact your airline or travel agent urgently to avail of the remaining available flight options.

On Sunday 15th March, the Government of South Africa declared a national state of disaster in response to the outbreak, including a number of measures restricting international and domestic travel. A travel ban has been put into effect for foreign nationals from high-risk countries, effective from 18 March 2020. Ireland has not been specifically named as a high-risk country, although the situation is evolving rapidly and this may change on short notice. (As of 18 March, the list comprises Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, USA, UK, France, Switzerland and China, but this list is subject to change. The latest information is available at www.sacoronavirus.co.za).

There are no direct flights between Ireland and South Africa. International flights from South Africa are still in operation, but the options are now very limited. Irish citizens travelling to South Africa via a country designated as high-risk or who has visited a high-risk country in the 20 days prior to travel will be affected by the travel ban. Travellers entering South Africa from medium-risk countries will be required to undergo high intensity screening. Travellers should continue to anticipate disruption at airports due to COVID-19 screening and respect any requests for self-quarantine. In the event of any flight cancellation, you should contact your airline and travel insurer in the first instance. You should continue to monitor airlines for any updates.

Irish citizens already in South Africa should be aware that the government has announced that the country will be in lockdown from 23:39 on Thursday 26th March 2020 for a period of 21 days, until 16th April 2020.  The lockdown may be extended beyond this period.  It is essential to comply with all of the official instructions regulating this lockdown period.  The restrictions include requiring everyone in the country to stay at home at all times except for essential trips such as to purchase food or medicine.  Full information and guidelines on the lockdown are available here: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/2020/03/23/south-african-lockdown-guidelines-information/ 

Irish citizens who arrived in South Africa since March 9th should be aware that, if they arrived from a high-risk country, they are required to self-isolate in their hotels for a period of 14 days. Affected citizens should call the Department of Health’s COVID-19 24-hour hotline number, 0800 029 999, or visit www.health.gov.za for more information.

South African citizens have been advised against travel to the EU, UK, USA and other areas affected by COVID-19, and citizens and South African residents returning to South Africa from affected areas will be subject to screening. South Africa is partially closing its borders, and has closed two of its eight sea ports and 25 of its land ports. The government of South Africa is also discouraging non-essential domestic travel, especially by air, rail, bus and taxi. Updated information from the South African government in relation to port closures and other restrictions in place can be found by monitoring its Twitter account, @GovernmentZA, its website, www.gov.za, and its dedicated COVID-19 information site, https://sacoronavirus.co.za/ .

See links below for further details.

Link to: Government of South Africa COVID-19 dedicated website: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/

Link to: National Institute Disease Control http://www.nicd.ac.za/

Link to: Department of Health http://www.health.gov.za/

Link to: WHO World Health Organisation

If you are in South Africa, you should monitor developments regularly and follow the advice of local authorities. See links to relevant websites below.

Link to national airports: https://ortambo-airport.com/index.html

https://www.capetown-airport.com/

Be alert to common signs of infection: respiratory problems, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Seek medical advice if you experience these symptoms.

HSE medical advice to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is below.

Do:

• wash your hands properly and regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
• cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
• put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands

Don’t:

• touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean


Additional information on COVID-19 can be found via the following links:

HSE

HPSC

ECDC

World Health Organisation

Emergency Assistance

We suggest you learn as much as you can about South Africa before your trip from travel agents, tour operators and guide books. The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, start by talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

You can contact the emergency services in South Africa on the following numbers:

South African Police Service 10111
General Ambulance Number 10177
Fire Brigade 10111
Emergency Call from mobile phone 112
Cape Town Emergency 107
Cape Town Emergency (from mobile) +27 (0)21 480 7700

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

Safety and Security

Safety and security

Political unrest

The political situation in South Africa is reasonably stable but dangerous incidents can happen. Always keep yourself informed of what's going on around you by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser and avoid demonstrations and public gatherings, which can sometimes turn confrontational.

