Information for Tourists & Visitors

Information for Tourists & Visitors to South Africa

Important information for Visitors and Tourists to South Africa, including information about visa requirements, exchange rates, weather and climate, accommodation in South Africa, tippings etc.

South African Standard Time
South African standard Time is two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +2), one hour in advance of central European winter time and seven hours in advance of United States eastern standard time throughout the year. There are no time zone differences within the country.

Visa Requirements
Every person seeking to enter South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport for travel to South Africa and, where necessary, a visa. Enquiries can be directed to South African diplomatic representatives abroad or the Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria. Visitors who intend travelling to South Africa's neighbouring countries and back into South Africa are advised to apply for multiple entry visas.

In terms of existing arrangements, passport holders of certain countries are exempt from visa requirements. Tourists must satisfy immigration officers that they have the means to support themselves during their stay, and that they are in possession of return or onward air tickets. They must also have valid international health certificates.

No international immunisation is needed when entering South Africa. The only inoculation requirement is a yellow fever vaccination certificate from travellers over one year of age entering South Africa within six days of leaving an infected country. Visitors who travel through or disembark in these areas are advised to be inoculated against the disease before visiting South Africa.

Security and Safety
As South Africa is a developing country, crime does exist, so we would advise you to take a few basic precautions. All valuables, passports, cameras, should be locked in the safe of your hotel. Valuables should be carried discreetly when walking in cities. Gold and other expensive items offered for sale by street vendors are likely to be fakes or stolen property. Do not participate in pavement games as they are operated by well organised gangs and money can be stolen while you are distracted.

Public transport is available in South Africa so there is no need to hitch-hike. Local residents will advise you on safe transport. If driving, do not pick up hitch-hikers and ensure that your car doors are locked at all times. The South African Police are easily recognised in their blue uniforms and by their white and blue patrol vehicles.

Phoning overseas from South Africa
If you wish to make a call overseas, you must first dial 00, which is South Africa's international access code. You then dial the country code, area code of the city or region and the number of the person you wish to call. e.g. if you make a call to Sydney, Australia, telephone number 456 1234 you must dial 00 612 456-1234.

Weather and Climate
View climate information by region » South Africa Weather & Climate. You can obtain up to date information on the latest weather conditions in area area by dialling the number indicated below. Under extraordinary conditions these reports are updated four times a day. Weatherline 082-162 (Call to this numbers are free). Cape Town Weather - Six day forecast

220/230 volts AC at 50 cycles per second. Three pronged plugs are universal, so take an adapter. Most hotel rooms have 110 volt outlets for electric shavers and small appliances.

South African Post Offices
Open Monday to Friday from 08h00 to 16h30 and on Saturday from 08h00 to 12h00. Closed on Sundays. Mail may be addressed to you Post Restante. The main post offices have special counters for this purpose. Postage stamps are widely available (e.g. at some cafés and branches of the Central News Agency - CNA).

There are 11 South African official languages including English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda and Zulu. 

According to Statistics South Africa, 41.4% of Cape Town residents speak Afrikaans at home, 28.7% speak Xhosa, 27.9% speak English, 0.7% speak Sotho, 0.3% speak Zulu, 0.1% speak Tswana and 0.7% of the population speaks a non-official language at home.

English is spoken everywhere you go in South Africa. English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government and official documents. All our road signs and official forms are in English and at any hotel, Bed and Breakfast or Guest House, the service staff will speak to you in English.

Currency and Exchange Rates
One Rand (R) = 100 cents (c). Notes issued R200, R100, R50, R20, R10; coins R5, R2, R1, 50c 20c, 10c, 5c. Currency exchange rates are available at banks and published daily in the press or see South Africa Current Exchange Rates which are updated daily.

Tipping / Gratuities
Tipping is customary in South Africa. A guideline for visitors is the following: Porters R5 per item, taxis 10%, waiters and waitresses in restaurants 10-15%.

Travellers Cheques and Banking
BANKING HOURS: Monday to Friday from 09h00 to 15h30.
Saturday from 09h00 to 11h00.
Auto banks (ATM's, automated teller machines) are found in most towns and operate on a 24 hour basis.

TRAVELLERS CHEQUES: Most international traveller's cheques are accepted provided they are in an acceptable currency and may be cashed at most banks. Many hotels and shops also provide this service.

VAT Refunds
TAX REFUNDS FOR TOURISTS MADE EASY: As a visitor to South Africa, you can spend as little as R250.00 on goods intended for export, and claim a VAT refund. The user-friendly procedure allows you to claim your money before you even leave South African territory.

WHO CAN CLAIM? Non-residents on a temporary visit to South Africa are eligible to claim a VAT refund in respect of movable goods exported through a designated point of departure within 90 days from the date of purchase.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Maximum payment by cheque will be for an amount of R3000.00. Claims exceeding this limit or claims requiring further audit, will be posted.

PLEASE NOTE: * Goods consumed in South Africa or services rendered in the country do not qualify for VAT refunds. * Only original Tax Invoices will be considered for refunds. * The goods must be presented for inspection on departure. * Goods must be exported within 90 days of the date of purchase and the claim lodged within 3 months from the date of export. * An administration fee of 1.5% of the inclusive value of the claim will be deducted, subject to a minimum of R 10.00 and a maximum of R 250.00. * Diplomats posted to South Africa should contact their embassies for details of the applicable refund scheme. * Special provisions apply to antiques, 2nd hand goods and registerable goods.

HOW TO CLAIM YOUR TAX REFUND: Simply identify yourself as a tourist to shop assistants, and request a Tax Invoice for the goods you have purchased.

* The words "Tax Invoice"
* A Tax Invoice number
* The seller's VAT Registration number
* Date of Issue of the Tax Invoice
* The seller's name and address
* The buyer's name and address
* A full description of the goods purchased
* The cost of the goods in Rands
* The amount of VAT charged or a statement that VAT is included in the total cost

Contact: VAT Refund Administrator (Pty) Ltd
Postal Address: P.O. Box 107; OR Tambo International Airport
Postal code: 1627
Telephone: +27 (0)11 394 - 1117
Facsimile: +27 (0)11 394 - 1430