The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that comprehensive travel insurance, including medical insurance, is obtained before travelling to South Africa. Travellers should note that the Irish government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
Embassy of Ireland
The Embassy of Ireland in South Africa is based in Pretoria. There is also an office in Cape Town. Contact details are available here.
Irish Citizens visiting South Africa on holiday for less than 90 days do not require visas. After entry, an extension of stay may be sought from the Department of Home Affairs, but note that this can only be renewed once for a further period on 90 days. For further details on entry into South Africa please contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of South Africa.
WARNING: EU CITIZENS TRAVELLING TO SOUTH AFRICA WITHOUT AT LEAST TWO BLANK PAGES IN THEIR PASSPORTS - OR WITH PASSPORTS WHICH ARE DAMAGED IN ANY WAY - WILL BE IMMEDIATLLY RETURNED BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN AUTHORITIES.
THE EMBASSY OF IRELAND CANNOT ASSIST YOU IN ANY WAY IF YOU ARE REFUSED ENTRY FOR THE ABOVE REASONS.
You should ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months from your intended date of departure from South Africa.
Safety and Security
South Africa has a high-level of crime, including violent crime, rape and murder. While most cases occur in townships or in areas away from normal tourist destinations, nowhere is completely safe and visitors should exercise caution when travelling in both urban and rural environments, including city centre areas at night (city centres are usually referred to as Central Business Districts or CBDs in South Africa).
Leaving the airport
Be vigilant when passing through and leaving South Africa’s
airports. Pick pockets and thieves patrol the airports. Never leave
your luggage unattended.
Use only recognised hire car companies or official taxis. If you book a taxi or car to meet you at the airport, ask in advance for the driver’s name for confirmation.
Walking at night is not advisable and many tourists consider public transport to be unsafe; private car rental is the safest option for independent travel and is favoured by most tourists. As elsewhere, please be particularly careful with personal items and valuables in markets and other places frequented by tourists.
Armed car-jacking is a serious concern throughout South Africa. Thefts and smash-and-grab robberies from vehicles are common. Drivers should keep their vehicle door locked and windows closed, and exercise caution when travelling, particularly at night and at filling stations.
If you are mugged or your car is hijacked you should remain calm, offer no resistance and hand over possessions without question. Avoid eye contact.
Visitors are advised to exercise extreme caution if travelling to townships. It is recommended that you only visit townships as part of a recognised tour.
As elsewhere, thieves like to operate at international airports, bus and railway stations. Keep your baggage with you at all times.
Keep large amounts of money, expensive jewellery, cameras and cell phones out of sight. Do not change large sums of money in busy public areas. Do not give personal or financial account information details to unknown parties.
The penalties for both the supply and possession of drugs are severe in South Africa and can include life imprisonment.
Prostitution is illegal in South Africa. There is also a high risk of HIV/AIDS (please see section on Health below).
Local Laws and Customs
A valid Irish driver’s licence is accepted in South Africa for up
to 12 months after entry, provided it carries the photograph and
signature of the holder.
South African’s drive on the left (the same side as Ireland).
Road standards in South Africa are mostly good, but some roads in the more remote areas are poor and potholes may be encountered. The standard of driving in South Africa can vary greatly and there are many fatal accidents every year. You are advised to drive cautiously at all times and adhere to speed limits. Avoid ‘road rage’ situations as they can quickly escalate and turn violent.
It is important to be aware of your own safety and to take sensible precautions such as ensuring the car is road worthy; splitting the driving; taking regular breaks and planning the journeys carefully. Never leave bags, suitcases, or items of value on display in your car – these should be locked away in the boot.
In all areas of South Africa, you should be cautious when out after dark. Streets, even in urban areas, are not brightly lit at night.
Four-way-stops (unknown in Ireland) are commonly found at quieter intersections – the first vehicle to arrive has priority. Roundabouts (circles in SA) should be treated with caution. Traffic lights are known as robots in South Africa.
You should park in well-lit areas. Do not pick up strangers. Do not stop to assist (apparently) distressed motorists, as this is a technique sometimes used by hijackers. It is better to report the incident to the police.
Avoid using ATMs in garages and in poorly-lit areas. Be vigilant of anyone trying to help at an ATM.
