COVID-19: travel health notice for all travellers
South Africa travel advice
Latest updates: The Need help? section was updated.
Last updated: ET
On this page
- Risk level
- Safety and security
- Entry and exit requirements
- Laws and culture
- Natural disasters and climate
- Need help?
South Africa - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in South Africa due to the significant level of serious crime.
Safety and security
Nationwide power shortages or rolling blackouts, referred to as load shedding, are still occurring regularly. They are occurring numerous times a day and for multiple-hour stretches. They are expected to continue through 2023 and into 2024.
Though the potential for a nationwide blackout is low, the associated risks are high, including a nationwide loss of power for days or weeks.
South Africa has already experienced blackouts for up to 12 hours in a 24 hour period. Increased demand for power during the coldest winter months of June and July means that blackouts could last longer. Expect a dark and cold winter.
An official schedule of the planned blackouts provides advance notice of the shortages. However, they can also occur with very little notice.
Blackouts could increase the risk of criminal activity in affected areas, which could in turn lead to opportunistic theft and prolonged outages.
Blackouts can affect the following services and businesses:
- telecommunications and security systems
- stores and food supply
- hotels and other accommodations
- banks and ATMs
- gas stations
- public lighting and traffic lights
Interruptions to water supply occur occasionally and can be lengthy in some areas, causing considerable inconvenience.
If you’re in South Africa:
- be prepared for extended power outages
- make sure you always have a complete emergency kit on hand, including several flashlights
- always carry a cell phone, power banks, chargers and a list of emergency numbers handy
- keep a sufficient supply of water, food, medication and fuel on hand for several days
- keep your travel documents up-to-date
- monitor local media
- follow the instructions of local authorities
- List of planned blackouts - Eskom, South African electricity public utility
- Get Prepared - basic emergency kit
Travel to and from Cape Town International Airport
Some areas near Cape Town International Airport are less secure. There are reports of increased risk of attacks on secondary roads near the airport.
When travelling to and from the airport:
- stay on highways and main roads
- avoid shortcuts
- plan your trip in advance and verify your travel itinerary with a trusted local source
- consider arranging an airport transfer
South Africa has a very high level of crime. Crime is the primary security threat to travellers.
Violent crimes, including rape and murder, occur frequently and have involved foreigners.
Muggings, armed assaults and theft are also frequent, often occurring in areas that are popular among tourists. Carjackings, robbery and assault also occur.
Armed robberies at shopping malls occur. To minimize the risk of personal assault if confronted by an armed individual:
- immediately comply
- avoid making sudden movements
- avoid resisting or antagonizing the assailants
- avoid eye contact with your assailant
Crime significantly increases after dark in major city centres and townships. After dark, avoid the areas of:
- Hillbrow and Yeoville in Johannesburg
- Sunnyside in Pretoria
- the beachfront and Victoria wharf in Durban
- Cape Town downtown hotels to the waterfront
Crimes of opportunity
There is a high risk of pickpocketing. You should not carry your wallet in your back pocket.
Do not show signs of affluence, display money or carry valuables such as laptop computers or cameras.
When at restaurants or bars, do not leave your bag under your chair or table or hung over the back of a chair; keep it on your lap.
Ensure that all your bags’ zippers, straps and fasteners are closed and secure, and be aware of people behind and around you.
Criminals are known to target people who appear distracted and are not paying attention to their immediate surroundings.
If you believe that you are being followed, go directly to a police station.
On the road
Be vigilant at vulnerable points such as:
- traffic lights
- stop signs
- yield signs
- highway off-ramps
Smash and grab incidents are frequent. This is when car windows are broken and valuables such as handbags are taken while cars are waiting at junctions.
- Park in well-lit areas
- Do not pick up strangers
- Ensure that vehicle doors are locked and windows are closed at all times
Theft from hotel rooms and guest houses is common. Never leave your windows or doors open or unlocked, even when you are present.
