Entry & Customs Regulations for South Africa

customs regulation south africa

To enter south Africa you need to have a valid passport and a visa (unless you are eligible for visa-free entry). There are also a number of South Africa customs requirements which apply to all visitors.

When you arrive in South Africa you must declare a completed Traveler Card and make a verbal declaration to a customs officer. Your baggage may then be scanned and searched for restricted or prohibited goods. If your luggage contains restricted or prohibited goods you could be fined or even prosecuted in some cases.

Which items can you take through customs? Which things are prohibited? How much cash can you carry? This South Africa customs guide will explain everything you need to know before reaching the South African border.

Prohibited Items You Cannot Bring into South Africa

It is illegal to bring the following goods and items into South Africa. People who try to do so will have the items confiscated and could face prosecution. The following items are South Africa restricted goods:

  • Prohibited weapons: Including all illegal and unlicensed firearms and explosives (including fireworks).
  • Narcotics: drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin or any other banned substances.
  • Toxic substances: this includes poisons and other prohibited, harmful substances.
  • Counterfeit goods: goods which contain unlawful copies of trademarks or trade descriptions.
  • Copyright breaches: unlawful reproductions of copyrighted works.
  • Prison-made goods: anything produced or manufactured in prison.

If you have any doubts about what you can and cannot bring into South Africa, contact your nearest South African embassy or consulate.

What are Duty-free Limits for South Africa?

You can bring the following maximum amounts of each specific item into South Africa without paying customs duty or VAT (Value Added Tax):

  • Cigarettes: 200 per person
  • Cigars: 20 per person
  • Rolling or pipe tobacco: 250g per person
  • Perfume: 50ml per person
  • Eau de toilette: 250ml per person
  • Wine: 2 litres per person
  • Spirits and other alcoholic drinks: 1 litre in total per person

What if I am over the duty-free limit?

If the above limits exceeded, visitors are required to pay customs duty and VAT on the extra goods. This includes items bought from duty-free shops or on planes, ships or other forms of transport. For goods which are worth up to R20,000, visitors have the option of paying a flat rate of 20% which are exempt from VAT.

Items you Must Declare at the South African Border

There are certain things which are not necessarily South Africa restricted items  but they need to be declared to the South Africa customs control. The legality of the items may be questioned. These items include the following:

  • Medicines: Visitors can bring up to a month’s supply of pharmaceutical drugs or medicines. Higher amounts need to be accompanied by a certified letter from a doctor.
  • Food, plants, and animals: This includes all biological products including seeds, flowers, and foodstuffs.
  • Endangered species: Species of animals or plants which are listed as endangered must be declared whether they are dead or alive.
  • Very expensive items: It is sometimes necessary to pay a cash deposit to cover re-exportation taxes on highly-valued items.

How Much Money Can I Bring?

The limit is R25,000 ($10,000 approximately) or the equivalent value in a foreign currency, gold, coins, or stamps. Higher amounts than this must be declared.

Foreign visitors can bring in an unlimited amount of foreign currencies and travelers cheques, in addition to R25,000, as long as the full amount is declared.

What Documents do I Need to Enter South Africa?

All visitors must present a valid passport at the South Africa border. In addition, it is necessary to have a South Africa visa if you are not from a visa-exempt country. In addition, visitors may need to produce receipts for goods purchased abroad, including duty-free items such as alcohol, tobacco, and perfume.

There are numerous different visa types for South Africa including tourist visas, work visas, study visas, and medical visas. The online tourist visa will be available soon and it will make the visa application process much easier for many nationalities.