cms system

Advice and Information for Travelers Visiting South Africa

Banking and Financial Services in South Africa
Health tips for travelers
Useful facts for tourists
Tipping in the service industry
Tips for staying out of trouble
Tourists with disabilities
Visas, permits and residence
Special visas for 2009, 2010 fans

Banking and Financial Services in South Africa

With a favourable exchange rate for many international currencies, you'll find South Africa a very inexpensive destination. Our financial institutions are world-class, with no shortage of banks, bureau de change and automatic tellers.

Rands and cents

South Africa's unit of currency is the rand, which is divided into 100 cents. Coins come in denominations of 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R5, and notes in denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200.

Banking made easy

You'll also find South Africa an easy destination. From the moment you step off the plane you'll start seeing banks, bureau de change and automatic tellers all over.

The banks are generally open from 9am to 3.30pm Mondays through Fridays, and 8.30am to 11am on Saturdays, but those at the airports adjust their hours to accommodate international flights.

The major banks have branches as well as automated teller machines (ATMs) in most large towns - and all over the cities. International banks have branches in the major cities. Thomas Cook (represented by Rennies Travel) and American Express foreign exchange offices are also available in the major cities.

Credit cards and cash

All major credit cards can be used in South Africa, with American Express and Diners Club enjoying less universal acceptance than MasterCard and Visa. In some small towns, you may find you'll need to use cash.

One anomaly - you can't purchase fuel with a credit card. Many locals have special fuel credit cards, known as garage or petrol cards, for use only at filling stations. You can, however, pay road tolls with MasterCard or Visa.


Three cellular networks provide full coverage, including GPRS and Multimedia services. One cellular network has launched a 3G service. International cellular phones will work with a local SIM card or with roaming. Visitors can also hire cellular phones throughout the country, and South Africa has the latest Internet connectivity technology, including high-speed ADSL services.

Phoning into South Africa

If you´re dialing a number in South Africa, it must be preceded by:
+27, South Africa´s international country code (the + sign represents the international access code for the country you´re calling from); and either:
The area code of the city or town in South Africa you´re calling (leaving out the first zero), if you´re calling a land line; or
The cellular/mobile network code (leaving out the first zero), if you´re calling a cellular/mobile network.

Phoning outside South Africa

To make an international call from South Africa, dial 00, followed by the country code of the country you wish to call, followed by the relevant area code (if there is one), followed by the phone number.
What´s my country´s dialing code?
One of the quickest ways to find out is to dial Telkom´s 24-hour international customer care center - 10903 - and ask. The service is free. Alternatively, go to Google and type in "dialing code [your country]".
Operator-assisted dialing -
Telkom´s international call center - 10903 - offers 24-hour assistance to anyone wanting to make international calls or send faxes, along with general international directory information.

What´s the time back home?

Go to Google and search "time [name of your home country]".
Telkom´s Home Direct service allows you to call an operator in your home country free of charge, either to place a call on your "phone home" account, if you have one, or to arrange a reverse-charge call. Telkom´s Phone Book lists all available country-specific Home Direct numbers in its international dialing code list. Alternatively, phone Telkom´s international customer care center at 10903.

Public phones for tourists

Telkom has placed public telephones at major tourist sites across South Africa. Coin-operated phones are blue, while card phones are green, and both are user-friendly and compatible with hearing aid devices. They offer a reliable connection, high quality of speech, and are affordable.
Phonecards and Worldcall
 Telkom´s Phonecards and Worldcall are available at major outlets where the Telkom logo is displayed.

Health tips for travellers

South Africa is a safe destination with good levels of hygiene and some of the safest drinking water in the world. There are nonetheless some health issues that you should be aware of to maximize the enjoyment of your trip:

Useful facts for tourists

Plan ahead so you don't have any unpleasant surprises. Bring walking shoes, sunglasses, medication and insect repellant. If you forget anything, don't panic - you can buy whatever you need here.

