Read up on the safety and security situation of your destination
Before making travel arrangements, use these resources to determine if it’s safe to travel to your destination
- SA Department of International Relations
- Visa and vaccination requirements
- UK Travel alerts
- USA Travel alerts
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How safe is my destination?
- Is the safety/security environment of the country in flux?
- If I go, what resources will I use to monitor changes in the security situation or respond in an emergency?
Check your passport and get a Visa
- It can take several months to get a passport; apply now if you don’t have one
- Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after you return from travel
Determine if you’ll need a visa
Visit the DIRCO website
Questions to ask:
- What type of visa do I need (tourist, student)?
- How long will it take for my visa to arrive?
- Will I need a transit visa (for a layover or travel through another country on the way to my destination)?
Register your travel
Register with DIRCO (if you are an R.S.A. citizen) by sending an email to an e-mail to the following address email@example.com
- This will help DIRCO to assist you in an emergency
If you are a citizen of another country, contact your country’s embassy in your destination to let them know your travel plans.
Understand your health insurance coverage
Check your medical aid coverage
- Determine if your current medical aid plan covers you while abroad, including for chronic medical conditions.
- If you’re not covered abroad, or have incomplete coverage for your needs, consider purchasing an international travel health insurance policy for the duration of your travel.
See to your financial needs
Plan to bring a combination of cash (though never carry too much at once), debit or ATM cards, credit cards, and traveler’s checks, if viable for your destination:
Tell your bank and credit card companies that you’ll be traveling
- Ask if they charge foreign transaction fees
- Ask if you’ll need a PIN to make purchases abroad
- Clean out your wallet or purse
- Take only the credit cards and ID you will need
- Exchange some cash to your destination’s local currency to last the first couple of days
- Exchange money at a bank before you leave S.A. or get similar rates of exchange in the airport when you arrive
- Find out about Arrival and Departure Taxes and Currency Restrictions
- Be aware of any applicable arrival or departure taxes that you may encounter
- Likewise learn about any restrictions your destination may have on how much currency you can enter and exit with
Learn about your destination
- CIA World Factbook
- The website of a popular media outlet in your destination
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Directory of South African Embassies abroad
Take photocopies of important documents
Take a copy of each, leave a copy at home, or scan & email to yourself and others
- Passport identification page and visa
- Driver’s license
- Medical Aid cards
- Travel insurance documents
- Credit cards (front and back)
- Flight and other travel itineraries
- Immunizations and prescriptions
- Significant medical history (e.g., surgeries, severe allergies, major illnesses
Look into cell phones and communicating
Ways to get a cell phone for your travel:
- Ask your current cell phone service provider to unlock your S.A. cell phone
- Buy an international phone card before you leave
- When you reach your destination, purchase a SIM card that can be recharged on a pay-as-you-go basis
- Receiving calls from home
- Collect calls
Making international calls from your cell phone can be expensive, Skype and Google Voice may be a better option as most international hotel and conference centers now provide free wifi
Learn how to make collect calls from your destination
- Emergency cell phone use
If you are using your cell phone during an emergency that could last hours or even days, try texting instead of calling to save battery life on your phone
Ensure you'll have access to WITS’ online resources
- Many WITS applications are restricted to campus computers
- File shares from computers on the WITS Network
- Library journals and databases
- Oracle applications
To access these resources from abroad, download the WITS VPN Client before you travel
Secure wireless connection
Create secure and private connections to Wits while traveling
- Set up your laptop or smartphone for secure connections to WITS
- Use WITS’ account with Eduroam to access wifi networks in 65 countries worldwide. To connect to the eduroam wireless network, you will need to authenticate with your Wits Active Directory username and password in the following format:
- Staff: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Student: email@example.com
Take your medications
Tips for taking medications
Research if your medications are legal in your destination (e.g., Sudafed is not legal in Japan).
- Consult the embassy in your destination
- Discuss medications during your travel health consultation
- Generally, you want to take all the medications that you think you’ll need during your trip (whether prescription or over-the-counter).
- Keep the medications in their original containers
- Take the actual prescription with you (with the drug’s generic name and dosage)
- Take the prescription and medications in carry-on luggage
- Also take extra glasses, contacts, and contact solution.
Program these numbers into the phone you'll use
As soon as you have the cell phone you will be using in-country during your travel, program the following numbers so they will be readily available to you if needed. In an emergency, utilize your in-country resources first.
