Co-author: William Jolly
South Africa has always been synonymous with wildlife safaris where you can see the big cats, elephants, giraffes and rhinos in their natural habitats. But the country offers a heap more – like surf beaches, wine trails and incredible natural landscapes offset with sophisticated big city facilities in the likes of Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Bloemfontein.
As with any overseas travel, a key component to sort out before you leave is travel insurance. If you’re considering a trip there, then hopefully this article will tell you all you need to know about travel insurance for South Africa.
Here’s some travel insurance policies for a couple under the age of 70 who are travelling to South Africa with links directly to the provider’s websites.
Quick facts about South Africa
- Pretoria (President and Cabinet administrative capital)
- Cape Town (Parliamentary legislative capital)
- Bloemfontein (Supreme Court Judiciary capital)
- Land area: 1,221,000 km2
- Official languages: 11
- Sesotho sa Leboa
- Population: 55.91 million (2016)
- Currency: Rand (ZAR)
- Fun fact: 20% of the world’s gold is mined in South Africa
Travel insurance for South Africa
You never know what can happen in a place like South Africa. Accidents are always on the cards anywhere you go, of course, and when you’re away from home, stress can escalate quickly in the event of accident or illness. It can be a lifesaver to have the backup support of a good travel insurance policy with a 24/7 helpline available if you need it.
Some of the main reasons why you might need travel insurance for South Africa include:
Cancellation costs for flights, accommodation and tours
Before you even get to South Africa, things like an unexpected illness for you or a family member, or your boss withholding your annual leave can be reasons why you might need to cancel your trip.
Travel insurance for South Africa can help reimburse you for any resulting out-of-pocket expenses, such as cancellation fees for safari tours, accommodation or flights.
Overseas emergency medical expenses
An accident or illness while you’re in South Africa could mean a visit to the doctor or even the hospital. Travel insurance for South Africa can cover emergency overseas medical costs, as well as medical repatriation to Australia (a flight home) if needed.
Medical standards vary throughout South Africa. They are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of some game parks, but may be limited elsewhere. In remote areas, air evacuation to a major city is sometimes the only option for medical emergencies.
This can cost over $10,000 AUD. That’s why you need a comprehensive travel insurance policy, regardless of how fit and healthy you are!
Travel delay/changed travel plans
South Africa is not prone to a vast array of natural disasters, but similarly to Australia, the odd drought, flood or bushfire can interrupt your travel schedule. If anything does occur to cause a last-minute and unavoidable change in your travel plans, travel insurance can cover you for the cancellation fees and emergency travel or temporary accommodation.
Cover for theft or lost luggage and personal items
Theft is a risk wherever you travel, and if you speak to any South African expat in Australia, they are likely to bemoan South Africa’s high crime rate.
Then there’s the risk that travellers to any destination can have – their luggage or personal items getting lost in transit. It’s a long flight to the Cape, after all.
Case Study: Rhys
Rhys was waiting at a bus terminal when his bag was stolen. He lost all his clothes and other personal items.
When he made his insurance claim he told them that his bag was stolen from the bus stop bench while he was in a nearby shop. The insurer rejected his claim because his bag was classified as being “unattended”.
How much does travel insurance for South Africa cost?
Travel insurance is a necessary item, particularly if you are travelling out of the country. And after you’ve paid for a flight of 18 hours upwards, accommodation, safari wildlife tours and more, travel insurance is really not an expensive add-on.
To give you an idea of how much travel insurance costs for South Africa, Canstar Research has crunched the numbers on policies from 79 providers to calculate the minimum, maximum and average travel insurance premiums you’ll pay for a 10- or 21-day jaunt to South Africa.
All premiums below are based on the premium data collected for Canstar’s 2017 Travel Insurance Star Ratings. Premiums have been rounded to the nearest dollar.
What does South Africa travel insurance cover?
Cheapest is not always best and in the case of travel insurance, it’s important to buy the cover that suits your situation. With a typical travel insurance policy for South Africa, you will want, at a minimum:
- Medical or dental emergency – hospital admission, emergency care and medical evacuation.
- Repatriation – if tragedy strikes while you are away, repatriation covers the cost of flying your body and belongings back home to Australia. Some travel funds also include a separate sum for funeral expenses.
- Lost or stolen luggage, passport or other items – replacing luggage and travel documents is the most common claim for travel insurance.
- Cancelling your trip unexpectedly – due to illness, accident, holiday leave being revoked or a natural disaster at home or at your intended destination.
- Legal liability – if you break a local law and need a lawyer/interpreter.
What does South Africa travel insurance not cover?
There are a number of general exclusions you need to be aware of when travelling to South Africa (or most countries for that matter). Some of the most common exclusions include:
- Irresponsible behaviour under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Pre-existing conditions you were aware of before purchasing your policy
- Unattended items
- Claims that weren’t lodged with your provider within 24 hours
- Driving a motorbike without a license/helmet
When selecting a travel insurance policy, Canstar’s research shows that you get what you pay for; 3- to 5-Star policies tend to cover most things, whereas 1- and 2-Star policies have various exclusions, even sometimes excluding accidental death.
The bottom line is to compare travel insurance and check the fine print carefully to make sure you’re covered for the activities you’ll be doing and other things that could happen along the way. A policy that falls short will seriously disappoint you if you have to make a claim.
Risks in South Africa
Travel to South Africa is not without its risks, and we’re not necessarily talking wildlife or sharks here. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises travellers to exercise a high degree of caution, as crime is a serious issue in South Africa. Pay close attention when in large city centres, especially shopping centres, where there has been an increase in robberies.
In terms of health risks, the rates of HIV/AIDs, cholera, malaria and more exotic risks like bilharzia are high in poorer and remote locations. Appropriate precautions should be taken, and you should make sure that you are fully immunized weeks before you depart. Full details can be found on the Smart Traveller website.
Overall, you need to exercise a higher degree of caution than you otherwise would in Australia.
Getting help in South Africa
If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. The national emergency number is 10111, and the number for ambulance services is 10177.
For emergency embassy help, contact the Australia Embassy in the capital of Pretoria:
Australian High Commission, Pretoria
Address: 292 Orient Street, Arcadia, Pretoria 0083
Telephone: +27 (0)12 423 6000
Fax: +27 (0)12 342 8442
See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision. In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the High Commission in South Africa you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 (2) 6261 3305 (within Africa) or 1300 555 135 (from within Australia).
Risks aside, be prepared for the holiday adventure of a lifetime when you experience South Africa’s colourful culture. To compare travel insurance for your South African holiday, visit the Canstar comparison tables: