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Travel Essentials for South Africa

Travel documents, money, clothes, electronics and more

What do I need for my trip to South Africa?

So you're thinking about visiting South Africa but not sure what to pack? We've got you covered. In this guide, we'll cover the top travel essentials for your South Africa trip including what travel documents you need, currency, what to wear and which electronics you should take - you'll be prepared for all that South Africa has to offer in no time!

Two passports

Travel Documents

For your trip to South Africa, you will need the following documentation:

  • Valid passport - You will need a valid passport with at least 6 months of remaining validity from your arrival date in South Africa. Make sure you check the expiration date on your passport in advance to avoid any last-minute hassle. You should also have a photocopy of your passport's information kept separate from the original in case of loss or theft.
  • Travel visa - Depending on your nationality, you may need a special visa to enter South Africa. We recommend researching South African visa requirements well in advance to ensure a smooth experience.
  • Travel insurance - Unexpected events can happen. That's why it's important to have travel insurance for your South Africa trip that will cover you for medical emergencies, flight cancellations, lost baggage and more. Compare different travel insurance quotes to grab the best deal based on your budget.
  • Flight tickets and bookings - You won't be able to board your flight to South Africa without your tickets! Keep digital copies of your flight confirmations as well as any pre-booked tours and accommodation reservations you have made.
  • Yellow fever vaccination certificate - If you're coming from a country with a risk of yellow fever, you'll be asked to provide proof of vaccination upon entry to South Africa. Check out this list of countries at risk of yellow fever for more information.
A woman holding South African Rand cash


South Africa's currency is the South African Rand (ZAR). Before you enter the country, you should exchange your currency for Rand which you can spend in South Africa. You can exchange your currency for Rand before you fly or at a bureau de change in South Africa.

Credit cards are widely accepted in South Africa but you need to look out for foreign transaction fees from your bank. Check with your bank before you go to see if they charge this fee.

Cash points/ATMs are also widely available in South Africa. Make sure you use one that is connected to a major network (such as Visa or Mastercard). You will likely be charged a fee for using the ATM but this is normally less than the fee you would be charged for exchanging currency at a bureau de change.

Don't forget to let your bank know you're travelling to South Africa, otherwise, they may block your card for suspicious activity!

A man and child at a safari

Appropriate Clothing and Footwear

Be comfortable and casual

In South Africa, the dress code is generally casual. We recommend packing breathable, loose-fitting clothes made from natural fabrics like cotton or linen. This can include T-shirts, shorts, lightweight trousers and comfortable dresses.

  • If you're going to visit conservative areas, like religious or cultural sites, we recommend wearing more modest clothing covering the shoulders and knees.
  • If you're going on a safari, wear neutral-coloured clothing so you don't scare any animals away.
  • If you plan to visit some beaches or relax by the pool, don't forget to pack your swimwear and a cover-up.

No matter what time of the year you're visiting, you might experience the occasional rain shower. Pack a rain jacket to keep yourself dry on your South African adventure. On the other hand, the South African sun is strong all year round. We suggest packing a wide-brimmed hat as well as sunglasses with UV protection.

Wear the right shoes

Lots of walking means you need comfortable walking shoes. If you're going hiking, pack hiking boots. For the beach, you can wear sandals which are especially handy in hot weather but make sure they have good support. For safari experiences, wear closed-toe shoes to protect your feet from insects, thorns and uneven ground.

A bag of small travel toiletries


With South Africa's sunny climate and endless list of outdoor activities, you'll need to pack the right toiletries:

  • Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) - The sunshine is strong in South Africa so it's important that you pack a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher that can be applied to both your face and body. If you're going to be swimming during your trip, consider taking water-resistant sunscreen.
  • Lip balm with SPF - Your lips need protection from the sun too!
  • Shampoo and conditioner - Pack travel-sized bottles of your usual shampoo/conditioner. If you want to save space, you could take 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner instead. Don't forget to pack soap/body wash, deodorant, your toothbrush and toothpaste too.
  • Insect repellent with DEET - This is a must, especially if you're going to spend lots of time outdoors. It should protect you from mosquitoes and other bugs.
  • Medication - Take any personal medications you need along with a doctor's prescription if required.

When packing these toiletries, make sure they're travel-sized to help you save space in your baggage. South Africa has a growing eco-conscious movement - you can travel sustainably by packing eco-friendly toiletries such as solid shampoo bars and biodegradable wipes.

A woman holding a digital camera on a safari


Taking your smartphone is a must but what other electronic devices should you take to enhance your South Africa travel experience?

  • Digital Camera - Yes, you can take photos with your smartphone, but when visiting South Africa, you'll want to capture the best moments in the highest quality possible. We recommend taking a digital camera with you on your travels, especially if you're planning to see the Big Five in one of South Africa's many national parks.
  • Laptop or tablet - If you need to work while in South Africa, take your laptop or a tablet so you can stay connected. These items are weighty though so keep this in mind when packing your cases.
  • Power bank - A portable power bank will be your lifesaver should you run out of battery while exploring South Africa all day.
  • Universal power adapter - South Africa has a different plug type compared to some countries. It uses types C, D, M and N so you'll need to have a universal power adapter handy to charge your devices.
  • Headphones - Take headphones with you so you can listen to music or podcasts on your flight to South Africa, or while you're unwinding after a day full of exploration.

Book Flights to South Africa

The first step to your trip to South Africa is booking the flights! You can book one-way, return or multi-city flights to South Africa right here at Alternative Airlines. With over 600 airlines to choose from and over 40 ways to pay (including Buy Now Pay Later plans like PayJustNow), you're bound to find flights to South Africa that suit your travel needs. Book your flights to South Africa today and start packing the essentials!

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Do I need a visa to travel to South Africa?

You may or may not need a visa to enter South Africa - it all depends on your nationality. Check out our guide on visa requirements for South Africa where we cover all the different types of visas available and how to apply for them.

What currency should I use in South Africa?

The official currency of South Africa is the South African Rand (ZAR). You can exchange currency before you leave or use cash points/ATMs in South Africa. Credit cards are widely accepted, but it's always a good idea to have some cash on hand for smaller purchases and taxis.

What else should I pack besides clothes and toiletries?

Yes! Besides everything we've mentioned above, you can make your travel experience in South Africa even better with:

  • A reusable water bottle to stay hydrated, especially when you're out in the sun doing outdoor activities.
  • Ziplock bags for various uses like organising items and protecting electronics from water.
  • Converter plugs if your electronic devices use different plugs.
  • Personal entertainment like books, playing cards, etc.
  • A dry bag for safari and water activities to keep your belongings dry and safe.
What are the best mosquito repellent options?

Look out for repellents containing DEET - these are the most effective repellents against most mosquitos. DEET can sometimes irritate the skin so make sure you buy repellent with low concentrations of it (20-30%) and apply it cautiously.

Another effective option is Picaridin which is gentler on the skin compared to DEET. Natural repellents include citronella oil and lemon eucalyptus oil which are less effective but may be preferable.

Do I need any vaccinations before travelling to South Africa?

Yes - you need to have vaccinations for Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid before travelling to South Africa. If you're coming from a country that is at risk of yellow fever, you will also need a vaccination for this too. Find out more in our guide on vaccinations for South Africa.