Tourism growth
Travel Indaba
Role players
Tourism in the provinces
Top-10 reasons to visit South Africa
Traveller's guide




Cover page of Tourism chapter in South Africa Pocket GuideThe success of tourism in South Africa is based on the warmth of the people, the attractiveness of the unique attractions, infrastructure, iconic cultural and heritage sites, and the abundance of natural assets.

The mandate of the Department of Tourism (DoT), as outlined in the Tourism Act of 2014, is to promote growth and development of the tourism sector; promote quality tourism products and services; provide for the effective domestic and international marketing of South Africa as a tourist destination; enhance cooperation and coordination between all spheres of government in developing and managing tourism; and promote the practice of responsible tourism for the benefit of South Africa and for the enjoyment of all its residents and foreign visitors.

In recognition of tourism as a national priority, with a potential to contribute significantly to economic development, the 1996 White Paper on the Development and Promotion of Tourism in South Africa provides for the promotion of domestic and international tourism.

The national tourism sector strategy provides a blueprint for the sector to meet the growth targets contained in the National Development Plan (NDP).

Tourism is a significant and critical sector in South Africa’s economy as it contributes positively to the trade balance through foreign exchange receipts and sustains 700 000 direct jobs.

Globally, the country recorded its seventh year of sustained growth despite the economic slow down.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Immigration Regulations, which was tasked with finding a balance between ease of travel facilitation for tourists and security needs, proposed the following:

  • Long-term multiple entry visas for frequent business travellers;
  • Use of accredited travel companies to apply for their client’s visas, visa waivers in some cases and expansion of the network of visa facilitation centres.

Tourism contributes R118 928 million (3%) to the South African Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and has created more than 700 000 direct employment opportunities. In 2016, over 10 million foreign tourists arrived in South Africa.

During 2016, some 2 893 268 tourists arrived through air, 7 139 580 used road transport and 11 315 used sea transport.

The majority of tourists, 9 706 602 (96,6%) were on holiday compared to 255 932 (2,5%) and 81 629 (0,8%) who came for business and for study purposes respectively.

The highest increase, 38,1% was for tourists from China (from 84 691 in 2015 to 116 946 in 2016), followed by India, 21,7% (from 78 385 in 2015 to 95 377 in 2016) and Germany, 21,5% (from 256 646 in 2015 to 311 832 in 2016).

Tourists from SADC countries (7 313 684), who increased by 11,2% from 6 575 244 in 2016. The highest increase, 26,0% was for tourists from Lesotho (from 1 394 913 in 2015 to 1 757 058 in 2016), followed by Botswana, 14,5% (from 593 514 in 2015 to 679 828 in 2016).

Tourists from ‘other’ African countries (187 828) increased by 9,9% from 170 870 in 2016. The highest increase, 20,8% was for tourists from Gabon (from 7 730 in 2015 to 9 340 in 2016, followed by Egypt, 20,5% (from 7 210 in 2015 to 8 688 in 2016).

Tourism growth

Through National Tourism Sector Strategy, the department aims to achieve over 200% growth in direct contribution to the 2015 GDP figure of R118 billion to R302 billion in 2026. In 2016 South Africa recorded a 13% growth in international tourist arrivals.

The department was planning to work with municipalities and communities to develop the underused public recreation facilities that they own into tourism destinations.

The programme aims to develop infrastructure for tourism to attract private-sector investment, counteract seasonality, and ensure that the economic value created through tourism and leisure activities is shared equitably among those involved in creating it.

The department is expected to create job opportunities through the implementation of the Working for Tourism programme.

Tourism Month is celebrated annually in September with the aim of encouraging South Africans to explore their own country. It also provides the tourism industry with an opportunity for a sustained, heightened month-long focus on the importance of domestic tourism to the economy.

Travel Indaba

In its more than 35 years of existence, the South African Tourism’s (SAT) Tourism Indaba has made its mark as Africa’s premier travel trade show, showcasing a multiplicity of products and experiences for all categories of traveller.

Africa’s Travel INDABA 2017, held at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in May 2017, saw high-quality buyers from across the world meeting high-quality exhibitors from across the African continent, showcasing a variety of tourism products and services.

