Do you have your passport?
A combination of your South African passport and identity document is the best proof of your South African citizenship. Anyone who intends travelling abroad should have a valid passport. If you do not have a passport, apply for it well in advance. Temporary passports can be issued on short notice but they are not accepted in all foreign countries. If your passport is damaged in any way it is advisable to replace it before travelling.
Passport application forms are available at all offices of the Department of Home Affairs countrywide and at South African Embassies abroad. If your passport is due to expire within the next six months or has less than two blank pages, check with the embassy or consulate of the country of your intended destination in South Africa for its rules and restrictions regarding passport validity and expiry.
If you have any questions about passports, you can either contact the Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria at telephone 012 810 8911 or any regional office of the Department of Home Affairs.
Keep certified copies of your passport (including the visa pages) with you for identification purposes. Do not keep the passport and the copies in the same place. An additional precaution is to leave a copy with a relative or friend at home.
What happens if your passport is stolen/lost while abroad?
If your passport is lost or stolen while you are travelling abroad, report the loss or theft immediately to the local police station. Take a copy of the police report to the nearest South African Embassy or Consulate where you will apply for a temporary passport/emergency travel document.
Before a passport can be issued, you must:
- complete an application form
- be finger-printed
- produce written evidence of your South African citizenship (e.g. a birth certificate, identity document, certified copy of passport, driver's licence)
- provide a copy of the police report
- present two photographs and
- pay the required fee.
A South African passport remains the property of the Government of South Africa and may only be used by the person to whom it is issued. Selling your passport or permitting any other individual or agency to use it may lead to criminal prosecution and is considered sufficient cause to revoke the passport and refuse future passport services.
A visa or permit is your permission to travel to, enter, transit or remain in a foreign country. A visa or permit does not, however, guarantee entry as the decision to grant entry remains the decision of the immigration officials of the foreign country.
South African passport holders enjoy visa exemptions for certain countries. This means that South Africans can travel, usually for holiday or business purposes, to a country without a visa for a pre-determined time.
South Africans are strongly advised against using visa exemption to travel to a foreign country if the real intention is to work there. A work permit must be applied for.
South Africans must always check with the travel agent or the foreign representative in South Africa whether a visa is required or not. Since requirements can change from time to time it is best to double check the requirements before each trip.
If you do not correctly comply with visa or permit requirements or overstay on your visa or permit you will be subject to any or all of the following: charged, jailed, deported and blacklisted.
It is strongly recommended that you take out travel insurance before travelling abroad. Travel insurance should cover hospitalisation and related medical costs as well as a possible emergency evacuation. Depending on your age, physical condition and destination you should consider provision in the event of death. Your travel agent or bank will be able to advise you.
Medical costs abroad can be astronomical compared to South Africa. In some instances medical treatment can be withheld if a person has no proof of funds or travel insurance.
Travel insurance that covers expenses in the event of death abroad will ensure that family and friends are not burdened with the costs for the preparation and transportation of mortal remains to South Africa. Remember to confirm the details of your coverage with your insurer as pre-existing medical conditions may require additional cover.
It is important to cover all the members of the travelling party adequately.
Airlines tend to overbook flights during peak season in order to balance out "no-shows" and ensure full flights. This often leads to the number of passengers arriving for a flight exceeding the available number of seats. Passenger with pre-paid tickets should be especially careful and collect pre-paid tickets in advance from the airline's office or arrive as early as possible on the day of the flight.
Prospective travellers who intend driving abroad must apply for an international driver's licence. These are issued by the Automobile Association.
South African driver's licences are recognised in Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries (Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). It is recommended that a letter of verification be obtained from the South African Department of Transport, Tel: 012 309 3763, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants requiring confirmation letters are requested to include their RSA identity number and postal address where the confirmation letter will be mailed.
When travelling by road to a neighbouring country always take the original vehicle registration documents plus a certified copy. Establish before the journey where the temporary import permit for the vehicle/trailer is obtained. The temporary import permit must be valid for the full duration of your stay in the country.
Check with your vehicle insurer that the vehicle will be covered in the country you travel to and that the 3rd party insurance is in order.
It is illegal to take any firearms, ammunition and, in some instances, hunting knives into a country without the required permits. In the event that you wish to carry such items it is recommended that you contact the resident mission prior to travelling.
Registration of South Africans abroad:
ROSA (Registration of South Africans Abroad) is an on-line registration process available on the Department of International Relations and Cooperation website. For further information refer to Registration of South Africans Abroad (ROSA)
Make timeous enquiries regarding the health risks in the country or countries you intend travelling to. Your doctor or centres such as Medi-Travel International or the Airport Medical Clinic would be able to assist.
The prescribed immunisations or medication can prevent serious long-term and fatal diseases.
Depending on the destination other basic precautionary measures are:
Whenever necessary the Department of International Relations and Cooperation will, when alerted by the Department of Health, highlight specific health warnings.
Yellow fever requirements
A vaccination against yellow fever is a requirement for a person whose journey starts in or passes through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America. According to international health regulations, a valid yellow fever certificate is required from all passengers older than one year coming from or going to infected areas.
