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Travel insurance: South Africa

Compare travel insurance for South Africa

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Written by  Jake Edmonds
5 min read
Updated: 26 Jan 2024

South Africa offers something for everyone, whether it’s delicious barbecue and wine, stunning natural scenery or wildlife you’d only ever seen on TV – find the right travel insurance policy for your trip today

A traveller's guide to South Africa: Insurance, safety, and unmissable experiences

South Africa is a land of contrasts, where vibrant urban landscapes meet wild, untamed beauty. From the sizzle of a braai (South African barbecue) to the cool notes of a local Chenin Blanc, the country offers a tapestry of experiences. The natural scenery is as diverse as the wildlife roaming the game reserves, and the cultural influences are just as rich, reflected in the myriad of cuisines that make up South African gastronomy. For those planning a trip to this dynamic country, it's crucial to ensure you have the right travel insurance to give you peace of mind during your adventures.

The allure of South Africa lies in its abundant wildlife, breathtaking landscapes, and a culinary scene that's an eclectic mix of flavours from around the world. With so much diversity, it's no wonder that many travellers find themselves returning to the country time and time again, each visit revealing new highlights and hidden gems.

South Africa

Why do I need travel insurance for South Africa?

If you’re heading to South Africa travel insurance is a must, whether you’re visiting for business or pleasure. Technically it’s not compulsory but smart travellers never travel without cover. Travel insurance is an essential part of any trip to South Africa. Though not mandatory, smart travellers understand its importance and never embark on their journey without it. The peace of mind that comes with being covered allows you to fully immerse yourself in the adventure without the nagging worries of what-ifs.

Insurance acts as a financial safety net, protecting you from the financial implications of unforeseen circumstances. This may include illness or injury, the loss or theft of your belongings, or the need to cancel your trip unexpectedly. In a country as dynamic and unpredictable as South Africa, the value of a comprehensive travel insurance policy cannot be overstated.

Can I get travel insurance with pre-existing medical conditions?

Travelers with pre-existing medical conditions can indeed obtain travel insurance that accommodates their specific health needs. A pre-existing condition is any health issue that has been diagnosed, is awaiting diagnosis, or has been treated in the past. It's important to note that while common conditions like asthma might be covered at no additional cost, more serious health concerns could lead to a higher premium or the need for a specialized insurer.

To ensure you're fully protected, your travel insurance policy should ideally cover the costs of medical treatment, trip cancellation, repatriation in case of a medical emergency, trip curtailment, and coverage for personal belongings while in South Africa.

What are the travel risks when visiting South Africa?

South Africa's crime rate is notably higher than that of the UK, with incidents such as carjacking, robbery, and gun crime occurring more frequently. It's important to consult the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) for up-to-date travel advice before your trip. While violent crimes can happen anywhere, even in tourist hotspots, the risk is greater after dark.

Most violent crimes are concentrated in the townships, areas that should only be visited with an organised tour or a local guide. Tourists may be targeted due to their perceived wealth, with vehicle crime being a particular concern. However, South Africa has implemented visible security measures to deter crime and reassure visitors.

For safe travel, it's recommended to use licensed taxis or Uber or organised tours for excursions, and exercise extra caution in areas like Johannesburg, which has a higher rate of crime. Beachgoers should swim only at beaches with lifeguards and be aware of natural hazards.

What should my travel insurance policy for South Africa include?

When choosing travel insurance for South Africa, look for a policy that includes coverage for medical treatment, repatriation, cancellation, missed departures, travel abandonment, baggage, passport, and personal liability. Specifics to consider include:

  • Medical treatment: A minimum of £1 million in medical expenses cover is recommended.

  • Repatriation: This will cover the cost of bringing you back to the UK in the event of an emergency.

  • Cancellation and curtailment: Cancellation cover is essential if you need to cancel your holiday before departure or end it prematurely, allowing you to claim back any financial losses.

  • Delayed and missed departures: Protects against extra costs incurred due to missed flights.

  • Travel abandonment: Offers financial protection if your holiday cannot go ahead.

  • Baggage: This cover compensates you for the cost of replacing possessions if your baggage is lost or stolen.

  • Passport: Provides for the cost of an emergency passport and any travel rearrangements needed.

