Africa’s southern-most country is home to some of the most world-renowned locations for wild flora and fauna, awe-inspiring natural beauty and globe-spanning cuisine – ranging from Mediterranean seafood and Indian curries to good old South African braai. There’s plenty to do and see when you visit, so much so that it’s impossible to fit it all into one holiday – what better reason to visit again? Just remember to take out the right travel insurance policy, so you can enjoy your holiday with peace of mind.
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.
It can be a lifeline in the event that you fall ill or get injured, your belongings get lost or stolen or you have to cancel your trip – providing a financial safety net so you don’t end up out of pocket.
What should my travel insurance policy for South Africa include?
When you take out a travel insurance policy for your trip to South Africa, you should ideally include cover for the following:
- Medical treatment: Arguably one of the most important aspects of travel insurance, this means you’ll be able to claim for the cost of medical treatment if you become ill or injured while on holiday. We recommend taking out at least £1 million of cover
- Repatriation: This will cover the cost of bringing you back to the UK in the event of an emergency
- Cancellation and curtailment: If you need to cancel your holiday before leaving, or end it prematurely and come home earlier than planned, this lets you claim back any losses resulting from transport, accommodation and excursion cancellations or rearrangements
- Delayed and missed departures: You’ll be able to claim for the cost of rearranging your flights if you miss your departure as a result of circumstances beyond your control, such as adverse weather or a car breakdown
- Travel abandonment: If you’re forced to abandon your holiday entirely due to an insured event occurring, you’ll be protected against any resulting financial loss
- Baggage: This cover lets you claim for the cost of replacing your possessions if your baggage is lost or stolen
- Passport: Passport cover lets you claim for the cost of getting a new passport if you lose yours, while some policies will also pay out for rearranged flights or accommodation you need while you wait for your emergency travel documents
- Personal liability: Personal liability policies let you claim back any costs that arise if you injure someone else or lose or damage their belongings while abroad
Travel insurance for South Africa: exclusions and things to watch out for
Travel insurance policies can be lifesavers in a range of circumstances, but there may be occasions where you won’t be able to make a claim – watch out for:
- Pre-existing medical conditions: If you have a pre-existing medical condition such as diabetes, it’s vital you declare this when you take out cover. If you don’t, you won’t be able to claim for the cost of medical treatment for the condition if it flares up while you’re away
- High-risk activities: Likewise if you’re planning on taking part in any high-risk activities like winter, water or adventure sports, you’ll need to take out a special policy to cover your medical costs – and often expensive equipment. If you’re planning on enjoy a safari or game drive while in South Africa – highly recommended, just so you know – you can usually find specialised travel insurance policies to cover you
- Alcohol and drugs: If any claims you make result from you being intoxicated – as an example, if you injure yourself or lose your belongings while drunk – then you won’t be covered for your losses. This means you’ll need to be careful if you decide to visit Stellenbosch or Franschhoek to sample their award-winning wines
- Unexpected incidents: Losses caused by incidents such as natural disasters, civil unrest, terrorism and war aren’t usually covered by standard insurance policies
- Government advice: If the UK government has advised against travel to your destination, it’s likely insurers won’t offer cover at all
Health and medical care for UK citizens in South Africa
The UK and South Africa do not currently have a reciprocal medical agreement, which makes travel insurance vital in getting affordable healthcare if you need it while abroad. Standards of healthcare in South Africa can vary, but in major cities and tourist areas you can usually expect good quality of treatment. Bear in mind that treatment costs can go up into the thousands, so be sure to include enough medical cover in your policy.
Vaccinations: The home office advises a range of vaccinations you should look to get before travelling to South Africa – as well as malaria medication that you’ll likely need to start taking before you leave.
Food and drink: Tap water and restaurant food should be safe, especially in the main cities and tourist areas, but we recommend being careful with street food.
Travelling to South Africa: Key Information
English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Northern Sotho, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Tsonga, Swati, Venda, Ndebele
Rand – compare travel money
Plug sockets type D, M and N – adapter needed
Emergency services phone number
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
Telephone: +27 12 421 7500
FCO travel advice
See UK gov website for latest information
Top tips for travelling to South Africa
When you think of South Africa, the kind of flora and fauna you’d usually only see on a David Attenborough documentary come to mind. While they are real and spectacular, the country is also home to stunning natural scenery, several museums of deep cultural significance and some of the best wines and barbecue – sorry, braai – you’ll ever have.
Cities and townships
Africa’s southernmost country is big, so big in fact that it’s unlikely you’ll get to see everything you want to within a couple of weeks – so it pays to pick your expeditions. The two main cities to visit are Cape Town and Johannesburg, though Durban, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria are all worth a visit.
