What is the currency in South Africa?
The local currency used in South Africa is the Rand (R or ZAR.) Debit and credit cards are also widely accepted across the country, but it’s a great idea to also have cash—there are local establishments that accept cash only.
While the South African currency is widely accepted and expected, there are the odd organized tours and safaris where US dollars are expected. For this reason, United States travelers should keep both their USD and South African Rands on hand.
Where can I get South African currency?
You have a few options:
- Your local bank or credit union. If you have enough time to order the currency, this is a decent option. Keep in mind that your bank may need to order the currency and may therefore charge you a fee for that service.
- Airport Kiosks or other exchange houses. This is likely the most expensive option—try to avoid them. However, they are also the easiest option. These kiosks can be found at almost any airport in the world. (Admittedly, we’ve used them when we enter South Africa. We’d exchange $20 or $50 just to quickly get some local currency because we’d need some cash to tip porters, parking attendants, etc.)
- A South African bank, ATM or Money Exchanger. Keep in mind that banks and Money Exchangers have very different rates. You may want to compare prices before choosing one. If you choose to use the ATM, be sure to let your bank know that you plan to use your ATM card in a foreign country.
- Your bank’s ATM network in South Africa. You may be able to get Rands with competitive exchange rates and low banking fees (1-3%). If your bank charges ATM fees, try to withdraw larger amounts at a time.
- Buy Rands online. These are often the cheapest option because they charge low fees. They will charge a fee to send you the money unless you are able to pick it up from their local offices.
What can I get for my South African money?
Whether you’re on a budget or not, you’re probably wondering what you will be able to get once you are in South Africa.
Honestly, the price of a South African vacation varies immensely depending on where you’ll be staying, where you’ll be eating, and the activities you plan to do.
South Africa can absolutely offer a budget-friendly vacation—it is considerably cheap by Western standards. That’s if:
- you plan to stay in hostels, Airbnb, or inexpensive hotels;
- you eat where the locals eat;
- you do free or cheap activities—museums are often free;
- you take uber or public transport.
However, it can just as easily get expensive if:
- you stay in luxury hotels;
- eat at touristy restaurants;
- go on safari and other expensive activities.
According to South Africa Visa,
The average tourist spends $72 (R1,347) per day on a trip to South Africa. That means that a week in South Africa costs $507 for one person. However, this can vary greatly depending on the season, the visited areas, and the needs of the traveler.
How much South African money can I bring?
Foreigners can bring an unlimited amount of foreign currencies and/or traveler’s cheques. However, any amounts above R25,000 or the equivalent currency must be declared.
If you are taking coins, gold, stamps, or foreign currency valued under R25,000, you do not need to declare it.