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Foreign Exchange Guide to South Africa

Read this currency guide to South Africa with money transfer and travel tips.   [USD/ZAR=14.3919]

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

This is a foreign exchange guide to South Africa, the South African Rand currency plus ZAR transfers and travel tips.

In this South Africa currency guide we take a look at :

  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 & historic exchange rates.

South African Rand (ZAR) general currency information


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.

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. It's 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

The rand has rebounded from September’s long-term lows. By November-19, the day of this report, the rand was 12 percent higher against the dollar, but was meeting resistance at the important R14.0 level. Relative to the euro, the rand regained 13 percent to trade at R16.0.

Rand strength is likely to be short lived, however, with many factors suggesting weakness ahead for South Africa’s economy, which remains in recession, and consequently, weakness for the rand.

In addition, 2019’s general election will almost certainly add uncertainty, given the divisions within South Africa's ruling ANC party, and uncertainty nearly always leads to lower asset and currency prices.

In mid-November, 12-month forecasts offered by TradingEconomics.com signalled rand weakness worth 7-8 percent, with their respective forecasts for USD/ZAR and EUR/ZAR at 15.2 and 17.2.

The interactive chart below shows the USD to ZAR 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.


USD-ZAR 3 Month chart
USD-ZAR 3 Month chart
USDZAR currency converter

Travel, Currency and Money saving tips for South Africa

 

South Africa is one of the continent's best safari destinations, offering the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) and more in accessible parks and reserves. You can drive right into the epic wilderness at Kruger, Kgalagadi and other parks, or join khaki-clad rangers on guided drives and walks. But it's not all about big-game sightings – wildlife watching here also teaches you to enjoy the little things.

South Africa's landscapes are stunning, from the burning Karoo and Kalahari semideserts to the misty heights of the Drakensberg range and the massive Blyde River Canyon. Even in urban Cape Town, you need only look up to see the beautiful fynbos (indigenous flora) climbing the slopes of Table Mountain, while nearby, two of the world's most dramatic coastal roads lead to Cape Point and Hermanus.

Coast of South Africa.

What currency is used in 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.

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.

South Africa is considered to have the best Safari locations in Africa.

How to travel in South Africa?

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.

A convenient alternative to standard bus lines, the Baz Bus caters almost exclusively to backpackers and travellers. It offers hop-on, hop-off fares and door-to-door services between Cape Town and Jo’burg via the Garden Route, Port Elizabeth, Mthatha, Durban and the Northern Drakensberg. Baz Bus drops off and picks up at hostels, and it has transfer arrangements with those off its route in areas such as the Wild Coast. You can book directly with Baz Bus online, by email, phone or SMS, or at hostels.

There are a number of budget airlines connecting all the major South African cities. It rarely works out cheaper to fly with the main carrier, South African Airways (SAA). Domestic fares are generally affordable but it depends on the route. A budget flight from Jo’burg to Cape Town, a popular route served by numerous airlines, costs around R1000, while Cape Town to East London, a less competitive route, might cost double that.

Travel tips for South Africa.

South Africa is cold at night in June and July. To make sure you’re warm, take flannel pajamas and socks for sleeping. Most hotels, even the expensive international ones, do not have central heat (just a window unit), single pane glass, and poor insulation.

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 is known for its epic landscapes.

You can drink the water. In general, the water quality is very good. From time to time, tourists have been known to suffer from a tummy ache or two. You may want to order bottled water to drink, but you needn’t be hyper vigilant. You can certainly use ice made from tap water, and eat fresh fruits and vegetables that have been washed with tap water.

f you've been to the Caribbean or Southeast Asia, you are aware of how the concept of time can shift. This laid-back, slow pace is also found in South Africa. You might find yourself anxiously tapping your feet for that waiter to come by or hotel clerk to check you in, even in big cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town.

 

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 Rate Comparison

Travel Money Providers
Ratings & Reviews
Amount ZAR(R)Exchange RateFee USDTotal CostCurrency ServicesDelivery SpeedDeal Links
Wells Fargo Bank logo
13,426 ZAR
Value & Rating
13.7$206.37%Branch-
Banks - Average Rate
U.S. Bank logo Wells Fargo Bank logo
13,423 ZAR
R3 less
13.56$106.39%Branch-
U.S. Bank
U.S. Bank logo
13,420 ZAR
R6 less
13.4206.42%Branch-
 
Travelex Online US logo
12,751 ZAR
R675 less
12.75110^11.08%Online order, Branch pickup, Home delivery2-3 days
Wells Fargo Bank: Travel Money USD→ZAR
USD amount:$1,000 USD
Fee:$20 USD (Minimum fee)
Exchange Rate:13.7 (4.46% from mid-rate)
ZAR amount:13,426 ZAR
Total Cost:6.37%
Time:12:08 Local
Currency Services:Branch
Delivery Speed:-
Rating:
: /5.0
Reviews:
 

Banks - Average Rate
U.S. Bank logo Wells Fargo Bank logo

Travel Money USD→ZAR
USD amount:$1,000 USD
Fee:$10 USD (1%)
Exchange Rate:12.55 (12.48% from mid-rate)
ZAR amount:13,423 ZAR
Total Cost:6.39%
Currency Services:Branch
Delivery Speed:-
U.S. Bank: Travel Money USD→ZAR
USD amount:$1,000 USD
Fee:0
Exchange Rate:13.42 (6.42% from mid-rate)
ZAR amount:13,420 ZAR
Total Cost:6.42%
Time:12:08 Local
Currency Services:Branch
Delivery Speed:-
Rating:
: /5.0
Reviews:
Travelex Online US: Travel Money USD→ZAR
USD amount:$1,000 USD
Fee:$0 - No fees for Debit & Credit Cards
Exchange Rate:12.7511 (11.08% from mid-rate)
ZAR amount:12,751 ZAR
Total Cost:11.08%
Time:
Rate Fetched: Mon Dec 17 2018 10:15:03 GMT+0000 (UTC)
Currency Services:Online order, Branch pickup, Home delivery
Delivery Speed:2-3 days
Rating:
 
: 4.3/5.0
Reviews:
 
Sending a LARGER foreign transfer? Shop-around with multiple providers: Get Quotes
Rates @ 12/17/2018.
Total Cost = Fee + exchange rate margin vs USD/ZAR mid-rate: 14.3401
 

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)

Sending money to South Africa

When searching around for information on how to get a good exchange rate when sending money to South Africa you need to start with finding out the latest South African Rand foreign-transfer exchange rate.

Then compare your bank's exchange rates to several licensed FX providers exchange rate and fees to see how much you can save (we make that calculation easy here).

Where in South Africa is popular for expats buying property?

Cape Town. Despite the strength of the rand (it has made sizeable gains against the dollar and the pound since the start of 2016), foreign buyers - notably those from Germany, Sweden and the UK - are increasingly active.


Get a better deal for foreign transfers 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 4 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.

Use our Send to ZAR calculator to compare the exchange 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 and less margins and fees kept by the banks!

 

Foreign Transfers - Exchange Rate Comparison

Foreign Transfer Providers
Ratings & Reviews
Amount ZAR(R)Exchange RateFee USDTotal CostTransfer ServicesTransfer SpeedDeal Links
 
WorldFirst logo
142,800 ZAR
Value & Rating
14.2800.42%Bank Transfers - Online & Phone1-2 days
 
OFX logo
141,400 ZAR
R1,400 less
14.140^1.4%Bank Transfers - Online & Phone1-2 days
Wells Fargo Bank logo
138,450 ZAR
R4,350 less
13.87183.45%Online, Branch, Bank Transfers2-3 days
HSBC logo
138,392 ZAR
R4,408 less
13.86$153.49%Online, Branch, Bank Transfers2-3 days
Banks - Average Rate
Bank of America logo U.S. Bank logo Wells Fargo Bank logo HSBC logo
137,521 ZAR
R5,279 less
13.83154.1%Online, Branch, Bank Transfers2-3 days
Bank of America
Bank of America logo
136,620 ZAR
R6,180 less
13.8$1004.73%Online, Branch, Bank Transfers2-3 days
U.S. Bank
U.S. Bank logo
136,620 ZAR
R6,180 less
13.8$1004.73%Online, Branch, Bank Transfers2-3 days
WorldFirst: Foreign Transfer USD→ZAR
USD amount:$10,000 USD
Fee:
Exchange Rate:14.28 (0.42% from mid-rate)
ZAR amount:142,800 ZAR
Total Cost:0.42%
Time:12:08 Local
Transfer Speed:1-2 days
Services:Bank Transfers - Online & Phone
Rating:
 
: 4.6/5.0
Reviews:
 
OFX: Foreign Transfer USD→ZAR
USD amount:$10,000 USD
Fee:0^ - No fees for BestExchangeRates users (normally $12 for smaller transfers)
Exchange Rate:14.14 (1.4% from mid-rate)
ZAR amount:141,400 ZAR
Total Cost:1.4%
Difference:
R1,400 less than using WorldFirst
Time:
Rate Fetched: Mon Dec 17 2018 10:03:01 GMT+0000 (UTC)
Transfer Speed:1-2 days
Services:Bank Transfers - Online & Phone
Rating:
 