- Check the level of security at guest houses, hotels, lodges, backpacker lodges or any accommodation before making bookings
- Don’t leave luggage and valuables unattended; place them in safekeeping facilities
- Don’t open the door to anyone without taking necessary precautions. If someone claims to be a member of staff, verify with the reception prior to opening the door
There is a threat of kidnapping across South Africa. Foreign nationals have been kidnapped in the past. Kidnappings are generally for financial gain or motivated by criminality.
Scammers could kidnap you to extort money from your loved ones in exchange for your release.
- Be wary of online romance, employment and money scams
- Never accept an invitation to travel to an unfamiliar location
- If you think you've been scammed, do not travel overseas to get your money back.
Demonstrations can occur anywhere across the country and sometimes on short notice. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
Cases of attempted fraud are frequently reported in South Africa. Do not give personal or financial account information to anyone.
Don’t attempt to use ATMs that appear damaged or defective, or are in isolated or poorly lit areas. Don’t accept any offer of assistance with your transaction. If suspicious at any time, cancel your transaction and use another ATM.
- Pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others
- Use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
- Avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
- Cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
- Check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements
Reserves and hiking trails
There have been attacks on hikers and tourists at reserves, hiking trails, including Table Mountain, Lions’ Head, Signal Hill and other tourist attractions and their parking lots.
Avoid the Numbi Gate entrance to the Kruger National Park, as well as the R538 road leading to it due to an increase in criminal activity in the area, including the murder of a foreign national in October 2022.
- Hike in groups and take all appropriate precautions
- Avoid isolated picnic areas and beaches
- Don’t stop at deserted roadside resting places on national roads
Spiked food and drink
There have been incidents of food or drink being drugged and tourists robbed when unconscious.
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
There is a threat of terrorism. Terrorist attacks could occur at any time. Individuals who may be inspired by terrorist groups may carry out “lone actor” attacks targeting public places, including where foreigners gather.
Targets could include:
- government buildings, including schools
- places of worship
- airports and other transportation hubs and networks
- public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners
South African authorities have successfully disrupted planned attacks and made arrests related to terrorism offences. Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places.
Xenophobic attacks, primarily targeting refugees or immigrants from other African nations, related demonstrations, looting and outbreaks of violence occur. This type of unrest could occur in any region of the country and with little warning.
Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities at all times.
Townships and rural areas
Avoid townships and informal settlements if you are unfamiliar with them, except when travelling with organized tours provided by a reputable company or in association with an experienced local organization.
Wildlife viewing poses risks, particularly on foot or at close range. Be aware of the threat of monkeys and baboons overwhelming sightseers in their search for food. They are known to get very aggressive.
- Always maintain a safe distance when observing wildlife
- Only exit a vehicle when a professional guide or warden says it’s safe to do so
- Only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators
- Closely follow park regulations and wardens’ advice
Coastal waters have unpredictable wave and currents patterns, which can be dangerous. Shark attacks have been reported in several areas, including in KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.
- Follow the advice and warnings of local authorities
- Be cautious when swimming in lakes and rivers because of the risk posed by wildlife
Cellular phone reception is generally good in major towns and cities but can be intermittent in rural areas. Extended periods of rolling blackouts are impacting internet connectivity and cell phone networks.
Always carry a cellular phone in the event of an emergency. If using your own phone, ensure that it has international/roaming capability for use while in South Africa.
Fatal road accidents are common in South Africa. Accidents occur especially in wet conditions, as roads can be very slippery. Traffic lights are frequently out of order. GPS navigation systems may suggest the most direct route but not the safest.
- Observe the recommended following distances
- Avoid undertaking overland travel after dark
- Treat all intersections with malfunctioning traffic lights as a four-way stop
- Verify your travel itinerary with a trusted local source, such as your hotel, your travel agent or local police, before driving
Driving can be dangerous due to:
- insufficient lighting
- pedestrians crossing major highways
- wild animals and stray livestock on the road
Drivers do not always respect traffic laws, especially at night. Drivers often drive at excess speed and ignore traffic signs. Drinking and driving is common.
Drivers are often aggressive toward pedestrians and fail to yield the right of way even on marked crosswalks.
