What do South Africans need when travelling abroad ?

For those who intend on travelling abroad in the near future, Moneybags writer Alina Hardcastle, looks at what documents you need to travel in and out of South Africa, where to get them and how much they cost. We also enquire if there are any other unusual documents needed when travelling to certain countries.

Travel passport and visas

Firstly, anyone who is travelling abroad should be in possession of a valid passport. A passport is a document issued by a National Government for international travel and it certifies the identity and nationality of the holder.

The Department of Home Affairs of South Africa states: “Applicants should note that in terms of section 26(B) of the South African Citizenship Act, 1995, it is a punishable offence for a South African citizen of 18 years and older to leave or enter South Africa on a foreign passport.”

Amanda Hardy from The Travel Corporation explains that the validity of your passport is judged by a few things:

  • The date range: Your passport needs to be within the required date range. For example, if you are leaving the country you must have at least six months expiry date in your passport from the time you are destined to return. To illustrate this, Hardy says: “If you are travelling to Bangkok today and returning on the 30 March you need to have a passport that is valid until at least the 30 September.”
  • The number of unused pages: Your passport must have at least two unused open pages in it for exit and entry stamps.

Secondly, one must also be aware that certain countries require South African passport holders to have a valid visa before they can enter the country. For example, Europe’s Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries all require SA travellers to have visas.

Additional documentation

Hardy states that the rules vary per country as to what additional documentation you require when applying for a visa. “All countries will require your travel documents such as flight tickets, accommodation and proof of travel insurance. They could also request bank statements, proof of residence, proof of employment and more.”

Natalia Rosa, director of the promotions division of Big Ambitions, adds that travellers may also require the following:

  • Vaccination certificates depending on the country you are travelling to.
  • International driver’s license, if you intend on driving.
  • Travel insurance. This will cover you against travels risks such as lost or stolen luggage, cancellation cover and most importantly, unexpected medical costs abroad. This is not compulsory but it’s certainly recommended. Keep in mind that travel insurance bought on your credit card is general not enough as travellers who have disabilities may face additional challenges abroad.
  • You require an account/ valid proof of residence in your name if you want to exchange Rands to a foreign currency at the bank or Bureau de Change (in South Africa).
  • Unabridged Birth Certificate if travelling with children under-18 years. Under the new law (which came into effect in 2015), all minors under the age of 18 years are required to produce, in addition to their passport, an Unabridged Birth Certificate (showing the particulars of both parents) when exiting and entering South African ports of entry. Furthermore, if the child is leaving with a guardian or only one parent, written permission is required from the parent/s not travelling with the child.

For precise information contact the local consular services of the country in question.

The cost of documentation

One most keep in mind that cost of documentation varies. Hardy says: “An adult South African passport is valid for ten years and costs about R400. Visas vary in cost depending on the country visited and are usually charged in that country’s currency, which makes them subject to the prevailing rate of exchange.”

Where to get your required documents

You can visit your nearest Department of Home Affairs to apply for your passport, this needs to be done in person so that passport officer is satisfied that your identity is legal and valid, that your photograph is a true image of yourself, and that your fingerprints can be taken (if you are 16 years of age or older) and checked against the National Population Register. With regards to a visa, you need to apply via the consulate or embassy of the country you are visiting.

For information about the medical costs when travelling, click here.

For more information about the importance of travel insurance, click here.