The health risk information presented here is summarized from Shoreland Travax®, a decision-support tool used by health care providers to perform a detailed health risk analysis based on specific locations, individual travel styles, and traveler risk behaviors. Travax provides practitioners current, independently researched malaria risk and prevention recommendations in a map-based format that goes beyond the annual WHO and CDC statements included here. Not included here are current reports from Travax of disease outbreaks or environmental events that may pose elevated risks to travelers’ health and safety. The Providers section of this site offers a directory of health care providers who utilize Shoreland Travax for travel health counseling. Learn more about the detailed reports and maps available from these practitioners (includes links to samples).
South Africa is a developing nation but is in the upper half of the world's economies. Located at the southern tip of Africa, its climate is mostly semiarid but subtropical along the east coast. Desert climate in portions of this country may aggravate respiratory conditions.
See also: Library article for Yellow Fever
Although yellow fever does not occur in South Africa, an official yellow fever vaccination certificate may be required depending on your itinerary.
- Requirement: A vaccination certificate is required for travelers aged ≥ 1 year coming from countries with risk of YF transmission. Note: This applies to airport layovers longer than 12 hours in these countries.
Depending on your itinerary, your personal risk factors, and the length of your visit, your health care provider may offer you vaccination against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, rabies, or typhoid fever. Routine immunizations, such as those that prevent tetanus/diphtheria or "childhood" diseases, should be reviewed and updated as needed.
See also: Library article for Malaria
The following is current information as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
WHO—International Travel and Health (current online update, Country List)(2017) Malaria risk due predominantly to P. falciparum exists throughout the year in the low-altitude areas of Mpumalanga Province (including the Kruger National Park), Limpopo Province and north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal. Risk is highest from October to May inclusive.
- Recommended prevention in risk areas: C – Risk of P. falciparum malaria, in combination with reported chloroquine and sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine resistance. Mosquito bite prevention plus atovaquone–proguanil or doxycycline or mefloquine chemoprophylaxis (select according to reported side effects and contraindications) a
aAlternatively, for travel to rural areas with low risk of malaria infection, mosquito bite prevention can be combined with stand–by emergency treatment (SBET).
WHO Country List footnote: When available, the date of the most recent update or confirmation is indicated in parentheses in the country list. If no date is indicated, the most recent update or confirmation was provided before 2013.
CDC—Health Information for International Travel (current online edition)Areas with malaria: Present along the border with Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Specifically in Vhembe and Mopani district municipalities of Limpopo Province; Ehlanzeni district municipality in Mpumalanga Province; and Umknanyakude in Kwazulu-Natal Province. Present in Kruger National Park.
- Estimated relative risk of malaria for US travelers: Low.
- Drug resistance4: Chloroquine.
- Malaria species: P. falciparum 90%, P. vivax 5%, P. ovale 5%.
- Recommended chemoprophylaxis: Areas in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Kwazulu-Natal Provinces with malaria: Atovaquone-proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine.
4 Refers to P. falciparum malaria unless otherwise noted.
See also: Library article for Travelers' Diarrhea
Moderate risk exists throughout the country, with minimal risk in deluxe accommodations. Food and beverage precautions may reduce the likelihood of illness.
Travelers should carry loperamide for self-treatment of diarrhea and, if risk is moderate to high, an antibiotic to add if diarrhea is severe. Consult a knowledgeable health care provider regarding which antibiotic is appropriate for you and most effective for your destination.
Insect- and Arthropod-Borne Diseases
Other Disease and Health Risks
The material below includes information from the U.S. Department of State (DOS), U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), as well as from additional open-source material. Standard safety precautions that apply to all international travel can be found in the Library article Safety and Security.
Low risk of attack by transnational terrorist groups exists throughout the country. Targets may include domestic and international organizations and businesses; public places and events, including those frequented by tourists; and transportation systems.
High risk of violent crime (armed robbery, sexual assault, carjacking, and murder) and petty crime exists throughout the country, especially in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, and other cities (including areas frequented by foreigners), and national parks. Theft of items from checked baggage in airports is common.
Scams involving counterfeit currency, ATMs, credit cards, the use of distraction techniques to commit robbery (including ploys to detain drivers), false identity (such as criminals posing as police officers), and pirated merchandise have been reported.
Protests and demonstrations occur and have the potential to turn violent without warning. Bystanders are at risk of harm from violence or from the response by authorities.
Hazardous water conditions (including currents, tides, and undertows) may occur. Heed posted warnings, and avoid beaches that are not patrolled. Do not swim alone or after dark, and do not walk on any beach after dark.
Rent water sports equipment from reputable operators. Scuba dive only with personnel certified by PADI or NAUI, and use equipment only from PADI- or NAUI-certified dive operators.
Other Safety Threats
Risk exists for fatal wildlife attacks on safaris and in game parks and reserves. Travelers should closely follow park regulations, always maintain a safe distance from wildlife, and should not exit vehicles or protected enclosures.
Very high risk of traffic-related injury or death exists. The road-traffic death rate is greater than 24 per 100,000 population, the highest risk category. Carefully assess the safety of transportation options before any road travel. Speed laws are poorly enforced. Seek local advice before traveling on roads outside urban areas after dark. Driving at night is not advised.
Traffic flows on the left-hand side of the road. Travelers (including drivers and pedestrians) accustomed to traffic moving on the opposite side should be vigilant when navigating traffic.
Avoid the metro (excluding the Gautrain, Blue Train, and Rovos Rail) due to safety and security concerns, including risk of armed robbery.
Rail and metro services do not meet international safety standards (due to unsafe vehicles, poor maintenance, and hazardous driving).
Many taxis are unsafe. Use taxis from official ranks or dispatched via smart phone app or radio from a reputable company and ascertain the license or identification number of the dispatched vehicle.
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has determined that the civil aviation authority of this country oversees its air carriers in accordance with minimum international safety standards.
Selected Embassies or Consulates in South Africa
- United States: [+27] 12-431-4000; za.usembassy.gov
- Canada: [+27] 12-422-3000; www.canadainternational.gc.ca/southafrica-afriquedusud
- United Kingdom: [+27] 12-421-7500; www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-high-commission-pretoria
- Australia: [+27] 12-423-6000; www.southafrica.embassy.gov.au
South Africa's Embassies or Consulates in Selected Countries
- In the U.S.: www.saembassy.org
- In Canada: www.southafrica-canada.ca
- In the U.K.: southafricahouseuk.com
- In Australia: www.sahc.org.au
HIV testing is not required to obtain a tourist, work, or residence visa.