Health & Safety in South Africa
These are just some basic guidelines to keep yourselves healthy and safe while in South Africa.
Visitors who are entering South Africa from a yellow fever zone must have a valid international yellow fever inoculation certificate. Only infants under the age of one year are exempt. Immunization against cholera and small pox are not required. You may find in your home country that they advise cholera or rabies jabs. These are at your own will and are not mandatory. They are recommended for visiting safari or animal reserves in high heat where some parts of Africa carry malaria. More than likely yur country will also make you have the yellow fever vaccination whether or not your home country is a yellow fever zone.
Safety & crime
Most parts of the country can be safely visited by tourists provided they take basic common-sense precautions (for example not walking alone in deserted areas at night and being circumspect about how much photographic equipment or flashy jewellery you carry. Most of the crime that takes place in South Africa is between people who know each other and random acts of violence are the minority of cases. Most major cities run organized crime prevetion programmes.
If you are in doubt as to the safety of a particular area or attraction, contact the National Tourism information and Safety Line on 083 123 2345. This number may also be used for practical assistance in replacing lost documents or reporting incidents.
Women travellers please be aware that South African men may be sexist, but the country is safe for women travellers, even those traveling alone.
Many foreigners are unaware that South Africa has a well-developed infrastructure, high standards of water treatment and medical facilities equal to the best in the world. Here we address any health and safety questions you may have.
In a great many medical disciplines, South Africa is a global leader. In fact, South African trained doctors are sought after all over the world, so this should give an indication of the standard of medical care available. There is a large network of public and private hospitals countrywide, offering excellent service. However, clients must have adequate health insurance to cover the fees private hospitals charge.
South Africans have a good laugh at the expense of lobster red tourists. The sun is dangerously hot and we don’t want you to get sunburn, or even worse, skin cancer. Please pack sunblock, sunglasses and a hat and remember to use them religiously. Try to stay out of the sun between 10a.m and 3p.m. If you have to be out, even in windy and cloudy weather, be generous with the sunblock and don’t forget the back of your neck and the tops of your ears. Re-apply frequently.
Malaria is found only in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo and on the Maputaland coast of KwaZulu-Natal. To some researchers and doctors Kruger National Park is also a risk. Malaria is not much of a risk in the winter months. Although the incidence of malaria is rare, it would be best to take adequate precautions if you choose to visit these areas.
Our government has embarked on an extensive anti-malaria programme (in co-operation with Swaziland and Mozambique) and the incidence of malaria is decreasing. One reassuring thing about malaria is that there is absolutely no way at all that you can contract it unless you are bitten by an infected mosquito. And with modern insect repellents and some common sense one can reduce the chances of being bitten to close to zero.
The cheapest, safest and most effective measures against malaria are physical barriers such as a mosquito net, and the use of a good insect repellent. If you decide to take malaria prophylaxis, it is essential that you take the drugs according to the directions on the package insert. You will need to start a week or two before entering a malaria-endemic area and should continue taking the drugs for four weeks after leaving the malaria risk area. It is advisable to consult a medical professional before embarking on a course of malaria prophylaxis. Note that expectant mothers should avoid malaria medications.
There are 3 main different anti-malarial tablets : Doxycycline, Malaroneand Lariam.
Doxycycline is a inexpensive type of anti biotic which you must start 2 days before travelling and take 1 a day whilst in the infected country and continue taking for 4 weeks after. However, side effects include cramps, nausea, increased sensitivity to the sun, decreases contraceptive pill, thrush and heartburn.
Lariam is a inexpensive tablet that you must start taking 2-3 weeks before destination and take 1 a week whilst in the infected country and continue taking for 4 weeks after. Side effects include drowsiness, stomach upsets, nightmares and mental disturbances.
Malarone is the most expensive of the 3 but has alot less side effects. You must take it 2 days before, 1 a day whilst in a risk area and only a week after leaving the destination. Side effects include rare headaches or slight cramp.
Our transport infrastructure is excellent and our roads are in good condition. However, the distances between towns are significant, so if you're planning to self-drive, it is a good idea to plan your itinerary to ensure they don't drive long distances as fatigue is a major cause of road accidents. Avoid long car journeys that necessitate driving at night as it always carries more risk. Also, in some of the more remote rural areas, the roads are not fenced so there may be stray animals on the road - which could be very dangerous at night. (Cows don't have headlights).
We have very strict drinking and driving laws - with a maximum allowable alcohol blood content of 0.05%. Translated that means about one glass of wine for the average woman and perhaps 1.5 or two for the average or large man. Our speed limits are 120kmph on the open road, 100kmph on smaller roads and between 60 and 80kmph in towns. Be aware that even major national roads cut through residential areas so there may be a speed limit of 80 or 60kmph on a road that looks like an autobahn. This is to protect pedestrians, especially children, so we really do encourage people to comply.
Water and Food
As a rule, tap water in South Africa is safe to drink as it is treated and is free of harmful microorganisms. In hotels, restaurants and nightspots, the standards of hygiene and food preparation top-notch. It is safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks - a good thing, too, after a day on the beach or in the bush.
General Health & Safety
When traveling abroad, you always have to be ready for extreme or unfamiliar conditions. You might have an upset stomach or other digestive problems in the first few days as your body gets adapted to the climate and the food.
Here are a few tips to help you adjust.
South Africa’s major public health concerns are HIV/AIDS, smoking-related diseases and tuberculosis, all of which affect the non-white population more than the white.
There is Malaria risk when traveling in the northern regions. This can be kept at bay with a range of medicines on offer.