SOUTH AFRICA

Country Description: Although South Africa is in many respects a developed country, much of its population lives in poverty. There are adequate facilities in all urban centers, game parks and areas most commonly visited by tourists. Food and water are generally safe, and a wide variety of consumer goods and pharmaceuticals are readily available.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: South Africa has tightened its visa requirements for certain categories of visitors, particularly students, temporary workers (even volunteers) and some categories of business and cultural exchange visitors. Travelers are urged to obtain further information from the Embassy of South Africa, 3201 New Mexico Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016, telephone (202) 966-1650, or the South African consulates in Beverly Hills, Chicago, or New York. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest South African embassy or consulate.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Political violence has significantly decreased in most areas of South Africa since the establishment of a democratically elected government in May 1994. Throughout most of South Africa, the political situation is stabilizing as the country consolidates its transition to non-racial democracy. However, some public gatherings have provoked violent clashes between political factions, which have resulted in casualties. Following peaceful local government elections in June 1996, levels of politically-related violence have declined specifically in Kwazulu-Natal, although such violence still erupts on occasion. Areas of intermittent unrest include Bulwer, Donnybrook and Impendle in the Midlands, the greater Port Shepstone area on the south coast, and the greater Mandini area of the north coast.

Although foreigners have not been specifically targeted in these attacks, some have been caught up in general disturbances. Some townships in the vicinity of major cities, most notably Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town, have been scenes of violent demonstrations and factional conflict. The South African government is establishing new institutional structures and taking other steps to control the violence. Most areas frequented by tourists, such as game parks and beaches, are not significantly affected by political or factional violence, but American citizens should monitor local media for information on planned or recent demonstrations. Such demonstrations should generally be avoided, as some have resulted in violent confrontations.

Medical Facilities: Medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks and beaches, but may be limited elsewhere. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate cash payment for health services, but usually accept major credit cards in addition to cash. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide for payment of medical services outside of the U.S. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, has proven useful. Information on health matters can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline, telephone (404) 332-4559. Internet: http://www.cdc.gov.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Although the vast majority of visitors complete their travels in South Africa without incident, visitors should be aware that criminal activity, sometimes violent, is reported on a routine basis. Criminal activity in South Africa is perceived to be a potential threat to the overall stability of the new government and to the welfare of its citizens. Despite strong efforts by the government of South Africa to combat the problem, significant criminal activity such as assault and armed robbery continues, particularly in cities and areas surrounding suburban hotels and public transportation centers. Visitors should use appropriate caution in the downtown areas surrounding hotels and should keep in mind that increased anti-crime efforts in city cores have also made the suburbs of major metropolitan areas an increasingly attractive target for car hijackings and robbery. Credit card fraud is routinely reported. Visitors should use all available means to protect credit cards, credit card numbers, and personal identification numbers associated with cash cards. There have been conflicts between criminal organizations and citizens groups which have resulted in some violence, most recently in areas in and around Cape Town. There is no indication that American citizens or businesses are being targeted.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The pamphlets "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa" provide useful information on protecting personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

Travel to the Former "Independent Homelands": Travelers should use caution when driving in the former independent homelands of Transkei and Ciskei, which have been incorporated into the provinces of Eastern Cape and Kwazulu/Natal. Some areas, such as the Transkei's "Wild Coast" in the former Transkei, have significant levels of crime and inadequate medical services. This situation, though improving, has caused problems for foreign travelers to the area. Travelers may contact U.S. consulates in Cape Town or Durban before trips to the Eastern Cape or extreme southern Natal for further information on these areas.

Road Travel and Safety: Road conditions are generally good. However, drivers are allowed relatively high rates of speed on major thoroughfares, and the poor lighting on rural roads and insufficient regulatory control regarding driver licensing and vehicle maintenance pose dangers to travelers.

Drug Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

Aviation Oversight: As a result of an assessment conducted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in November 1994, the FAA has found the government of South Africa's civil aviation authority to be in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of South African air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation at 1 (800) 322-7873.

Embassy Registration/Location: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the consular sections at the U.S. Embassy or the nearest U.S. consulate and obtain updated information on travel and security in South Africa. The U.S. Embassy is located at 877 Pretorius Street in Pretoria, telephone (27-12) 342-1048. Note: The U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg provides most consular services for Americans in the Pretoria area.

The U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg is located at Kine Center, 11th Floor, 141 Commissioner Street (intersection with Kruis Street), telephone (27-11) 331-1681. Its consular jurisdiction includes Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Northern, North West, and Free State Provinces.

The U.S. Consulate General in Cape Town is located at Broadway Industries Center, Heerengracht, Foreshore, telephone (27-21) 214-280. Its consular jurisdiction includes Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape Provinces.

The U.S. Consulate General in Durban is located at Durban House, 29th Floor, 333 Smith Street, telephone (27-31) 304-4737. Its consular jurisdiction includes Kwazulu/Natal Province.

Need a Complete List of South Africa Holidays
Observed and Celebrated?

Buy an
International Date Planner
for a complete international holiday list for all public holidays throughout the year.