Avoid isolated beaches and picnic spots across South Africa and stay in company. Walking alone anywhere, especially in remote areas, is not advised and hikers should stick to popular trails. Call the police (on 10111 (112 from cell phones)) at the first sign of a threat.
For more about driving in South Africa please see the national campaign for safe driving: www.arrivealive.co.za
NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE
Natural Disasters and Climate
South Africa enjoys a subtropical climate and warm temperatures for much of the year. It's a relatively dry country, with an average annual rainfall of about 464mm (compared to a world average of about 860mm). While the Western Cape gets most of its rainfall in winter, the rest of the country is generally a summer-rainfall region.
Being in the southern hemisphere, South Africa’s seasons are opposite to those in Europe.
Spring (August to mid-October) is characterised by warm temperatures, dropping slightly in the evenings. Summer (mid-October to mid-February) is characterised by hot, sunny weather – often with afternoon thunderstorms that clear quickly. Autumn (mid-February to April) is characterised by very low rain fall and warm temperatures, chilly in the evenings. Winter in South Africa (May to July) is characterised in the higher-lying areas such as Johannesburg by very dry, sunny, crisp days and cold nights. The high mountains of the Cape and the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal usually get snow in winter.
Additional Country Info
The currency in South Africa is the Rand. Exchange control regulations mean that it is difficult to buy foreign currency without going through elaborate and time consuming procedures.
There is a high incidence of credit card fraud and fraud involving ATM's. As at home in Ireland, users of ATM's should be vigilant to ensure their PIN number is not observed by others when withdrawing money. Offers of assistance from bystanders should be refused. Do not change large sums of money in busy public areas.
Hospital treatment in large cities of South Africa is good but can be expensive. Medical facilities in rural areas can be basic. In remote areas, air evacuation is sometimes the only option for medical emergencies. The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that comprehensive travel insurance, including medical insurance, is obtained before travelling to South Africa.
The level of HIV and AIDS infection in South Africa is very high. Irish visitors to South Africa should exercise necessary caution if engaging in activities that expose you to possible infection. If you suspect that you have been exposed to possible infection, you should seek immediate medical attention.
For more information on Irish Aid's Programme on HIV and AIDS in South Africa and worldwide please click on the following link www.irishaid.gov.ie/south_africa.asp
Malaria is prevalent in parts of Mpumalanga, Limpopo province and KwaZulu-Natal (particularly the Wetlands area around St Lucia). Before travelling to these areas, including Kruger Park, you should seek medical advice on suitable anti-malarial medication and take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in rural South Africa, especially in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo provinces. You are advised to maintain a high level of personal hygiene and drink only bottled water if travelling in these areas.
You should seek medical advice before travelling to South Africa and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.
If a person arrives in South Africa from a country where yellow fewer transmission is present, that person must have a yellow fever vaccination certificate valid at least six days before entry into South Africa. A person who does not have such a certificate on arrival in South Africa could be refused entry or vaccinated at the airport and quarantined for up to six days.
Essential Numbers for Irish Visitors to South Africa
Embassy of Ireland, Pretoria +27 (0)12 452
Embassy of Ireland, Cape Town +27 (0)21 419 0636/7
South African Police Service 10111
General Ambulance Number 10177
Fire Brigade 10111
Emergency Call from Mobile Phone 112
Cape Town Emergency 107
Cape Town Emergency (from mobile) +27 (0)21 480 7700
Cape Town Health
Christian Barnard Hospital +27 (0)21 423 4835
Constantia Berg Mediclinic +27 (0)21 799 2196
Bedford Gardens Hospital +27 (0) 11 677 8500
Sandton Medi-Clinic +27 (0) 11 709 2000
Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital +27 (0) 11 933 8000
24Hours Emergency +27 (0)11 706 7710
Little Company of Mary Hospital +27 (0)12 424 3600
Pretoria Academic (Steve Biko) Hospital +27 (0)12 354 1000
Zuid-Africanns Hospital +27 (0)12 343 5482
Die Wilgers Hospital +27 (0)12 807 8100
Unitas Hospital Centurion +27 (0)12 677 8000
Addington Hospital +27 (0)31 327
Netcare Parklands Hospital +27 (0)31 242 4000
King Edward VIII Hospital +27 (0)31 360 3111
Crompton Hospital +27 (0)31 702 0777