South African Customs & Duty Free

South African Customs & Duty Free

Customs & Duty Free in South Africa

Here is some useful information about the South African Customs, VAT & Duty Free procedures to help you get an idea of what to expect and how to prepare before you travel.

Your first stop will be that of customs, please make sure to read all the information so that you know what you can and cannot bring into or leave with from the country. South Africa does allow duty free allowances and uses a 14% VAT system that can also be claimed back on all movable goods, excluding any services such as food, transport and accommodation. Otherwise, come and enjoy our world class food, wine, accommodations and my photo tours and walks

South African Customs

Customs requirements for Travelers

All travelers arriving in South Africa at land, sea or air ports 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

Travelers arriving in South Africa with goods to declare must fill in a Traveler Card. Also called a TC-01 form.

Your baggage may be X-rayed or examined by Customs officers to detect
restricted or prohibited goods or items that aren’t duty free. You may also be questioned, should any of these be found. Fines or legal prosecution can follow should these items be found


In addition to the personal effects and consumable goods allowances, travelers are allowed new or used goods in accompanied baggage to the value of R5000, or
R25000 if arriving from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia or Swaziland.

Red or Green channel?

After arriving in South Africa, you need to complete the Traveler Card before proceeding to Immigration. After reporting to Immigration, collect your baggage and then proceed to Customs’ red or green channel (or to the Customs counter if there is no red or green channel).

Go Green if:

  • You have nothing to declare
    You qualify for, and the goods in their possession fall within, the duty-free
    allowance as listed above
  • You are not in possession of any prohibited or restricted goods
  • You are not in possession of any commercial goods (imported for trade
  • You are not in possession of gifts carried on behalf of others, i.e. those sent by
    a person overseas to another person in South Africa. Such goods are subject to
    the payment of duties and taxes, as well as the production of an import permit,
    where applicable
  • You are returning residents with goods that were declared on a DA 65 form
    when they left South Africa.

Go RED if:

  • If you have in your possession any prohibited/restricted goods and/or goods which fall outside your duty-free allowance, or if you are unsure whether any goods in your possession fall within these categories 

Prohibited Goods

The importation of the following goods into South Africa is strictly prohibited:

  • Narcotic and habit-forming drugs in any form
  • Fully automatic, military and unnumbered weapons
  • Cigarettes with a mass of more than 2kg per 1 000
  • Explosives and fireworks
  • Poison and other toxic substances
  • 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
  • Penitentiary or prison-made goods

Restricted Goods requiring permits

Certain goods may only be imported if you are in possession of the necessary authority / permit. Examples are:

  • Firearms / Weapons
  • Gold coins
  • Unprocessed minerals (e.g. gold, diamonds, etc.)
  • Animals, plants and their products (e.g. animal skins, dairy products, honey)
  • Medicine (excluding sufficient quantities for three months for own personal treatment accompanied by a letter or certified prescription from a registered physician)
  • Herbal products (Department of Health permit required)

South African Duty Free

Duty-free allowances

Goods falling within the following allowances may be brought in 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 perfume and 250ml eau de toilette per person
  • No more than 2 litres of wine per person
  • No more than 1 litre in total of other alcoholic beverages per person
  • In addition to personal effects and the above consumable allowances, travelers are allowed new or used goods in accompanied baggage to the value of R5 000.
  • A traveler is entitled to these allowances once per person during a period of 30 days after an absence of 48 hours from South Africa.
  • The tobacco and alcohol allowance is not applicable to persons under the age of 18 years.
  • Crew members are not entitled to any consumable allowances.

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 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.

VAT in South Africa

South Africa has a Value Added Tax (VAT) system of 14% on all purchases and services. Most prices include the VAT amount, but double check to make sure.

Foreign visitors can claim back a refund on VAT from purchases that are applicable to the acquisition of goods and not on the acquisition of services i.e. the VAT charged at 14% on any acquisition of services, such as transport, food and accommodation, will not qualify for a refund.

A VAT refund requirements:

  • The purchaser must be a qualifying purchaser.
  • The goods must be exported within 90 days from the date of the tax invoice.
  • The VAT inclusive total of all movable goods, purchased during a visit to South Africa, and exported at the end of that visit, must exceed the minimum of R250 per visitor.


Documentation needed to claim a VAT refund

You need an original tax invoice, showing:

  • Seller’s name and address
  • VAT registration number
  • Invoice number
  • Your name and full postal address
  • Complete description of the item/s purchased,
  • Cost of the item/s in Rand with the VAT reflected separately or the cost including VAT with a statement that the price includes VAT.

Copies of the original in any form are not acceptable. You must insist on the correct documentation when purchasing an item.

You must hold a foreign passport reflecting your country of residence/citizenship as other than South Africa.

Procedure when claiming a VAT refund?

When departing from South Africa, you must present the tax invoices, together with all the items on which a VAT refund is claimed, at the VAT Refund Administration for inspection and endorsement of the tax invoices.

All the items on which VAT Refund to be claimed, must be presented for examination. If you cannot display the items and documents, you will not obtain a VAT Refund.

Who Can Claim?

Foreign passport holders who travel to the Republic of South Africa on a non-resident travel document and export movable goods from South Africa. When purchasing goods, simply identify yourself as a foreign tourist to shop assistants, and request a tax invoice. A tax invoice must contain all the following information:

VAT claim problems at airport

If you were unable to comply with the VAT procedure as stated above, the VAT Refund Administration is prepared to consider your claim, if you submit the following documentation to them:

  • A letter explaining the circumstances which prevented you from following the correct procedure.
  • The original invoices stamped either at the SA Airport on your departure, or at your country’s resident airport on your arrival back in your resident country.
  • If you cannot comply to above you have to obtain a declaration (affidavit) by a “Notary Public” declaring that he has actually seen the items and that they are in your resident country.
  • A copy of your passport showing the dates you entered and left South Africa.