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Travel Resources
Cape Town, South Africa
Approx. Time Difference
10 hours
University of Cape Town South Africa

- Fall

This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, health and safety, finances and much more.

While UCEAP endeavors to keep all information in this guide updated and accurate, it should be considered in conjunction with program-specific correspondence, which may be more updated. There may be times when information relayed via such correspondence may supersede the online information. Students are responsible for reviewing all information shared through the program guides, and by UCEAP staff in California and abroad, and partners abroad.
UCEAP reserves the right to make changes to its programs whenever, in our sole judgment, local conditions so warrant, in response to local circumstances that could substantially change some parts of the program, or if we deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of our program participants.
Remember to also visit the Participants section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
“It is cliché to say it but studying abroad in South Africa was the most amazing experience of my life. Students and professors are on a first-name basis and the atmosphere is much less formal. I found this to be a wonderful change and great for my education. The things I did, the places I went, and the people I met will forever remain my favorite memories to date.”
~ UCLA participant

While UCEAP endeavors to keep the information updated and accurate, all program information should be considered in conjunction with program-specific operational correspondence which may contain the most up to date information. There may be times where UCEAP will need to change this information and it will often be updated online. Student is responsible for reviewing all information shared through the program guides and by UCEAP staff in California and abroad, and partners abroad. UCEAP reserves the right to make changes to its programs, whenever, in our sole judgment local conditions so warrant, in response to local circumstances that could substantially change some parts of the program, or if we deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of our program participants.

Click a heading below to see section content.
Your UCEAP Network

Local UCEAP Support

Campus EAP Office

The Campus EAP Office coordinates recruitment, student selection, orientations, and academic advising; and serves as your primary contact during the application process.

UCEAP Systemwide Office

The UCEAP Systemwide Office establishes and operates programs and coordinates UCEAP administration for all UC campuses from its headquarters in Goleta, California. You will work closely with the following Systemwide Office staff:
Program Advisors provide academic and operational program information to you and your campus as well as administrative support for all aspects of your participation.
Program Specialists manage the logistics of the program. They coordinate document requirements, visa application instructions, health and safety precautions, acceptance and placement by host institutions, arrival and onsite orientation, and housing arrangements.
Academic Staff advise on academic policies, review courses taken abroad for UC credit, and document your registration, grades, petitions and academic records.
Student Finance Accountants assist primarily with UCEAP statements, program fee collection, and financial aid disbursements (in conjunction with your campus Financial Aid Office).

Contact Information

Program Advisor
Ciara Ristig
Phone: (805) 893-2831; E-mail:
Program Specialist
Amy Frohlich
Phone: (805) 893-2831; E-mail:

Academic Coordinator
Jessica Brown
Phone: (805) 893-2598; E-mail:
Academic Specialist
Eva Bilandzia
Phone: (805) 893-2598; E-mail:
Student Finance Accountant
Ben Kinman
Phone: (805) 893-4812; E-mail:
UCEAP Systemwide Office
6950 Hollister Avenue, Suite 200
Goleta, CA 93117-5823
Phone: (805) 893-4762; Fax: (805) 893-2583

UCEAP Online

Bookmark your Participants program page; it contains vital resources and requirements you need to know before you go abroad, including the Predeparture Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets and Payment Vouchers, and policies.
Connect with us! Join our Facebook network via the UCEAP South Africa page.

Study Centers Abroad

University of Cape Town

Ms. Gail Symington, UCEAP Academic Liaison Officer (for academic matters only)
School of Languages and Literatures, Beattie Building
University of Cape Town
Private Bag Rondebosch, 7700
South Africa
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011-27-21) 650-2613
Phone (calling from Cape Town): 021-650-2613
Ms. Melissa Abrahams, Coordinator, International Academic Programmes Office
University of Cape Town
Private Bag Rondebosch, 7701
South Africa
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011-27-21) 650-2822
Ms. Isabella Scholtz, Housing and Student Support
IDACA Cape Town International Student Support Programme
International Visitors’ Programmes
26 Wheelan Street
Newlands, Cape Town 7700
South Africa
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011-27-21) 683-4648
Phone/Fax: (011-27-21) 683-9169
Cell phone (for emergencies only): (011-27-82) 494-7773

Phone Number Codes

U.S. international code: 011 (dial this to call from the U.S.)
South Africa country code: 27
Cape Town city code: 21

Approximate Time Difference

Add 10 hours
Academic Information
Program Overview

Program Calendar


Delays and disruptions in the academic calendar are common. Learning to cope with delays, substitute classes, and other departures from normal academic calendars and processes is important for a positive experience. Exercise patience and ingenuity in adapting to the changes and making the most of the experience. In case of disruption or strikes at the university, UCT will attempt to organize substitute classes or other activities designed to keep your academic progress on track.