Terrorism

Although the threat from terrorism in South Africa has generally been classified as low, in  July 2018, police  investigated a series of incendiary devices placed at different locations in the Durban area. Two of these devices were triggered, causing small fires. You should exercise usual caution if you encounter unexpected devices or packages. If in doubt, contact the police

Crime

South Africa has a high level of crime, including violent crime, rape and murder. While most cases occur in townships or in areas away from normal tourist destinations, nowhere is completely safe and you should exercise caution when travelling in both urban and rural environments, including city centre areas at night (city centres are usually referred to as Central Business Districts or CBDs in South Africa). Take basic safety precautions:

  • Don't carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place 
  • Don't carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don't use ATMs after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
  • Don't change large sums of money in busy public areas and don't give personal or financial account information details to people you don't know
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafes, train and bus stations. Be vigilant when passing through South Africa's airports; pickpockets and thieves patrol them
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible. Walking at night is not advisable and many tourists consider public transport to be unsafe; private car rental is the safest option for independent travel
  • Use only recognised hire car companies or official taxis. If you book a taxi or car to meet you at the airport, ask in advance for the driver's name for confirmation

Car crime

Armed car-jacking is a serious concern throughout South Africa. Thefts and smash-and-grab robberies from vehicles are common. You should keep the doors locked and windows closed, and exercise caution when travelling, particularly at night and at filling stations.

If you are mugged or your car is hijacked you should remain calm, offer no resistance and hand over possessions without question. Avoid eye contact. 

Visiting townships

Visitors are advised to exercise extreme caution if travelling to townships. It is recommended that you only visit townships as part of a recognised tour.

Keep large amounts of money, expensive jewellery, cameras and mobile phones out of sight. 

Reporting a crime

If you're a victim of a crime while in South Africa, report it to the local police immediately on 10111 (112 from mobile phones). And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Pretoria if you need help.

Driving

The rules of the road in South Africa are broadly similar to those in Ireland. Roads are generally good, but some roads in the more remote areas are poor. The standard of driving in South Africa can vary greatly and there are many fatal accidents every year. 

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance. An Irish licence will be valid for up to 12 months after entry, provided it carries the photograph and signature of the holder 
  • Drive cautiously at all times and adhere to South Africa's traffic laws, such as speed limits
  • Avoid 'road rage' situations as they can quickly escalate and turn violent
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Wear your seatbelts at all times
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you're stopped at traffic lights
  • Four-way-stops are common at quieter intersections – the first vehicle to arrive has priority. Roundabouts (circles in SA) should be treated with caution. Traffic lights are known as robots in South Africa
  • Park in well-lit areas. Don't pick up strangers. Don't stop to help (apparently) distressed motorists, as this is a technique sometimes used by hijackers. It is better to report the incident to the police
  • Avoid using ATMs in garages and in poorly lit areas. Be vigilant of anyone trying to help at an ATM
  • Never leave bags, suitcases, or items of value on display in your car – these should be locked away in the boot
  • Avoid isolated beaches and picnic spots across South Africa and stay in company. Walking alone anywhere, especially in remote areas, is not advised and hikers should stick to popular trails. Call the police on 10111 (112 from mobile phones) at the first sign of a threat.

Hiring a vehicle

If you're hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you're allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Local Laws and Customs

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Illegal drugs

The penalties for both the supply and possession of drugs are severe in South Africa and can include life imprisonment.

Prostitution

Prostitution is illegal in South Africa. The risk of HIV and AIDS infection in South Africa is very high. If you suspect that you have been exposed to possible infection, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Health

Health

Medical Facilities

Hospital treatment in large cities in South Africa is good but can be expensive. Medical facilities in rural areas can be basic. In remote areas, air evacuation is sometimes the only option for medical emergencies.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Vaccinations

Check what vaccinations you may need for your trip at least eight weeks before you travel. We can’t advise you on vaccinations, but you can get information about vaccinations from your local GP or an International Health and Travel Centre.

Evidence of vaccination (in the form of a certificate) can be a requirement for entry to some countries.

Medication

Make sure you bring enough medication for your entire trip and for any unexpected delays. You may wish to also bring copies of your prescription in case you lose your medication.

HIV and Aids

The level of HIV and AIDS infection in South Africa is very high. You should exercise necessary caution if engaging in activities that expose you to possible infection. If you suspect that you have been exposed to possible infection, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Malaria

Malaria is prevalent in parts of Mpumalanga, Limpopo province and KwaZulu-Natal (particularly the Wetlands area around St Lucia). Before travelling to these areas, including Kruger Park, you should seek medical advice on suitable anti-malarial medication and take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Cholera

There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in rural South Africa, especially in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo provinces. You’re advised to maintain a high level of personal hygiene and drink only bottled water if travelling in these areas.

Yellow Fever

Anyone arriving in South Africa from a country where yellow fewer is present must have a yellow fever vaccination certificate valid at least six days before entry into South Africa. If you don’t have this certificate on arrival in South Africa you could be refused entry or vaccinated at the airport and quarantined for up to six days.