Travel on foot is inadvisable in most areas. If walking is unavoidable, use only brightly lit, busy streets in popular tourist areas and maintain awareness of your surroundings.
If you choose to drive in South Africa:
- always drive defensively
- plan your trip in advance, especially if you are visiting a rural area
- avoid travelling after dark
- choose a vehicle with a robust central locking system, lockable fuel tank cap and vehicle alarm
- use a reliable rental company offering 24-hour emergency service and ensure that you have the contact details for the service
Avoid using public transportation.
Tourists have been mugged and assaulted in and around bus stations. Avoid the central bus station in Johannesburg.
Train services are slow and several serious accidents in recent years have raised concerns over safety standards.
Violent attacks have occurred on commuter and metro trains between Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as on commuter trains in Cape Town. Don’t travel by train, especially second or third class.
The Gautrain between O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as the Blue Train and Rovos Rail, are, however, safe for tourists.
Taxis cannot be hailed in the street. Ask your hotel to arrange a taxi and ensure that you prearrange transport for your return journey.
Sit in the rear of the vehicle and keep windows up and doors locked at all times. Keep valuables out of sight and place bags by your feet. Negotiate the fare with the driver in advance. Avoid using minibuses and unlicensed taxis.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Entry and exit requirements
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from South African authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with the Foreign Representatives in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 30 days beyond the date you expect to leave South Africa. Your passport must contain at least 2 empty visa pages for the necessary South African Temporary Residence Permit. Without it, you will be denied entry into the country. You may also be denied boarding at the point of departure if you don’t have enough blank pages for the visa. If you plan to visit neighbouring countries and return to South Africa, ensure that there are sufficient visa pages in your passport for those countries’ visas and those of South Africa.
You may also be denied boarding at the point of departure if you don’t have enough blank pages for the visa. If you plan to visit neighbouring countries and return to South Africa, ensure that there are sufficient visa pages in your passport for those countries’ visas and those of South Africa.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Passport with “X” gender identifier
While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Tourist visa: not required for stays up to 90 days
Business visa: not required for stays up to 90 days
Student permit: required
Employment permit: required
Canadians don't need a tourist visa to enter South Africa. However, upon arrival, immigration officials will issue a temporary residents visa (TRV) for up to 90 days. Check the expiry date of your TRV to ensure you don’t overstay.
If you overstay without authority, you may be forced to pay a fine upon departure and/or can be refused entry for up to 5 years.
Serious offenders may be arrested before departure and detained until their court appearance. In such cases, visitors may face a very substantial fine and be deported at their own expense.
South African visas - South African Department of Home Affairs
Changing or extending your visa
Some foreigners travelling to South Africa have not gone through the correct channels to obtain, change or extend their relevant visas. This has resulted in arrest and detention due to fraudulently issued visas.
While in South Africa, you must go through regional or district offices of the South African Department of Home Affairs for information on visa requirements and issuance.
If you leave and re-enter South Africa, even for a short time, you will not automatically be given an additional 90-day visitor’s visa. An immigration official can deny you re-entry into South Africa. The immigration officer can also allow you to enter for a limited time only.
If you wish to extend your stay, contact the South African Department of Home Affairs 60 days before your visitor’s visa expires.
Work or study
If you intend to work or study in South Africa, you must apply for the relevant visas prior to your arrival; otherwise, you risk being refused entry and may be returned to your point of origin. You cannot change the type of visa once in South Africa.
Other entry requirements
You must be in possession of a return or an onward ticket. Without one, you may be required to deposit the equivalent of a fare home with customs. The money will be refunded after departure from South Africa.
If you reside in South Africa, you must have valid residence permit in your passport each time you enter and leave the country.
Dual citizens must enter or depart South Africa using their South African passport only.
For further information on dual citizenship, contact the High Commission for the Republic of South Africa in Ottawa.
Children and travel
Minors traveling to and from South Africa must have a valid passport and may be subject to additional requirements.