These precautionary measures will be strictly enforced by the Department of Health to protect its residents in the RSA from this virus.
The yellow fever endemic areas are (verify with your travel agent):
Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi
Cameroon, Central African Rep., Chad, Colombia, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire
Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea
Ethiopia, French Guinea, Gabon
Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana,
Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Suriname
Zambia (Zambia has recently been identified as a country with mild risk of yellow fever). Although the new policy has not officially been communicated, travellers are encouraged to obtain yellow fever vaccinations at least 10 days prior to travel to South Africa.
Yellow fever certificates are valid for a period of 10 years commencing 10 days after the date of vaccination or, in the case of re-vaccination, within such period of 10 years, from the date of that re-vaccination.
According to the Department of Health, persons arriving without a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate will either be:
- kept under observation for six days at their own cost, or
- vaccinated against yellow fever at their own cost.
At ports of entry where no Port Health Officers are based, persons will be refused entry into the Republic of South Africa.
Get more information on international health requirements at www.who.int.
Department of Health
Cluster: Communicable Diseases
Tel: 012 395 8048
Fax: 012 395 8905
Inform yourself thoroughly, prior to your trip, of the safety risks in the country or countries you intend to visit.
As we are well aware, we are exposed to crime everywhere. Basic precautionary measures will contribute to ensuring your safety, for example:
- Do not attract attention to yourself with expensive jewellery and clothing.
- Take care when you pay for something - avoid flashing all your cash.
- Get to know the foreign currency and use a note that requires the smallest amount of change to be returned to you; When travelling by public transport have the correct amount of cash at hand, take care when you hand over the money and keep your eye on it.
- If secure, keep your passport, travellers' cheques and extra cash in the hotel safe. Alternatively wear it in a money belt under your clothing and keep only the money you intend using in your pocket/handbag/wallet
- Know where you are going. Keep a map with you and consult it regularly. Make sure that you have the contact details of where you are staying on your person at all times.
- Obtain information from the hotel in which you are staying on security related precautions in the area.
- Remember that when you are travelling to another country you, unknowingly, stand out making you an easy target for criminals.
- Keep certified copy of your passport, visa as well as the South African Representatives contact details with you.
You should ideally avoid countries experiencing war and civil or political unrest. If the trip is unavoidable, ensure that you prepare yourself by having all the necessary information and contact details of your hosts and South African representatives in the country of your destination.
South African travellers and the law
Do not become involved in activities that may be, or are, illegal.
Please remember, once you leave South Africa, the rights enjoyed under the South African Constitution and laws cannot be guaranteed or enforced in the countries you intend to visit. If arrested abroad, the South African Government cannot intervene to secure your release from prison. Government will intercede with local authorities to seek to ensure that your rights, under the laws of the arresting country, are fully observed and that the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners are applied.
More information on South Africans arrested abroad.
The South African Government views crimes, particularly those involving women and children, traffic in humans, illegal drugs, mercenary activities, traffic in arms and the proliferation of nuclear material and technology, in a most serious light.
- Possessing or smuggling drugs is a criminal offence in almost all countries. Penalties are harsh and can lead to a lifetime imprisonment or even the death penalty. Do not accept or carry parcels, baggage or any items that you have not packed personally. Do not offer to collect parcels, letters, documents, etc. on behalf of other persons. Attempting to smuggle drugs is not worth the payment that you may be offered.
- South Africans who intend to work abroad, especially in war stricken countries like Iraq, should remember that they may find themselves in extremely dangerous situations. It is advisable to register yourself at the nearest South African Representative.
- Should your passport be damaged in any way, it is advisable to obtain a new passport before travelling.
- Always keep a certified copy of your passport and visa on your person while on holiday.
- To cater for unforeseen emergencies ensure that a friend or relative is in possession of your travel plan, contact details, a copy of your passport, visa pages as well as an identity document.
Obtain as much information as possible about your destination.
- Take out sufficient travel insurance to cover hospital treatment, medical evacuation and even death. Pre-existing conditions and the risk associated with your destination or the activities you plan to partake in can influence the travel insurance cover you need.
- Register your details with the South African Embassy, High Commission or Consulate at your destination.
- Double-check whether you require a visa or permit for the country or countries you are visiting or transiting.
- Keep a copy of your passport information page, relevant visas, travel insurance, travellers' cheques and credit card with you but not with the originals. Leave a copy in an envelope with a friend, relative or a work colleague.
- Make sure that you are familiar with the health risks of the country or countries you intend visiting. Get all the recommended vaccinations and/or medication before travelling. If you need to travel with medication ensure that it meets the requirements of your destination(s). Take your prescription along.
- Ensure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months with enough blank pages. Additional passport photographs are very useful should you need a temporary passport or emergency travel certificate.
- Make sure that your family, friends or colleagues know what your movements will be while away. Leave a detailed itinerary with them. Contact them regularly by e-mail, a phone call or SMS.
- Remember if you are a dual national you must leave and enter South Africa on your South African passport.
- Always act within the prescripts of the law.