Entering a country and you know you have to pass through customs control, where they can question you and search through you baggage for dutiable, restricted or prohibited goods, can be a stressful situation. This article will help you to know the laws of South African customs to make your arrival and/or departure from South Africa easier and to guide you to move goods in and out of the country.

The following goods can be brought into South Africa without paying customs duty or value added tax (VAT) and people under the age of 18 can claim this duty-free allowance on consumable goods, excepts alcohol and tobacco products, as long as these items are for their personal use.

Consumable goods in accompanied baggage:

  • Up to 200 cigarettes per person
  • Up to 20 cigars per person
  • Up to 250g cigarette or pipe tobacco per person
  • Up to 50ml perfume per person or 250 m eau de toilette per person
  • Up to 2 liters of wine per person
  • Up to 1 liter of spirits and other alcoholic beverages per person


One month’s supply of pharmaceutical drugs or medicines are allowed for your personal use but any extra or other pharmaceutical drugs or medicines must be declared and accompanied by a certified prescription from a registered physician.

Personal effects, sport and recreational equipment:

Personal sport and recreational equipment can be brought with you to use during your visit in South Africa as accompanied or unaccompanied baggage.

Handmade articles for commercial purposes:

A total of 25 kilograms of handmade articles such as leather, wood, plastic, or glass are allowed for travelers from Southern African Customs Union (SACU) or Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states.

Additional goods:

A total value of R5000, or R25 000 in new or used goods are allowed if you are arriving from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia or Swaziland in accompanied baggage in addition to the personal effects and consumables duty-free allowances.

If you have reached and exceeded the limits as mentioned above, everything else you brought into South Africa will be subject to the payment of customs duty and value added tax (VAT), even goods that was bought duty-free. If you have goods of up to R20 000 in value you can pay customs duty at a flat rate of 20% and if you pay this flat rate you are also exempt from paying VAT. If you are over the additional R20 000 limit, or do not make use of the flat rate option, each individual item that you are carrying will be assessed for duty and you will pay that on each individual item as well as an additional 14% VAT.

The following good do not qualify for the flat-rate assessment:

  • Firearms.
  • Consumable goods that are more that the quantities that was discussed above.
  • Goods for commercial purposes.
  • Goods carried on behalf of other people. These goods may require an import permit and they are subject to duty and taxes.

The following goods are restricted and may only enter South Africa with the necessary permits and must be declared on arrival. These goods includes any firearms as well as the following:


Anything more than R25 000 in South African bank notes or $10 000.

Endangered plants and animals:

Any articles that was made from species of plants or animals that are listed as endangered.

Food, plants, animals and biological goods:

Any plants and plant products as well as animals, birds, poultry or any products thereof.


As mentioned above, you are allowed one month’s supply of medicines for personal use, but you must have a certified prescription or letter from a registered physician and it needs to be declared.

To avoid any problems you must make sure that you always declare all or the goods you have in your possession and have receipts for the goods that you have purchases, even those bought duty-free. Always remember that if you do not declare your goods, or if you under-declare or produce false receipts or invoices it can lead to seizure of all your goods as well as fines of up to three times the value of your goods and in some cases even criminal prosecution.


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