Visa requirements

To find out if you need a visa to visit South Africa, visit the South African Department of Home Affairs website which provides detailed information on South Africa’s visa requirements.

The website gives particulars about which nationals require visas and which are exempt.  Enquiries regarding South Africa visa information can also be obtained from South African missions in your home country, or the one nearest to you.

For nationals of countries requiring visas, application of the visa must be made ahead of your departure as visas are not issued on arrival. The visas must be affixed in your passport and shown to immigration officials on landing.  Applications must be made through South African diplomatic or consular representatives.

To apply for a visa you’ll be required to furnish particular documentation to meet South Africa’s visa requirements. These include:

  1. A passport valid for no less than 30 days after the expiry of the intended visit, and at least 1 unused page for entry/departure endorsements (sometimes referred to as the visa page).
  2. Payment of the prescribed fee, if applicable.
  3. A vaccination certificate, if required (travel through the yellow fever belts of Africa and South America requires inoculation)
  4. Statement and/or documentation confirming the purpose and duration of your visit.
  5. Two identity photographs (guidelines on website).
  6. Proof of financial means in the form of bank statements; salary advices; undertakings by your hosts in South Africa; bursaries; medical cover; or cash available, including credit cards or travellers’ cheques.
  7. If travelling by air, a return or onward ticket; or proof of sufficient funds; or a cash deposit of equivalent value to an air ticket must be lodged.

Take care to request the correct duration of stay and type of visa.  Also check on processing time so that there is no last-minute panic.

Drinking water

Drinking water in South Africa is safe to drink and cook with when taken from taps in urban areas. Not all tap water in rural areas is safe for consumption, so take precautions if necessary.

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry maintains that South Africa’s national standard of water quality compares well with World Health Organisation standards.

The responsibility to provide clean water rests with locally-based water services authorities, which regularly monitor the quality of drinking water in South Africa. These authorities are also rated by the department according to the Blue Drop Certification System,  which continually asseses, among other things, their water safety planning.

Tap water undergoes treatment which ensures it is free of harmful micro-organisms and contaminants. In some areas South African drinking water is rich in minerals and may involve a bit of getting used to.

Avoid drinking water from streams and rivers, especially in areas where there is human habitation. These may carry water-borne diseases.

Should you find yourself in the unlikely position of not having clean water on hand, contaminated water can be disinfected by boiling for 10 minutes, or adding a teaspoon of bleach per 25 lites or a teaspoon of chlorine granules per 200l. In both the latter cases, allow the water to stand for 2 hours. Another method is to expose water to direct sunlight for at least 6 hours in a transparent container with a small airspace, shaking after filling and every hour after that.

Some tap and natural water may have a slight brown tinge from humic acid, which is harmless and does not affect drinking water quality in South Africa.

The market for bottled water is growing in South Africa, and supermarket shelves hold numerous brands, some of them well-known international names. Your choice includes still and sparkling waters, and a range of fruit- flavoured variants.

Best time to visit

With our year round temperate climate, your decision about the best time to visit ?South Africa? will not so much be based on the weather but more about the experiences and adventures you wish to have.

For example, South Africa’s winter months (June, July, August) – which have the least rainfall, except for the Western Cape with its Mediterranean climate – is a peak time for game viewing as a shortage of water means animals gather at watering holes. Foliage is also less, which makes game spotting easier. But depending on the experiences you seek, there may be another time that’s more suitable to visit South Africa’s game parks. For example, if you want to see newborn animals, then September/October is the best time to visit.

And while holidaymakers flock to Cape Town and the Western Cape in the summer months to take advantage of the lovely weather, beautiful beaches, and many outdoor adventures to be had, winter – even though the rainy season – also has its charm. Visiting the Capewinelands during winter is a special treat.

Autumn, winter and spring are also ideal times to visit the Northern Cape’s wonderful national parks with their black-maned lions, and is a good time to enjoy animal tracking adventures with the Kalahari Bushmen. During summer months, temperatures here can get unbearably hot.

For a South African winter beach holiday, Durban in KwaZulu-Natal is the place to go with its year-round T-shirt weather and warm Indian Ocean, which makes for great water-based adventures.

Hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains is also great all year round. Do be aware that in winter, night temperatures can drop below freezing, and snow can sometimes be found in the higher reaches. During the summer months, afternoon thunderstorms are a frequent occurance.

There are some adventures in South Africa that can only be experienced at specific times of year. For example, if you want to experience the world-famous Namaqualand daisies, then September (our spring) is the time to visit. The famous Sardine Run, a unique phenomenon when millions of sardines travel up the east coast of South Africa causing a feeding frenzy that attracts thousands of sharks, dolphins, whales, birds and other ocean predators, occurs between May and July.

If you love hiking, spring and autumn are the ideal times to hike as temperatures are not too hot or cold. Spring and autumn are also the best times to visit for fly-fishing in South Africa.

For those seeking to explore South Africa’s rich heritage, cultures, and political past, you can visit any time of year, unless of course your interest is a specific event like the Zulu reed dance, which takes place in September every year.