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U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520

Consular Information Sheet

Please click on this link to read important information you should see before you travel abroad

This information is current as of today,

South Africa

Americans planning travel to South Africa should read Intercountry Adoption South Africa available on the Department of State web site at http://travel.state.gov

June 30, 2006

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:  South Africa is in many respects a developed country, but much of its population lives in poverty.  All major urban areas have modern, world-class hotels and tourist facilities.  Game parks and areas most often visited by tourists have a wide range of facilities.  Food and water are generally safe, and a wide variety of consumer goods and pharmaceuticals are readily available.  The capital is Pretoria, while the seat of parliament is Cape Town and the Constitutional Court, South Africa's highest court, is located in Johannesburg.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on South Africa for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: PLEASE NOTE: The passports of all travelers entering South Africa must contain at least two blank (unstamped) visa pages at each time entry is sought.  Otherwise, the traveler (even when in possession of a valid South African visa) may be refused entry into South Africa, fined, and returned to their point of origin at the traveler’s expense, or detained for up to several days until extra visa pages are obtained.  Amendment and endorsement pages cannot be used in lieu of clean visa pages.  As a general precaution, all travelers are advised to carry a photocopy of the photo/bio information page of their passport and keep it in a location separate from the passport.

Only visitors to South Africa for tourism, short business meetings, or those in-transit do not require visas.  All others, including academics, students on educational trips, and volunteers, may need visas.  Americans who intend to work in South Africa must apply for work permits before arrival; otherwise they risk being refused admission and returned to their point of origin.  It is strongly suggested that all travelers check the latest requirements with the nearest South African Embassy or Consulate before traveling. 

Travelers entering South Africa from countries where yellow fever is endemic are often required to present their yellow World Health Organization (WHO) vaccination record or other proof of inoculation.  If they are unable to do so, they must be inoculated at the airport in order to be permitted entry.

Visit the Embassy of South Africa, 3051 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 232-4400, web site at http://www.saembassy.org, or the South African consulates in Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York for the most current visa information. 

Find more information about Entry and Exit Requirements pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction.  Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:  Travelers are encouraged to be vigilant and avoid any large gathering, particularly protests and demonstrations.  The possibility of violence, including threats against American interests, should not be discounted, particularly in times of heightened world tension.

While visiting game parks and reserves, it is dangerous to leave one's vehicle or otherwise be on foot, even in the presence of a guide.  Several incidents of wild animal attacks on tourists in the region have resulted in death or serious injury.  There have also been shark attacks in the False Bay area of the Western Cape.  In 2005, there were two fatal shark attacks in the Western Cape province.  Should a shark be spotted close to the shore, local authorities will sound a warning siren to notify the public.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:  Although the vast majority of visitors complete their travels in South Africa without incident, visitors should be aware that criminal activity, sometimes violent, occurs routinely.  Notwithstanding government anti-crime efforts, violent crimes such as armed robbery , carjacking, mugging , "smash and grab" attacks on vehicles, and other incidents are regularly reported by visitors and resident Americans.

Crimes against property, such as carjacking, have often been accompanied by violent acts, including murder, when victims resist or are slow to respond to attackers’ demands.  South Africa also has the highest incidence of reported rape in the world.  Foreigners are not specifically targeted, but several have been the victims of rape.  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. Embassy or Consulate.

Criminal activity, such as assault, armed robbery, and theft is particularly high in areas surrounding many 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.  A number of Americans have been mugged or violently attacked on commuter and metro trains, especially between Johannesburg and Pretoria. Several American travelers also reported theft of personal belongings after strangers whom they invited into their hotel drugged them. In at least one instance, the American died after being drugged and robbed in this manner.

There is a serious baggage pilferage problem at Johannesburg and Cape Town International airports, particularly travelers changing airlines and those flying on smaller airlines—passengers flying on major international carriers may not be affected to the same degree.  Travelers are encouraged to secure their luggage with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved locks, use an airport plastic wrapping service, and avoid placing electronics, jewelry, cameras or other valuables in checked luggage.  Make an inventory of items in checked baggage to aid in claims processing if theft does occur.

In the Western Cape, police resources have been strained by continuing gang conflicts and vigilante violence in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town.  Travelers may wish to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate before embarking on trips to these particular areas.

Armed robbery of cash-in-transit vehicles and personnel occur throughout South Africa and peak during December and January due to the increase in cash flow from commercial stores to banks.  These attacks have also included incidents at major malls and in large grocery stores.  Individuals should raise their level of situational awareness while in the vicinity of cash-in-transit vehicles and personnel and avoid areas where they are located to the maximum extent possible. 

