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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for South Africa

South Africa - Consular Information Sheet
November 1, 2000

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Although South Africa is in many respects a developed country, much of its population lives in poverty. There are adequate tourist facilities in all urban centers, game parks and areas most commonly visited by tourists. Food and water are generally safe, and a wide variety of consumer goods and pharmaceuticals are readily available.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: South Africa has tightened its visa requirements for certain categories of visitors. Only visitors on tourism, short business consultations, or in transit do not require visas; others need visas or will be refused admission and returned to their point of origin. Visitors who intend to work in South Africa must apply for work permits abroad at the appropriate South African Embassy or Consulate. Travelers entering South Africa from countries where yellow fever is endemic are often required to present their yellow World Health Organization (WHO) vaccination record or other proof of inoculation or must be inoculated at the airport in order to be permitted entry. Travelers may obtain further information from the Embassy of South Africa, 3051 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 232-4400, or the South African Consulates in Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest South African Embassy or Consulate.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Political violence has significantly decreased in most areas of South Africa since the establishment of a democratically elected government in May 1994. Some public gatherings, however, have provoked violent clashes between political factions, resulting in casualties. The highest incidence of such political violence has occurred in the province of Kwazulu/Natal.

Although foreigners have not been specifically targeted in these attacks, some have been caught up in general disturbances. Some townships in the vicinity of major cities, most notably Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town, have been scenes of violent demonstrations and factional conflict. Areas most frequented by tourists, such as major hotels, game parks and beaches, generally have been unaffected by political or factional violence. In August 1998 and January 1999, however, American franchise restaurants in Cape Town were bombed, and the possibility of renewed threats against American interests cannot be discounted. Americans and American interests were not obviously targeted during the year 2000. Bombing venues have included police stations, courthouses and commercial venues, such as bars, restaurants and shopping areas. Two of the targeted locations have American place names. Random bombings continue to occur in and near Cape Town, with five in August/September 2000. No person or group has taken responsibility for any of the bombings. The South African government is taking steps to control the violence, and is actively investigating all bombings.

While visiting game parks and reserves, leaving your vehicle or otherwise being on foot can be dangerous, even in the presence of a guide. Between July and September 2000 there were four incidents of wild animal attacks on American citizens in the region, resulting in three deaths and one serious injury.

CRIME INFORMATION: Although the vast majority of visitors complete their travels in South Africa without incident, visitors should be aware that criminal activity, sometimes violent, occurs on a routine basis. Crime in South Africa is perceived to be a significant threat to the country's overall stability and to the welfare of its citizens. Criminal activity, such as assault and armed robbery, is particularly high in areas surrounding many hotels and public transportation centers, especially in major cities. American citizens should exercise particular caution in these areas. Notwithstanding government anti-crime efforts, crimes such as carjackings, muggings, "smash and grab" attacks on vehicles and other incidents are regularly reported by visitors and resident Americans. Crimes against property, such as car jacking, have also often been accompanied by violent acts, including murder. South Africa has a very high incidence of rape. Foreigners are not specifically targeted, although rape of foreigners has occurred on rare occasions.

Travelers may also wish to consider avoiding local commuter and metro trains, especially between Johannesburg and Pretoria, as a number of American passengers have been the subjects of muggings and violent attacks.

In the Western Cape, police resources have been strained by continuing gang conflicts and vigilante violence in the townships near Cape Town. Travelers should use extreme caution when traveling in, to, or through affected areas.

Credit card fraud, counterfeit U.S. currency, and various check-cashing scams are frequently reported. Do not permit anyone to "assist" you with ATM transactions.

Beware of schemes in which a caller from South Africa (who is usually not South African) attempts to win the confidence of an unsuspecting American, who is then persuaded to either provide privileged financial information or travel to South Africa to assist in a potentially lucrative business venture. Those contemplating such transactions are urged to contact either the U.S. Department of Commerce or the U.S. Department of State before providing personal financial information or making any financial commitments.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa provide useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

TRAVEL TO THE FORMER "INDEPENDENT HOMELANDS": Travelers should avoid nighttime travel and use caution when driving in the former "independent homelands" of Transkei and Ciskei, which have been incorporated into the provinces of Eastern Cape and Kwazulu/Natal. Some areas, such as the "wild coast" in the former Transkei, have significant levels of crime and inadequate medical services. This situation, though improving, has caused problems for foreign travelers to the area. Travelers may contact the U.S. Consulate General in Cape Town or the U.S. Consulate General in Durban for further information before embarking on trips to these areas.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks and beaches, but may be limited elsewhere.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services, but usually do accept credit cards. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's International Travelers Hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747), fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning South Africa is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good

Road conditions are generally good. Many drivers travel at very high rates of speed, however, and poor lighting on rural roads and insufficient regulatory control regarding driver licensing and vehicle maintenance pose dangers to travelers. A number of Americans have been killed in highway accidents since the mid-1990's, only occasionally caused by the fact that driving is on the left in South Africa.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning South Africa driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the South Africa National Tourist Organization offices on 1-800-822-5368.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of South Africa's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of South Africa's air carrier operations.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating South Africa law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in South Africa are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living in or visiting South Africa are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the nearest U.S. Consulate and obtain updated information on travel and security within South Africa. The U.S. Embassy is located at 877 Pretorius Street Arcadia in Pretoria, telephone (27-12) 342-1048, fax (27-12) 342-5504. Note: The U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg provides most consular services for Americans in the Pretoria area.

The Consulate General in Johannesburg is located at No. 1 River Street (corner of River and Riviera Road), Killarney, Johannesburg, telephone (27-11) 644-8000, fax (27-11) 646-6916. Its consular jurisdiction includes Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Northern, North West, and Free State provinces.

The Consulate General in Cape Town is located at Broadway Industries Center, Heerengracht, Foreshore, telephone (27-21) 421-4280, fax (27-21) 425-3014. Its consular jurisdiction includes Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape Provinces.

The Consulate General in Durban is located at Durban Bay House, 29th floor, 333 Smith Street, telephone (27-31) 304-4737, fax (27-31) 301-0265. Its consular jurisdiction includes Kwazulu/Natal province.

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