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How to keep healthy when travelling in South Africa?

Page last updated 17 April 2022

The standard of healthcare facilities in South Africa varies – public hospitals are often lower standards than here in Australia, but private hospitals are generally better equipped. It is important you a prepared before heading off on your trip.

See your doctor at least a month before departure to discuss your travel health requirements.

Before travelling 

  • Register your trip with Smart Traveller 
  • Make sure you have enough of your regular prescription medicines;
  • Ensure you’re up-to-date with your routine vaccinations 
  • Take out travel insurance - to cover you and your family for medical and other costs resulting from unexpected incidents and accidents
  • Put together a travel kit with medication for pain, diarrhoeal medicine, oral rehydration salts, antiseptic lotion or ointment, adhesive bandages and other wound dressings, insect repellent, sunscreen, latex gloves, thermometer, motion sickness medicine, water purification tablets and compression stockings

During travel 

  • The tap water in South Africa is mostly safe to drink in major cities, but may be unsafe in rural areas.  Only drink bottled or filtered water and check the seal on water bottles (some stores have been known to sell boiled water in recycled bottles). Avoid ice in your drinks, and check that salad and fruit have been washed with filtered water prior to eating. 
  • Traveller's diarrhoea is common in South Africa. Important ways to prevent traveller’s diarrhoea include:
    • Ensure you wash your hands with soap and water regularly 
    • Where possible, opt for fully cooked fresh food and only eat fruit that you peel yourself. 
  • Avoid mosquito bites, as you may be at risk of contracting illnesses such as malaria in some parts of South Africa. Malaria-transmitting mosquitoes bite predominantly between dusk and dawn. There is a vaccination for malaria and you can further protect yourself with insect repellent, wearing clothes that cover your arms and legs and staying in accommodation that has fly nets or screens. Also use these methods to avoid ticks.
  • Rabies is a concern in South Africa. If you’re planning to visit farms and/or game reserves, avoid contact with animal tissues or blood. 
  • Use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, human papillomavirus, herpes, syphilis, hepatitis B and HIV.
  • Diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B can also be spread through body fluids such as blood and semen. To protect yourself, practice safe sex, do not inject drugs, do not share needles or devices that can break the skin including those used for tattooing, piercings or acupuncture. Vaccinations are available for hepatitis B

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Sources & Citations

7. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Traveler’s Health Pack Smart. Available at: [accessed 15 February 2022].

8. Australian Government. Smart Traveller – South Africa. Available at: [accessed 15 February 2022].

9. Australian Government. Smart Traveller – Infectious Diseases. Available at: [accessed 15 February 2022].

MAT-AU-2200218  Date of preparation March 2022