  • Minimum of 22 UC quarter/14.7 UC semester units each semester, three or four courses.
  • Submission of a MyEAP Study List. Instructions will be provided during your onsite orientation in Cape Town. 
  • At least two courses must be taken in the faculty to which you are admitted. You will be placed into a faculty based on the courses you list on your University of Cape Town application.

Sample MyEAP Study Lists

After arrival, you will meet with the UCEAP Academic Liaison Officer, a faculty member who provides academic advising and assists with registration procedures. The Academic Liaison Officer has regular office hours and you can meet with her to discuss academic issues. She can also direct you to other resources on campus for academic assistance, such as the Writing Centre.
Academic Culture
Teaching styles at the University of Cape Town (UCT) are different than what you may be used to at UC. There are many resources on the UCT campus to assist you in adapting to the different styles. These resources will be introduced during your on-site orientation. ​
It is important to attend all classes. Absences are noticed, considered when assigning final grades, and may be taken as a sign of disrespect. 
The academic program is rigorous and expectations are high, particularly at the upper levels. Instruction takes an independent approach and academic expectations are less defined than at UC. Assigned readings and other class requirements may appear deceptively light. Lectures may be less structured and normally do not repeat or review the reading material. Most departments issue or post syllabi, course outlines, reading lists, and assignments. You are expected to master the subject matter, set your own pace, and incorporate readings and lectures into your schedule.
The undergraduate degrees are three-year degrees. Local students are specialized in their fields by the time they enter second- or third-year courses. Professors expect that you will have completed the basic prerequisites and taken upper-division courses in your major. Be familiar with the methodology of your major if you expect to enroll in upper-division courses in that discipline. Science courses include practical lab requirements and advanced research skills.
Professors expect papers to demonstrate strong writing skills, critical interpretation of oral and written sources, and the clear and cogent expression of your understanding of the subject matter. Top grades require evidence of independent learning, original insights, familiarity with additional reading, and exceptional formulation and expression of ideas. UCEAP alumni report that  classes require more homework and considerably more reading than UC courses.  You can make an appointment with the Writing Centre for assistance and guidance about what University of Cape Town faculty expect. 
Overly assertive or casual behavior during class may offend faculty and local students. Given the British background of higher education in South Africa, the relationship between students and instructors is typically more formal than at UC. While some instructors appreciate American student contributions for lively class discussions, not all instructors care for outspokenness. You are encouraged to introduce yourself to your instructors and get a sense of what might be welcome in your interactions. Faculty members are generally available after class and during office hours.
Local students can offer insight on the requirements and the teaching styles of your classes. For example, fourth-year courses (honors courses) are taught at a substantially higher level than second- and third-year courses; consequently, the quality of student work is expected to be much higher and you are expected to have mastered academic research and writing skills.
Course Information


During the application period (before departure), you will indicate preferences for specific courses (modules) on the University of Cape Town (UCT) application. UCT will review the preferences and let you know if you have been preapproved to take certain courses. This preregistration period is used to place you in a faculty at the University of Cape Town. It is not your final registration.

It is common to see a status of “not approved” for some courses. The sciences are particularly cautious during the preregistration phase. In some cases you may need to meet with the course instructor during the add/drop period after arrival to prove you have the requisite knowledge to succeed in the desired course. Since you may have taken additional courses that were not sent to UCT with your application, make sure you take your most current transcript (unofficial is fine) with you and even syllabi of courses you have taken may be useful in gaining entrance to upper-division courses.​​

All courses are open if you meet the prerequisites, but space is limited in some courses. To take upper-division courses, take evidence of preparation in the particular subject area, such as transcripts and syllabi, and plan to meet with the department head or course instructor for permission to take the courses.
Preregistration is done before the final course offerings are known so some courses will not be offered during the term you are at UCT. You will complete your final course registration during the first week of the term.
Registration procedures are different from UC and will be covered during your on-site orientation. Please be patient and understanding of registration and other university procedures.

Course Descriptions

Course syllabi are handed out in class and are not available until the first week of class. Very few syllabi are online.
Handbooks (catalogs) for each school with brief course descriptions are available on the UCT Handbooks page
  • Commerce (includes economics, management, and information systems)
  • Engineering & the Built Environment
  • Health Sciences (limited access)
  • Humanities (includes Fine Arts and Social Sciences)
  • Law (primarily year-long courses)
  • Science (many courses include lab work or practical work in the field and have high units)
Most courses are offered during only one semester each year and some courses are not offered every year. Year-long courses are only available to students participating in a full year program. The departments of Law, Fine Art, Music, and Dance generally offer year-long courses only, so they are not open to semester participants. The School of Humanities is impacted by international students so course registration is limited. No more than 50% of any class can be filled by international students.
Fall courses have an S suffix; for spring look for the F suffix.
The UC division is based on the level of the course at Cape Town:
  • 1000 level - lower division
  • 2000 level - usually upper division; occasionally lower division
  • 3000 level - upper-division (recommended)
  • 4000 level - upper-division honors courses; may require the permission of the course instructor
  • 5000- and 6000-level are graduate-level; undergraduate UC students must be of senior-standing and must complete a General Petition for approval to take these courses
UC quarter units are based on the University of Cape Town HEQF units listed in the handbooks:
  • 18 NQF Cape Town units equal 6 UC quarter/4 UC semester units
  • 24 NQF equal 8 UC quarter/5.3 UC semester units
  • 36 NQF equal 12 UC quarter/8.0 UC semester units. These are often the honors courses with lecture and research components or science courses with lecture, lab, and fieldwork components.

Additional codes and symbols used by UCT

Fieldwork Courses

Science students may apply to participate in one of the Faculty of Science’s intensive scientific fieldwork courses. UCT instructors make final selection and only admit a few students who meet stringent prerequisites. These courses will be in the UCT Sciences Handbook if they are being offered. You register for the fieldwork class along with your other courses. Selection is competitive and there is no guarantee that you will be accepted into a fieldwork course. 
In addition to the intensive fieldwork courses, many other science courses have fieldwork components that require weekend travel to areas outside of Cape Town. Fieldwork requirements are indicated in the Handbooks. 


  • You must take all exams at the host university.
  • The exam schedule is not flexible.
  • Final exams are in designated locations—not in the rooms where classes are held.
The university sets the exam schedule and the faculty offices publish individual schedules of when and where the exams will take place. Review the schedule of exams carefully. There are no make-up exams. Exam dates cannot be changed to accommodate travel plans. Do not make travel plans until you know the date of your last exam. Arrangements for early exams are not allowed.
Considerable emphasis is on the final written exams. Permission to take the final exam may require a certain percentage of class attendance and level of achievement on assignments and classroom performance. This is called a Duly Performed Requirement (DPR). If you do not meet the requirement and are not allowed to take the exam, if you choose not to take the exam, or if you miss the final exam, you will receive an F or an NP (if you take the course on the P/NP grading option) for your UC grade.
In humanities and social science courses, final exams are usually three hours in which you receive a set of essay questions and respond to three or four of them. Some courses use multiple-choice questions for part of the exam. Final exams typically count for 60 to 75 percent of the final grade for the course; assignments and tests during the semester make up the remaining 25 to 40 percent. In some courses, continuous assessment conducted throughout the semester takes the place of final exams.


Grading systems used in South Africa differ from UC. Assignments and exams are given a percentage grade that, in most cases, is much lower than what would be expected according to the usual UC scale for comparable work. For example, 75 percent is an A at UCT. It is normal for average work to be marked 60–65; marks in the 60s equivalent of B grades and are considered indicative of good, solid work.
South African universities have extensive, established procedures for quality control of courses and for protecting the rights of students by ensuring that grading practices are fair and consistent. Additional information on this procedure is on the UCT website.​

The University of Cape Town does not use a US grading system.  They have a recommended grade conversion; however, it does not have the full range of US grades with plus and minus. The UCEAP grade scale used for UCT awards the full range of grades with plus and minus. The UCT numerical grades are converted into UC letter grades by the UCEAP Academic Liaison Officer before they are reported to UCEAP and to your UC campus registrar. The specific grading scale is shared with current UCEAP students at the beginning of the program.
See the UCT website for more information on exams, credit, or grading.
Fall grades are usually available in early January; spring grades are usually available in early July.
For general information about grades, see the Academic Information chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Service-learning and volunteer opportunities are arranged by UCT’s Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organization (SHAWCO). The opportunity to offer service to the disadvantaged communities of Cape Town is a highlight of many students' study abroad experience.
Academic credit may be available for SHAWCO participation. Arrangements are made after arrival with the Study Center Liaison Officer. 
Extending UCEAP Participation
​If you plan to stay in South Africa another term, consider that it is difficult to extend your visa while in South Africa.

Plan Ahead 

Take all of your original visa documents with you to South Africa, including the medical reports and FBI Clearance that you used to obtain your original visa.
  • Begin the visa extension process within South Africa at least six weeks prior to your original visa expiration date.
  • Applications are submitted to Visa Forwarding Service Office (VFS) who is the appointed collections agency for the Department of Home Affairs.  There is both a Department of Home Affairs fee as well as a VFS fee when extension applications are submitted.  In 2014, the South African Rand cost is R425 (Department of Home Affairs) and R1,350 (VFS Fee). 
Cultural Awareness
Educate Yourself
Get acquainted with your new host city and South African culture before you go. Travel guides and travel-related websites, such as Lonely Planet, are excellent resources.
Keep up with current events by reading articles in online newspapers, magazines, and journals.
“Attempting to understand the many different kinds of accents and slang in South Africa—there are 11 official languages— is no easy feat, and nothing makes you feel more like a ‘fresher’ (first year) than trying to decipher academic lingo. Quick lesson: ‘convener’ means professor, ‘prac’ means lab, ‘tut’ means section, meridian means lunch break, and ‘Jammie’ can be loosely translated to the 16 Laurel bus route."
~UCEAP Student
South Africa is a country with different cultures in the midst of social transformation. Norms followed in the U.S. are not always understood or accepted by locals abroad. Be prepared to adapt to your new environment, and keep in mind that not everything that is different or uncomfortable is wrong. Patience and cultural sensitivity are key to a positive experience in South Africa.
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation


Your program begins with orientations provided by IAPO (International Academic Programmes Office), IDACA International Student Support Network, and the UCEAP Academic Liaison Officer covering:
  • your new location, the host university, and the local culture;
  • housing;
  • safety issues and health concerns such as HIV/AIDS and how to obtain medical help;
  • banking, shopping, and travel;
  • transportation and local laws;
  • UCEAP and host university course registration procedures, including MyEAP course registration;
  • academic culture and expectations;
  • volunteer and service learning opportunities; and
  • campus tours and excursions.
Attendance at all orientation sessions is mandatory (per the UCEAP Student Agreement). If you miss an orientation, you may be dismissed from the program.

Official UCEAP Start Date

You are responsible for making your own transportation arrangements to and from South Africa (even if you will be receiving financial aid) and for arriving on the Official UCEAP Start Date. This includes reserving and purchasing airline tickets (purchase a changeable ticket). Standby tickets are not acceptable.
Program dates and arrival information are posted on the UCEAP website. Failure to appear on the Official Start Date is cause for dismissal from the program (Student Agreement, Student Conduct section). When traveling, always carry your passport, visa, ticket, prescription medications, and money. Never put valuables in your checked luggage.
The Official Arrival and Start Date can change due to unforeseen circumstances. You are responsible for making modifications to your travel itinerary to accommodate such changes. UCEAP is not responsible for unrecoverable transportation charges you may incur for travel arrangements. To stay informed of program changes, update MyEAP with any changes to your contact information (mailing address, e-mail, and phone number).
Travel Planning
Travel to Your Host Country
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip tickets, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. UCEAP discourages purchasing one way tickets, as your Program Budget is based on a changeable round trip student fare, which is generally less expensive. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid office will reserve or pay for your ticket. If you are on financial aid, you will need to purchase a plane ticket before you receive a financial aid disbursement.
Most airline tickets are good for one year only. When buying round-trip tickets, purchase tickets that allow changes to the return date. If you do not make round-trip arrangements, be sure to book a return flight with plenty of lead time once abroad. Flights to the U.S. fill up fast and economy-fare seats are booked early.
Arrival information is provided in the UCEAP online Pre-Departure Checklist. If you fail to arrive on the official UCEAP arrival date, you are subject to dismissal from the program.
When you arrive in South Africa on the official UCEAP arrival date, you will be met at the airport by IAPO staff and will use prearranged transportation to get to your lodgings. Book your flight directly to Cape Town International Airport. If you arrive at the incorrect airport or arrive on days other than the official arrival date, you will not be met at the airport and your accommodations may not be ready.
The start date of the program can change due to unforeseen circumstances. You are responsible for making modifications in your travel itinerary to accommodate such changes. UCEAP is not responsible for any unrecoverable transportation charges you may incur for travel arrangements. In order to be kept informed of program changes, check your e-mail regularly. You must provide your flight itinerary—including any subsequent changes—to IAPO.

Financial Aid Students

Your financial aid package is calculated using your specific UCEAP Program Budget. The estimated round-trip airfare amount is based on the cost of a changeable student ticket to your host country. If your independent travel costs are greater than the airfare estimate in the UCEAP Program Budget, notify your financial aid counselors. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid Office can guarantee that the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.
Travel Documents


You will obtain a study permit in person from the South African Consulate General in Los Angeles prior to departure. The entire process takes about 12 weeks (it can take longer for non-U.S. citizens). The UCEAP online Predeparture Checklist provides information on the visa process for U.S. citizens. The South African consulate has the authority to deny issuing visas to applicants. UCEAP is not able to intervene on your behalf should this occur. Direct any questions about visas to the South African consulate or embassy.  Keep all documents (or copies) in case you decide to extend your stay in South Africa.

Travel Before the Program

Travel after the UC term ends and before the official UCEAP program start date is not recommended. Due to the visa application processing time, you may not receive your visa in time to travel as planned. UCEAP is not able to accelerate the process for issuing acceptance letters and visas.
The UCEAP student budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.

Academic Transcripts

Take updated academic transcripts that include your most recent UC semester or quarter grades; these can be helpful in gaining admission into certain host university classes.

Undocumented Students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Students

Consult with an immigration attorney free of charge on your campus to determine if study abroad is right for you.

If you are currently enrolled as a student at UC Berkeley, contact the Undocumented Student Program

If you are currently enrolled as a student at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, or UC Santa Cruz, contact the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center at
Packing Tips
When traveling, always personally carry your passport, visa, ticket, prescription medications, and money. Never put valuables in your checked luggage. UCEAP provides health and personal property insurance for all participants.
The UCEAP student budget does not include funds for the purchase of clothing abroad.


  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Driver’s license for identification
  • Combination locks or padlocks (two to three)
  • Towel
  • Rain jacket or windbreaker


  • Laptop (see Voltage in this chapter) and adaptor
  • Photos of family and friends
  • USB flash drive
  • Small, lightweight gifts for foreign hosts and new friends (examples: T-shirts with city, state, or campus logos; UC pens or pencils; baseball caps; California postcards, maps, posters, or scenic calendars; or books)


If you take a laptop that does not already have a built-in converter, take the necessary transformer (240V) and an adaptor for local plug sockets.


