If you are visiting South Africa, there are a number of health issues you should be aware of, particularly if you’re from the northern hemisphere.
Adults do not need any vaccinations, unless you are travelling from a yellow-fever endemic area (the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America). In a case like this, you will need certification to prove your vaccination status when you arrive in South Africa.
- Food & Water
High-quality tap (faucet) water is available in South Africa’s urban areas, but not all water in rural areas is safe to drink straight from the tap. In some areas, the water is mineral-rich, and you may experience a bit of gastric distress for a day or two until you get used to it.
Bottled mineral water, both sparkling and still, is readily available in most places. Drinking water straight from rivers and streams could put you at risk of waterborne diseases – especially downstream of human settlements. The water in mountain streams, however, is usually pure.
The standards of hygiene and food preparation is generally very high. It is safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks. Restaurants cover a wide variety of cuisines and visitors are normally very impressed with the food. The country’s many cultures makes for varied traditional fare, which is worth exploring.
- World-class Medical Facilities
Medical facilities in cities and larger towns are world-class, offering specialist services by highly skilled professionals. Doctors are well trained and must be registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. Pharmacies are well stocked, and equivalents to most international medicines are available.
- Malaria prophylaxis
Most of the main tourist areas are malaria-free. However, the Kruger National Park, the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal do pose a low malaria risk in the summer months.
- Sunshine and sunburn
South Africa has a very sunny climate, therefore it is important to protect yourself against the harsh sun with sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses is essential – especially between 10am and 4pm, and regardless of whether there is cloud cover or not.
There are always risks anywhere you travel, but with a relatively salubrious climate and high levels of hygiene, health care and water treatment, South Africa is a pretty safe destination to visit.