You must produce a long form birth certificate when travelling with children under the age of 18 to neighbouring countries. The long form birth certificate must be in English or translated into English.
Contact the nearest South African mission abroad or visit the South African Department of Home Affairs website, before travelling, to verify the latest requirements.
- Entry regulations when travelling with children - South African Department of Home Affairs
- Foreign Representatives in Canada
- Travelling with children
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.
Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.
Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Pre-travel vaccines and medications
You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary.
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- Contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of your trip to arrange for vaccination.
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
There is a risk of hepatitis A in this destination. It is a disease of the liver. People can get hepatitis A if they ingest contaminated food or water, eat foods prepared by an infectious person, or if they have close physical contact (such as oral-anal sex) with an infectious person, although casual contact among people does not spread the virus.
Practise safe food and water precautions and wash your hands often. Vaccination is recommended for all travellers to areas where hepatitis A is present.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
Hepatitis B is a risk in every destination. It is a viral liver disease that is easily transmitted from one person to another through exposure to blood and body fluids containing the hepatitis B virus. Travellers who may be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) are at higher risk of getting hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Prevent hepatitis B infection by practicing safe sex, only using new and sterile drug equipment, and only getting tattoos and piercings in settings that follow public health regulations and standards.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.
Before travelling, verify your destination’s COVID-19 vaccination entry/exit requirements. Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that is caused by parasites spread through the bites of mosquitoes.
There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this destination.
Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic before travelling to discuss your options. It is recommended to do this 6 weeks before travel, however, it is still a good idea any time before leaving.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times:
• Cover your skin and use an approved insect repellent on uncovered skin.
• Exclude mosquitoes from your living area with screening and/or closed, well-sealed doors and windows.
• Use insecticide-treated bed nets if mosquitoes cannot be excluded from your living area.
• Wear permethrin-treated clothing.
If you develop symptoms similar to malaria when you are travelling or up to a year after you return home, see a health care professional immediately. Tell them where you have been travelling or living.
In this destination, rabies is commonly carried by dogs and some wildlife, including bats. Rabies is a deadly disease that spreads to humans primarily through bites or scratches from an infected animal. While travelling, take precautions, including keeping your distance from animals (including free-roaming dogs), and closely supervising children.
If you are bitten or scratched by a dog or other animal while travelling, immediately wash the wound with soap and clean water and see a health care professional. In this destination, rabies treatment may be limited or may not be available, therefore you may need to return to Canada for treatment.
Before travel, discuss rabies vaccination with a health care professional. It may be recommended for travellers who are at high risk of exposure (e.g., occupational risk such as veterinarians and wildlife workers, children, adventure travellers and spelunkers, and others in close contact with animals).
Safe food and water precautions
Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.
- Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
- Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs.
Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
There is a risk of schistosomiasis in this destination. Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease caused by tiny worms (blood flukes) which can be found in freshwater (lakes, rivers, ponds, and wetlands). The worms can break the skin, and their eggs can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, flu-like symptoms, or urinary problems. Schistosomiasis mostly affects underdeveloped and rural communities, particularly agricultural and fishing communities.
Most travellers are at low risk. Travellers should avoid contact with untreated freshwater such as lakes, rivers, and ponds (e.g., swimming, bathing, wading, ingesting). There is no vaccine or medication available to prevent infection.
Insect bite prevention
Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:
- Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
- Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
- Minimize exposure to insects
- Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed
To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.
Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.
There is a risk of chikungunya in this country. The risk may vary between regions of a country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that can cause fever, pain and bleeding under the skin. In some cases, it can be fatal. It spreads to humans through contact with infected animal blood or tissues, or from the bite of an infected tick. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from tick bites and avoid animals, particularly livestock. There is no vaccine available for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.
Rift Valley fever
Rift Valley fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can be fatal. It is spread to humans through contact with infected animal blood or tissues, from the bite of an infected mosquito, or eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from insect bites and avoid animals, particularly livestock, and unpasteurized dairy. There is no vaccine available for Rift Valley fever.
Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may increase your chance of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.
Closely supervise children, as they are more likely to come in contact with animals.
Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette, which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:
- washing your hands often
- avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
- avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and mpox are spread through blood and bodily fluids; use condoms, practise safe sex, and limit your number of sexual partners. Check with your local public health authority pre-travel to determine your eligibility for mpox vaccine.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care professional.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
High risk activities include anything which puts you in contact with blood or body fluids, such as unprotected sex and exposure to unsterilized needles for medications or other substances (for example, steroids and drugs), tattooing, body-piercing or acupuncture.
Medical services and facilities
Medical facilities and supplies are widely available in large cities but can be expensive. Medical facilities are limited in remote areas.
Public and private health facilities require an up-front cash deposit for services, guarantee of payment or confirmation of medical insurance before commencing treatment.
Air evacuation may be the only option when faced with a medical emergency in remote areas.
Decompression chambers are available in many hospitals.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Penalties for using, importing or exporting drugs are severe and may include lengthy imprisonment.
You may not import or take in-transit any firearm or ammunition without a temporary export and import or in-transit permit issued by the South African Police Service.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in South Africa.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of South Africa, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
International Child Abduction
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. The convention applies between Canada and South Africa.
If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in South Africa, and if the applicable conditions are met, you may apply for the return of your child to the South African court.
If you are in this situation:
- act as quickly as you can
- contact the Central Authority for your province or territory of residence for information on starting an application under The Hague Convention
- consult a lawyer in Canada and in South Africa to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
- report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children’s Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre
If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.
Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country’s judicial affairs.
- List of Canadian Central Authorities for the Hague Convention
- International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
- Travelling with children
- The Hague Convention - Hague Conference on Private International Law
- Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
- Emergency Watch and Response Centre
Traffic drives on the left.
You may use your valid Canadian provincial driver’s licence in South Africa, however, an international driving permit (IDP) is strongly recommended.
It is extremely difficult to obtain car insurance for car rentals or to purchase a car without an IDP. Insurance companies and rental car agencies often require proof of a South African driver’s licence or an IDP to honour an insurance claim, even when such proof was not requested at the time the policy was secured. An IDP must be obtained in Canada before travelling to South Africa, as it cannot be obtained locally.
If your licence is in French, it is advisable to obtain a translation into English and carry it with you.
Foreigners driving a rental car across any border into neighbouring countries must obtain a permit from the Cross-border Road Transport Agency prior to arriving at the border crossing. Failure to do so may lead to arrest and/or a fine.
It is illegal to carry gasoline in portable containers.
The currency is the South African rand (ZAR).
Canadian currency can be easily exchanged at major banks and foreign exchange counters. A passport and additional identification is required when undertaking foreign exchange transactions.
Foreigners are permitted to enter South Africa carrying a maximum of ZAR100,000, or US$10,000 or its equivalent in foreign currencies. Customs forms are not required to be completed, but random customs checks are conducted.
Natural disasters and climate
The climate varies from region to region. Storms and flooding can occur throughout the country and at various times of the year. Flash storms can occur in Gauteng and North West provinces from November to April. There are heavy rains along the south coast from June to September and the Western Cape receives heavy rainfall between May and September. Dirt roads can become hazardous during these periods. After heavy rains, do not attempt to cross low-lying river bridges by car or on foot, as there have been fatalities linked to people being washed down river. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
Veld (bush) fires are common during dry seasons. They are very unpredictable and extremely dangerous. They can spread very quickly and travel at speeds of 60 km/h or more, due to high winds. Stay clear of active fires and always verify local conditions with relevant authorities before going on bush walks, particularly during the dry seasons.
The Western Cape Province, including Cape Town, can experience periods of prolonged drought. Local authorities may impose water use restrictions. You could be fined if you do not comply with these restrictions.
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 10111 or 10112 from a cellular telephone
- medical assistance: 10177
- firefighters: 10111 or 10112 from a cellular telephone
Pretoria - High Commission of Canada
South Africa, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia
Cape Town - Honorary consul of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Canadian High Commission in Pretoria and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
- Date modified: