Best Travel Money Tips for South Africa
What Currency is Used in South Africa ?
The currency used throughout all of South Africa is the called the Rand. When looking for currency conversion its ISO code is ZAR, just as Australia's Dollar's ISO code is AUD.
Planning a thrilling adventure in South Africa?
Currency needs to be on your to do list.
Here is some general information about the South African Rand and some tips and tricks to get the best deal on your conversion from AUD to ZAR:
Travel debit cards are a good alternative to carrying cash whenever you go on a trip to South Africa. It may be a cheaper and safer alternative.
Depending on which card you choose, you might get a good deal on the exchange rate between AUD - ZAR as well. By choosing a debit card, you withdraw money from your bank account directly, which is a good option if you saved money for your trip in advance.
This is a convenient way to buy currency but you need some time. You can choose where to pick the order up from, and in some instances can get home delivery. When you order with Travelex, you can choose to order cash, a prepaid Travelex Money Card or both!
Home or Office Delivery
- You can pay by Bpay or bank transfer
- It takes up to 7 days depending on your location
- Choose your cash denominations like small, medium, large or mixed
This is the best way to get currency quickly. You will find them in major shopping centres and towns. Our tip, is that the exchange rates are better in your CBD than what you'd find further out. So it can be worth going there if you're exchanging more than $2,000.
Find the best currency exchange in your states CBD here.
Most banks do exchange currency. The issue is that they often have high fees, and don't offer very good rates. It's always better to compare rates elsewhere before deciding, but as a standard rule it's best to avoid your bank. Especially for a popular currency like ZAR.
Yes, you can buy currency at the airport. While it's convenient, it's also very expensive. If you have run out of time before your trip, it could be better to buy currency when you get to South Africa, or use your Aussie debit card instead.
The 3 Best Travel Cards For Aussies to Use in South Africa
It can be tricky working out which is the best travel card to use in South Africa.
The fact is, the best one for you will really depend on what you need from the card you're using.
We've listed what we think are three of the best prepaid travel cards you can use while you're in South Africa.
What are different types of travel cards?
They can be either prepaid, debit or credit cards designed specially for using overseas. You can use travel cards to make purchases online, in stores and to withdraw money at ATMs. There are 3 popular types:
- Travel Debit Cards
- Prepaid Travel Cards
- Travel Credit Cards
Let's have a look at each one.
Debit Cards offer the convenience of a credit card, but work differently. They draw money directly from your bank account when you make a purchase. It is designed for everyday money transactions and means that you're not accumulating debt.
A debit card could make you stick to your travel budget, because you can't overdraw money from your account. And for daily purchases, we think a debit card can help you stick to your travel budget, because you can't overdraw money from your account.
Generally, we recommend having a combination of a travel debit and travel credit card for safety, flexibility and convenience on your trip.
Best Travel Debit Card: Wise debit Mastercard®
Wise is our best value travel debit card.
With this card:
- It's very easy to set up and order
- You can receive foreign currency into a free multi-currency account linked to the card
- You can transfer money to a bank account overseas
It's not all good news though
- There is a 2% ATM withdrawal fee when you withdraw over $350 during a month
- It takes 7-14 days for delivery
- No annual fee, hidden transaction fees, exchange rate markups
- No minimum balance requirements
- Allows you to make payments and withdrawals wherever you are in the world in over 40 currencies
- Local bank account details in Australia (AUD), the UK (GBP), the USA (USD), Europe (EUR) and New Zealand (NZD)
- It takes 7-14 business days to receive the card
- Can't always access local technical support depending on where you are
- Free cash withdrawals limited to under $350 every 30 days
- Only currently available in the US, UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand
Prepaid Travel Cards
For prepaid cards, you're able to load the card with a set amount of money in the currencies you need. Ideally you do this before your trip, but often you can reload them as well.
Most prepaid travel cards allow for multiple currencies to be loaded onto the card. So it's important to know what currency you'll be using on your travels. Airlines also offer prepaid cards so the money you spend can earn you reward points.
With prepaid travel cards you need to be careful, as they can have numerous fees and charges which can make it more expensive than other options. But if you're organised and travelling to multiple cities a prepaid travel card is a good option.
Revolut is our best value prepaid travel card.