- Culture and history: If you’re looking to learn about the vast and controversial history of South Africa, there are a number of museums you’ll want to visit. The Apartheid Museum in Jo’burg stands out, giving you the chance to see how the country is coming to terms with its past, while the National Museum of Natural History lets you learn about South Africa’s – and indeed humanity’s – natural heritage. But there are plenty more to choose from, whether you’re keen on art and religion or cars and motorcycles
- Tipping: While you’re perusing the streets of Cape Town or Johannesburg, it might be worth taking note of the local customs. As the general level of income in South Africa is quite low, tipping is commonplace – around 10-15% in restaurants is the norm. This extends to taxi drivers, fuel attendants, bartenders and more – if you have some change spare it’ll go a long way. You might also meet some car guards if you’ve hired your own set of wheels – and they’ll watch your car when it’s parked for a few rand
- Staying safe: South Africa is for the most part a safe place to be, so long as you use common sense and remain aware of where you are. The same kind of tips apply here as they would in most places – don’t flash cash or expensive belongings, stick to the main touristy areas, and avoid walking around unaccompanied at night
- Getting around: The easiest way to get around Jo’burg and Cape Town in South Africa is by Uber – they’re common and reliable, and most importantly they’re cheaper than the actual taxis
- Bring cash, cards and an app: You’ll be able to pay by credit card in plenty of places, but not all – so it’s good to bring cash as well as a way to withdraw money. ATMs generally provide better exchange rates than you’d get at the airport. If you’ve got a local South African SIM in your phone, you’ll be able to use an app called Snapscan. This links to your credit card and lets you pay with a QR code – though there is a 250 Rand admin fee for the first time you use it in each shop
Food and drink
South Africa is a pretty awesome place to be if you enjoy your food and drink, and the mix of cultures and cuisines mean you’ll have plenty of options. Coastal cities offer fresh fish and seafood with a Mediterranean touch, Durban’s Indian population have created a thriving curry scene, and Cape Town’s Cape Malay influence brings a fusion of Malaysian, Indonesian, and East African cuisine. However the two mainstays are South Africa’s winelands and their own brand of barbecue – Braai.
- Wine country: If you’re a vino-lover, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are must-visits – each less than an hour from Cape Town. You’ll be able to find a huge range of wines, red and white, but the signature is from a grape known as pinotage – a cross between pinot noir and Cinsaut
- Braai: Braai is more than just a way of cooking in South Africa, it’s an ingrained part of their culture. You’ll find a built in braai set-up in pretty much every garden, picnic spot and campsite, and specialities you’ll want to try include boerewors – a beef and pork sausage – and a variety of steaks. In warm weather, it’s best washed down with a local beer
If you’ve ever watched a nature programme you’ll know just how rich South Africa’s wildlife is. You can enjoy game rides and try and spot the big five – lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalo – but there are also spots for whale watching and horse riding, depending on where you go. Some spots we can recommend:
- Kruger National Park: Kruger is arguably South Africa’s crown jewel, a huge national park spanning almost 20,000 square kilometres. It’s home to an array of wildlife, including the big five, as well as hundreds of species of birds and mammals
- Hermanus: Hermanus is South Africa’s whale-watching capital, home to the only ‘Whale Crier’ in the world – keep an ear out for the kelp horn that signals whale sightings, and visit in September for their famous Whale Festival
- Addo Elephant National Park: Addo Elephant National Park is an alternative to Kruger, and offers the whole safari experience but far closer to the city – it’s just a short drive from Port Elizabeth
Nature is ever-present in South Africa, and aside from incredible wildlife you can also cast your eyes over several beautiful and dramatic natural wonders.
Cape Point: Cape Point is a peninsula that cuts deep into the South Atlantic Ocean, situated in the southern part of Table Mountain National Park and hugging False Bay. It contains the smallest but most diverse of the planet’s six floral kingdoms, as well as a huge array of tourist activities and destinations. It’s worth spending the day there, so you can experience the area to the fullest – from shipwreck walking trails to the Flying Dutchman funicular. There are also plenty of braai and picnic spots, the famous Two Oceans restaurant and shops full of souvenirs and merchandise
Table Mountain: An iconic sight of Cape Town, Table Mountain towers over the city and makes up the north part011, and offers a few hiking trails for those keen to get an unforgettable view of the city. Time it well though, as visibility and business will depend greatly on the weather
Drakensberg: The Drakensberg mountain range is the highest in South Africa, peaking at 3,475 meters, and as well as its sheer natural beauty it’s also known for a plethora of fun activities. You can enjoy a day of quad biking, rock climbing, kayaking, trout fishing and abseiling to name a few. The World Heritage Site is also home to many of the historic San rock paintings and a range of wildlife
Blyde River Canyon: The largest green canyon and third-largest natural canyon on the planet, Blyde River Canyon sits on the north end of the Drakensburg range mentioned above. A visit lets you see lush green subtropical forests, crashing waterfalls and the renowned Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a series of natural rock sculptures. You’ll be able to hike several trails winding down into the canyon, and God’s Window is a must-see – giving you jaw-dropping panoramic views of the valley
Not for the faint-hearted, South Africa is also home to several adventure sports opportunities, including but not limited to:
- Shark cage diving
- Bungee jumping
- Ostrich riding
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.
Compare travel insurance quotes
Comparing travel insurance quotes with MoneySuperMarket once you’ve booked your South African holiday is a quick and easy way to find the right cover. Just tell us about yourself and any other travellers you want to insure, as well as how long you’re going for what you’ll be doing, so we can pull a list of policies together that suit your needs.
You’ll be able to compare policies by the overall cost of cover, the excess you’ll pay to make a claim and the level of protection you’ll get. Once you’ve found the deal you want, just click through to the provider to finalise your purchase.
As with all insurance policies the cheapest option isn’t always the best. We recommend finding a balance between cost and coverage to make sure you don’t over-insure yourself and pay for cover you don’t need, or under-insure yourself and get left without cover when it’s most important.