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Foreign Exchange Guide to South Africa

Latest market mid-rate: 1.0 =

Country Code:
ZA
Domestic Currency:
South African rand
Symbol - Code:
R ZAR
Telephone Prefix:
+27

In this guide we review :

  1. South African rand info - general info about the South African rand
  2. South African rand in the markets - recent ZAR moves and predictions from the FX markets
  3. Travelling in South Africa - currency & money saving tips
  4. Buying South African rand cash online - travel money for South Africa
  5. Sending money to South Africa - save on South African rand bank transfers to South Africa
  6. South African rand exchange rates - latest info & charts.

South African rand (ZAR) general currency information

The three letter currency code for the South African rand is ZAR and the symbol is R. It is the domestic currency in South Africa.

Trading in South Africa’s rand contributes to 1% of daily foreign exchange market volume. Like a dollar currency, the rand is subdivided into 100 cents. The word rand comes from Witwatersrand – that being the name of the ridge upon which Johannesburg is built.

The rand has traditionally been considered a ‘commodities currency’ due to South Africa being a resource-rich nation who export a great deal of gold, platinum, coal and oil, among other commodities. However, in a study by the Bank for International Settlements in 2016, researchers concluded that of eleven currencies studied, the rand could be predicted the least by changes in commodities prices.

As an emerging market currency, the rand is considered riskier than currencies from major developed nations, which means that its value will fall against those currencies (especially JPY, USD, CHF, GBP and EUR) during periods of economic uncertainty or when global geopolitical risk is elevated, or during bouts of high market volatility.

Historically, the rand’s lowest valuation against the US dollar came in January 2016 when USD/ZAR reached 16.84. Its all-time high occurred in June 1973 when USD/ZAR stood at just 0.67. More recently, since 2008, the rand was strongest in May 2011 when USD/ZAR fell to 6.54.


South African rand (ZAR) in the markets

Approaching the end of 2017, holders of South African rand couldn’t have hoped for more as an impressive year-end commodities rally coincided with a new, pro-business leader of South Africa's ruling ANC party – billionaire businessman Cyril Ramaphosa.

The rand rose in the final week of the year to a 29-month high of US$ 0.0817 (USD/ZAR 12.235) before settling for 2017 at US$ 0.081 (USD/ZAR 12.344). In the final seven weeks of the year, the rand’s total return was 18%. It was similarly impressive against the yen, against which it ended 2017 buying ¥ 9.043.

ZAR/USD 2018 Forecast: ING, Commerzbank, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley all see significant weakness ahead for the rand. The average of year-end estimates from the aforementioned banks for 2018 is US$ 0.0687 (USD/ZAR 14.55), indicative of a potential 15% reduction in the rand’s buying power.


South Africa currency and money saving tips

The local currency is the South African Rand. The Rand to the USD fluctuates regularly, sometimes extremely, depending on when you travel, you should check the rates both when you price and when you book. Many places will take all the usual credit cards, but again, some may not, plan according to your trip. If you’re in a big city like Joburg (what the locals call Johannesburg) it’s not a problem; if you’re staying in a rural area, plan for extra cash. You will often be charged a foreign transaction fee of about 3 percent by your bank, whether you get cash out or use a credit card. This can be expensive, so make sure you budget for it. If you want your debit/credit cards to work in South Africa, or any foreign country, call your bank before you leave so your bank does not freeze your account thinking it may be fraud.

Public transport in South Africa, particularly the bus system, is not ideal and neither is the public train system in South Africa unless it is the luxury passenger trains that have an itinerary all of their own. Public trains and busses are not recommended in most areas. In Johannesburg, the relatively new Gauteng Rail System, is a good option, make sure your hotel has a train station near enough and you may be able to take the train from the airport.

There are limits on the amount of currency you can bring into South Africa. For cash in South African Rand (ZAR), the limit is 25,000ZAR. For combinations of cash in other currencies, the limit is US$10,000 (or equivalent). There is a high incidence of credit card fraud and fraud involving ATMs. Make sure your PIN is not seen by others when withdrawing money from an ATM. Refuse offers of help from bystanders. Don’t change large sums of money in busy public areas. Immigration rules require parents travelling with children (under 18) to show the child’s full unabridged birth certificate (or a certified copy). The full unabridged birth certificate should list the child’s details and both parents’ details. The abridged (short) birth certificate which only lists the child’s particulars won’t be accepted.



South Africa Trip Checklist   

  1. Compare ZAR travel cash rates - probably why you are here!
  2. Hotel deals - Save on your accomodation in South Africa
  3. Travel insurance - for those unexpected travel adventures...
  4. Lonely Planet - world's best travel guide (coupon and deals)

Travel money for South Africa

Save money and time by Ordering your South African rand online from Travelex, you get better rates and can pick up the ZAR cash locally or even on travel day at the airport.

Another popular option is to use a Pre-paid Travel Card. Your Debit/Credit Card provider will charge you 2% from market mid-rate, but your bank may also charge an extra 3% as an “Overseas Transaction Charge” plus “Overseas ATM” fees for withdrawing cash.

For card purchases if offered a choice of currencies always select to Pay in South African rand otherwise you may get much worst exchange rates.



Sending money to South Africa

When sending money to South Africa it’s important to compare your bank’s rates & fees with those we have negotiated with our partner money transfer providers. To get a better deal you should follow these 3 simple steps :

  1. Open an account with a BER reviewed FX provider (id docs may be required)
  2. You specify the local or South African rand amount you want to transfer
  3. Make a local currency domestic transfer for the requested amount to the provider's bank account in your country
  4. Once your funds are received by the provider the converted ZAR amount will be transfered to the recipient account you specify in South Africa.

By comparing the rates of FX specialist providers rates versus your bank's standard rates you can hopefully save around 5% and maybe more - end result is more South African rand deposited into the recipient bank account in South Africa and less margins and fees kept by the banks!


South African rand - exchange rates

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ZAR calculator

Major ZAR cross rates
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