Tourists originating from the UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, US, Australia and many other countries (check the full list here) do not require a visa for a stay in South Africa that is less than 90 days. Upon entry into South Africa, visitors from these countries are granted a free temporary visitor’s permit allowing them to stay (but not work) in the country for up to 90 days. If you are only staying 90 days please carefully check your flights before booking so you do not overstay your visa. You can also renew your temporary visitor’s permit in South Africa for an additional 90 days for a fee that is cheaper than applying for a long-stay visa in your home country.
Assistants staying for longer than six months should apply for a volunteer visa in their country of residence before arriving in South Africa. UK citizens can visit the website http://www.vfsglobal.com/southafrica/uk/ to find all information on obtaining a visa for South Africa. For other nationalities please check your local websites for requirements and application procedures. Visa fees for UK citizens currently stand at £90, but please note these fees are subject to change annually. Documents required for this visa include:
- Completed application form – these should be downloaded from the website, completed and signed.
- Two passport sized photographs (these are also required for the police clearance certificate below).
- Valid passport which expires no less than 30 days after expiry of the visa.
- Copy of your passport main page.
- Medical report – a report form should be downloaded from the website and completed by your GP, who usually charge for this service.
- Radiological report – a report form should be downloaded from the website and completed by a radiologist. You will need to have a chest x-ray for this form to be completed, again which you will be charged for.
- Police clearance certificate – these can be applied for online at a cost of £45 (https://www.acro.police.uk/police_certificates.aspx) and take 10 working days to be processed and posted.
- Proof of sufficient funds to cover the length of your stay – usually in the form of bank statements for the last three months, stamped by the bank. The embassy requires you to have around £600 per month of your stay in the bank to cover your costs.
- No fixed flight tickets are required, but if your stay is less than 12 months then provisional return flight tickets are required.
- Invitation letter from South African host – signed with proof of accommodation, we will provide you with a signed invitation letter which includes proof of accommodation and duration of stay.
- Proof of volunteer activities – documents detailing the purpose of the visit, this will be included in the letter above.
- We will also provide you with a certified copy of ID documents from the South African host, which had been required in the past but is no longer listed on the website – just in case.
Applications must be submitted in person, so you will need to make an appointment at your nearest embassy (London, Manchester or Edinburgh). There is often a waiting time for appointments. Once you have had your appointment, the visa processing time takes a minimum of 90 working days and may take longer, so make sure you apply in plenty of time. Please note that this information is merely guidelines taken from the visa website; please make sure you visit the website and pay careful attention to their instructions.
If you find that any of this information is out of date or incorrect, please let us know so that we can update and correct it.
What to pack
Do not make the mistake of thinking that because you are coming to Africa you will only need shorts and t-shirts. It can be very cold and it rains so make sure you pack appropriately. South African summer is between October and April. Although it is fairly warm during these months (maximum temperature around 40° C), this is our rainy season and it can still be cool on some days. The winter is between May and September and it can get very cold in the evenings. Temperatures can get as low as 0° C at night. In winter it tends to be fairly warm, sunny, and dry during the day (t-shirt and shorts or light trousers weather) but make sure you bring a warm coat or thick jumper, a woolly hat, and gloves for the evenings and colder days.
We often experience ‘load shedding’ in South Africa where use of electricity is reduced at scheduled times to help manage the energy crisis. It can therefore useful to bring head torches and portable lamps where possible.
There are a number of nearby shops including pharmacies and grocery shops stocking the essentials and cheap clothes shops, but please note that we do not have a good camping/outdoor shops nearby. To make the most of your airline’s weight allowance, you might prefer to buy toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, etc. when you arrive.
Some suggested items to pack:
- A sleeping bag – a bed sheet, pillow and pillow case are provided.
- A towel.
- A small backpack for carrying things in the field.
- A platypus or camelback 2-3 litre water bottle.
- A personal first aid kit (e.g. rehydration sachets, anti-diarrhoea pills, antibiotics, antihistamines, antiseptic, itch-relief, pain reliever, bandages, blister covers, etc.) and personal medications.
- Waterproof jacket and trousers – these are essential in summer and still recommended in winter as it can be misty.
- A dry-bag is also useful for rainy season.
- A strong and sturdy pair of broken in hiking boots.
- Hiking socks.
- Field clothes – old clothes are recommended as your clothes may end up dirty and torn by the end of your stay.
- Please bring neutral coloured clothing to wear in the field. Studies have shown that many animals react to brightly coloured clothes, more neutral clothes will aid more successful data collection.
- A set of nice clothes – when things are running smoothly we will be able to make outings such as to local restaurants, pubs or national parks.
- A head torch and/or portable lamp
- Sun protection: hat and sunglasses (you can get sunscreen when you get here).
- An alarm clock or a digital watch with an alarm.
- An adaptor for electrical items. Most sockets have 3 round pins, but there are some 2-pin outlets available.
- A swimsuit – optional.
- A camera – optional.
- A laptop – optional if you want to use the internet or watch movies. Also bring an external hard drive with entertainment if you want. We have project computers available for data entry purposes only.
- Reusable shopping bags – optional for using in the supermarket. South African supermarkets charge for plastic bags.
- Mobile phone – optional, but it is a good idea to be able to be in contact with others for safety purposes. We also regularly use Whatsapp to communicate, this being the easiest and most reliable form of communication in this area.