The official currency of South Africa is Rand, which is abbreviated as ZAR and symbolised by an R. One unit of Rand is equivalent to 100 cents (c). Notes of South African Rand are available in denominations of 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Metal currency on the other hand, comprises 5, 2 and 1 Rand, along with 50, 20, 10 and 5 cents.
Apart from South African Rand, foreign currencies like Euros are also accepted in the country. Most tourist areas, shopping centres and five star hotels in major cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg accept Euros.
There is no limit on the import and export of foreign currency however, it must be declared on arrival. On the other hand, the import and export of local currency is restricted to $717.05 in cash.
Tourists can easily exchange foreign currency for South African Rand at any of the authorised forex changers in South Africa, such as banks, bureau de change and even, few larger hotels.
The most preferred option for currency exchange is bureau de change like Rennies Travel and American Express. Offices of these forex changers are located in major cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg. Local banks like FirstRand Bank, Standard Bank, Nedbank and Imperial Bank also provide currency exchange services.
There are international banks like Citibank N.A., Deutsche Bank AG, Standard Chartered Bank and State Bank of India which provide currency exchange services. Banks remain open from 9 am to 3:30 pm on weekdays while on Saturdays, the bank timing is 8:30 am to 11 pm.
An alternative to currency exchange is withdrawing local money ATMs available in most large towns. Spread across the cities, ATMs are found in abundance on streets, in shopping malls, local corner shops and petrol stations. Almost all ATMs are linked to major international networks like PLUS, Maestro and Cirrus and accept international cards, along with major credit and debit cards.
Credit cards are accepted at most hotels, retail stores, shops and restaurants in major cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town. Even the national parks and game reserves accept credit cards.
As an exception, petrol stations rarely accept credit cards. VISA and MasterCard credit cards are most widely accepted, other than those issued by American Express and Diners Club.
To avoid additional exchange rates travellers’ cheques can be used. Relatively safer, travellers’ cheques are valid at banks, hotels, restaurants and some tourist-oriented shops. Commercial banks exchange the cheques at lower rates while hotels and restaurants charge commission. Travellers’ cheques can be carried in Pounds Sterling or US Dollars.
Unlike banks, forex changers apply wholesale rates for currency exchange. However, they also charge a commission in addition to the service charges. The current exchange rate in South Africa is R1 for $0.143627. Rates for other currencies differ in accordance with their relation to US Dollars, Euros and other major traded currencies.
Tourists should be vigilant when drawing cash from ATMs and not encourage any unwanted help.
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