Practical advice for South Africa


Democratic Status

Stable Democracy

Media Freedom


Religious Freedom



By Road

South Africa has the best road system on the continent. It is well-maintained, well-organised, and traverses incredible landscapes. Whilst the road standards remain good, they will be less maintained in remote areas.

Both car-rental and petrol are cheap.

Drive carefully and avoid unfamiliar rural areas at night.

If you see an apparently distressed motorist by the side of the road, it is better to report this incident to the police than to pick up the stranger, because this is a technique sometimes used by car hijackers.



Use only metered or fixed-price taxis, and not the shared minibuses. It is advisable, until you are only in Joburg for a short time, to rent a car, as taxis are quite rare (mainly available at the airport and only in some areas of Sandton and the city centre).

Taxi apps

Uber, Easy Taxi

Car Rental

All the well-known international providers are located at OR Tambo Airport.


The Gautrain offers a safe and modern service between the airport, Rosebank, Sandton and Pretoria. It saves money and time (far cheaper than taxis, and it is only 15 mins to Sandton from the airport)


Recommended Insurers: World Nomads



Incidents of crime and robberies are a frequent occurrence in Johannesburg. However, with an intensified police presence, crime rates have dropped somewhat in recent years

Gun ownership is widespread in South Africa, if you are ever faced with a robbery situation, do not resist or fight back.

Incidents of vehicle hijacking and robbery are common, particularly after dark. Keep to main roads and park in well-lit areas.

Always lock doors while driving. Be especially careful at traffic lights.

As is generally true whilst travelling in many countries, it is best not to flaunt your valuables. Keep large amounts of money, expensive jewellery, cameras and phones out of sight.

Avoid isolated beaches and picnic spots. Don’t walk alone, especially in remote areas.

The most violent crimes occur in townships and isolated areas away from the normal tourist destinations.

There are particularly high levels of crime in the Berea and Hillbrow districts of Johannesburg and around the Rotunda bus terminus in the Central Business District.

Ethnic Violence

Very low risk

Terrorism Threat Level

Very low risk

Official Travel Warnings


Do’s and Don’ts

  • If you’re not a vegetarian, satisfy all your carnivorous desires at every opportunity.
  • Don’t restrict yourself to Sandton and other uptown/suburban areas, Johannesburg has lots to offer.
  • Pack some warm clothes, even in the summer it can get chilly at night.
  • Do feel free to visit Soweto, but stick to the tourist trail.
  • Be sensitive when talking about race in South Africa, it remains a contentious issue.
  • Enjoy the shade. The city is one of the greenest in the world, with around 6 million trees.
  • Plan your weekend sightseeing, and use your Saturday mornings wisely, because from Saturday lunchtime to Monday morning (as in the rest of South Africa) much of Johannesburg shuts up shop. Shopping malls all stay open until at least 5pm, but art galleries, museums, and independent shops will all close around 1-2pm.

Immigration Essentials

N.B. South Africa has introduced new immigration rules. From 1 June 2015, parents travelling with children (under 18) will be asked to show the child’s full unabridged birth certificate.
Visa Requirements Checklist:
  • Many foreign passport holders are not required to hold a visa (for an intended stay of 90 days or less and when in transit) Note: for longer stays South Africa has recently tightened rules, contact your local South African consulate for details. List of Exempt Countries:

Costs are dependent on visa type and processing time



Many of the main tourist areas are malaria-free, so you need not worry at all. However, the Kruger National Park, the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal do pose a malaria risk in the summer months. (Transmission is seasonal, with peak rates of infection occurring in April and declining by June.)

Many local people and some travellers do not take anti-malarials, but most health professionals recommend that you do if you are visiting risk areas.

Protect yourself from mosquito bites.



The sun intensity varies depending on where you are and the time of year. With a seasonal climate, winters (May-August) can be quite cold, but make sure you protect yourself from the hot sun in the summer months (Nov-March). Be aware that ozone layer damage has led to extremely high UVA and UVB penetration over South Africa, so the sun can be harsh.

Drinking Water

Tap water is completely safe to drink, Johannesburg’s water has one of the highest ratings in the world.


Watch out for meat quality if you are eating grilled meat (braai) on the side of the road.



You must have a yellow fever certificate issued at least 10 days before arrival in South Africa if you have travelled from a country with yellow fever, or if you have transited more than 12 hours through the airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission


Diphtheria; Hepatitis A; Poliomyelitis; Tetanus; Typhoid

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