Last updated: 17 May 2021

Britain / United Kingdom


Although it is relatively small size, the United Kingdom is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, peopled by four main ‘native’ nationalities, plus later arrivals from all over the world. The United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland is comprised of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The UK is also a geographically diverse country, with such landscapes as the rolling moors of Yorkshire, the lakes and mountains of the Lake District and Scotland, and the ancient forests of Nottinghamshire or the stunning beaches of Wales. All this, as well as genteel villages with chocolate-box cottages or vibrant cities at the forefront of modernity, means the UK has something to offer everyone.

Visit London's huge range of museums, historic houses, churches and galleries, or spend time in its vast choice of shops and markets. Visit the crown jewels in the Tower of London, an essential part of London life for almost a thousand years and still standing.

From Big Ben to Canterbury Cathedral, Eton College to the universities of Cambridge & Oxford, Wembley Stadium to Lord’s Cricket Ground, Stonehenge to Tower Bridge, the list goes on...
Official Name: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Union of: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Capital:  London (LON)
Currency:  British Pound (GBP), also known as Pound Sterling. Scottish Pounds are also widely accepted.  
Language:  English, Welsh, Gaelic, Scots.
Dialling code from SA:  + 44
Time Zones: No UTC / GMT offset (2 hours behind South Africa)
Daylight Savings Time: From last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October: UTC / GMT +1 (1 hour behind South Africa)
Public Holidays 2021: 

Jan 1; Apr 2; May 3, 31; Dec 25-28 (Individual countries within UK may have additional holidays)

Side of the Road: Left
Best Time to Go: Year-Round. Winters are chilly and can be rainy, but hotel rates are better during the off season (November – March, excluding Christmas and New Year). July and August are peak seasons. 
Best for: Architecture through the Ages, Royal Attractions, National Parks
Plugs: 230 volts AC, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs are standard
Drinking Water: Mains water in hotels and towns is safe to drink. Bottled water is widely available. 
Health: There are adequate and well-equipped medical facilities, however visitors are required to pay for these services. Comprehensive health insurance is recommended. If you would like to bring medication on your travels, it is best to bring it in the original packaging, with a signed and dated letter from your doctor detailing exactly what it is and why you need it. If you require medication on your travels, you should bring a doctors certificate. 
Customs: The local etiquette on escalators is: stand on the right, walk on the left. This is strictly followed.  Politeness, humour and irony are part of British communication – it is therefore important to “read between the lines”. Avoid insulting the monarchy. Some clubs and restaurants may have a dress code.
Local Offences / Laws: Smoking is banned in public areas. 
Travel Tips / Warnings: Avoid political protests, particularly in Northern Ireland.  If visiting Northern Ireland, check the local political situation. 
Duty Free: Goods obtained duty and tax paid in the EU are unlimited, as long as tax was paid in the country and they are for your own use. If you bring in more than the following, customs officials are more likely to ask the reason for holding the goods:
• 800 cigarettes or 400 cigarillos or 200 cigars or 1kg of tobacco.
• 90L of still wine.
• 110L of beer.
• 10L of alcoholic beverages stronger than 22% or 20L of fortified or sparkling wine or other liqueurs.

If you are arriving from a non-EU country, the following goods may be imported into the UK by persons over 17 years of age without incurring customs duty:
• 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. These can be combined provided travellers do not exceed their total tobacco allowance.
• 4L of still wine.
• 1L of alcoholic beverages stronger than 22% or 2L of fortified or sparkling wine or other liqueurs. These can be combined provided travellers do not exceed their total alcohol allowance.
• 16L of beer.
• Other goods including souvenirs up to the value of £390 (or £270 if arriving by private plane or boat).

The Channel Islands and Gibraltar are treated as being outside of the EU for duty-free purposes.
Prohibited Imports: Prohibited items include unlicensed drugs, offensive weapons, indecent and obscene material, counterfeit and pirated goods, and meat, dairy and other animal products from outside the EEA.

Restricted items include firearms, explosives and ammunition, live animals, endangered species, certain plants and their produce, certain fur skins, rough diamonds, and radio transmitters.

Travel Alerts

COVID-19 Travel Advisory: If you have been in a country or territory on the:

  • green list - you must take a coronavirus (COVID-19) test on or before day 2
  • amber list - you must quarantine in the place you’re staying and take 2 COVID-19 tests
  • red list - you must quarantine in a hotel and take 2 COVID-19 tests. If you have been in a country or territory on the red list in the last 10 days you will only be allowed to enter the UK if you are a British or Irish National, or you have residence rights in the UK.

Before leaving for the UK, you must: 

  • provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the 3 days before you leave for the UK
  • complete a passenger locator form


This Information is intended as a Guideline.

