Foreign Exchange


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The following is an extract from the Exchange Control Manual, published by the South African Reserve Bank and is reproduced verbatim, with acknowledgement to the SARB. We will update this text from time to time as and when amendments are issued, but we suggest that visitors check with a Global Foreign Exchange Branch for the latest allowances and regulations.

Travel allowances

General Requirements
Travel facilities may be provided by way of traveller’s cheques, foreign bank notes and credit and/or debit cards. In the event of travellers cheques being issued, such cheques must be signed in the presence of the issuing official and unsigned travellers cheques may under no circumstances be made available.

Persons eligible to receive foreign exchange allowances for travel outside the Common Monetary Area (CMA), within the limits described hereunder, fall into the following categories:

  • Permanent residents of the RSA i.e. persons whether of South African or other nationality who have taken up residence or are domiciled in the Republic;
  • Emigrants from South Africa i.e. persons who have been resident in the Republic for at least five years and who are leaving to take up permanent residence in any country outside the CMA;
  • Persons who have applied for but have not yet been granted permanent residence in South Africa (funds tendered in payment must be savings from local earnings or the proceeds of foreign exchange imported into the country, and these persons must have declared their foreign assets and liabilities to Exchange Control); and
  • Nationals of countries outside the CMA who are not permanent residents of the Republic but are in the country for a lengthy period (funds tendered in payment must be savings from local earnings or the proceeds of foreign exchange imported into the country).
  • In terms of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act you must provide proof of your residential address to obtain foreign exchange.

Not eligible to receive foreign exchange travel allowances are:

  • Residents of Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland who should apply to their own exchange control authorities;
  • South African residents studying abroad;
  • Nationals of countries outside the CMA who are not permanent residents but are in South Africa to fulfill a temporary engagement, e.g. entertainers and sportsmen; and
  • Nationals of countries outside the CMA who can be regarded as purely temporary visitors to South Africa.

Limits per calendar year
The total amounts of foreign exchange, which may be availed of for traveling expenses during a calendar year for one or more visits outside the CMA are listed below:


  • Adults: R 1 000 000 .00 single discretionary allowance
  • Children under 18 years old: R 200 000.00

In according a person a travel allowance the foreign exchange made available per applicant may be provided in any form.

In addition, Common Monetary Area residents traveling overland to and from Namibia, through Botswana, may be provided with Botswana Pula up to an amount of R5 000 per annum over and above the limits mentioned above.

Significance of calendar year
Travel facilities not availed of during any one calendar year may not be carried forward to the following year. However, where an allowance is provided in one year but the visit extends over the year-end, a full allowance may still be provided for any subsequent travel during the second year, provided the traveler has first returned to the RSA.

Use of credit and/or debit cards
Up to 100% of the authorised, prescribed or available travel allowance may be utilised by a traveller by means of one or more credit and/or debit cards issued in his name provided:

  • The issuer of the particular card or cards has obtained approval for its use outside the CMA.

The percentage of the travel allowance, which may be used by means of credit and/or debit cards, refers only to the allowance applicable to the individual cardholder for the specific journey in respect of which the travel allowance is accorded. Where a traveller wishes to make additional use of such cards to cover up to 100% of the travel allowance accorded to a spouse or child an application must be submitted to Exchange Control.

Matters to be referred to Exchange Control
Applications for travel allowances exceeding the abovementioned limits should be referred to Exchange Control.

Norms applied and factors considered
In applying the norm that the allowances should be used for the purpose stated and should be reasonable, Exchange Control will, inter-alia, take the following factors into account:

  • The duration of the visit abroad;
  • The age of the applicant (elderly people may need more comforts) and physical ability or disability;
  • The purpose of the visit, which may influence the costs, e.g. for accommodation;
  • The countries to be visited;
  • The composition of the estimated expenditure;
  • The extent to which current allowances have already been availed of; and
  • Any other special circumstances pertaining to the request.

Advance payments for land arrangements
Tours, Hotel Accommodation and Tickets
Persons eligible for a travel allowance who are not utilising the services of a travel agent or a tour operator, may, prior to the purchase of a passenger ticket, be provided with exchange to make advance payments or payments in full in respect of:

  • Deposits on tours and hotel accommodation; and
  • Costs of admission to drama, music, religious and similar festivals and sports events subject to compliance with the conditions in the following paragraph.

Foreign exchange to meet the expenses indicated in the above paragraph may be made available only against production of documentary evidence in the form of an invoice or pro forma invoice or a facsimile copy thereof (not a brochure) from the foreign beneficiary provided:

  • The payment is made in the form of either a draft or a teletransmission in favour of the beneficiary concerned; and
  • Specified Multi Purpose Documents (MPD’s)

To provide for the payment of excess baggage charges travellers may, when purchasing passenger tickets in the RSA, be issued with Specified MPD’s against payment in Rand.

The Specified MPD must be clearly endorsed: “For payment of Excess Baggage Charges only – refundable only in Republic of South Africa”.

The amount of the Specified MPD need not be deducted from the traveler’s travel allowance.

South African Residents proceeding abroad on a temporary basis
Such persons qualify for the following:

  • A travel allowance; and
  • To export household and personal effects motor vehicles, caravans, trailers, motorcycles, stamps and coins (excluding coins that are legal tender in the Republic) per family unit or single person within the overall ensured value of R1 million.

Form N.E.P. must be attested to cover the export of the relevant goods. Authorised Dealers may also authorise the export on Form N.E.P. of farming implements per family unit or single person proceeding into SADC member countries for farming purposes where the insurance value does not exceed R1 million.

Such persons must furnish an undertaking that:

  • All goods exported on departure together with all accumulated foreign assets, where such foreign assets were acquired with funds transferred from the Republic, or the sale proceeds thereof will be repatriated on resumption of residency in the Republic; and
  • Local credit cards will not be utilised whilst temporarily abroad.