With this card:
- No purchase fee, load fee, reload fee, exchange rate margin or minimum balance requirements
- Unlike other Travel Cards, its free and easy to use the balance of your currency or convert it back to AUD
- The exchange rates are unbeatable. They use the same rate you see on XE or Google with no hidden mark-up
It's not all good news though
- For the free Standard account, there is a 2% ATM withdrawal fee when you withdraw over $350 during a month
- The premium account costs $10.99 a month, which can really add up if you are not using it often
- Very easy to use app
- Free to set up
- No hidden fees or exchange rate mark-ups (except on weekends)
- You can use it to transfer money to a bank account overseas
- Additional fees for using the card on a weekend
- 2% ATM fee once you withdraw more than $350 in any 30 day period
- 3-4 business days before you receive your card
- Ongoing subscription fee for Premium and Metal cards
Travel Credit Cards
Credit cards have obviously been around for a long time. But now there are specialised travel credit cards. Generally, these cards give you longer to pay back what you've spent but the interest rates after this time can be quite high.
The main advantage with credit cards are the reward points you get in return for your customer loyalty when you spend. But it only works if you pay off the balance in full each month.
Credit cards are great to use for car hire, restaurants and accommodation - larger expenses that are easier for you to pay back over time. Some services only take credit cards to hold purchases so they can definitely be handy while you're travelling.
Best Travel Credit Card: 28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard
28 Degrees is our best value travel credit card.
The 28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard is our best value travel credit card. With this card:
- There are no annual fees
- No overseas purchase fee or currency conversion fee
- You get 55 days interest free on purchases
- Access to free 24/7 concierge service
- Emergency card replacement worldwide
The 28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard has additional benefits including shoppers and repayments benefits cover.
- Can have 9 additional cardholders
- No overseas purchase fee, or currency conversion fee
- No foreign transaction fee
- Free Replacement Card
- High interest rates after the initial 55 days
- Minimum credit limit is $6,000
- No introductory offers or rewards
How to buy Rand in South Africa
If you decide to buy your currency when you get to South Africa, you'd may need to make sure you have Australian dollars in cash. This way you can exchange it when you get there.
Similar to Australia, it could be best to avoid buying currency at the airport and the bank, and better to do it in one of the major city centres.
You can use this link to find Travelex stores in South Africa.
Currency Exchange in South Africa
There are lots of banks within South Africa to help you exchange your Aussie dollars. The listed banks below have branches in are located in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Soweto, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Pietermaritzburg.
Standard Bank of South Africa
There are lots of money changers to exchange your Aussie dollars in South Africa. The list below have a strong presence in South Africa.
American Express Foreign Exchange
Global Foreign Exchange
Tower Bureau de Change
Travelex Africa Foreign Exchange
What do the notes and coins look like in South Africa?
The notes are structured in the same way Australian ones are. The notes themselves are designed differently, but they are the same type. South African Rand are made up of:
R10, R20, R50, R100, R200
Each Rand can be divided into 100 cents. In South Africa, the coins used are:
10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R5
The R1 and R2 look similar and R5 looks similar to 1EUR.
Is it cheaper to convert currency in Australia or South Africa?
Exchange rates change frequently, and every provider offers different rates. This makes it hard to say what the cheapest way and place to exchange currency is.
When you're travelling to a place like South Africa you can often get good exchange rates when you arrive because Australian travellers go there frequently. This means money exchangers in South Africa are happy to trade between AUD and ZAR.
Just steer clear of exchanging currency at the airport. On both ends, the rates will be much worse there than in the city centres.
To find the best way to buy ZAR, you can read our guide here.
How Much Things Cost in South Africa
South Africa is becoming an increasingly popular destination for Australians. And with the weather, food, activities and safaris - it's not surprising. Travelling somewhere new for the first time can make budgeting a bit difficult. But it becomes easier to plan your holiday once you know how much things cost in South Africa.
To give you a better idea of how much everything is going to cost, we've listed some essential things you might need on your holiday like accomodation, transport, food and more.
All the prices we've quoted in this article are in Australian dollars but you can visit our currency converter to find out what the exchange rate is between the AUD and ZAR.
Before you head to South Africa, learn about:
- Is it expensive to visit South Africa?
- How much you need to bring to South Africa?
- How much it costs to fly from Australia?
- The cost of food
- Buses and trains
- Tours in South Africa
- Hiring a Car
Is it Expensive to Visit South Africa?
When it comes to travelling in South Africa, there is a big difference between there and Australia. Let's have a look at the cost difference between some food and activities in South Africa and Australia:
Australia vs South Africa
In this table, we have a comparison of some things you might do in South Africa. The prices are approximate, and can change between different cities in South Africa.
|Expense||Cost in Australia||Cost in South Africa|
|1 full month of public transport (MyKi)||$145AUD for a MyKi Pass||$50AUD|
|Full priced Movie ticket||$20AUD||$8AUD|
|1 full month Gym membership||$65AUD||$50AUD|
|A bottle of beer||$5.5AUD||$2AUD|
How much money do I need to bring?
The answer to this question really depends on the type of holiday you're planning. Will you be backpacking and staying in hostels? Will you be living it up at a fancy hotel? If you want to do it on a budget, you easily can or you can splurge and go on a luxury holiday.
