Visitors on holiday from most Commonwealth countries (including Australia and the UK), most Western European countries, Japan and the USA don’t require visas. Instead, you’ll be issued with a free entry permit on arrival. These are valid for up to 90 days, and your passport must be valid for at least 30 days after the end of your intended visit. Unless you request otherwise, the immigration officer may use the date of your flight out as the date of your permit expiry.
If you aren’t entitled to an entry permit, you’ll need to get a visa (R425 or US$47 or €43) before you arrive. These aren’t issued at the borders, and must be obtained at a South African embassy or consulate, found in most countries. Allow at least a month for processing; for more information, visit the Department of Home Affairs website (www.home-affairs.gov.za).
If you do need a visa (rather than an entry permit), get a multiple-entry visa if you plan to make a foray into Lesotho, Swaziland or any other neighbouring country. This avoids the hassle of applying for another South African visa.
For any entry – whether you require a visa or not – you need to have at least one completely blank page in your passport, excluding the final blank page.
Visas for onward travel
Visas for Namibia are not issued at the border, though many nationalities don’t require one. Visas for Zimbabwe and Mozambique are available at the borders. (South African nationals don’t need a visa for Mozambique.) For Mozambique it’s cheaper to arrange your visa in advance at the Mozambican High Commission in Mbabane, or in Nelspruit. Both issue express visas in 24 hours.
If you’ll be arranging your visa in advance: Zimbabwean visas take at least a week to issue in South Africa; those for Namibia take two to three days; and those for Botswana take between four and 14 days. Nonexpress Mozambique visas take one week.