Travel insurance for South Africa: exclusions and things to watch out for

Be aware of scenarios where your travel insurance may not cover you. These can include non-disclosure of pre-existing conditions, engaging in high-risk activities without the appropriate coverage, alcohol and drug-related incidents, natural disasters, and traveling against government advice. Key points to be mindful of:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions: Always declare any existing health conditions to avoid invalidating your policy.

  • High-risk activities: Activities like safaris may require additional coverage, so ensure your policy includes this or consider purchasing extra cover.

Health and medical care for UK citizens in South Africa

The UK and South Africa do not have a reciprocal healthcare agreement, making it all the more essential to have travel insurance with adequate medical coverage. Healthcare standards are generally high in major cities and tourist destinations. Before traveling, consider the following:

  • Vaccinations: It's advised to be up-to-date with vaccinations for diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, rabies, tetanus, and typhoid, and a yellow fever vaccination if coming from a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission.

  • Food and drink: Tap water and restaurant food are typically safe in urban and tourist areas, but exercise caution with street food and salads, especially while on safari

Do I need a visa to visit South Africa?

UK citizens can enter South Africa without a visa for tourism or business stays of up to 90 days. However, overstaying can lead to issues with future travel and may affect your insurance. For longer stays, visit the South African government website for more information. Since November 2019, the rules for traveling with children have been relaxed, and birth certificates and consent letters are no longer required for foreign minors traveling with their parents.

Expert quote – Emma Lunn:

"Backpacking through South Africa was an unforgettable experience, but it was my travel insurance that really saved the day when I fell ill with food poisoning. Hospital treatment was necessary, and without my insurance, the situation could have been financially devastating."

Cities and townships

South Africa's vastness means travellers must be selective with their destinations. Key cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg offer a deep dive into the country's culture and history. Consider these tips:

  • Culture and history: Explore museums to learn about South Africa's past and natural heritage.

  • Tipping: A 10-15% tip is customary in restaurants, reflecting the country's generally low wages.

  • Staying safe: Exercise common sense and remain vigilant, as you would in any travel destination.

  • Getting around: Uber can be a reliable and affordable mode of transportation in urban areas.

  • Payment: Bring both cash and cards for transactions, and you'll often find better exchange rates when paying in local currency.

Food and drink

The food and drink scene in South Africa is as diverse as its population, offering everything from fresh seafood to spicy Indian curries and Cape Malay dishes. Wine enthusiasts and barbecue aficionados will find themselves particularly at home:

  • Wine country: The regions of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are must-visits for wine lovers.

  • Braai: This traditional barbecue is a cultural staple with a variety of meats to savor alongside a local brew.

Wildlife

South Africa is synonymous with wildlife adventures. Here are some top spots:

  • Kruger National Park: A vast reserve that's home to an impressive array of animals, including the Big Five.

  • Hermanus: Renowned for whale-watching opportunities.

  • Addo Elephant National Park: A haven for elephants and other wildlife near Port Elizabeth.

Natural wonders

South Africa's natural landscapes are nothing short of spectacular. Cape Point, Table Mountain, the Drakensberg range, and Blyde River Canyon all offer incredible views and a host of activities for the nature enthusiast.

Adventure sports

For the thrill-seekers, South Africa provides a playground for adventure sports. Whether it's shark cage diving, bungee jumping, or ostrich riding, there's no shortage of heart-pounding activities. If you plan on pumping some adrenaline, remember it’s important to protect yourself with adventure or water sports travel insurance – so you can enjoy yourself with the peace of mind that comes with financial protection if things go wrong.

South Africa is a destination that offers something for everyone, from the wine connoisseur to the wildlife enthusiast. With the right preparation, including comprehensive travel insurance, your trip to this magnificent country will be not only memorable but also secure. Enjoy the wonders of South Africa with the assurance that you're well-protected every step of the way.

Travelling to South Africa: Key Information

Language(s)

English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Northern Sotho, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Tsonga, Swati, Venda, Ndebele

Currency

 Rand – compare travel money

Dialling code

 +27

Plug sockets

 Plug sockets type D, M and N – adapter needed

Emergency services phone number

 112

Vaccinations:

Usually advised to get diphtheria and hepatitis A. Should also consider rabies, tetanus, and typhoid. See NHS Fit for Travel for latest information

Embassy address and contact details

British High Commission, Pretoria

255 Hill Street

Arcadia

Pretoria

0028

South Africa

Telephone: +27 12 421 7500

FCDO travel advice

 See UK gov website for latest information

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