South Africa is following the worldwide trend of having designated smoking zones within restaurants and other such establishments. In most cases, you are not allowed to smoke in the main areas, and smoking sections are designated. Always enquire with staff before lighting up.

There have also been major fires throughout South Africa, and the world, due to cigarette butts being thrown out of car windows. It is an offence to throw cigarettes out of car windows, and as such you are required to dispose of cigarettes in a responsible manner.

Tipping in the service industry

10% is the minimum tip given to waiters/waitresses and people of the service industry. This is the basic minimum as staff earn the majority of their livings from tips alone. However, if exceptional service is received, it is not uncommon to see tips of 20% or more given.

Tips for staying out of trouble

Like anywhere in the world, crime can be a problem. But all you really need to do is keep your wits about you and take the usual sensible precautions. Crime is no worse that anywhere else in the world although there are certain hotspots to avoid. Most of it is common sense and it is never ideal to walk down the street at night by yourself. After dark always take safe and responsible means of transport such as the many privately operated taxi services available. Travelling by train at night is not recommended, but there are many other options to get you home safely.

Travelling in Africa is like traveling anywhere else in the world, and the main safety precaution you need to take is to be aware. Walking around looking like a tourist is one of the main reasons for being targeted by criminals no matter where in the world you are. Walking around with open bags and openly displaying expensive equipment immediately makes you more vulnerable to crime. So take precaution and always close your bags in order to hide valuables.

At restaurants, never leaves phones, wallets, cameras and other valuables lying on your table. Pack them away and never hang a bag over the back of your chair, keep it at your feet. Many restaurants now offer mountaineering style clips secured under tables to clip your bags onto so as to keep them safe.


Due to the moderate climate in South Africa, no major disruptions are had due to snowstorms or intense heatwaves. Summers are warm and enjoyable, while our winters are far more bearable than our UK counterparts. For the most part, light clothing is all that is needed in summer, and fleece tops in winter. No special thermal wear is needed, but there are instances where you may need special clothing. Depending on your trip and where you are going, you will be advised on what to bring and what special equipment may need to be taken.

Always check the local calendar or enquire with us if your trip will be taking place over any public holidays or major events that could signal road closures or any other disturbances. South Africa plays host to some of the greatest events in the world, and so if these events take place during your stay it will of benefit to you, and the small hassles of closures of certain parts of the city are worthwhile as you get to experience some of the finest events the world has to offer.

Tourists with disabilities

South Africa is constantly improving its facilities for disabled tourists, and many places of interest have specially adapted accommodation and wheelchair-friendly facilities and walks.
Does South Africa cater for tourists with disabilities? South Africa is definitely a bit of a curate's egg in this respect – good in parts. Government has introduced legislation on this, so progress is being made. And many game reserves and places of interest have specially adapted accommodation and wheelchair-friendly facilities and walks. Many short trails also have Braille interpretation plaques.

However, most of the travel and accommodation options without proper disabled facilities will go to great lengths to accommodate people with disabilities. It is recommended that any disabilities be made known on your first enquiry so we can facilitate you in the best possible manner. has an enormous database of accessible destinations. specialises in tours for people with disabilities. (Remove before adding to website)

You would be amazed what some wheelchair-dependent people have done in South Africa – abseiled off Table Mountain; jumped the highest bungee jump in the world at Bloukrans Bridge; tubed the awesome Storms River Gorge; hiked most of the Outeniqua Trail (this was a hard one); flown a microlight and learned to scuba dive. The sky's the limit. Oh yes, and skydived. (This was not all done by the same person!)

Visas, permits and residence

A valid passport is needed for ALL international travel. Please ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months AFTER returning from your trip - this is an international requirement.

It is also essential that you have sufficient blank pages in your passport for visas, entry stamps or temporary residence permits. We recommend allowing two blank pages per country that you are planning to visit.

Special visas for 2009, 2010 fans

South Africa is to issue special "event visas" for soccer fans coming to the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup and 2010 Fifa World Cup, enabling fans to use dedicated counters at major airports around the world for pre-clearance before they arrive in the country.
Visiting South Africa: visas