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Humans aren’t the only ones who rule the land in South Africa; the wildlife does too. Just venture anywhere near Kruger National Park to see what we mean. However, there’s much more to this nation than this. Anyone wanting a touch of class should head to Boland, the wine-producing capital of Africa. Or, venture south into Cape Town, and experience a coastal city bursting with activity.

There’s plenty to see, eat and experience in a nation like South Africa. If you’re going to journey across such a country, however, you should first take out a travel insurance policy.

Do I need travel insurance for South Africa?

Without travel insurance, you may find yourself dozens, hundreds or even thousands of dollars out of pocket should something go wrong. If you’d like cover for any accidents, illnesses, cancellations, delays, or any losses and damages you might encounter on your trip, then travel insurance may be something you need.

Getting travel insurance for Africa is critical. With the right policy, you could be covered for all those things and more, meaning you can embark on your trip knowing you’re financially protected against the unexpected.

Storms River - Eastern Cape, South Africa

What should my travel insurance policy for South Africa include?

A spot of excitement is healthy for a holiday, but make no mistake – some activities are more suitable than others on your holiday.

Adventure cover

Take the wildlife, for example. You may want to go looking for certain animals and decide to go on a Safari. If it’s not a properly licensed tour, or you fail to follow the advice of your guides, you risk not being able to claim on your travel insurance in the future.

Maybe you’re planning to:

  • climb the Drakensberg peaks and soak in the scenery;
  • try white water rafting on South Africa’s longest river, Oranjerivier (Orange River);
  • dive with great whites off the coast of Cape Town;
  • jump off the world’s highest commercial bridge bungy, in South Africa’s Garden Route; or
  • ride an ostrich (yes, you can really do this).

Some policies will have a list of adventure activities that are covered, and others may specifically exclude losses from a range of activities. You should check that your travel policy covers the activities that you’re planning to participate in by reviewing the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before purchasing.

If you’re participating in activities that aren’t covered by general travel insurance, consider purchasing the adventure cover add-on (sometimes called an “Adventure Pack”). This add-on may cover you for more dangerous activities. As policy inclusions differ from insurer to insurer remember to review the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to know exactly what you are and aren’t covered for.

Medical cover and 24/7 assistance

It’s a good idea to check whether the travel insurance you take out includes cover for medical expenses. Australia does not have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with South Africa, which means you will have to pay for any healthcare you require while travelling.

However, one good thing about getting travel insurance is that you’re financially covered in the event you get something common like the flu or malaria, or something serious like a broken arm. Hospital expenses, medical evacuations, and more can be covered by a travel insurance policy – all of which can be expensive to pay yourself.

Cape Town, South Africa (aerial view from a helicopter)

South Africa travel insurance: exclusions (i.e. what’s not covered)

Of course, travel insurance won’t cover every possible thing that can happen on your trip, which is why it’s important that you read and fully understand all the inclusions and exclusions of your policy in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).

Here are a few standard exclusions that you might find on your policy:

Unattended luggage. If someone steals your luggage while it was unattended, your insurer might reject your claim for it.

Pre-existing medical conditions. You’ll typically find that you won’t be covered for claims resulting from a medical condition, if you didn’t disclose it before your trip. Many insurers will assess whether you have a pre-existing medical condition and instantly advise if you should extend cover and how much the additional premium will be.

Illegal or reckless activities. Your insurer may reject your claim if it results from an incident where you knowingly acted recklessly, illegally or put yourself in danger.

For example, you won’t be covered if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident you’re claiming for.

Sickness due to a failure to get vaccinated. If you failed to get the proper vaccinations before you left Australia, you might not be able to claim for medical costs should you fall ill from a vaccine-preventable illness.

Extreme and winter sports. Unless offered by your insurer as an optional extra, you may not be covered for participation in extreme, winter and other adventure sports.

Top travel tips for South Africa

1. When you’re driving…

  • drive on the left side of the road;
  • do not stop to feed any wild animals;
  • carry extra fuel and drinking water with you, as petrol stations are scarce the further away you are from populated areas; and
  • always lock up your vehicle, leaving nothing inside the car that can be spotted from outside.

If you’re involved in a car accident, your rental car excess may be covered by your travel insurance, depending on your policy.

2. Consider your health before you leave

According to Smartraveller, you may need to show a yellow fever vaccination certificate before you enter South Africa if you’re entering from a yellow fever endemic country. Malaria and cholera are common in some areas of South Africa, as are tuberculosis, hepatitis, measles, typhoid, rabies, Rift Valley fever, bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and typhoid.

Ask your GP well in advance of your departure for up-to-date advice on which vaccinations and medications you may require. Failing to get inoculated may mean you cannot claim on your insurance.

Finally, be mindful also that the rate of HIV/AIDS in South Africa is extremely high.

3. Avoiding theft, robbery and scams

There are a number of ways that criminals target tourists in South Africa,¹  but so long as you remain vigilant and exercise caution wherever you go, you should be fine. However, keep in mind that:

  • Violent crime typically increases at night. Never travel alone, and stick to crowded, well-lit areas.
  • There’s no such thing as ‘Tourist Police’. It’s just criminals looking to steal your belongings and cash.
  • ATMs in busy locations may be targeted as ideal places to skim credit card details. Be wary of this by only using ATMs in controlled areas like banks rather than out in the street.
  • Watch your drinks. Criminals have been known to spike beverages, and then rob incapacitated individuals.
  • Don’twear a lot of jewellery. It’s also a good idea to not display your phones, handbags or other valuable items.

If you’re worried about the cost of replacing your belongings, then travel insurance is a smart idea. Provided you took as much care as possible to keep your things safe, you may be able to claim back their value if they’re stolen, lost or destroyed.

4. Check visa requirements before you go

Visitors to South Africa, who’re coming for tourism purposes and staying less than 90 days, may enter the country without a visa; all other types of visitors will need one.¹ However, if you overstay your visa, you may be declared ‘undesirable’, and you won’t be allowed to re-enter South Africa for anywhere between one and five years.

Compare travel insurance for South Africa

Wild at heart and ready to travel? Our guide to getting covered in other countries is for you. Otherwise, you can search and compare travel insurance policies for your trip to South Africa right here and now, simply by using our travel insurance comparison service.


Smartraveller (2020). South Africa. Accessed 26 August 2020.

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