Credit card fraud, counterfeit U.S. currency, and various check-cashing scams are frequently reported.  Do not accept "assistance" from anyone, or agree to assist others with ATM transactions.  Travelers should try to avoid using ATMs after bank business hours or in remote locations.  When giving your credit card to a store or restaurant employee for processing, do not let them take the card out of your sight.  Visitors should also beware of telephone or email schemes, which attempt to win the confidence of an unsuspecting American who is persuaded either to provide privileged financial information or travel to South Africa to assist in a supposedly lucrative business venture. 

To check on a business’s legitimacy while in the U.S., contact the International Trade Administration, Room 3317, Department of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230, telephone: 1-800-USA-TRADE or 202-482-5149, fax: 202-482-5198.  If you are abroad, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:  The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.  The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. 

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:  Private medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks, but they may be limited elsewhere.  Pharmacies are well stocked and equivalents to most American medicines are available.

While most of South Africa is malaria free, malaria risk exists throughout the year in rural low-altitude areas of Northern (Limpopo) and Mpumalanga provinces, including 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).  In all risk areas, risk is much lower from June to September.  Visitors should prepare accordingly and use malaria prophylaxis.  For information on malaria, its prevention, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health website at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.  Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas .

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:  While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning South Africa is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Unlike the United States, where traffic moves on the right hand side of the road, traffic in South Africa moves on the left.  Care must also be taken when crossing streets as a pedestrian.

Travelers should use caution at all times when driving, and especially avoid nighttime travel outside major cities.  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 a high and rapidly increasing number of traffic fatalities.  Drivers should also take care to avoid pedestrians crossing roads, which frequently occur on major highways.

‘Smash and grab’ robberies are common throughout South Africa, particularly in urban areas, at traffic lights, and on highway off-ramps.  Drivers should be particularly careful of this problem and avoid carrying anything of value (e.g., briefcases, purses, cell phones, etc.) inside the car that could attract potential assailants.

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.  The nationwide emergency number for the police is 10111, and the nationwide number for ambulance service is 10177.  It is not necessary to dial an area code for these numbers.  Callers from mobile phones may not necessarily be connected immediately to the nearest emergency service.  The rate of response varies from to area to area, but is generally slower than response to 911 calls in the United States.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Contact South Africa’s National Tourist Organization offices at telephone 1-800-822-5368.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:  The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of South Africa as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of South Africa’s air carrier operations.  For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Approximately one-quarter of the population of South Africa is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.  Public awareness in the country as to how to protect against infection is increasing.  However, travelers are advised to exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in sexual activity, or if they become exposed to a blood source other than that supplied by a hospital for transfusion purpose.

Please see our information on Customs Information .

CRIMINAL PENALTIES While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating South Africa’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  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.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:  For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues’ website. 

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS:Americans living or traveling in South Africa are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within South Africa. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate staff to contact them in case of emergency. 

The U.S. Embassy is located at 877 Pretorius Street, Arcadia in Pretoria, telephone (27-12) 431-4000 (from South Africa 012-431-4000), fax (27-12) 431-5504 (from South Africa 012-431-5504).  The U.S. Embassy web site is http://usembassy.state.gov/pretoria/.  

The U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg provides consular services for Americans in the Pretoria area.  The Consulate General in Johannesburg is located at No. 1 River Street (corner of River and Riviera Road), Killarney, Johannesburg telephone (27-11) 644-8000 (from South Africa 011-644-8000), fax (27-11) 646-6916 (from South Africa (011-646-6916).  Its consular jurisdiction includes Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, NorthWest, and Free State provinces.

The Consulate General in Cape Town moved in late 2005 and is nowlocated at 2 Reddam Avenue, West Lake 7945, telephone (27-21) 702-7300 (from South Africa 021-702-7300), fax (27-21) 702-7493 (from South Africa 021-702-7493).  Its consular jurisdiction includes Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape provinces.

The Consulate General in Durban is located at the Old Mutual Building, 31st floor, 303 West Street, telephone (27-31) 305-7600 (from South Africa 031-305-7600), fax (27-31) 305-7691 (from South Africa 031-305-7691).  Its consular jurisdiction includes KwaZulu-Natal Province.

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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated December 12, 2005, to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Medical Insurance, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Special Circumstances, Criminal Penalties, Children’s Issues and Registration/Embassy and Consulate Locations.