SOUTH AFRICA - safari companion
gun imports - visas - money - customs - airlines - time zone - safety - electricity - useful hunting addresses
getting there - the easiest part

Since the early 1800's, South Africa has been the gateway to the interior, first by ship through Cape Town and today by air through Johannesburg.

The country is geared towards travel by air and road with an extensive network of well-maintained tar roads and many domestic, as well as private charter, airline services.

a great road network!

First class rail services are available on the world renowned Blue Train and Rovos Rail which operate scheduled services between Johannesburg and Cape Town and other areas of interest.

There are 3 international airports: Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban in order of size and traffic. Domestic / provincial hubs are: Kimberley & Upington (Northern Cape), Bloemfontein (Free State), East London & Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape), George (Garden Route), Nelspruit (Mpumalanga) and Richards Bay (northern Kwazulu-Natal).

About 50 airlines provide service to and from the country. The major ones are British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, SwissAir, Air France, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Alitalia, Sabena & Virgin with regular flights to and from Johannesburg and Cape Town.

South African Airways is the national carrier, distinctively a class above other African airlines in terms of service and reliability (they have a 99.8% take-off record). They connect to all major European hubs as well as the continental US and the Far East.

For hunters from the USA, the best direct connections are with SAA/Delta via Atlanta or New York with a flight time of approximately 16hrs. Otherwise, flying via Europe possibly offers more flexibility of US departure cities and times. There is usually a couple of hours stop-over en route.

GUN friendly airlines should be your biggest concern when visiting Africa. Most notorious for bad service are British Airways, with hunters consistently having to delay their safaris because of lost rifles or badly damaged cases. SAA, KLM, Lufthansa and SwissAir all seem to be proficient at handling and accommodating travelers with firearms.


Visitors require a passport valid for at least 6 months after the intended day of departure from South Africa. It is best to comply with this one as immigration officials can be difficult.

No visas are required for nationals from the USA, European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Usually, when a visa is required it can be issued upon arrival and is free.

Visitors can stay for a maximum of 90 days provided they have proof of exit: a return air ticket, onward connection and proof of sufficient funds such as travellers' cheques and cash.

Your travel agent is the best person to sort out your immigration requirements as they handle this kind of thing everyday. Otherwise contact the South African Department of Home Affairs at (Tel: +27-12-3148911 Fax +27-12-326 8328) or from the Embassy of South Africa, 3051 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008. Tel: +1-202-23244. There are consular offices in Beverly Hills, Chicago and New York as well. 

anything to declare?

If you are up to it, you are entitled to import into South Africa a personal allowance of: 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 250 grams pipe/cigarette tobacco, 2 litres of wine, 1 litre of spirits, 50ml of perfume, 250ml of eau de toilette and other gifts up to a value of R500 (approx.US$80).

You can import any amount of foreign currency as long as you declare amounts over $20,000 to customs upon arrival.

importing your guns

2004 has seen a change in the gun import regulations. Previously, the process was incredibly easy. It is still a simple process but there is quite a bit of documentation you need to have in-hand before you leave home.

Download our simple guidelines in MS Word format - click here

Step-by-step importing guide (requirements from 1 July 2004)

Before you leave home

1. Fill out the Temporary Import Application form

Form number: SAP 520. You can download it from here with additional guidelines OR directly from the South African Police website 

Instructions for Filling in SAP 520 Form

  • Black ink must be used to fill in the form (non-erasable). 

  • The form must be left unsigned until the document is finalised in front of the police official issuing the actual permit.

  • Please note that not all sections of the form apply. Visitors bringing their own firearms in for hunting purposes should concentrate on filling in the following:
    Section D - (temporary import or export permit)
    Section E - 1 - 25.4
    Section G
    Section I - (must fill in all details requested)
    Section J - (remember do not sign until in front of police officer at firearm office)

2. Ensure you have the following with you:

  • Passport (certified copy is preferable)

  • Return airline ticket

  • Proof of ownership (certified copy is preferable)
    Firearm licenses, documentary proof, etc. For USA Citizens, Customs Declaration Form 4457 (officially stamped) is acceptable.

  • Proof of export
    Documentary proof of export from the country of origin.

  • Motivation letter from you 
    This is a letter from the client stating that he is temporarily importing the referred to firearm/s for the purpose of hunting, to include that the firearm/s are required as he will be hunting (list the species to be hunted), etc.

  • Invitation letter from your hunting outfitter
    This is supporting documentation from the hunting outfitter/company with whom the client will be hunting, to include full name of company, full contact details and address, dates and location where the client will be hunting and confirming that the applicant will be using the specific firearms as applied for.