Issuing Authorities

British High Commission
255 Hill Street, Arcadia 
Tel: (012) 421-7500
Fax: 0865355422

International enquiries:

An online visa application service called Access UK has been launched for South African passport holders to apply online. See

Northern Ireland
Visas are required by SA passport holders .
If travelling to Northern Ireland, via the United Kingdom, a full UK tourist visa is required (NOT A TRANSIT VISA). 

Visa Requirements

South African passport holders require a visa in order to visit or transit the United Kingdom.


Tel: (021) 300 3758 or 00 44 1243 218 173. These numbers are a paid service so there is a charge of £1.37 per minute over and above your network charges. It is therefore necessary to have a valid credit/debit card ready to process payment.
Office hours for the Application Centres are: 0830-1530 Mon-Fri / Collections 1000-1530 Mon-Fri

Children under the age of 5 years old are now required to attend the Visa Application Centre to complete the application process. It is now mandatory for them to have their photo taken at the VAC. These changes do not affect applications that have already been submitted.

Cape Town
UK Visa Application Centre
Upper Ground Floor
Media Quarter Building
Corner of De Smidt Street and Somerset Road
De Waterkant

UK Visa Application Centre
3rd floor, Office Tower Atrium
Ovaport City
Berea Street
430 Peter Mokaba Ridge

UK Visa Application Centre
3rd floor, 24 Central
6 Gwen Lane
Corner of Gwen and Fredman Drive
Sandown, Sandton

Port Elizabeth
UK Visa Application Centre
Ground Floor
Building 66, Fairview Office Park
Port Elizabeth 6045

UK Visa Application Centre
1st Floor, Menlyn Corner
Frikkie De Beer Street
Corner of Lois and Atterbury Road

Visa Application Centre Hours
0830-1530. Monday to Friday (Except for Public Holidays)
Passport Collectons 1000-1530 Monday to Friday (Except for Public Holidays)

• Valid passport (make sure there are 2 blank pages in the passport - these pages do not have to be consecutive)
• Completed and signed visa application form
• Supporting documents (It is recommended to submit originals along with photocopies of all supporting documents)
• Proof of payment of the visa fee as per the purpose of travel
Check out TLSContact website for application procedure and additional documents.

Applying for the visa is a simple 6 stage process:
1. Make the application online through
2. Make an appointment online to give your biometrics
3. Submit your visa application and pay your visa application fee
4. Visit the visa application centre to submit your application and biometrics
5. Wait for a decision
6. Collect your passport

PLEASE NOTE: You should complete and submit the visa application form online and then schedule your online appointment before you visit the visa application centre. All applicants are required to come in person to submit their visa application and biometrics. We cannot accept the visa application if the applicant has not applied online, or if the applicant does not come into the visa application centre personally. Please note that the appointment dates are computer generated. The applicant may select the available date on the website as per his/her convenience.

This service does not imply or guarantee in any way that applicants using the Priority Service will be successful in their visa application. All visa applicants must meet the requirements of the UK immigration rules.
Applicants should be aware that they may experience extended processing times if any of the following factors apply:
1. Have previously been refused a visa for the UK, and/or;
2. Have previously been refused leave to enter the UK, and/or;
3. Have previously been deported, removed, or otherwise required to leave the UK, and/or;
4. Have overstayed a period of leave in the UK, and/or;
5. Have been refused leave to remain in the UK by the Home Office, and/or;
6. Have previously been refused a visa for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United States of America or the Schengen countries.
7. Have been convicted of a criminal offence in any country.
UK Border Agency’s published global customer service target for processing visit visa applications is 15 working days. Applicants in South Africa generally receive a quicker service with most application processed in around 5 working days. The Priority Visa Service will offer an even faster service, though a specific turnaround time will not be guaranteed

Customer enquiry for UK visas? That will now cost you R91

All customer enquiries for UK visas will be handled by a new commercial partner, Sitel UK. 
Sitel UK will charge people who are applying for a visa to visit the UK or people who are simply making enquiries £5.48 (R91) for every email they send.  
Travellers will need to pay using a credit or debit card for contacting the office by email. The charge includes the first email enquiry travellers send and any follow-up emails to and from the contact centre relating to the same enquiry.
The company will also change opening hours and phone numbers as well as reduce the number of languages offered to eight (including English). 
It says the move will “help the government reduce costs and ensure those who benefit directly from the UK immigration system make an appropriate contribution".


Visa Processing Time

Please note that the processing times for  UK Visas is taking longer than the processing times as published on UK VISA official website. 

This applies to both Normal & Priority Visa processing times.

Please contact the High Commission for updates on processing time

SA Representative

South African High Commission
South Africa House, 9 Duncannon Street,
Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DP
Tel: (0044-207) 451-7299

Travel Health

Compulsory:  None
Recommended Travel Vaccines:  Hepatitis B, Tetanus, Polio