Travel.State.Gov > International Travel > Learn About Your Destination > South Africa International Travel Information
U.S. Embassy Pretoria
877 Pretorius Street, Arcadia
Telephone: +(27)(12) 431-4000 / 012-431-4000
Fax: +(27)(12) 431-5504 / 012-431-5504
The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria does not provide consular services to the public.
U.S. Consulate General Johannesburg
1 Sandton Drive (opposite Sandton City Mall)
Telephone:+(27)(11) 290-3000 / 011-290-3000 (Monday – Thursday: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(27) 79-111-1684 / 079-111-1684 (from within South Africa)
Fax: +(27)(11) 884-0396 / 011-884-0396
U.S. Consulate General Cape Town
2 Reddam Avenue, West Lake 7945,
Cape Town, South Africa
Telephone: +(27)(21) 702-7300 / 021-702-7300 (from within South Africa)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(27) 702-7300 / 079-111-0391 (from within South Africa)
Fax: +(27)(21) 702-7493 / 021-702-7493 (from within South Africa)
U.S. Consulate General Durban
303 Dr. Pixley KaSeme Street (formerly West Street)
31st Floor Delta Towers
Telephone: +(27) (31) 305-7600/031-305-7600 (from within South Africa)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(27) (31) 305-7600 or +(27) 079-111-1445 / (031) 305-7600 or 079-111-1445 (from within South Africa)
Fax: (+27)(31) 305-7691 / 031-305-7691 (from within South Africa)
South Africa strictly enforces entry and exit requirements and other immigration laws. Failure to observe these requirements may result in the traveler being denied entry, detained, deported, or deemed inadmissible to enter South Africa in the future.
Please visit the Department of Home Affairs website for the most up to date entry and exit requirements.
Please visit the Embassy's COVID-19 page for more information on entry/exit requirements related to COVID-19 in South Africa.
The Embassy of the Republic of South Africa is located at 3051 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 232-4400. Visit the Embassy of South Africa for the most current visa information.
Two Consecutive Blank Visa Pages: South Africa requires travelers to have two consecutive completely blank visa pages in their passports upon every arrival in South Africa. YOU WILL BE DENIED ENTRY if you do not have two consecutive blank visa pages in your passport. This does not include the endorsement pages.
Traveling with minors: There are special requirements for minors traveling through South African ports of entry. Visit the Department of Home Affairs website for the most up-to-date requirements for traveling with minors to or from South Africa.
Immunizations: Travelers entering South Africa from WHO-designated countries with risk of yellow fever virus (YFV) transmission must present their current and valid International Certificate of Vaccination as approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) (“yellow card”). See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s South Africa page.
The U.S. Department of State is not aware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of South Africa. However, South Africa has a high HIV/AIDS prevalence.
Alerts regarding important safety and security information such as demonstrations, road security, and weather events are posted on the Embassy’s website.
In South Africa the equivalent to the “911” emergency line is 10111.
Civil Unrest: Strikes and demonstrations occur frequently. These can develop quickly without prior notification and occasionally turn violent, and may include the burning of vehicles, buildings, or tires – which may serve as roadblocks; throwing rocks or other objects; or physical attacks. Strikes and demonstrations can also interrupt traffic and the provision of electricity, water, public transportation, fuel, and other goods and services. Periodic incidents of mob violence directed against refugees and immigrants from other African countries occur in South Africa. During labor protests, strike breakers or those perceived to be strike breakers have been violently attacked. Protests involving taxis and ride hailing services can turn violent. See Travel and Transportation section below for guidance.