South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning the seasons are reversed. It will be cold and rainy in July. In February, it will be summertime and warm.
The climate in South Africa overall is similar to the climate in coastal California. Cape Town’s climate is like that of the Central California Coast. The temperature generally ranges from 60° to 80°F during the summer and 45° to 65°F in the winter.
Insurance for Personal Possessions
Consider having additional protection for your property. In spite of your best efforts, it is still possible to experience loss, theft, or accidents that will damage your belongings while traveling. Talk to your parents and analyze their family homeowners’ insurance to determine whether the items brought or bought while abroad are covered by their policy.
UCEAP Travel Insurance policy offers limited personal property coverage.  UCEAP strongly recommends that you examine the details of the UCEAP Travel Insurance benefits and purchase additional property insurance coverage, especially to protect high cost items such as laptop computers, Smartphones, tablets, and other valuables. Review the policy carefully before departure and determine if it provides adequate coverage for your possessions before you experience a loss. 
If you decide to purchase supplemental personal property coverage, do so before departure and make sure that the coverage extends while traveling because most theft occurs in the airport or while moving into housing. The host university does not protect student belongings—even in university accommodations.
You are responsible for your own personal property. Use logical precautions to safeguard valuables from damage or theft by locking your room and securing currency, jewelry, passport, and other possessions. Avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewelry and going to questionable parts of the city, especially at night or when alone. Minimize your vulnerability by staying in control of your drinking and your behavior. Do not invite casual acquaintances or strangers home.
Financial Information
Understanding Your Finances
It is important that you carefully read all of the information available in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and discuss it with the person who will assist you with your finances while you are abroad.
Understanding your finances before, during, and after your program is crucial to having a successful time abroad. The following list outlines just a few of the many things you will need to know before departure.
Detailed information on the following topics can be found in the Money Matters chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad:
  • Contact information for finance questions
  • How to estimate the cost of your program
  • Budget instructions and information
  • Who Can and How to make payments to UCEAP
  • UCEAP student account information(what fees do I pay to UCEAP and what fees do I pay out of pocket?)
  • Banking before and after arrival
  • Fees and penalties
  • Loan information
  • How financial aid works while abroad (how do I get my financial aid from my home campus and how are my fees paid?)
  • Various forms (e.g., direct deposit, etc.)
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
Your MyEAP Student Account is similar to your UC campus financial account. It will be available as soon as you are selected for your program in MyEAP. You can make payments through this account using e-checks or credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover). The fees that you owe UCEAP will be applied to your account after your program pre-departure withdrawal date, which is listed in MyEAP. For the amount due to UCEAP prior to fees being posted on your account, refer to the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule located on the second page of your UCEAP Program Budget. Program fees are subject to change.
Carefully review your UCEAP Program Budget.
Your UCEAP Program Budget lists the fees you will pay to UCEAP and an estimate of the personal expenses you will need to plan for. It does not include the cost of recreational travel or personal entertainment. Review your UCEAP Program Budget frequently. The Payment Schedule is on the second page of the UCEAP Program Budget.


  • Download and print your UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule.
  • Note the deadlines on the Payment Schedule.
  • Give the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule to the person responsible for paying your UCEAP bills. Sign this person up for Third Party Authorization on MyEAP so they can make payments online.
For further information see the Money Matters chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and the Money Matters tab of your Participants Portal. If you will be receiving financial aid, see also the UCEAP Financial Assistance web page.

Refund of Credit balances and Financial Aid Disbursements:

If you are signed up for Direct Deposit on your UC campus, it is not linked to your MyEAP account. You must sign up for eRefund with UCEAP to receive direct deposits from your MyEAP account. For more information, see the UCEAP eRefund Instructions.
Handling Money Abroad
Budget carefully; living expenses are on the rise. The contrast between rich and poor in South Africa is stark—behave with sensitivity and caution regarding this economic reality.
Most hotels, shops, restaurants, and airlines accept major credit cards such as MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Diners Club.


The official currency unit in South Africa is the rand (abbreviated R or ZAR). There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency allowed into the country as long as it is declared on arrival.
Before leaving the U.S., consider obtaining foreign currency (about R1,000) as it may not be possible to access a bank immediately upon arrival. Besides providing an opportunity to become familiar with the currency, the funds will be needed for food, local transportation, tips, and unexpected purchases. You should be able to purchase the currency at your U.S. bank or any international airport.
It is possible to exchange money and travelers checks at most banks and other authorized institutions in South Africa. You will also be able to open a non-residential bank account at one of the many banks located near UCT. Many banks operate nationwide ATM networks, and you can find ATMs on campus. You can select a bank of your choice and apply for an ATM card free of charge.
Past participants have successfully conducted all their financial transactions in South Africa by using an ATM card connected to an account in the U.S. Investigate this option with your home bank before departure.
UCEAP students can open an account at Absa Bank near campus. They are familiar with setting up local bank accounts for international students.
Cape Town has a modern financial infrastructure and efficient electronic technology for processing international financial transactions.