Hospitals and clinics

Cape Town

Christian Barnard Hospital 

+27 (0)21 423 4835

Constantia Berg Mediclinic

+27 (0)21 799 2196

Johannesburg

Bedford Gardens Hospital    

+27 (0) 11 677 8500

Sandton Medi-Clinic      

+27 (0) 11 709 2000

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital   

+27 (0) 11 933 8000

24Hours Emergency     

+27 (0)11 706 7710

Pretoria

Little Company of Mary Hospital   

+27 (0)12 424 3600

Pretoria Academic (Steve Biko) Hospital  

+27 (0)12 354 1000

Zuid-Africanns Hospital    

+27 (0)12 343 5482

Die Wilgers Hospital     

+27 (0)12 807 8100

Unitas Hospital Centurion    

+27 (0)12 677 8000

Durban

Addington Hospital     

+27 (0)31 327 2000

Netcare Parklands Hospital    

+27 (0)31 242 4000

King Edward VIII Hospital    

+27 (0)31 360 3111

Crompton Hospital     

+27 (0)31 702 0777

 

Additional Information

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

If your visit to South Africa is for less than 90 days, you won't need a visa. If you wish to visit for longer than 90 days please consult your nearest Embassy or Consulate of South Africa before travelling. You are strongly advised not to overstay the 90 day limit as the South African Department of Home Affairs has recently introduced much stricter rules and penalties in respect of visitors who overstay without permission.

On 21 August 2014 the South African Minister for Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, announced a ban on entry for non-South African nationals travelling from countries designated as high-risk for Ebola. Irish nationals seeking to travel to South Africa from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone will not be permitted to enter the country. This is an emergency measure which can be expected to continue until the Ebola crisis in West Africa is resolved.

Passports

Your passport must have at least two blank pages and must not be damaged in any way. If your passport fails on either count, it will be returned immediately by the South African authorities. The Embassy of Ireland cannot help you at all if you are refused entry for either of these reasons.

Your passport must also be valid for at least six months from your intended date of departure from South Africa.

It’s advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you when travelling to South Africa and you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times during your stay.

If your passport is lost or stolen while you’re abroad, we can help.

What we can do:

  • Issue you a replacement passport that will let you finish your trip, or;
  • Issue you with an emergency travel document to get you home.

We’ll do our best to help you as quickly as possible but this can take some time. Your location and circumstances may limit the help we can give you.

You should contact the Irish Embassy in Pretoria to find out what you need to do to apply for a passport. They will also be able to advise you on the fees which apply.

Travelling with Children

Regulations are changing for travellers with children travelling to/from South Africa from 1 June 2015. There will be a significant change to requirements so travellers are encouraged to take careful note.

All travellers entering or leaving South Africa from 1 June must present the child’s full unabridged birth certificate to the immigration officer at the port of entry/departure. In the case of adopted children, an adoption certificate must be presented. The requirement is for either the original document or a copy certified by a suitable authority within the three months preceding the date of travel. Where the certificate is not in English or another of the official languages of South Africa, a translation must be presented, certified within the three months preceding the date of travel.

Where the child is not accompanied by one or both parents named on the birth/adoption certificate, an affidavit is required confirming the parent/s consent to the child travelling on the specific journey being undertaken. This affidavit must provide contact details for the parent/s not accompanying the child so that the immigration officer can verify consent, if s/he so wishes. Where one of the parents is deceased or an order of sole custody exists, official documentation of these circumstances must be presented to the immigration officer at the port of entry/departure.

If you have queries or concerns regarding these requirements we recommend that you consult with the Embassy or Consulate of South Africa in your country of residence, or with the South African authorities if you are resident in South Africa.

Money

The currency in South Africa is the rand. Exchange control regulations mean that it’s difficult to buy foreign currency without going through lengthy and elaborate procedures.

There is a high incidence of credit card fraud and fraud involving ATMs. As at home in Ireland, when you’re using an ATM, be careful to ensure your PIN number can’t be observed by others when you’re withdrawing money. Offers of help from bystanders should be refused. Don’t change large sums of money in busy public areas.

Climate

South Africa has a subtropical climate and warm temperatures for much of the year. The Western Cape gets most of its rainfall in winter, but the rest of the country is generally a summer-rainfall region. 

South Africa’s seasons are opposite to those in Europe.

Embassy contact

Embassy Contact

Embassy of Ireland
2nd Floor
Parkdev Building
Brooklyn Bridge Office Park
570 Fehrsen Street
Brooklyn 0181
Pretoria
South Africa

Tel: + 27 12 452 1000
Fax: + 27 12 342 4752

Monday to Friday 09:00-12:00

Contact us