Health Advice

Countries  »  South Africa  »  Health Advice

Health Advice for South Africa

Cholera, malaria, rabies and TB are common to South Africa. Cholera, rabies and TB can all be immunised against, so don't pose a serious threat to tourists, and you can take drugs to protect against malaria (e.g. - the most common drug is doxycycline).

Health treatment in South Africa is good but it is very expensive. Make sure you have good medical insurance.

HIV/AIDS is a big problem is South Africa - the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 17.8% of the adult population. To put this in comparison, the prevalence percentage of the UK was approximately 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS and cover all open wounds thoroughly.

For more information check:

REMEMBER - Always seek professional medical advice!


South Africa has one of the largest HIV infection rates world-wide. It is ranked the 4th most prevalent country for HIV/AIDS, with Lesotho and Swaziland being in the top three, both countries of which are in the borders of South Africa.

5.3 million people out of a population of 50 million are HIV-positive (figures taken from the South African Medical Research Council).

The HIV infection rate in the total population older than 2 years varies from around 2% in the Western Cape to over 17% in KwaZulu-Natal. One in four females and one in five males aged 20 to 40 is estimated to be infected (Avert).


Malaria is common to Kruger National Park and parts of the Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu Natal (particularly the Wetlands area around St Lucia) provinces.

The north-eastern areas of the country (St. Lucia and surrounds) are seasonal malaria zones, from about November to May. The peak danger time is just after the wet season from March to May. Consult a physician regarding appropriate precautions, depending on the time of year you will be travelling. The most important defences against malaria are:

  • taking anti-malarial tablets (e.g. - Chloroquine, Doxycycline, Lariam, Malarone and Proguanil)
  • using a DEET-based mosquito repellent - 50% for skin; 100% for clothing
  • covering your skin with long-sleeved clothing, especially around dusk
  • using mosquito nets while sleeping


The number to call in an emergency is 107 and can be dialled from any telephone in South Africa free of charge. This number will connect you with emergency operators for the ambulance service, fire brigade or police. The first question that the operator will ask is which service you need.

If you have a mobile phone obtained outside South Africa, using the universal emergency number 112 is a better idea. Using 112 will use any available network, will work even if your phone is not roaming, and will work even if the phone does not have a SIM.

You can call the police assistance line on (+27) 10111 and the ambulance assistance line on (+27) 10177

Netcare911 and The National Sea Rescue Institute is a private provider of medical assistance. Their number is (+27) 082911

If you need advice then the National Tourism Information and Safety Line is (+27) 83 123-2345.


South Africa is relatively safe to travel around for tourists but the biggest danger is crime. The most violent crimes occur in townships and isolated areas away from the normal tourist destinations. Take caution if you do decide to go to a township (go with a reputable tour company) and it is advised not to travel alone after dark..

Incidents of vehicle hi-jacking and robbery are common. You should be vigilant of the risks, particularly if driving after dark. Keep to main roads; park in well-lit areas.

Gangs and thieves target tourists as they usually have a lot of expensive possessions. Don't flash your cash and be street wise. Make sure your possessions are secure and out of sight.

Illegal drugs

Like in most countries opium, heroin, amphetamines (speed), cocaine, LSD, ecstasy and marijuana among other drugs are all illegal both to possess and to sell in South Africa, with trafficking offences usually carrying a jail term. Users take drugs at their own risk. Foreigners should not expect more lenient treatment from police than locals.

The risks involved in taking or selling drugs in a foreign country far out-weighs the pleasure of taking them. It is easy to say, but our advice is "just don't take em."

Gay and lesbian travellers

South Africa is one of the few countries in the world that has universal equal rights for heterosexuals and homosexuals. South Africa's post-apartheid constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2006, same-sex marriage was legalised becoming the 5th country in the world to do so and the first in Africa.

Homosexual South Africans have the same rights with adoption and military service as heterosexuals. They also have the same sexual age of consent - 16. When it comes to sexual orientation South Africa is very liberal compared to other countries.