A number of exciting developments included the rebranding and renaming of Africa’s premier travel trade show to Africa’s Travel INDABA. The new positioning fully reflects the ownership of the trade show by the entire African travel industry and re-emphasises South Africa’s commitment to furthering tourism and economic development on the continent.

The INDABA attracted about 7 000 delegates, including 1 449 local and international buyers, as well as more than 1 000 exhibiting businesses from 18 African countries showcasing a diverse array of travel and tourism offerings.

A total of 692 registered media representatives attended the show, an 8% increase over 2016.

Role players

South African Tourism (SAT)

Business tourism has also increased, especially since the establishment of the country’s first South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB) as a business unit under South Africa Tourism (SAT).

More funding is intended to allow the bureau to grow tourism from meetings, incentives, conventions and events. The bureau assists organisers of this type of tourism to secure hosting rights.

Between 2013 and 2016, the bureau supported between 50 and 55 event organisers each year with bid submissions to host events. Up to R1 billion per year has been generated from delegates’ spending while attending conferences.

Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA)

Operating as a business unit of SAT, the TGCSA is the only recognised and globally credible quality assurance body for tourism products in South Africa.

Tourism in the provinces

Western Cape

The Western Cape is South Africa’s most developed tourism region. The tourism industry in the province has grown faster and created more jobs than any other industry.

One in 10 employees in the Western Cape earns a living in the tourism industry, and it contributes more than R25 billion to the provincial economy.

Key attractions

  • Table Mountain, which forms part of the Table Mountain National Park, is one of the official New Seven Wonders of Nature, following a lengthy international public voting process. A modern cableway takes visitors to the top of the mountain, providing spectacular views.
  • The Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront, the Company’s Gardens, the District Six Museum, the houses of Parliament and the South African National Gallery.
  • The Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island is in the Clock Tower Precinct at the V&A Waterfront. It houses interactive multimedia exhibitions, an auditorium, boardrooms, the Robben Island Museum and a restaurant.
  • The Gold of Africa Museum, established by Anglo Gold, houses a celebrated collection of more than 350 gold artefacts.
  • The South African Rugby Museum in Newlands reflects the history of the sport as far back as 1891.
  • All South African wine routes fall under the auspices of the Wine of Origin Scheme. Production is divided into official regions, districts and wards. There are five principle demarcations – Coastal, Breede River Valley, Little Karoo, Olifants River and Boberg, covering 21 districts and 61 wards.
  • Jazz is big in Cape Town. From traditional blues through progressive jazz to African-influenced jazz, every taste is catered for at a number of restaurants, jazz cafés, cigar bars, pubs and wine farms. The top jazz event in the Western Cape is the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

Garden Route

The Garden Route features the pont at Malgas, which is one of the two remaining ponts in the country, ferrying vehicles and livestock across the Breede River. This popular route spans roughly 200 km of South Africa’s southern coast, incorporating a picturesque stretch of coastline.

Key attractions

  • Attequas Kloof Pass, South African/Anglo-Boer War blockhouses and the Bartolomeu Dias complex.
  • Great Brak River offers a historic village with many opportunities for whale- and dolphin-watching along the extensive coast.
  • The Slave Tree in George, located just outside the Old Library, was planted in 1811. It is known to be the biggest English oak in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Nearby, bungee-jumping at the Gouritz River Gorge, hiking, mountain-biking and angling are popular pastimes.
  • The Point in Mossel Bay is popular among surfers and its natural pool formed by rock is also a favourite swimming spot at low tide.
  • Genadendal is the oldest Moravian village in Africa, with church buildings and a school dating back to 1738. The Genadendal Mission and Museum complex documents the first mission station in South Africa.
  • Villiersdorp houses the Dagbreek Museum that dates back to 1845. The historical home, Oude Radyn, is possibly the only building in the Western Cape to have Batavian wooden gutters and down pipes.

Little Karoo

The Little Karoo’s fascinating landscape is fashioned almost entirely by water. Its vegetation ranges from lush greenery in the fertile river valleys to short, rugged Karoo plants in the veld. Gorges feature rivers that cut through towering mountains, while breathtakingly steep passes cross imposing terrain. The region is also home to the world’s largest bird – the ostrich.

Key attractions

  • Excellent wines and port are produced in the Calitzdorp and De Rust areas.
  • The Swartberg Nature Reserve and Pass with their gravel roads are also worth a visit.
  • The Little Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (National Arts Festival) is held in Oudtshoorn annually.
  • The Cango Caves, a series of 30 subterranean limestone caves, bear evidence of early San habitation and features magnificent dripstone formations.
  • Amalienstein and Zoar are historic mission stations midway between Ladismith and Calitzdorp. Visitors can go on donkey-cart and hiking trails through orchards and vineyards. The Seweweekspoort is ideal for mountain-biking, hiking, and protea and fynbos admirers.

Northern Cape

The Big Hole in Kimberley is the largest hand-dug excavation in the world. In 1871, diamonds were discovered at the site and mined manually by prospectors.

Key attractions

  • De Aar is the most important railway junction in South Africa. The author Olive Schreiner lived in the town for many years. Visitors can dine in her former house, which has been converted into a restaurant.
  • Namaqualand is also home to the Ais-Ais/Richtersveld National Park. It is managed jointly by the local Nama people and South African National Parks.
  • Namaqualand is famous for a spectacular annual show in spring when an abundance of wild flowers covers vast tracts of desert.
  • Upington is the commercial, educational and social centre of the Green Kalahari, owing its prosperity to agriculture and its irrigated lands along the Orange River. A camel-and-rider statue in front of the town’s police station pays tribute to the “mounties”, who patrolled the harsh desert territory on camels.
  • The Kalahari Raptor Centre cares for injured birds. Many of these majestic creatures can be seen at close quarters.
  • The Wonderwerk Cave at Kuruman features extensive San paintings that may be viewed by appointment.
  • Known as the “Oasis of the Kalahari”, Kuruman is blessed with a permanent and abundant source of water that flows from Gasegonyana (Setswana for “the little water calabash”) – commonly called the “Eye of Kuruman” – which yields 20 million litres of water a day.
  • The house where Sol Plaatje (African National Congress founding member and human-rights activist) lived in Kimberley, has a library of Plaatje’s and other black South African writers’ works, and several displays, including a portrayal of black involvement in the South African/Anglo-Boer War.
  • Hanover is known for its handmade shoes and articles made mostly from sheepskin and leather.

Free State

This central region of South Africa is characterised by end-less rolling fields of wheat, sunflowers and maize, and forms the principal bread basket of South Africa.

Key attractions

  • With its King’s Park Rose Garden containing more than 4 000 rose bushes, the Free State’s major city, Bloemfontein, has rightfully earned the nickname “City of Roses.” The city also hosts an annual rose festival.
  • Bloemfontein has a busy cultural and social-events calendar. One of the annual events is the Mangaung African Cultural Festival, popularly known as the Macufe Arts Festival, in September.
  • The National Women’s Memorial commemorates the women and children who died in concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer/South African War.
  • The Gariep Dam, more than 100 km-long and 15 km-wide, is part of the Orange River Water Scheme, the largest inland expanse of water in South Africa.
  • Between the dam and Bethulie is the Gariep Dam Nature Reserve.
  • Clocolan is known for the beauty of its cherry trees when they are in full bloom in spring. San rock paintings and engravings are also found in the area.
  • The Llandaff Oratory in the nearby village of Van Reenen is believed to be the smallest Roman Catholic church in the world.
  • At Harrismith, there are various memorials in honour of those who fought in the Anglo-Boer/South African War and World War I. Of particular interest is a memorial for the Scots Guards and Grenadier Guards.
  • The Golden Gate Highlands National Park outside Clarens has beautiful sandstone rock formations.
  • The Vredefort Dome, a World Heritage Site, is the oldest and largest meteorite impact site in the world. It was formed about two billion years ago when a giant meteorite hit Earth.

Eastern Cape

The main feature of the Eastern Cape is its magnificent coastline. Added to the diverse coastal experiences are more than 60 state-owned game reserves and over 30 private game farms, which collectively cover an area greater than the Kruger National Park.

Key attractions

  • Port Elizabeth has some beautiful parks with well-landscaped gardens, including St George’s Park, which covers 73 ha and houses the famous Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, the oldest bowling green in South Africa; Prince Alfred’s Guard Memorial; the 1882 Victorian Pearson Conservatory; and the 54-ha Settlers’ Park.
  • To the north-west of Graaff-Reinet lies the Valley of Desolation. The valley is a national monument within the Karoo Nature Reserve, formed millions of years ago by weathering erosion.
  • Varied game reserves, including the Addo Elephant, Mountain Zebra and Mkambati parks.
  • South Africa’s first marine park, the Tsitsikamma National Park extends along a rocky coastline of 50 km, and 3 km out to sea.
  • Southern right and humpback whales and their calves are regularly spotted from the high dunes, usually between May and November, while common and bottlenose dolphins are often seen close to shore.


The Limpopo landscape is made up of dramatic contrasts characterised by hot savanna plains and mist-clad mountains, age-old indigenous forests and cycads alongside modern plantations, and ancient mountain fortresses and the luxury of contemporary infrastructure and modern-day facilities.

Key attractions

  • The Marakele National Park is home to some rare yellowwood and cedar trees and the world’s largest colony of Cape vultures. It is also a leader in the conservation of the black rhino outside of the Kruger National Park and the KwaZulu-Natal parks.
  • Polokwane is considered the premier game-hunting destination in South Africa.
  • The Mapungubwe Archaeological Site, 80 km west of Musina, lies within the boundaries of the Mapungubwe National Park. It is one of the richest of its kind in Africa and a world heritage site. Excavations in the 1930s uncovered a royal graveyard, which included a number of golden artefacts, including the famous gold-foil rhinoceros.
  • The Kruger National Park (northern section) is one of South Asfrica’s major tourist attractions. The park is home to a large number and wide variety of amphibians, reptiles and birds, as well as 147 mammal species, including the Big Five.

North West

North West has several cultural villages that entertain and attract visitors.

A number of excellent game reserves have been established, including the Pilanesberg National Park.

Key attractions

  • Anglo-Boer War siege site, the Molema House where Sol Plaatje lived while writing his Mafikeng Diary, and the Mahikeng Museum.
  • The Groot Marico region is known as mampoer country and visitors can explore the Mampoer Route. The Kortkloof Cultural Village is dedicated to the Tswana people.
  • Ottosdal is the only place in South Africa where the unique “wonderstone”, or pyrophyllite, is found and mined.
  • The Ottosdal Night Race is organised in conjunction with the Diamond Marathon Club. The event consists of 42,2-km, 21,1-km,10-km races and a 5-km fun run.
  • San rock engravings, Stone Age implements and structures are found on farms such as Witpoort, Gestoptefontein, Driekuil and Korannafontein.


The climate and topography vary from cool highland grass- lands at 1 600 m above sea level, through the middleveld and escarpment, to the subtropical Lowveld towards the Kruger National Park and many private game reserves.

Scenic beauty, climate and wildlife, voted the most attractive features of South Africa, are found in abundance in this province.

Key attractions

  • Barberton features many reminders of the early gold-rush era. Museums include Belhaven, Fernlea House and Stopforth House. The only known verdite deposits in the world are found in the rocks of the Barberton district. The annual Diggers Festival is held in September every year.
  • The spectacular Blyde River Canyon is a 26-km-long gorge carved out of the face of the escarpment, and is one of the natural wonders of Africa. God’s Window provides a magnificent panoramic view across miles of densely forested mountains, the green Lowveld and the canyon.
  • Sabie is the centre of the largest man-made forest in South Africa and a popular destination among mountain bikers. The Cultural Historical Forestry Museum depicts various aspects of the country’s forestry industry.
  • The Bridal Veil, Horseshoe and Lone Creek waterfalls, and Mac Mac pools and falls just outside Sabie are well worth a visit.
  • The 69-km Prospector’s Trail starts at the Mac Mac Forest Station and leads to the Bourke’s Luck potholes.
  • At the Montrose Falls in Schoemanskloof, the Crocodile River cascades 12 m into a series of rock pools. It is also the starting point of the annual Lowveld Crocodile Canoe Marathon, held in February every year.
  • The region also holds rich historical sentiments centred on the monument of the late Mozambican President Samora Machel, constructed in the village of Mbuzini.


‘Gauteng’ is a Sesotho word meaning “place of gold”. It is the smallest province of South Africa and also the most populous and urbanized. It is characterised by a cosmopolitan mix of people from all walks of life.

Key attractions

  • Natural areas include the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve (Heidelberg); Braamfontein Spruit Trust, The Wilds on Houghton and the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve in Johannesburg; the Kloofendal Nature Reserve and Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens (in Roodepoort); and the National Botanical Garden, Smuts House Museum, and Freedom Park in Pretoria; as well as the Tswaing Crater Trail.
  • A team of Lippizaner stallions performs every Sunday at the South African National Horsemanship Centre in Kyalami.
  • The Sterkfontein caves near Krugersdorp are the site of the discovery of the skull of the famous Mrs Ples, an estimated 2,5-million-year-old hominid fossil; and Little Foot, an almost complete hominid skeleton of more than 3,3 million years old.
  • The Constitution Hill Precinct is set to become one of South Africa’s most popular landmarks.
  • A guided tour of Soweto leaves a lasting impression of this vast community’s life and struggle against apartheid.
  • The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg tells the story of the legacy of apartheid through photographs, film and artefacts.
  • The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory opened its doors to the public following the death of former President Nelson Mandela, in December 2013.
  • The Union Buildings celebrated its centenary in 2013. Designed by Sir Herbert Baker, construction started in 1910 and was completed in 1913. It has since been the setting for presidential inaugurations. It is also the setting of many national celebrations, including Women’s Day and Freedom Day. In December 2013, a bronze statue of former President Mandela was unveiled at the Union Buildings.
  • The National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria is considered one of the 10 best in the world.
  • The old mining town of Cullinan is where the world’s biggest diamond, the 3 106-carat Cullinan diamond, was found.


One of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, the province stretches from Port Edward in the south to the borders of Swaziland and Mozambique to the north.

Key attractions

  • The Durban area has more than 50 reserves, developed parks and specialised gardens, the most renowned being the Municipal Botanical Garden. Besides the botanical gardens, Mitchell Park is one of the most popular green spaces, which includes an outdoor restaurant, a zoo and a playground for children.
  • Annual events in and around the city include the popular Comrades Marathon between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, an international surfing competition, the Duzi canoe marathon, the Midmar Mile, Dolphin Mile open water swimming events, the July Handicap horse-race, the Amashova-shova cycle tour, and the Spar Mercury Ladies 10 km Challenge.
  • The Weza State Forest in East Griqualand runs through indigenous forests and commercial plantations. The forest is home to several antelope species and a huge variety of birds.
  • St Lucia and its surroundings comprises the iSimangaliso Wetland Park that have five separate ecosystems. It is a fishing and bird watching paradise. Boat trips on the lake offer opportunities for crocodile and hippo sightings. The Kosi Bay Nature Reserve is part of the Coastal Forest Reserve between Mozambique and Sodwana Bay.
  • The Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, one of the largest game parks in South Africa, is home to the Big Five, as well as cheetah and wild dogs.
  • The Battlefields Route in northern KwaZulu-Natal has the highest concentration of battlefields and related military sites in South Africa.
  • The Midlands Meander is a scenic drive between Hilton and Mooi River, with some 430 art studios, potters and painters, to herb gardens and cheese makers.
  • Midmar Dam is zoned for yachting and power-boating. The 1 000-ha Midmar Game Park has

Top-10 reasons to visit South Africa

  1. Affordable - In South Africa, you can even afford luxury and have spending money for shopping and other treats.
  1. Natural beauty - South Africa’s scenic wonders are legendary. From Table Mountain to God’s Window, the mountains, forests, coasts and deserts will sooth your soul and delight you.
  2. World-class facilities - You will fnd it easy to get around, fnd a comfortable place to stay and have a great meal.
  3. Adventure - South Africa is the adventure capital of the world. With over 130 adventures, there is something for everyone from mountain walks to shark-cage diving.
  4. Good weather - In sunny South Africa with a great weather, you can enjoy the outdoors, play golf year-round and take advantage of the nearly 3 000 km coastline.
  5. Rainbow Nation - The Rainbow Nation celebrates all its African and immigrant cultures. South Africans are known for their friendliness and hospitality.
  6. Diverse experiences - Go almost anywhere in South Africa and experience the ultimate combination of nature, wildlife, culture, adventure, heritage and good vibe.
  7. Wildlife - The ubundant and diverse wildlife include the Big Five (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and black rhinoceros).
  8. Freedom Struggle - Discover a nation’s struggle for freedom whilst following the footsteps of Nelson Mandela, Hector Pieterson and many other celebrated revolutionaries.
  9. Responsible tourism - In South Africa you can travel with care as you explore protected areas, contribute  to social and conservation projects, and collect arts and crafts.

Traveller’s Guide

1. Arriving in South Africa – All travellers arriving in South Africa at land, sea or air ports of entry are required to pass through immigration control, a service offered by the South African Department of Home Affairs, on arrival and before collecting their baggage. Thereafter they have to pass through customs control which falls under the auspices of the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

Travellers with goods to declare must complete a Traveller Card and make a verbal declaration of their goods to a Customs Officer, who will then generate a Traveller Declaration.

Baggage may be X-rayed or examined by Customs officers to detect dutiable, restricted or prohibited goods and you may be questioned. Should travellers be found to be carrying undeclared, restricted or prohibited goods they could be fined or face prosecution.

2. Prohibited and restricted goods (A full list of Prohibited and Restricted goods is available on the SARS website: www. – It is illegal to bring in the following prohibited goods to South Africa:

  • Narcotics: All narcotic and psychotropic substances, as well as habit-forming drugs such as cannabis, heroin, cocaine, Mandrax, Ecstasy and any paraphernalia relating to their use;
  • Firearms, weapons and ammunition: Fully automatic, military and unnumbered weapons, explosives and fireworks and weapons of mass destruction; • Poison and other toxic substances;
  • Cigarettes with a mass of more than 2kg per 1 000;
  • Goods to which a trade description or trademark is applied in contravention of any Act (for example, counterfeit goods);
  • Unlawful reproductions of any works subject to copyright; and
  • Prison-made and penitentiary-made goods.

3. Goods you have to declare – Certain goods may only be imported if you are in possession of the necessary authority/permit and these have to be declared on arrival. These include:

  • Currency: South African bank notes in excess of R25 000, gold coins, coin and stamp collections and unprocessed gold.
  • Endangered plants and animals: Species of plants or animals that are listed as endangered, whether they are alive or dead. The restriction includes any parts of and articles made from them.The restriction includes any parts of and articles made from them;
  • Food, plants, animals and biological goods: All plants and plant products, such as seeds, flowers, fruit, honey, margarine and vegetable oils. All animals, birds, poultry and products thereof, for example, dairy products, butter and eggs;
  • Medicines: Travellers are allowed to bring in no more than three months’ supply of pharmaceutical drugs and medicines for their personal use. All other pharmaceutical drugs and medicines have to be declared and have to be accompanied by a letter or certified prescription from a registered physician.

4. Duty-free allowances – The following goods may be imported into South Africa without the payment of Customs duty and Value-Added Tax (VAT):

  • Consumable goods in accompanied baggage. Goods falling within the following allowances may be imported without the payment of Customs duty and VAT as accompanied baggage. Crew members, including the master of a ship and the pilot of an aircraft, are only entitled to this rebate provided such members are returning to South Africa permanently. No more than: 200 cigarettes and 20 cigars per person; 250g of cigarette or pipe tobacco perperson; 50ml perfumery and 250ml eau de toilette per person; Two litres of wine per person; 1 litre in total of spiritous and other alcoholic beverages per person.

Persons under 18 years of age may claim duty-free allowances on goods imported by them, with the exception of alcohol and tobacco products, whether or not they are accompanied by their parents or guardians and provided that it is for their personal use.

  • Personal effects, sporting and recreational equipment. Visitors may bring in new or used personal effects, sporting and recreational equipment either as accompanied or unaccompanied baggage, for own use during their visit. You may be required to lodge a cash deposit to cover the potential duty/tax on expensive articles pending their re-exportation. The deposit will be refunded on departure after a Customs officer has physically inspected the items and verified that they are being re-exported. Visitors must notify the Customs office at which the deposit was lodged at least two days before departure to ensure that the refund is ready. You will find the office number on the documents which will be given to you when lodging your deposit.

If you are departing from a port other than the port where you lodged the deposit, the inspection report confirming the re-exportation of the items will be forwarded to the office where the deposit was lodged and a cheque will be posted to the address you had provided.

Residents of South Africa who had exported new or used personal effects, sporting and recreational equipment for their own use while abroad can bring these back either as accompanied or unaccompanied baggage.

Any goods such as jewellery which were exchanged, remodelled, processed or repaired while you were abroad, do not fall within this allowance and must be declared for duty assessment purposes. They include new and used goods.

In addition to the personal effects and consumable goods allowances, travellers are allowed new or used goods in accompanied baggage to the value of R5 000 (or R25 000 if arriving from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia or Swaziland).

This allowance is only valid once per person during a 30-day period and does not apply to goods imported by persons returning after an absence of less than 48 hours.

Crew members (including the master or the pilot) are only entitled to a duty-free allowance on a value not exceeding R700. Consumable goods as mentioned above are excluded from this entitlement.

5. Goods on which duty has to be paid – Other than those specified above, all goods and gifts acquired abroad are subject to the payment of Customs duty and VAT when they are brought into South Africa. This includes goods purchased dutyfree on board aircraft and ships or in duty-free shops.

Customs duties and taxes are payable in rands, the currency of South Africa. Goods that attract duty and do not qualify for the flat rate assessment explained below include:

  • Firearms acquired abroad or at any duty-free shop imported by residents of South Africa returning after an absence of less than six months;
  • Goods for commercial purposes; and
  • Goods carried on behalf of other persons.

In cases where residents of South Africa who are travelling abroad have had goods such jewellery re-modelled, processed or repaired, duty is payable on the costs incurred in these processes.

In cases where goods have been exchanged, duty is payable on the full value of the article received in exchange.

These goods may qualify the duty free allowance of R5 000 and the flat-rate assessment. Returning residents must ensure that the goods in question are clearly described and that they can provide documentary proof of these transaction(s) and the costs involved.

Travellers have the option to pay Customs duty at a flat rate of 20% on goods acquired abroad or in any duty-free shop to expedite their passage through Customs. The total value of these additional goods, new or used, may not exceed R20 000 per person. Flat-rated goods are also exempted from payment of VAT.

This option can only be chosen if the total value of goods imported does not exceed R25 000 in value. This excludes consumable goods in excess of the quantities specified under duty-free allowances.

If the value of the additional goods exceeds R20 000 or if you decide not to use the flat rate option, the appropriate rates of duty and VAT will have to be assessed and paid on each individual item. In addition, 14% VAT will be payable on the assessed goods.

This flat-rate assessment will be allowed unlimited times per person during a period of 30 days and shall not apply to goods imported by persons returning after an absence of less than 48 hours.

The flat-rate assessment may be used by those under 18 years of age, provided the goods are for their own use. In the case of crew members, including the master of a ship or the pilot of an aircraft, the value of the items that may be assessed on a flat-rate basis is restricted to R2 000 per person.

6. Travellers in transit – Travellers in transit to countries outside the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland, who have been booked from an airport outside the common customs area, will not be required to comply with Customs formalities in South Africa.

Travellers arriving in South Africa and taking a connecting flight to another SACU member country will be required to complete all Customs formalities upon arrival. Baggage belonging to passengers in transit will automatically be transferred from the international flight at the airport of transit in South Africa.

These passengers may not leave the transit area of the airport between flights. Should you travel to your final destination by road, Customs formalities must be complied with at the port of arrival in South Africa.

7. Refund of tax on visitors’ purchases – VAT at a rate of 14% is levied on the purchase of most goods in South Africa. Tourists and foreign visitors to South Africa may apply for a refund of the VAT paid at departure points.

The tax invoices for the purchases and the goods must be presented for inspection to the VAT Refund Administrator. No refund will be made if the claim is not lodged before departure.

Source: Pocket guide to South Africa

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