South Africa: Travel Vaccines & Health Advice

South Africa: Travel Vaccines & Health Advice

These are some of the major health risks and vaccinations that you’ll need to consider for a trip to South Africa.

We stock most required vaccines on-site. You should ideally see us 4-6 weeks before your trip.

Recommended vaccinations:

Hepatitis A vaccine

Highly recommended. Hepatitis A is a viral disease that affects the liver. You can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water in this country, regardless of where you are eating or staying.

Immunisation is the best protection against hepatitis A infection and is recommended for travel to this area. It involves either 2 doses of hepatitis A vaccine, or 3 doses of the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines given as a combination.

Typhoid vaccine

Recommended for most travellers. You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.

Safe food and water practices are the basis of prevention, but vaccination is also recommended for travel to this area. Immunity post-vaccination lasts for 2-3 years.

Some travellers may require:

Anti-malaria medications

You should avoid mosquito bites to prevent malaria.

You may need to take prescription medicine before, during, and after your trip to prevent malaria, depending on your travel plans, such as where you are going, when you are traveling, and if you are spending a lot of time outdoors or sleeping outside. Effective options would include doxycycline, atovaquone/proguanil or mefloquine.

Malaria is present throughout the year in the low altitude areas of the Mpumalanga Province, Northern Province Limpopo and northeastern KwaZulu-Natal as far south as the Tugela (Thukela) River; also, risk in Kruger National Park.

Rabies vaccine

Rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in this country, but it is not a major risk to most travellers. The vaccine is only recommended for these groups:

  • Travellers involved in outdoor and other activities in remote areas that put them at risk for animal bites (such as adventure travel and caving).
  • People who will be working with or around animals (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, and researchers).
  • People who are taking long trips or moving to remote areas

Routine vaccinations

Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip, such as:

  • measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
  • diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
  • varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
  • influenza vaccine

Other health considerations for travellers to South Africa


Plague is a serious infection caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis. Humans can catch the infection via infected fleas or by inhalation. Untreated plague can be rapidly fatal, so diagnosis and early treatment are essential.


Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is a common, serious infection caused by a parasite found in rivers, streams and lakes in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America. The parasite infects people by penetrating their skin then developing in the person’s blood stream.

No vaccine is available. To avoid bilharzia:

  • avoid paddling, swimming and washing in fresh water – only swim in the sea or chlorinated swimming pools
  • take waterproof trousers and boots with you if there’s a chance you’ll need to cross a stream or river
  • boil or filter water before drinking – as the parasites could burrow into your lips or mouth if you drink contaminated water
  • avoid medicines sold locally that are advertised to treat or prevent schistosomiasis – these are often either fake, substandard, ineffective or not given at the correct dosage
  • don’t rely on assurances from hotels, tourist boards or similar that a particular stretch of water is safe – there have been reports of some organisations downplaying the risks

Sleeping sickness (Trypanosomiasis)

African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) is an insect-borne parasitic disease. It occurs in 36 sub-Sarahan Africa countries where it is transmitted by tsetse flies.

Travellers diarrhoea

Traveller’s diarrhoea affects roughly 20-50% of overseas travellers. It is caused by ingesting contaminated food or water. The bacteria that trigger the illness may appear harmless to the local population, usually because they have developed immunity to them. Symptoms include abdominal bloating, cramps, nausea, fevers and diarrhoea.

Tips to prevent traveller’s diarrhoea:

  • Avoid contaminated foods such as raw or peeled vegetables, undercooked meats, unpasteurised dairy products and food from street vendors.
  • Avoid drinking or brushing your teeth with tap water
  • Buy bottled water to drink
  • Boil tap water for at least 5 minutes before drinking it
  • Avoid drinks that contain ice
  • Avoid using tap water to wash your fruit and vegetables
  • Wash your hands and eat at reputable restaurants.


Tuberculosis is a disease caused by infection with the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis can damage a person’s lungs or other parts of the body and cause serious illness.

  • Avoid exposure to people who have active tuberculosis.
  • Only consume pasteurized milk products.
  • Travellers at higher risk should be tested for tuberculosis upon their return home.
  • There is a vaccine available which confers partial protection. Speak to your doctor to determine if this is recommended.

This information is intended as a guide only and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Recommendations on vaccinations and medications require assessment on an individual basis, taking into account factors such as your medical history, itinerary, length of stay and style of travel.