Travel insurance South Africa

Clifton beach, Cape Town, South Africa.
Photo by kylefromthenorth on Unsplash

Whatever’s calling you to South Africa, whether it be Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain, incredible natural scenery, and beaches, or even if you’re heading out of the major cities to spot some of the local wildlife on safari, there’s so much to see and do for travellers of every stripe.

South Africa is known for its excellent tourism infrastructure, so it’s no wonder the African country, which sits on the continent’s southernmost tip, is such a popular destination. Their capital city, Cape Town, was named the best place to visit in the world in 2014, by the New York Times and the Daily Telegraph (UK). 

Wherever you and whatever you do it’s never a bad idea to look into a travel insurance policy for your trip, so that if the unexpected happens, you can rest assured that you probably won’t be stung with extra expenses or costly delays.

What should my travel insurance policy for South Africa include?

When choosing a travel insurance policy you need to consider what kind of traveller you are. When comparing international travel insurance policies, consider how long you are travelling for, what cover you might need, and if there are any optional-extras you need to add on.

Whether you’re travelling around South Africa in a rental vehicle or motorbike, backpacking, or sightseeing, an international travel insurance policy should fit your needs and budget. If you’re looking to cruise out of Cape Town towards Mossel Bay, then make sure your policy offers cruise travel insurance as an optional-extra. Some providers will offer motorcycle and moped insurance as an optional extra, if they don’t already include it in their policy. 

Also, if you’re travelling with a pre-existing medical condition, make sure that your insurance provider covers your condition. You don’t want to foot the bill in an overseas hospital if your health acts up while travelling. 

According to Smartraveller, South Africa’s public medical facilities are generally of a lower standard than Australia’s, so if you’re overseas and need private hospital care, then the bill might cause as much pain as your injury or illness. That is, if your travel insurance policy doesn’t cover hospital expenses, or if your included medical benefit limit is too low to cover it all. 

Many travel insurance providers will offer different tiers of cover on their international policies. These often range from basic or essential policies, to premium or comprehensive policies. 

Generally, a basic policy will cover benefits like overseas emergency medical and hospital expenses, and personal liability. However, cover for things like flight delays, cancellations, loss of travel documents or cash, might only be available if you pay a higher premium.

Do Australians need a visa to travel to South Africa?

If you’re visiting South Africa for tourism purposes and staying less than 90 days, then you won’t need a visa to enter the country.

Can I get COVID-19 travel insurance for South Africa?

According to the Smartraveller website, South Africa’s borders are slowly re-opening to international travellers after the COVID-19 pandemic swept across much of the world. 

The entry requirements for any international travellers entering South Africa are easing.

Fully vaccinated travel to South Africa

Fully vaccinated travellers will no longer need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result to enter South Africa, however you will need to provide proof of your vaccinations with a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate. 

Unvaccinated travel to South Africa 

If you are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, then you will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test taken no later than 72 hours before your departure, or produce a valid negative rapid antigen test (RAT) result no later than 48 hours before the date of departure, performed by:

  • A medical practitioner
  • A registered public health authority
  • An accredited/approved laboratory. 

Otherwise, you must complete a RAT upon arrival and have it come up as negative in order to gain entry into the country. 

However, if you’re travelling overseas, your international travel insurance might not cover you for any COVID-19 related claims, depending if your destination is considered high-risk by the Australian government’s Smartraveller warnings. So, before you go booking your South African adventure, make sure you check the travel advice warnings for your destinations. 

If your policy does cover COVID-19 related events, it may only provide cover for overseas medical and cancellation costs if you contract COVID-19, and may not cover things like mandatory quarantine or government-mandated border closures.

Travel insurance tips for South Africa

Excess fees. When you need to make a claim on your travel insurance policy, you may be required to pay a certain part of the total value of your claim. The rest would be paid by the insurance provider. This amount that you need to pay yourself is called an excess. This excess fee can vary according to your policy. Generally, the cheaper the cover, the more likely your excess fee will be higher.
Pre-existing conditions.
Travel insurance providers ask you to declare any pre-existing conditions at the time of purchasing the policy. If you fail to do so, the insurance company can reject a claim you later make regarding that condition. Also, remember that pregnancies are considered as a pre-existing condition.
Unattended baggage.
Remember that if your bags go missing while you’ve left them unattended, your insurance provider may reject your claim. In fact, even when you leave your bags with the hotel concierge after you’ve checked out, that’s often considered ‘unattended’ in the provider’s eyes. So, leaving your luggage with the concierge at the hotel could result in your provider refusing to reimburse you for it, if it goes missing. 
Report incidents ASAP.
Whether you’ve injured yourself while riding a moped through Cape Town, or had your purse stolen, you need to report any incident as soon as possible. Again, if you’ve read your policy’s product disclosure statement (PDS) carefully, you’ll know the exact documentation that you will be required to submit with your claim. Generally, these will be doctors reports, hospital bills, police reports, or receipts, depending on the nature of your claim. So, make sure you hold onto these when it comes to contacting your travel insurance provider. 
Driving in South Africa.
First of all, don’t drive a vehicle you aren’t licensed to drive. Luckily for Australians, if you have a valid Australian drivers licence, you can use that, so long as you’re over the age of 18. Make sure you have the right paperwork when you hire a car in South Africa, and consider whether or not your policy covers rental vehicle insurance excess, in case there’s an accident in your hire car. And like in any part of the world, don’t drink and drive – your insurance will not cover you for any accidents while under the influence.
Drink responsibly.
Always remember to be responsible with your drinks. If you face a medical emergency or injury while you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your insurance company could refuse to reimburse you for the resulting expenses. The worst type of hangover doesn’t come from cheap beer – it’s induced by bills.

Compare travel insurance policies here - last updated 19 May 2022

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