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South Africa Travel Health Information

South Africa is a wonderful vacation destination, but a happy holiday is a healthy holiday so take note of the following South Africa health information before you set off on your adventures.

Bilharzia in South Africa

This treatable but unpleasant disease (also known as schistosomiasis) is caused by parasites that can be found in fresh waterways in Southern Africa (although not in mountainous regions). Always check with your guide or local tourism information bureau you are staying in a bilharzia risk area before swimming, boating or wading in fresh water. An interesting aside: in certain African and East Asian communities, overcoming schistosomiasis is an important rite of passage. Not something we recommend for today’s holiday maker however.

Drinking Water and Cholera in South Africa

Cholera has been detected in some water in the Limpopo province. Unless there is a sign with information to the contrary, tap water in South Africa is safe for drinking. Drinking from streams and rivers is not recommended unless you are with a registered tour guide who knows the source of the water and can advise you that it is safe for consumption.

The recent cholera outbreaks in parts of South Africa have caused concern for many visitors to the country. Please refer to our Cholera Prevention Tips article on the Portfolio Travel Blog for advice.

H1N1 Virus (Swine flu)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed cases of H1N1 Influenza (09) in a number of countries throughout the world, including South Africa. For a list of these countries, visit the WHO website. Please take basic precautions of hand washing, sneezing into the crook of your elbow and refraining from touching any parts of your face with un-cleaned hands to help prevent spread any flu virus.

HIV and AIDS

Please be aware that there is, sadly, a high prevalence of HIV in South Africa. Abstinence or safe sex is strongly advised.

Hospitals, Medical Aid and Travel Insurance

While there are state hospitals throughout South Africa, they usually involve a long wait for patients needing medical care. Private hospitals are in line with Western standards in terms of both care and personal attention but the costs can be high. We advise you to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before embarking on your trip.

Malaria in South Africa

Malaria is prevalent in some remote areas in the far north and east of South Africa, including the Kruger National Park. A 90 kilometre strip running along the border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe has been designated as a malaria risk zone, with some adjoining areas experiencing malaria risk at various times in the year.

If you are not sure whether your travels take you into a malaria-area or not, do contact us with your proposed itinerary and we will let you know. You may also refer to an up to date malaria map. You may then need to take medication to protect you, prior to arriving in these areas.

It is always wise to take precautions in such regions, so in addition to your anti-malaria medication of choice we highly recommend the use of insect repellent creams and lotions, including the more holistic citronella option.

For extensive information about malaria please refer to the WHO's website.

Snakes and snakebites in South Africa

South Africa is home to several species of venomous snakes, although they tend to stay away from people and attack only if startled or provoked. Always keep a lookout on the path ahead and on overhanging branches when out and about in nature. Should you get bitten by any snake, get medical assistance as soon as you are able, and if possible give a good description of the snake to assist the practitioner treating you.

Please refer to the article on snakes and snakebites on the Portfolio Travel Blog for more information.

Sun Protection in South Africa

The African sun can be very harsh, especially for children, the elderly and those with fair skin. Sunscreen, sunblock, sun hats and sunglasses are essential. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration. When possible avoid being outdoors for extended periods of time between 11h00 and 14h00.

Ticks and tick bite fever in South Africa

Wear long trousers, socks and shoes when hiking or walking through long grass, and apply insect repellent to your arms, legs and neck as an extra precaution against ticks. Tick bite fever presents with a headache and swollen glands about a week after being bitten. See a doctor who will help you with treatment. Not all tick bites will result in tick bite fever.


Yellow Fever Certificate Requirements

As of 1 October 2011, South Africa requires all travellers journeying from yellow fever risk countries (listed here) to show proof of yellow fever vaccination by means of a valid yellow fever certificate.


This also applies to those who have travelled to low risk countries such as Soa Tome and Principe, Somalia, Tanzania andZambia or have transited through a yellow fever risk country.

The certificates, which are valid for 10 years, must be approved by the World Health Organisation, and should be administered at a yellow fever approved vaccination centre at least 10 days before departure to South Africa, as the vaccine only offers protection 10 days after administration.

Failure to produce a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate at a South African port of entry could lead to refusal of entry, or quarantine until the traveller’s certificate becomes valid. Quarantine will not be longer than 6 six days.