  • any other supporting documents

when you arrive in South Africa

Firearms will be physically inspected to ensure the serial number(s) match those of the licences (proof of ownership) and the application form. Ammunition will also be inspected.

  • Clear passport control in the terminal where your flight arrives

  • Proceed to baggage claim at the respective carousel. Pick up general baggage, then proceed to the respective Airline Help Desk to pick up firearm/s from the airline company and sign a receipt for the firearm/s.

  • Ask the Airline Help Desk to direct you to the South African Police Firearm Office.

  • Proceed to the South African Police Firearm Office (Do not at this point proceed to customs)

  • On receipt of the temporary import permit at the SAPS Firearm Office, proceed to Customs (the Red Zone) where you declare the firearm/s and finish other custom clearance procedures.

  • If you are clearing customs at any other airport apart from Johannesburg, the process will be slightly different as the airports are smaller. 

  • Please ensure sufficient time is allowed to go through the temporary importation process and to clear Customs. During the busy periods of the hunting season up to 70 clients may be needing permits at the same time. We recommend at least five (5) hours be set aside for this procedure and between connecting flights.

firearm / ammunition allowances and specifications

  • No more than one firearm per caliber and 200 rounds per firearm will be permitted. No ammunition for other rifle calibers will be permitted.

  • An exception to this may apply for shotguns where more than one of the same caliber may be allowed for bird hunting purposes if the client produces on arrival at the SAPS Gun Office an acceptable written motivation as to why more than one is required.

  • Firearms must bear the manufacturer's serial number or any other mark by which the firearm can be identified. The identification number must be stamped and the mark affixed in the prescribed manner on the barrel or the frame or the receiver of the firearm.

  • Handguns will be allowed into the country, but only for hunting purposes. Any visitor wanting to bring in a handgun in this regard needs to have a letter from an association in the country of origin, stating the handgun will be used for hunting purposes.

  • Prohibited firearms which may NOT be imported into South Africa include: any fully automatic weapon, any semi-automatic weapon, handgun/s for self-defense, weapons which fall under military categories. A semi-automatic shotgun for hunting purposes may be allowed if an application is made at least 21 days before arrival through the Central Firearms Register with a motivation letter as to why this type of firearm is required.

  • Bows & crossbows and black powder guns are permitted for import.

general provisions
1. Temporary Import Permits:
a) May only be issued to a foreign visitor for the purpose of hunting
b) Will be issued subject to the requirements of the Act with regard to the carrying, storage, safe custody and transport of a firearm and ammunition
c) Subject to the use of the firearm only for the purpose set out in the permit
d) Subject to the fact that no person who holds a temporary import permit is allowed to transfer the firearm to another person in South Africa without prior written permission having been obtained from the Central Firearm Register.
e) Whenever the holder of a temporary import permit leaves the Republic of South Africa, the firearm in respect of which the permit is issued must accompany the holder of the permit
f) Possession of no more than the quantity of cartridges determined by the Registrar and specified on the permit for each firearm in respect of which the temporary import permit applies
g) A Temporary Import Permit shall not be issued for a period exceeding six months at a time
h) Applicant must be 21 or over
i) Should a firearm not be declared on arrival and a temporary import permit not issued, you will face severe penalties and possible arrest on departure from South Africa.

2. Applications for Temporary Import Permits can be made in advance to the Central Firearm Register. Ask your Hunting Outfitter to assist you in this regard.

3. Please ensure that your firearm/s arrive on the same flight as you do. This must be done with the airline company on departure. Your firearm/s may only be signed for by you and will not be released to your outfitter or professional hunter should it/they arrive on a separate flight. If the firearm/s do not arrive with the passenger, the passenger must proceed to his final destination in South Africa and apply at the closest Police Station for a Temporary Import Permit. When the Temporary Import Permit has been issued, the original permit with the keys to the rifle case must be couriered to the Border Post of entry. A Transport Agent with transport permit must be appointed by the passenger. This Transport Agent must have a letter from the passenger instructing him/her to transport the firearm/s to the passenger in person. The firearm/s will be inspected by the Police at the Port of entry and the firearm/s and permit will be handed to the transporter to be transported to the passenger.

4. Please do not pay for any service regarding the handling of firearms at Johannesburg International Airport, or any port of entry. The issuing of the SAP 520 is a free service and the South African Police Service asks clients not to pay anybody involved in handling firearms from the time of arrival in South Africa right through until you receive your firearm/s and the permit from the SAPS. Clients that are paying the various airline staff, security staff, or porters involved are actually creating a problem. Please note however there is a handling fee charged by airlines and/or security companies for the handling of handguns, and some airlines have started charging a handling fee for all firearms. We suggest checking with your airline with regard to any "official" fees that may be required.

