How to Enter South Africa

Do I need a passport or visa to enter?

Visitors to South Africa for tourism, short business meetings, or those in transit do not require visas for stays of up to 90 days. In the event that a traveler overstays that period without a permit issued by the South African Department of Home Affairs, he or she may be subject to a fine of up to 3,000 rand (approximately 350 U.S. dollars). All others, including academics, students on educational trips, and volunteers, may need visas. U.S. citizens who intend to work in South Africa must apply for work permits before arrival; otherwise you risk being refused admission and returned to your point of origin. It is strongly suggested that all travelers check the latest requirements with the nearest South African Embassy or Consulate before traveling.

Please Note: South African law requires travelers to have one (1) totally blank (unstamped) visa page in their passport in order to enter the country. In practice, however, travelers often need to have more than one blank page. There have been numerous instances in which South African immigration officers required travelers to have two (2) fully blank pages. Some travelers have been refused entry and returned to their point of origin. All travelers are strongly advised to have at least two fully blank passport visa pages upon arrival in South Africa. Travelers without the requisite blank visa pages in their passports may be refused entry into South Africa, fined, and returned to their point of origin at their own expense. In many cases, South African authorities have not granted approval for U.S. Consular officers to assist U.S. citizen travelers by adding extra 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 their passport.

Travelers entering South Africa from WHO-designated yellow fever countries are required to present their current and valid “International Certificate of Vaccination as approved by the World Health Organization (WHO)” (commonly called a “yellow card”) or statement of medical exemption (also located on the same yellow card). Additionally, South Africa treats Zambia and Tanzania as yellow fever countries. This requirement is imposed on travelers flying to South Africa via yellow fever countries, even when passengers transiting a yellow fever country do not deplane in the yellow fever country (e.g., flights stopping in Dakar, Senegal, Accra, Ghana, or Nairobi, Kenya), or if the plane makes an unscheduled landing in a yellow fever country. As a precaution, all travelers to South Africa should carry their original yellow vaccination card. South African immigration inspectors do not generally accept letters, scans, copies, or faxes regarding prior yellow fever vaccination. While this requirement may not be consistently applied, travelers who cannot present an original and currently valid yellow card risk being refused entry into South Africa. Yellow fever vaccinations are not administered at South African ports of entry for the purpose of entry into South Africa. Travelers are reminded that they are required to obtain a yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days prior to their arrival in South Africa in accordance with WHO regulations. South Africa may apply these requirements to people traveling from or through both high-risk yellow fever countries and low-risk yellow fever countries.

Visit the Embassy of South Africa website for the most current visa information.

Special Travel Circumstances in South Africa

It is advisable to carry a mobile phone while in South Africa. You may find it useful to have an “unlocked” cell phone with international roaming capability to use while in South Africa. The Independent Communication Authority of South Africa has established new rules that require all new cell phones and SIM cards to be registered. Information on how to register may be found on its website.

You may buy an inexpensive SIM card to use with your "unlocked" cell phone and airtime once you arrive in South Africa. SIM cards and airtime may be purchased at many retail outlets, including Woolworths, Pick ‘n Pay, Spar, Checkers, and most grocery stores and cellular retail stores such as Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, etc.

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 when calling these numbers.

HIV and AIDS remain major public health concerns in the Republic of South Africa. According to the UNAIDS Report on the global AIDS epidemic (2010), about 5.6 million people are estimated to be living with HIV in South Africa, with 17.8 percent of the adult population (15-49) affected.

Women are disproportionately affected, accounting for approximately 55 percent of HIV-positive people. Women in the age group 25-29 are the worst-affected, with prevalence rates of up to 40 percent. For men, the peak is reached at older ages, with an estimated 10 percent prevalence among men older than 50 years. Public awareness in the country as to how to protect against infection is wide-spread and increasing. However, we recommend you exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in sexual activity, or if you are exposed to a blood source other than that supplied by a hospital for transfusion purposes.


You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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