South Africa can be a slightly more moderate country to visit, compared with other destinations. Having said this, there are ways you can cut costs if you need to.
Here we have listed an estimate of what you'd need, per person, per day depending on your holiday.
Budget holiday: $100AUD
Middle of the range holiday: $100 - $250AUD
Luxury holiday: At least $250AUD
How much does food cost in South Africa?
Food is a pretty important part of a holiday, and a great way to get to know a country. Especially somewhere like South Africa where there is delicious food to try on every corner. In South Africa, you can really decide how much you want to spend on food everyday. You could get by on as little as $30AUD or if you're fine dining you could spend a lot more! Below we've listed some general prices for eating and drinking out, and the cost of some other bits and bobs.
- Breakfast: $5 - $14 AUD
- Lunch: $10 - $20 AUD
- Dinner: $10 - $30AUD
- Water: $1.5AUD
- Coffee: $2.50AUD
- Beer: $2AUD+
- Bottle of Wine: $5AUD+
Some other examples:
- Big Mac meal: $6AUD
- Bottle of Wine: $7AUD+
- Bottled water: $1.5AUD
- Safari Day Tour: from $100AUD
How much does it cost to fly from Australia to South Africa?
Like flying anywhere in the world, flights between Australia and South Africa can change depending the time of year. Having said this, there are often sales that can get you there quite cheaply.
The flight prices also depend on where in Australia you're flying, there are lots of direct flights from Perth, and from other capital cities you can easily get flights.
Generally the average cost of a return flight to O.R.Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg from Melbourne or Sydney will cost you about $1,300 - $2,600AUD.
Despite the large distances, travelling around most of South Africa is fairly straightforward, with a reasonably organized network of public transport, a good range of car rental companies, the best road system in Africa, and the continent’s most comprehensive network of internal flights.
South Africa’s has many established intercity bus companies such as Greyhound, Intercape Baz Bus and Translux. They reach most towns in the country and travel on these buses is safe, good value and comfortable. The vehicles are usually equipped with air conditioning and toilets.
If you have a limited time for your South African holiday, travelling by plane is an attractive option. South African airways offers the largest number of domestic flights. Budget airlines like Kulula, Velvet Sky and Mango, have more limited networks than the big airlines, but generally offer better deals on the major routes with several flights per day.
Shosholoza Meyl is a long-distance passenger trains system that connects major cities on a regular basis
Premier Classe trains link Cape Town & Johannesburg weekly. It is luxury train for those on a budget
The Blue Train is a luxury train from Cape Town to Pretoria
Rovos Rail is another luxury train servicing the major cities
Utilising tours is a great way to meet other travellers and learn about the area you're in. If you're looking to have a completely guided tour, you could consider looking into companies like Intrepid, Bunniks or Topdeck. But even on a smaller scale, you can often find guided tours to different parts of the country which can usually be organised through your hotel or hostel. These may set you back a small fee to cover the cost.
Viator is a great website to get information about tours you can do throughout South Africa!
Hiring a Car
You can hire a car in South Africa, in fact travelling by car is the only access to some national parks and coastal areas.
In order to drive there you will need to obtain an International Drivers Permit (IDP) which you can do in Australia. Remember that if you're hiring a car and you're under 25, it is usually more expensive than it is for older drivers. Road maps are a worthwhile investment and are readily available in South Africa.
Price of a Rental Car in South Africa, per Week:
- Budget: From $150AUD per week for a budget car that will comfortably fit two people and luggage
- Mid-range: From $250AUD for a mid-range car that will easily fit four people and luggage
- High-end: From $400AUD for a high end car such as a large SUV or luxury vehicle
Rental Car Companies
You can somewhat be flexible about how much you spend on accomodation when you get to South Africa. If you're keeping it low key and don't want to spend much, there are hostels, or you could live it up! Below are some rough guides to how much you can expect to pay.
Accomodation on a budget, like hostels cost about $30 to $100AUD a night.
Mid-range accomodation like a double room in a 3 star hotel will probably cost between $100 and $350AUD a night.
A double luxury hotel room will cost from $350AUD up to as much as you're willing to spend per night.
Using the following sites will give you an even better idea of how much the accomodation you're after will cost you.
As wages are low here, and tipping is expected.
- Restaurants & cafes - Tip 10% to 15% of the total in restaurants and 10% in cafes.
- Hotels - A standard tip of R10 to R20 is welcomed.
- Car guards - Offer R2, or R5 for longer periods.
- Petrol stations - Anything from R5 – more if the attendant washes the windscreen and checks the tyres etc.
- Taxis Tips not expected but rounding up the fare will be appreciated.