5. There is no permit required, nor any charge by the South African Police Service for a bow. Handling fees are charged by airline and/or security companies for bows and handguns.

6. Please note that NO firearms will be held for safekeeping by the SAPS. If a client brings in a prohibited firearm, brings in more than what is allowed, or lacks the necessary documentation and his request for a temporary import permit is denied, the involved firearms must be exported immediately by the client or voluntarily surrendered to the State. 

in-transit passengers (transiting South Africa)
It is critical that you check with and confirm with the airline/s involved before departure to make sure what their procedure is for the transfer of baggage and/or firearms. If the airline does transfer your baggage/firearms, and you have booked them through to the final destination, and you stay in the in-transit area and do not clear South African customs, then you need not go through the temporary import process. 

If your airline company will not transfer your baggage/guns to your connecting airline/flight, then you must collect your baggage/firearm/s and go through the entire entry process. If this is the case, the South African limitations, requirements, etc. will apply. 

This also applies if you are over-nighting in South Africa before flying on to your country of destination.

Further information is available from the Central Firearm Registry, South African Police Services. Website:   Tel: +27-12-3536057   Fax: +27-12-3536041.

* this information was provided by the South African Police Services and the Professional Hunters' Association of South Africa as of 12 August 2004.

All firearms brought into the country MUST be taken out with the visitor when they depart. It is HIGHLY ILLEGAL to leave any firearm behind.

The unit of currency is the Rand, divided into 100 cents.

Travellers' cheques and banknotes of all major currencies are easily exchanged at banks and exchange bureaus at a commission of about 1-2%. Some cheques like AMEX offer commission-free encashment.

Visa, MasterCard, Amex and Diners Club are all widely accepted in shops, hotels and restaurants. More and more automatic teller machines will give cash advances from these cards as well. Check with your bank to see if you can use your bank or ATM card at tellers displaying the CIRRUS sign.

Most hunting outfitters will require you to pay the balance of your daily fees and trophy fees in cash or travellers' cheques before you depart. This can mean carrying a wad of banknotes or cheques around which is worrying and cumbersome. A good idea is to wire-transfer the amount you think you are likely to spend to the outfitter, prior to your departure and then just top it up when your safari is over.

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220/240 Volts AC, 50Hz

time zone
UT +2
South Africa has a bad reputation for crime; petty, violent and political crime. While this is definitely true, please don't let it put you off booking a hunt. Your PH is fully aware of unsafe areas or activities and much of the time you'll be out of the urban areas which is where the majority of this crime takes place. 

Much of the crime is typical of big city areas - car jacking, mugging, assault, credit card fraud and the usual "big city" precautions should be taken. There is still ongoing political violence much of it related to tribal differences or gang and drug violence. It is highly unlikely that you'll be visiting these volatile areas. There have been some unexplained bombings, none of which have been solved and no-one has claimed responsibility for any of them. 

If there is anything that we feel directly affects the hunter to South Africa, watch this space as we will be reporting it or you can get more information from our useful links.

Another thing to remember, while you are in South Africa you are subject to their laws and regulations. Penalties can include deportation or imprisonment - and you can't plead lack of knowledge!

useful addresses
President - Larry S. Katz
4800 West Gates Pass Road, Tuscon, Arizona 85745, USA
PO Box 411, Rivonia, 2128, South Africa
Tel: +27-11-8832299   Fax: +27-11-7842074
PO Box 10264, Centurion, 0046, South Africa
Tel: +27-12-6632417   +27-12-6637212
PO Box 702, Irene, 0062, South Africa
Tel: +27-12-6637228   Fax: +27-12-6637226
PO Box 11310, Marine Parade, 4056, South Africa
Tel: +27-31-3681685   Fax: +27-31-3683498
Tel: +27-82-8047895 / 9248892 / +27-13-7355109
PO Box 11022, Maroelana, 0161, South Africa
Tel: +27-12-3461220   Fax: +27-12-3462204
Chairman - Ian Manning
PO Box 12145, The Tramshed, 0126, South Africa
Tel: +27-31-3103674   Fax: +27-31-3227538
Chairman - Gerald Wiesner
PO Box 260, Howick, 3290, South Africa

President - Remmie Mulder
PO Box 18108, Pretoria, South Africa, 0116
Tel: +27-12-5654856/2622/1636   Fax: +27-12-565-4910

Central Firearm Registry
Tel: +27-12-3536057   Fax: +27-12-3536041
travel insurance is a must! Please purchase travel insurance to protect you against cancellation penalties and other unforeseeable circumstances such as an emergency medical evacuation. Consider insuring your safari with CSA Vacation Guarantee for cancellations, delays and interruptions, emergency medical expenses and emergency medical evacuation.
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