Arriving in South Africa
All travellers arriving in South Africa at land, sea or airports of entry are required to pass through immigration control, a service offered by the South African Department of Home Affairs, on arrival and before collecting their baggage. Thereafter they have to pass through customs control which falls under the auspices of the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
Under the Customs and Excise Act No 91 of 1964 they are required to declare all the goods in their possession on a DA331 form.
Baggage may be X-rayed or examined by customs officers to detect dutiable, restricted or prohibited goods and you may be questioned.
It is illegal to bring in the following prohibited goods to South Africa:
- Narcotics: All narcotic and psychotropic substances, as well as habit-forming drugs such as cannabis, heroin, cocaine, Mandrax, Ecstasy and any paraphernalia relating to their use.
- Firearms, weapons and ammunition: fully automatic, military and unnumbered weapons, explosives and fireworks and weapons of mass destruction
- Poison and other toxic substances
- Cigarettes with a mass of more than 2kg per 1000
- Goods to which a trade description or trademark is applied in contravention of any Act (for example, counterfeit goods)
- Unlawful reproductions of any works subject to copyright, and
- Prison-made and penitentiary-made goods.
Goods be to declared
Certain goods may only be imported if you are in possession of the necessary authority/permit and these have to be declared on arrival. A few examples of the goods in question are listed here for information:
- Currency: South African bank notes in excess of R10 000, gold coins, coin and stamp collections and unprocessed gold.
- Endangered plants and animals: Species of plants or animals that are listed as endangered, whether they are alive or dead. The restriction includes any parts of and articles made from these.
- Food, plants, animals and biological goods: All plants and plant products, such as seeds, flowers, fruit, honey, margarine and vegetable oils. All animals, birds, poultry and products thereof, for example, dairy products, butter and eggs. Click here for more information.
- Medicines: Travellers are allowed to bring in one month’s supply of pharmaceutical drugs and medicines for their personal use. All other pharmaceutical drugs and medicines have to be declared and have to be accompanied by a letter or certified prescription from a registered physician.
Note: If you are in any doubt whether any goods that you intend to bring to South Africa are restricted, please contact your nearest South African Embassy/HighCommission abroad or the nearest Customs office in South Africa. A list of Customs offices can be found on the SARS website: www.sars.gov.za
Please click here for a full list of Prohibited and Restricted items.
The following goods may be imported into South Africa without the payment of customs duty and Value-Added Tax (VAT):
Consumable goods in accompanied baggage
Goods falling within the following allowances may be imported without the payment of customs duty and VAT as accompanied baggage.
- 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 litres of wine per person.
- No more than 1 litre in total of spirituous and other alcoholic beverages per person.
Note that persons under 18 years of age may claim duty-free allowances on goods imported by them, with the exception of alcohol and tobacco products, whether or not they are accompanied by their parents or guardians and provided that it is for their personal use.
Personal effects, sporting and recreational equipment
Visitors may bring in new or used personal effects, sporting and recreational equipment, either as accompanied or unaccompanied baggage, for own use during their visit.
Please note that you may be required to lodge a cash deposit to cover the potential duty/tax on expensive articles pending the re-exportation of these items. The deposit will be refunded on departure after a Customs officer has physically inspected the items and verified that they are being re-exported.
Visitors must notify the Customs office at which the deposit was lodged at least two days before departure to ensure that the refund is ready. You will find the office telephone number on the documents which will be given to you when lodging your deposit.
If you are departing from a port other than the port where you lodged the deposit, the inspection report confirming the re-exportation of the items will be forwarded to the office where the deposit was lodged and a cheque will be posted to the address you had provided.
New and used goods
In addition to the personal effects and consumables allowances, travellers are allowed new or used goods in accompanied baggage to the value of R5 000.
This allowance is only valid per person during a 30-day period and does not apply to goods imported by persons returning after an absence of less than 48 hours.
For more information: SARS Traveller's guide to South African customs requirements.
Leaving South Africa
Refund of tax on visitors’ purchases
A 14% Value Added Tax (VAT) is levied on the purchase of most goods in South Africa. Tourists and foreign visitors to South Africa may apply at departure points at the various ports for a refund of the VAT paid with the VAT Refund Administrator.
The tax invoices for the purchases and the goods must be presented for inspection to the VAT Refund Administrator. The administrator will charge a commission for this service.
Please note that should the VAT Refund Administrator not be present at the port of exit the goods in question may be presented to a Customs officer for inspection. Customs will stamp the invoices, place it in an envelope and ensure delivery thereof to the VAT Refund Administrator who will be in correspondence with you on the matter.
Note that no refunds will be made if the claim is not lodged before departure.
Any further queries you may have must be taken up directly with the VAT Refund Administrator.
Enquiries in this regard may be forwarded to:
Postal Address P O Box 107,O.R Tambo International Airport,1627, South Africa
Telephone + 27 (11) 394 1117
Facsimile +27 (11) 394 1430
E- mail firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information: SARS Traveller's guide to South African custom requirements or www.sars.gov.za