Security and health
The Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provides advice for business travellers and tourists to South Africa. This is regularly updated, and should be checked before planning travel.
It is strongly recommended that Australian travellers take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, before their departure. They should confirm that their insurance covers them for the whole time they will be away and check what circumstances and activities are / are not included in their policy.
It is also recommended that Australian travellers register your travel and contact details, before travelling, on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, to provide greater protection in case of an emergency.
Crime is prevalent in larger cities and visitors should take sensible precautions for their own safety.
We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in South Africa because of the high level of serious crime. Muggings, rape, armed robbery and other forms of theft are common. Murders and carjackings involving foreign tourists have also been reported. Travellers have been robbed and assaulted after having their food or drinks spiked.
Crime is significantly higher after dark in the centres of major cities and in township areas. The inner suburbs of Johannesburg (Berea and Hillbrow) and the beachfront in Durban are particularly prone to crime and you should avoid travelling to these areas. As crime rates are generally high in the townships, you should only visit township areas with an organised tour run by a reputable company. You should also avoid isolated beaches, lookouts and picnic areas.
Due to the very high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.
When travelling by car, you should keep the doors locked, the windows up and valuables out of sight. Thieves posing as vendors or beggars target cars on highway off ramps, stopped at intersections and at traffic lights. Criminals have also placed debris on roads to stop vehicles. You should not stop to clear debris off the road.
Valuables such as cameras, mobile phones and jewellery should be kept out of sight, and you should exercise vigilance in public places. Bags and backpacks have been stolen in public places including restaurants and bars.
There is a luggage theft and pilferage problem at Johannesburg and Cape Town airports. Use an airport plastic wrapping service when available and avoid placing electronics, jewellery, cameras and other valuables into checked luggage. As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Theft from hotel rooms and guest homes is common. Luggage and valuables should never be left unattended and should be placed in safekeeping facilities.
Criminals operate out of the airport in Johannesburg, following some overseas visitors to their homes or hotels and robbing them. We advise against accepting unsolicited assistance with transport when arriving at the airport in Johannesburg.Assaults and robberies have also taken place on local commuter and metro trains between Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as on commuter trains in Cape Town.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible. You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
Fraud and scams
Commercial fraud scams are common in South Africa. If you receive a scam message, don't be fooled: if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. If you are a victim of a scam you should not travel to South Africa to seek restitution given the risk of physical assault from the perpetrators of such crimes. Fraud incidents may be reported to the Commercial Crimes Unit of the South African Police Service in Johannesburg, telephone +27 11 970 5300. Our information on international scams provides details on common commercial fraud scams.
ATM scams and credit card fraud are common. You should keep withdrawals from ATMs to a minimum and refuse offers of help at ATMs. Criminals are known to loiter near ATMs waiting for an opportunity to rob people withdrawing cash. Avoid ATMs that open onto the street and instead use ATMs in controlled areas within banks, shops and shopping centres. Secure all ATM and credit card payment slips and keep your credit card in sight at all times when using it. Mobile phones and card skimmers have been used to copy credit card details.
The standard of medical facilities throughout South Africa varies. Medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of some game parks, but may be limited elsewhere. Public and private facilities will require either an up-front deposit for services, a guarantee of payment or confirmation of medical insurance before commencing treatment. In remote areas, air evacuation to a major city is sometimes the only option for medical emergencies.
Decompression chambers are located at Kleinmont Hospital in Cape Town, St Augustine's Hospital in Durban, Eugene Marais Hospital in Pretoria and Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.
The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in South Africa is very high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.
Cholera occurs in South Africa, predominately in rural areas, with more serious outbreaks occurring periodically. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes, raw and undercooked food, and maintain strict hygiene standards if travelling in rural areas. Tap water is safe to drink in the major cities. Further advice on cholera can be found on the World Health Organization (WHO) website.
Malaria is prevalent in some remote areas in the far north and east of South Africa, including Kruger National Park. A 90km strip running along the border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe has been designated as a malaria risk zone, and some adjoining areas experience malaria risk at some times of the year. Other insect-borne diseases (including filariasis) are also prevalent.
We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before travelling and take prophylaxis against malaria if travelling to an area where malaria is prevalent. We encourage you to consider taking precautions to avoid being bitten by insects, including using an insect repellent, wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.