Customs South Africa: What are you allowed to take?
South African customs
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If you are visiting for a vacation, chances are excellent that you will sail through customs South Africa. That means you walk down the nothing to declare green lane. 

However, if you’re taking items to South Africa that most folks are unlikely to bring, you’ll have to take a walk down the goods to declare red lane. These include things like guns, narcotics, excess pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or cash.

If you are legally crossing South Africa’s border, you need to go through Customs South Africa. Here’s the process:

Step 1 – Arrive in South Africa

Welcome. The long flight is finally over.

Step 2 – Go through immigration

This is where you will stand in line before you hand over your passport for inspection.  You’ll also be questioned about your plans while in South Africa.

Step 3 – Go through customs South Africa

This is where your baggage will be scanned or searched for restricted or prohibited goods.

Step 4 – Do you have anything to declare?

NOTHING TO DECLARE – Green lane

SOMETHING TO DECLARE – Red lane

If you have something to declare, (see below), you must complete a Traveller Card. You will also make a verbal declaration of your goods to a customs officer. He/she will generate a Traveller Declaration (TRD1).

If you’re found with restricted, undeclared,  or prohibited goods, you could be fined or potentially face prosecution.

Please note that the information provided below is a guide provided by the SARS – South African Revenue Service. Therefore, it remains subject to change without notice. If you are unsure, contact the nearest South African embassy in your country.

Duty-free items you can bring

You can bring the following goods into South Africa without paying customs duty or VAT – value-added tax:

Consumable Goods

  • No more than 200 cigarettes and 20 cigars per person.
  • No more than 250g of cigarette or pipe tobacco per
    person.
  • No more than 50ml perfumery and 250ml eau de toilette per
    person.
  • No more than 2 liters of wine per person.
  • No more than 1 liter in total of spirits and other alcoholic beverages per person.

Travelers under 18 cannot claim the above duty-free allowance.

If you exceed the above limits, you are required to pay customs duty and VAT on the extra goods. 

Medicines

You can bring in one month’s supply of medicines for your personal use.

Any additional medicines must be declared and must be accompanied by a letter or certified prescription from a registered physician.

Personal effects, Sport, and Recreational equipment

You can bring these for your personal use during your visit. They can be either accompanied or unaccompanied baggage.

If the items are very expensive, you may be required to lodge a cash deposit to cover the tax/duty on the re-export. However, your deposit will be refunded when you leave after a customs officer has inspected the products and verified that they are being re-exported.

Goods on which duty has to be paid

Items purchased duty-free on board aircraft and ships or in duty-free shops are subject to duties.

Customs taxes and duties are payable in rands – the South African currency. Payment can be made by credit card,  in cash, or by means of a bank-guaranteed cheque.

These are good that do not qualify for a flat-rate assessment.

  • Firearms acquired abroad or at any duty-free shop;
  • More consumable goods than mentioned above;
  • Goods for commercial purposes;
  • Items carried on behalf of other people.

Goods you have to declare

  • Firearms;
  • South African currency in excess of R25 000
  • Foreign currency in excess of $10 000;
  • Gold coins;
  • Coin and stamp collections;
  • Unprocessed gold; 
  • Endangered plants and animals
  • All plants and plant products, like flowers, seeds, fruit, margarine, honey, and vegetable oils.
  • Animals, poultry, birds, and products thereof, like dairy products, butter, and eggs.
  • Medicines – if you are bringing more than one month’s supply of medicines for your personal use.
  • Restricted goods can only be brought into the country if you have the necessary permit or authority. These must be declared on arrival.

Goods you can't bring into South Africa

It is illegal to bring the following items into the country:

  • Narcotics or psychotropic substances. This includes cannabis, ecstasy, heroin, cocaine, mandrax, etc.
  • Any military, fully automatic, unnumbered weapons, explosives, fireworks, or weapons of mass destruction;
  • Any toxic substance or poisons;
  • Cigarettes with a mass of more than 2kg per 1 000;
  • Goods with a trademark or trade description applied in contravention of any law (like counterfeit goods).
  • Unlawful reproductions of copyright material.
  • Penitentiary-made goods.
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About The Author

Hi! We’re the Cheltens’. We visit South Africa 1-2 times per year. We want to share our experiences with you so that you may make educated decisions when you plan your next trip to the rainbow nation.

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