: 4.8/5.0
Reviews:
Wells Fargo Bank: Foreign Transfer USD→ZAR
USD amount:$10,000 USD
Fee:18
Exchange Rate:13.87 (3.28% from mid-rate)
ZAR amount:138,450 ZAR
Total Cost:3.45%
Difference:
R4,350 less than using WorldFirst
Time:12:08 Local
Transfer Speed:2-3 days
Services:Online, Branch, Bank Transfers
Rating:
: /5.0
Reviews:
HSBC: Foreign Transfer USD→ZAR
USD amount:$10,000 USD
Fee:$15 USD (.15%)
Exchange Rate:13.86 (3.35% from mid-rate)
ZAR amount:138,392 ZAR
Total Cost:3.49%
Difference:
R4,408 less than using WorldFirst
Time:12:08 Local
Transfer Speed:2-3 days
Services:Online, Branch, Bank Transfers
Rating:
: /5.0
Reviews:
 

Banks - Average Rate
Bank of America logo U.S. Bank logo Wells Fargo Bank logo HSBC logo

Foreign Transfer USD→ZAR
USD amount:$10,000 USD
Fee:15
Exchange Rate:13.77 (3.98% from mid-rate)
ZAR amount:137,521 ZAR
Total Cost:4.1%
Difference:
R5,279 less than using WorldFirst
Transfer Speed:2-3 days
Services:Online, Branch, Bank Transfers
Bank of America: Foreign Transfer USD→ZAR
USD amount:$10,000 USD
Fee:$100 USD (1%)
Exchange Rate:13.8 (3.77% from mid-rate)
ZAR amount:136,620 ZAR
Total Cost:4.73%
Difference:
R6,180 less than using WorldFirst
Time:12:08 Local
Transfer Speed:2-3 days
Services:Online, Branch, Bank Transfers
Rating:
: /5.0
Reviews:
U.S. Bank: Foreign Transfer USD→ZAR
USD amount:$10,000 USD
Fee:$100 USD (1%)
Exchange Rate:13.8 (3.77% from mid-rate)
ZAR amount:136,620 ZAR
Total Cost:4.73%
Difference:
R6,180 less than using WorldFirst
Time:12:08 Local
Transfer Speed:2-3 days
Services:Online, Branch, Bank Transfers
Rating:
: /5.0
Reviews:
 
Sending a LARGER foreign transfer? Shop-around with multiple providers: Get Quotes
Rates @ 12/17/2018.
Total Cost = Fee + exchange rate margin vs USD/ZAR mid-rate: 14.3401
 

Popular ZAR cross rates


ZAR/USD - South African Rand to United States Dollar - 10 Year History

DateExchange RatePeriod
09 Dec 20180.07041 Week
16 Nov 20180.07141 Month
19 Jun 20180.07286 Months
16 Dec 20170.07631 Year
16 Dec 20160.07122 Years
17 Dec 20130.09685 Years
18 Dec 20080.103510 Years

ZAR/EUR - South African Rand to Euro - 10 Year History

DateExchange RatePeriod
09 Dec 20180.06181 Week
16 Nov 20180.06251 Month
19 Jun 20180.06286 Months
16 Dec 20170.06491 Year
16 Dec 20160.06822 Years
17 Dec 20130.07035 Years
18 Dec 20080.072210 Years

ZAR/GBP - South African Rand to British Pound Sterling - 10 Year History

DateExchange RatePeriod
09 Dec 20180.05541 Week
16 Nov 20180.05561 Month
19 Jun 20180.05536 Months
16 Dec 20170.05731 Year
16 Dec 20160.05712 Years
17 Dec 20130.05955 Years
18 Dec 20080.068210 Years

ZAR/JPY - South African Rand to Japanese Yen - 10 Year History

DateExchange RatePeriod
09 Dec 20187.92571 Week
16 Nov 20188.05671 Month
19 Jun 20188.01446 Months
16 Dec 20178.59281 Year
16 Dec 20168.39492 Years
17 Dec 20139.93605 Years
18 Dec 20089.227610 Years

ZAR/AUD - South African Rand to Australian Dollar - 10 Year History

DateExchange RatePeriod
09 Dec 20180.09811 Week
16 Nov 20180.09741 Month
19 Jun 20180.09856 Months
16 Dec 20170.09981 Year
16 Dec 20160.09742 Years
17 Dec 20130.10875 Years
18 Dec 20080.149010 Years

ZAR/CAD - South African Rand to Canadian Dollar - 10 Year History

DateExchange RatePeriod
09 Dec 20180.09391 Week
16 Nov 20180.09391 Month
19 Jun 20180.09676 Months
16 Dec 20170.09821 Year
16 Dec 20160.09502 Years
17 Dec 20130.10265 Years
18 Dec 20080.123810 Years

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