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Foreign Exchange Guide to South Africa

Latest market mid-rate: 1.0 =

Country Code:
Domestic Currency:
South African rand
Symbol - Code:
Telephone Prefix:

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

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.

What is the South African rand currency code and symbol?

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

Which countries use the South African rand?

It is the domestic currency in South Africa.

South African rand (ZAR) in the markets

The rand spent much of the first quarter of 2018 trading at levels below 12 to the dollar, and averaging 9 yen, marking one of the strongest periods for the currency since 2015. The rand has been supported since November ’17 by oil’s climb into the high $60s per barrel and by the appointment of a pro-business ANC party leader, Cyril Ramaphosa.

In a recent Reuters poll of analysts, dollar-rand was seen to be little changed by the end of the third quarter, at 11.93; however, analysts at Nedbank and Unum Capital expressed fears that the rand could weaken upon an escalation in US-China trade tensions. Global trade, and therefore commodities prices, would be threatened in this case.

The interactive chart below shows the ZAR to USD exchange rate for the previous 3 months with rate alerts for days when the exchange rate moved up or down significantly or for 30 day highs and lows.

Loading ZAR/USD Chart
ZAR calculator

Currency and money saving tips for South Africa

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. Search Hotel deals - Save on your accomodation in South Africa
  3. 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.

Travel Money Exchange Rates Compared

Buying ZAR Cash with USD 1,000

Bank Rates - Average
R10,692 ZAR (13.41%)
This is the average USD to ZAR Buy Foreign Cash exchange rate from multiple banks, exchange kiosks and post-offices, available over the counter and via the internet.

Price Details
Receive: R10,692 ZAR
Exchange Rate: 10.8
Fees: USD 10 (1%)
Total Cost : 13.41% (from mid-rate: 12.3479)
Amount of money that could be received by your currency exchange at rate USD/ZAR=10.8 and inclusive of the fee of USD 10 (1%).
 Travelex Online
R10,616 ZAR (14.03%)
Free Home Delivery when you Buy Online Travel Money & Cards with $0 commission and great exchange rates only available from Travelex Online. Zero cost for Home Delivery or pickup your foreign cash at your local Travelex store or at the airport on departure day. * Home deliveries can only be made to the registered billing address of your chosen payment method.
Price Details
Receive: R10,616 ZAR
Exchange Rate: 10.6162
Fees: USD 0
Total Cost : 14.03% (from mid-rate: 12.3479)
Amount of money that could be received by your currency exchange at rate USD/ZAR=10.6162 and inclusive of the fee of USD 0.
Rate timestamp : Mon Apr 23 2018 18:00:03 GMT+0000 (UTC)
Rates snapshot: 04/23/2018

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!

Sending a LARGER international money transfer? Request a Free Multi-Vendor Quote

Compare Foreign Transfers

Sending USD 10,000 to ZAR

 OFX (prev. USForex)
R121,300 ZAR (1.76%)
Book & track your foreign transfers online (24/7) with industry best rates for all your deals - not just the first one! Lock in exchange rates with Spot & Forward Deals. BestExchangeRates users get the transfer fees waived.
Price Details
Receive: R121,300 ZAR
Exchange Rate: 12.13
Fees: USD 0
Total Cost : 1.76% (from mid-rate: 12.3479)
This is the amount of money that could be received by your transfer at rate USD/ZAR=12.13 and inclusive of the fee of USD 0.
Rate timestamp : Mon Apr 23 2018 18:03:56 GMT+0000 (UTC)
Bank Rates - Average
R117,923 ZAR (4.5%)
This is the average USD to ZAR International Transfer exchange rate and fees from multiple banks for FX rates available over the counter and also via Internet Banking.

Price Details
Receive: R117,923 ZAR
Exchange Rate: 11.81
Fees: USD 15
Total Cost : 4.5% (from mid-rate: 12.3479)
Receive ZAR R3,377 less than with   OFX
This is the amount of money that could be received by your transfer at rate USD/ZAR=11.81 and inclusive of the fee of USD 15.

South African rand - exchange rates

Major ZAR cross rates
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