Advice regarding South African visas and customs

Advice regarding South African visas and customs

Cape Town is unfailingly one of the prettiest, most interesting and entertaining destinations to travel to in South Africa – no wonder the city has been mentioned as one of the top travel destinations on numerous travel sites over the last few years. The Mother City continues to woo travellers from near and far with its blue flag beaches and vibrant cosmopolitan lifestyle, but before you start packing your suitcase, be sure to acquaint yourself with South Africa’s customs and visa rules to avoid any unpleasant surprises upon arrival.


If you’re planning a family trip to Cape Town, be aware that visa rules for children entering the country have changed. All children under the age of 18 need the consent of both their parents and will need to produce an unabridged birth certificate for obtaining their visa. If a child is travelling to and entering South Africa without their parents, the child needs to carry their passport, birth certificate (stating both the parents’ names) and an affidavit on their person at all times.

Found out more about South African visa regulations through the government’s website.


Once you’ve landed at Cape Town International airport, you’ll pass through customs control where you may be required to answer questions and have your luggage scanned or searched for possible restricted or prohibited items you may be bringing into the country. To avoid having your first experience of South Africa being an uncomfortable one, make sure that you follow South Africa’s customs laws on what’s allowed and disallowed entry. If you’re found with prohibited items, you will be fined and you may even face prosecution, which would signal a horrible start to your holiday in Cape Town.

Travellers who have items to declare need to complete a Traveller Card and make a verbal declaration to a customs officer, who will then generate a Traveller Declaration.

So what are you allowed to bring with you to South Africa that is duty free?

The following may be brought into South Africa without paying a customs fee or value added tax:

  • 200 cigarettes per person
  • 20 cigars per person
  • 250g cigarette or pipe tobacco
  • 50ml perfume per person
  • 2 litres wine per person
  • 1 litre in total of spirits and other alcoholic beverages
  • Children under the age of 18 can claim duty-free allowance on consumable goods with the exception of cigarettes and alcohol
  • You may bring one month’s supply of pharmaceutical drugs
  • You may bring sport and recreational equipment along either as hand luggage or checked luggage
  • Leather, wood, plastic and glass may be brought with as long as the items do not exceed 25kg in total.

Items which need to be declared

Certain items are restricted in South Africa and may only be brought into the country with the necessary authority or permit. The following items have to be declared:

  • Firearms
  • South African bank notes that exceed R25 000
  • Foreign currency exceeding $10 000
  • Gold coins and unprocessed gold
  • Coin and stamp collections
  • Endangered plants and animals, alive or dead
  • All plants and plant products such as seeds, flowers, bulbs, fruit, honey and vegetable oil
  • All animals and animal by-products such as poultry, pork, red meat, dairy products, butter and eggs.

Prohibited items

Warning: You do not want to get caught with these items:

  • Narcotics or psychotropic substances, as well as paraphernalia relating to drug use
  • Fully automatic and military weapons
  • Fireworks, explosives and weapons of mass destruction
  • Poisons and other substances that may be toxic
  • Cigarettes exceeding a mass of 2kg
  • Counterfeit goods
  • Unlawful reproductions of work that may be subject to copyright
  • Prison or penitentiary-made items.

Please note that this is only a guideline so please visit the government’s website to gain further clarity about South Africa’s customs laws.

Leaving Cape Town International airport

Once you’ve landed you have a few options for getting to your hotel or guest house. You could take a shuttle or taxi, but then you’d be without a car for the duration of your stay. Living in Cape Town without having a car will mean that you’d have to rely solely on public transport – which is not very reliable. Renting a car from a reputable car hiring company is advisable to fully enjoy your holiday and go sight-seeing without having to worry about finding transport. A company called Betta Car Hire actually delivers your rented car to the airport, which is included in the rental fee (just be sure to phone them as prices may change). As an international visitor (or a national from another province) it’s really convenient to have your transport ready and waiting for you as soon as you exit the airport. Betta Car Hire also offers free car hire delivery to the Cape Town CBD. If you are interested in renting a car (which would be your best option) it’s would be advisable to contact them directly on +27 83 467 8387 or email them at

We hope that you enjoy every moment spent in Cape Town as you sightsee and experience South Africa’s unique culture. If you are worried about driving on South African roads, then prepare yourself by reading about South Africa’s road and traffic laws. Happy travelling!


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