South African Currency Exchange Guide

From its iconic wildlife to its cosmopolitan cities, South Africa can offer something to travellers of any persuasion. The country boasts some of the continent’s most stunning natural wonders, from the awe-inspiring Table Mountain to Kruger National Park. Visitors can explore diverse terrain, including rugged mountain ranges, coastal beaches and deserts. With its absorbing history and breathtaking sights, South Africa is a perfect choice for holidaymakers seeking new experiences in a beautiful and captivating location.

General South African Currency Information

What is the currency of South Africa?

The official currency of South Africa is the South African rand (ZAR).

What do South African notes & coins look like?

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South African 7th series banknotes are printed on a cotton substrate, with the obverse of each denomination featuring Nelson Mandela. The 10 Rand note is dominantly green and features Mandela’s birthplace of Mvezo as its reverse design. Celebrating his youthful home, the 20 Rand note has a dominant brown colour, and the reverse image features Soweto. The 50 Rand note stands out in red against a motif of Howick, where police captured Mandela in 1962. The Robben Island prison accompanies the blue 100 rand note, while the 200 rand is orange with a reverse illustration of Mandela’s bronze statue at the Union Buildings.

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South African coins are a fascinating part of the modern-day currency, designed to be both beautiful and easily recognisable. Each denomination has its own vibrant combination of base metals and alloys, featuring different sizes, dominant colours, themes on the reverse, and ridges, rims and serrations on the edges. For example, the highest value coin is the 5 rand, showcasing the Black Wildebeest and South Africa’s national animal on the 1 and – The Springbok. Other coins include 2 rands depicting a Kudu and 50 cents featuring a Strelitzia flower. To top it off, two symbols deeply entrenched in South Africa’s national heritage can also be found on 20-cent coins displaying the King protea flower or 10-cent coins with Arum Lilies.

Economy

South Africa has a vibrant and well-developed economy, which is the third largest in Africa. Shipping, oil refining, automobile manufacturing and mining are some of its traditional industries, while technology and financial services provide new growth opportunities. Its Gross Domestic Product (nominal) has almost tripled since 1996 after international sanctions ended. As a result, foreign exchange reserves increased from US$3 billion to nearly US$50 billion, providing economic energy for the diversifying market. This creates an upper-middle-income economy with a growing middle class within two decades of the apartheid ending.

Brief currency history

The South African rand is the legal tender of South Africa, which was first introduced in 1961 when the country declared itself a republic. This replaced the previous South African pound, which had been used since it became a British Dominion in 1910. Upon its introduction, it quickly gained value – 1 rand, equivalent to 1.40 US dollars in its first ten years.

However, as international pressure grew against South Africa’s institutionalised system of racial segregation, known as apartheid, the rand’s value declined significantly both because of inflation and through depreciation due to increasing disapproval of and opposition to apartheid by other nations.

The rand depreciated sharply against the US dollar during the 1980s and early 1990s. This was partially due to macroeconomic concerns as South Africa moved to dismantle the apartheid system and establish a black majority rule. By 2001, the exchange rate had skyrocketed to nearly 14 ZAR/1 USD, indicating how dramatic the changes were during this period. These political and economic movements occurred in South Africa during that time led to instability in the currency.

From 2001 to 2006, the rand was strongly recovered against the US dollar due to positive economic growth. However, in 2012, a decline in South Africa’s mining industry caused the rand to spiral downwards against the dollar once again. By 2014 it had fallen to 15 ZAR/1 USD. This devaluation was further deepened by South Africa’s persistent trade account deficit and decreased export demand from their major trading partner, China.

In 2016, it hit an all-time low of 18 ZAR/1 USD, and in 2017 Moody’s rated South Africa just above junk status. Despite these economic woes, the South African economy shows signs of recovery and resilience, with the latest exchange rate set at 15 ZAR/1 USD. Despite this initial stabilisation of the currency, many obstacles in terms of poverty, crime, political unrest, and unemployment must be overcome for sustained economic growth.

Taking Travel Money to South Africa

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What currency should I take to South Africa?

If you’re travelling to South Africa, you’ll need to exchange your Australian dollars (AUD) for South African rands (ZAR). Get more information on exchanging AUD to ZAR.

Is it better to convert currency in Australia or South Africa?

When travelling from Australia to South Africa, it is more practical and beneficial to buy South African rand in Australia than to do so in South Africa. Converting your currency before leaving Australia will save you time, unnecessary stress, and possibly additional costs associated with exchanging currency overseas. This way, you can know exactly how much travel money you have before your departure and access the funds right away when you land in South Africa.

How much money can I take to South Africa?

Up to 25,000ZAR in cash is allowed for the South African Rand, and up to US$10,000 or its equivalent in other currencies is permitted. Anything higher than this should be declared on entry. 

Where to convert currency?

With Crown Currency Exchange’s competitive foreign exchange rates and nearly 20 years in the business, customers can rest assured their conversion will be completed professionally. Crown Currency Exchange is also highly accessible, with 50 stores across Australia, so regardless of your location, you’ll be able to find a friendly professional willing to assist. Even better, there are no hidden fees or commissions when you purchase currency through Crown Currency Exchange.

Is tipping customary in South Africa? How much is expected?

As a visitor, you’ll want to ensure that you respect local customs and traditions—including tipping etiquette. So to help you, here are some tips on how to tip in South Africa.

Taxis: When taking a taxi in South Africa, it’s customary to tip 10-20% of your total fare. How much you give should depend on the length of your ride, the number of stops you made, the friendliness and professionalism of your driver, and the distance they took you.

Restaurants: In restaurants and cafes across South Africa, 10% is considered an absolute minimum tip; 15% or more is more usual. You can use your judgement about where to place your tipping rate based on the quality of service you received.

Spas and Salons: If you are visiting a spa or salon while in South Africa, 10-15% of the total service charge is generally acceptable when leaving a tip for your technician or stylist. Those who receive exceptional service may choose to go more than this amount if they feel inclined; however, this should not be expected but rather as an act of kindness if warranted by the level of service provided 

Safari Staff: For safari guides or other staff members that help make your trip more enjoyable, tips should range between R100-R250 per day depending on their level of expertise and helpfulness during your stay. Be sure to ask before giving any tips what is standard or appropriate so as not to overstep any bounds about cultural etiquette.

Hotels: Tips at hotels can vary widely depending on the length of stay and services received by guests; however, R20-R500 are the usual amounts given by visitors who have had an enjoyable experience during their visit. Again, it’s best practice to ask before leaving any tips what would be considered polite so as not to make anyone uncomfortable with expectations that are too high or too low for the service provided.  

What is ATM access like in South Africa?

Banking in South Africa is highly convenient due to its well-developed system and vast network of ATMs. Accessing cash is simple, with both traditional and more established banks offering access to ATMs located in strategic places such as near supermarkets, shopping malls, and even bank branches. Furthermore, navigating the ATMs is relatively straightforward, with English as the primary language for making transactions.

What should you budget per day?

Budget

For the budget-conscious traveller, South Africa is an incredibly affordable destination. With around 900-1,200 ZAR (AUD $78-104) per day, you can have a unique and memorable experience. You can stay in comfy hostels, cook your own delicious meals, explore nature and local sights on self-guided walking tours, and get around with public transportation.

Moderate

With about 1,900-2,100 ZAR (AUD $164-182) per day, you can get the entire South African experience. Why not stay in a private hostel or Airbnb and enjoy some delicious meals? Treat yourself with a few drinks, hop into a taxi for some sightseeing here and there and participate in special activities like an unforgettable safari or even learning how to surf! Make South Africa your next destination – it will be a memorable trip!

Luxury

Love the finer things in life? Then with about 3,800 ZAR (AUD $329) or more per day, you can have the luxury holiday of your dreams. With this budget, you can indulge yourself without forgetting this nation’s beauty and culture. From luxurious hotels or villas to exquisite dinners with some of the finest wines and local delicacies, you’ll surely experience a trip you’ll never forget. You can also explore the countless safaris, adventure sports and nightlife experiences that await you. can

Currency details

Currency:

South African rand

Currency code:

ZAR

Currency symbol:

R

Central bank:

South African Reserve Bank

Nickname:

None

Currency sub-unit:

Cent = 1/100

Bank notes:

R 10, R 20, R 50, R 100, R 200

Coins:

5c, 10c, 20c, 50c. R 1, R 2, R 5

Must-do's while you are in South Africa

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1. Visit Table Mountain

Table Mountain dominates the Cape Town skyline, with its flat top rising 3,563 feet above sea level. The mountain is part of the Table Mountain National Park and features some of the most breathtaking views in all of South Africa. Visitors can take a cable car up the mountain to avoid climbing over 1,000 stairs up to the summit. From here, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of both Cape Town City Centre and Table Bay. Several hiking trails around the mountain allow hikers to explore different parts of this natural wonder.

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2. Take a Safari in Kruger National Park 

Kruger National Park is one of South Africa’s most iconic destinations and offers visitors an unparalleled wildlife viewing experience. Located in northeastern South Africa near Mozambique, Kruger National Park covers over 7,500 square miles and is home to thousands of species of animals, including lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, zebras, giraffes and more! Visitors can go on guided game drives throughout the park, where they can spot these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

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3. Explore The Cape Winelands 

The lush green valleys of South Africa’s wine region are dotted with vineyards where visitors can taste some world-class wines from over 300 wineries located throughout Stellenbosch and Franschhoek Valleys. Not only will visitors have access to some fantastic wines, but they will also be able to experience spectacular views from rolling hills covered with vineyards as far as the eye can see! With so much variety available at each winery, it’s no wonder The Cape Winelands attracts wine lovers from around the globe every year!  

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4. Spend Time On The Beaches Of Durban Or Camps Bay

Durban is located along South Africa’s eastern seaboard between Johannesburg and Cape Town on KwaZulu-Natal Province’s coastline. It boasts beautiful beaches perfect for swimming or simply lounging on its golden sands under sunny skies. If you want something more exciting than sunbathing, head down to Camps Bay, which has become famous for its collection of trendy bars located next door to each other, making it easy for partygoers looking for an unforgettable night out!  

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5. Try Different South African Cuisine

When visiting South Africa, you should take some time from your sightseeing itinerary and sample some delicious local cuisine! Bobotie is a traditional dish with minced meat (usually beef or lamb) mixed with various spices such as turmeric and curry powder, served with rice or mashed potatoes – yum! For those who prefer snacks rather than full meals, then biltong (dried meat strips similar to jerky) makes an excellent snack or accompaniment when paired with beer – delicious! 

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