Crime: South Africa has a very high level of crime Violent crimes occur where people live, work, while in transit or out and about. Violent residential crimes include armed home invasions by organized criminal groups resulting in assaults, rapes, and murder. Popular tourist destinations and major hotel chains employ their own security that largely minimize such incidents on their properties. Armed robbery, rape, kidnapping for ransom, carjacking, mugging, and "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles affect visitors and residents alike. Extra vigilance at traffic lights and on/off ramps where cars slow or stop is warranted. To avoid robbery outside higher end stores when buying jewelry or electronics, many vendors will deliver your purchase to your home or hotel for a fee. Crime can occur anywhere and anytime, including in and around Kruger National Park, and U.S. government staff and visitors have been robbed in the immediate vicinity of our diplomatic facilities. You should exercise particular caution in the central business districts (CBDs) of major cities, especially after dark. Crime victims have also been followed from the arrival hall of OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg and then robbed once they reach their home or hotel.
Theft can be bold and in broad daylight. Travelers and U.S. diplomats report having cell phones stolen from their hands, as well as purses or wallets taken off counters while paying for goods at stores. Car theft and hijacking continues to plague the country, particularly in large cities. Travelers should choose secure parking options and double check locked doors before leaving a parked car.
Throughout South Africa, U.S. citizens should:
Student Groups: There have been instances of student groups being robbed while conducting outreach and service visits in townships. On these occasions, student groups coordinated with officials to conduct service visits and upon arrival were held and then robbed by armed perpetrators.
Demonstrations occur frequently. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events.
Internet romance and financial scams are prevalent in South Africa. Scams are often initiated through Internet postings/profiles or by unsolicited emails and letters. Scammers almost always pose as U.S. citizens who have no one else to turn to for help. Common scams include:
Travelers need not surrender their credit card to any vendor. They will bring a credit card machine to customers.
ATM and Credit Card skimming is common and visitors should be cautious about using ATMs outside of banks and reputable hotels. Skimmers have also been found on machines used to pay parking tickets at shopping malls and office buildings. Paying parking fees with cash avoids this risk.
See the FBI pages for information.
Victims of Crime:
U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault or domestic violence should report crimes to the local police at 10111. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
The U.S. Consulates General in South Africa can:
Terrorism Threat: Extremists with ties to international terrorist organizations, such as al-Qai’ida, al-Shabaab, and ISIS, historically have used South Africa as a logistical hub to conduct recruitment and financial facilitation. There has been increased activity by ISIS sympathizers and supporters locally, including the placement of incendiary devices and kidnapping for ransom operations. South African authorities have periodically arrested individuals and charged them with terrorism related crimes. The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has publicly designated ISIS members operating in South Africa who have provided technical, financial, or material support to the terrorist group. Check the Mission’s website to review Alerts to U.S. citizens, and register with the U.S. Mission to South Africa to receive new Alerts by email during your travels.
Game parks and outdoor safety: Visitors have been injured and killed by wild animals in South Africa. It is dangerous to leave your vehicle in game parks outside of designated areas. Observe all park regulations and follow the instructions of guides. Be mindful of sharks when swimming. Rip tides are common and very dangerous. Do not swim alone in isolated areas or dive into unfamiliar waters.
Hikers must be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions and ensure they have proper clothing and supplies. Many areas, especially in the Western Cape province, experience brush fires during the summer months (December-February). These fires can burn for several days. Monitor local media and follow fire crew instructions regarding road closures and evacuations.
Tourism: The tourism industry is generally regulated and rules regarding best practices and safety inspections are regularly enforced. Hazardous areas and activities are identified with appropriate signage and professional staff is typically on hand in support of organized activities. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is widely available throughout the country. Outside of a major metropolitan center, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to arrive on the scene and provide life-saving assistance. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Infrastructure: Currently, periodic scheduled blackouts (known locally as “Load Shedding”) are common throughout the country. These controlled rolling blackouts are employed to safeguard the country’s electrical grid and has resulted in nationwide outages of up to six hours or more without power daily. These electricity outages negatively impact businesses which do not possess an alternative power supply (e.g., diesel generators) including hotels. Additionally, during periods of load shedding, traffic lights will cease functioning creating traffic jams which provide opportunities for smash and grab crime. Load shedding can also impact water availability and safety, cell phone signal, fuel pumps (and therefore fuel availability), and residential security features especially in rural areas.
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be deported, arrested, or imprisoned. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the nearest U.S. Consulate in South Africa immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
Travelers with Disabilities: South Africa law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but these laws are rarely enforced. Some tourist attractions, and restaurants near tourist attractions, are equipped with ramps and other options to facilitate access. Conditions vary significantly across the country.
The law in South Africa prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual and mental disabilities, and the law is enforced unevenly. Social acceptance of persons with disabilities in public is as prevalent as in the United States. Expect accessibility to be limited in public transportation, lodging, communication/information, and general infrastructure.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Special Circumstances: Parts of South Africa may face drought conditions, water scarcity, and rainfall patterns that may be erratic. Water supplies in some areas may be affected. Water-use restrictions may be in place in the affected municipalities.
For emergency services in South Africa, dial 10111.
Ambulance services are
Private medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks but limited elsewhere. Private medical facilities require a deposit before admitting patients. Pharmacies are well-stocked, but you should carry an adequate supply of prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. HIV and AIDS is a major public health concern.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.
If your health insurance plan does not provide coverage overseas, we strongly recommend supplemental medical insurance and medical evacuation plans.
If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Embassy of South Africa to ensure the medication is legal in South Africa. Always, carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.
The following diseases are prevalent:
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For further health information:
Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals. We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.
Health facilities in general:
General Health Language
Road Conditions and Safety: Road conditions are generally good in South Africa, but the road traffic death rate is nearly three times higher in South Africa than in the United States. The high incidence of road traffic mortality is due to a combination of poor driving, limited enforcement of traffic laws, road rage, aggressive driving, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol. Use extreme caution driving at night. U.S. government employees are discouraged from driving after dark outside of major metropolitan areas, except for highway travel between Pretoria and Johannesburg. Traffic lights are frequently out of order.
Traffic Laws: Traffic in South Africa moves on the left, and the steering wheel is on the right-hand side of the car. Under South African law, all occupants of motor vehicles equipped with seatbelts are required to wear them while the vehicle is in operation. Texting or talking on a cell phone without a hands-free unit while driving is illegal. Treat all intersections with malfunctioning traffic lights as a four-way stop.
South African law does not require an international driver’s license. A valid driver’s license from any U.S. state or territory that has the signature and photo of the driver is valid to drive in South Africa for stays of less than six months.
Please refer to the Road Safety page for more information. Also, visit the websites of South African Tourism and the South African National Roads Agency for more information regarding local transportation trends and laws.
Taxis: The use of individual metered taxis dispatched from established taxi companies, hotel taxis, and tour buses is recommended. U.S. government personnel are not allowed to use minibus taxis or hail taxis on the street or use a taxi stand. Minibus taxi drivers are often unlicensed and drive erratically.
Transportation Network Companies: Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), such as Uber, also operate in South Africa. U.S. government personnel may only use TNCs with a dispatch application that provides vehicle description, license plate number, and the driver’s name, picture, user rating, and the ability to share trip information. The user should verify the information provided by the company, such as the vehicle make/model, license plate number, and driver’s name/picture, prior to entering the vehicle. TNCs should not be used to travel outside major metropolitan areas. Pick up and drop off should not be done near a traditional taxi stand due to tensions between rideshare and taxi drivers that have resulted in altercations.
Rail Service: The long-distance rail service, Shosholoza Meyl; the rapid rail Gautrain in Gauteng Province; and luxury rail services, such as Shosholoza Meyl Premier Classe, Blue Train, and Rovos Rail are generally safe and reliable, though mechanical problems and criminal incidents do sometimes occur. U.S. government personnel are not allowed to use the Metrorail commuter rail service because of safety and crime concerns. There have been recent reports of fires being set on Metrorail train cars.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization aviation safety standards for oversight of South Africa’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to South Africa should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts on the Maritime Administration website. Information may also be posted to the websites of the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Geospace Intelligence Agency (select “broadcast warnings”).