- Local numbers for police, ambulance and fire
- Local embassy phone number and address
- Local hospital phone number and address
- WITS 24-hour Security: +27 11 717 4444 / 6666
- Your Medical Aid contact number
- Your Travel Insurance contact number
It’s also a good idea to keep a written copy of these numbers in your wallet.
Manage cash needs safely
While you’re abroad
- At ATMs be especially aware of your surroundings: if you become distracted, cancel your transaction and walk away.
- Use a reputable company or bank to exchange money.
- Keep only the cash you need for the day in your purse or wallet.
- Don’t carry more cash than you can afford to lose.
- Split up larger sums of cash, with the largest sum preferably in a money belt: don’t reach into your money belt in public – go to a bathroom or private area.
Learn the do's and don'ts of transportation
Visit the Association for Safe Intl. Road Travel (ASIRT) website. It is a helpful resource for people using public transportation or driving, containing road reports for nearly every country:
- road conditions for specific routes
- recommendations for transportation options
- driver behavior
Driving or renting a vehicle
It’s highly recommended that you use public transportation, taxis, or contract with a transportation service instead of renting or driving a vehicle.
- Travel only in locally licensed and authorized taxis.
- Ask someone to call a taxi for you until you know what the taxis should look like.
- Wear a seatbelt if available.
- Don’t get into a taxi with another person already in it.
- If the taxi driver is driving too fast or recklessly, ask him or her to slow down, or end the ride and get out if it’s safe.
- Get any luggage from the trunk before paying.
- Try to agree upon an approximate cost for the taxi ride before getting in the vehicle, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area, if there’s no meter, or if the driver doesn’t start the meter.
Use caution around protests and demonstrations
History in the making…
This is an interesting time to be travelling abroad. Demonstrations, protests, strikes, and social movements are a part of the political and social change of the times and it is natural to want to witness and experience these events. Realize that protests can be volatile and turn violent quickly and that it is up to you to decide when a situation is safe or not. Avoiding demonstrations is the safest choice, but if you decide to go or find yourself caught up in such an event:
- Stay far from the center of activity and do not document the event with your phone or camera.
- Do not presume that as a foreigner you will be protected from violence or from arrest by local law enforcement if you are mistaken for being involved.
Be aware of local laws, customs, and regulations regarding documenting a protest.
- You can be arrested for taking pictures or videos or recording your observations.
- You may also put the protesters in danger.
- Be responsible in the messages you put out on social media, realizing that your posts may be read by local authorities, your hosts and your family at home.
What to do if you're arrested
If you are arrested
First, ask politely to notify your embassy.
If you are refused a phone call, be persistent but polite.
While in custody
Do not admit to wrongdoing or sign anything.
Do not agree to help your detainer.
Learn about local culture, customs and laws
In general, keep a low profile
- Learn what is customary for professional workplaces, government buildings, or religious/holy sites
- Don’t wear expensive-looking jewelry – even if it’s fake
Click here to learn how one traveller realized (the conspicuous way) that “the Japanese do not wear shorts.”
- Learn if it’s appropriate or safe to exercise outdoors and in public spaces
- Be careful when discussing contentious topics (e.g., religion, politics) with strangers; be discreet and sensitive to those around you
- Learn if it’s legal or appropriate to take photos of people, monuments, government or military buildings/personnel, or religious/holy sites
Know the guidelines for conducting research
All the Wits research rules and regulations apply. Responsible Conduct of Research standards apply abroad
- academic integrity
- conflict of interest
- human subjects and animal research
- data acquisition and management
Your host country might have its own regulations. Find out if there are local laws and comply with them.
Obtain permits and licenses to conduct field work, deal with antiquities, collect samples, etc.
Be aware of country-specific restrictions
S.A. country sanctions
Restrictions on trade, investments, travel, exchange of information or materials, and other kinds of activity with sanctioned countries can be found on the DIRCO website
Keep your data safe
- Safeguard your electronic data
- Know what data you have and the degree of security required to protect it against unauthorized access or accidental loss
- Understand that other countries’ expectations and requirements for data privacy and security may be substantially different from those in S.A.
Understand import and export regulations
Export or import of certain goods, services, information and materials is restricted by S.A. laws and those of other countries
- If you bring research materials, artifacts, information, or other items from another country, you are engaging in import activity
- Import and export of specimens and samples can be unsafe and is usually regulated and may be prohibited. A Wits researcher was detained because he had rock samples in his bags.
- Occasionally electronics (laptops, PDAs, external hard drives, etc.) are subject to regulation by the S.A. and other governments and you will need a license or you will need to register it at the SARS office at the airport.