ATM Theft Advisory

Be cautious! Theft in South Africa is common. Remember that you are vulnerable when withdrawing cash from ATMs. Groups of thieves operate together to steal bank cards and trick card owners into revealing their PINs. Keep the following recommendations in mind when using ATMs:
  • Use ATMs that are located in busy areas (shopping centers, busy garages, or where there is a visible security guard present).
  • If anyone approaches you for any reason while you are using an ATM, cancel your transaction immediately.
  • Do not talk to anyone until the transaction is completed or canceled.
  • All ATMs have emergency call buttons. Use this to report a crime.
  • Know your bank’s procedure to cancel your card, regardless of the time of day (especially important if you use your card to draw funds from an international account). If lost or stolen, cancel your card immediately—the bank may not cover theft that occurs before the cancelation is complete.
  • Keep a low daily withdrawal limit on your ATM card. It is common in South Africa to have a daily withdrawal limit of R1,000. Check your established limit and set it to a reasonable level of rand per day. Depending on your needs, this could range from the rand equivalent of $20 to $100 per day.
Communications Abroad
Internet Access

E-mail and Skype

You will be able to get a local e-mail account at UCT after arrival. You are required to update your e-mail information in MyEAP and monitor your e-mail regularly for messages from both UC and your host university.
UCEAP will use the e-mail you specify in MyEAP as a primary means of contact.
Many students use Skype or similar applications to make free or low-cost calls over the Internet.

Computer Access and Use

UCT’s Information Technology Services has a large computer room accessible only with a swipe card. Printing is available for a nominal charge. Student consultants are on duty to help with the software. Internet access is available for academic purposes only. There are also a few computers in the IAPO for exchange students to use.
You can buy a new or used cell phone after arrival. Past participants report that used cell phones are available at pawn shops and a shop called Games. You can sell your phone when you leave the country.
Many students use a pay-as-you-go calling plan with an “incoming call” package. You can also pay separately for outgoing calls. The cost of calls within South Africa is reasonable. For use outside the country, it is recommended that you purchase a phone card (widely available) to make calls.
Approximate time difference: 10 hours
Mail & Shipments
Avoid shipping anything to South Africa. Shipping is slow, items are subject to tax, and theft is common. Even a large manila envelope can take two months to reach its destination and often requires payment of exorbitant customs duty (100 to 200 percent). You cannot ship things to South Africa before the program begins. There is no storage. 
Carefully scrutinize what you plan to take and decide if the items are really necessary. Remember that you will have to make similar arrangements to ship items home at the end of the program. It may be less expensive to pay the excess baggage fee with the airline than to ship goods abroad and pay a customs duty, but be sure to research and compare the costs before making a decision.
Housing & Meals

Where Will I Live?

Housing is not available until the Official Arrival Date. Pay close attention to local peers, staff, and host university faculty regarding safety issues for both housing and areas around the campus.
You will be placed in the on-campus Woolsack dorm or shared apartment or house in a neighborhood near campus. IDACA International Student Support Network and the International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO) will arrange housing before your departure based on the housing preference questionnaire you will complete in the Predeparture Checklist.
The lodging and amenities will vary by each housing option, but you can easily buy things that meet your needs in Cape Town. You may want to take a towel, but you can also purchase this once abroad. Most kitchens are equipped for conventional cooking (no microwaves). Houses are not centrally heated, and you may want to purchase a heater for the winter months or a fan for the warmer months.

Rent and Fees

Unless otherwise instructed, you will make your housing payments directly to the landlord in local currency, even if you are on financial aid. In some cases, credit card payments may be accepted.
Before leaving South Africa, you must pay the balance of any outstanding rent, library, gym, and other charges in full. Check with the host university before departing South Africa in case you are assessed fees of which you are unaware. If you leave unpaid fees behind, your grades will not be released to UC and you will be responsible for paying these fees directly to the host university even after returning to the U.S.
If you withdraw or leave early, you cannot expect to receive a refund, and UCEAP is not in a position to negotiate on your behalf. Like UC and most other universities, housing deposit refunds depend on the landlord’s ability to fill the vacated apartment if a student leaves earlier than the date outlined in the contract.
You will find any kind of food you can possibly imagine in South Africa. Neighborhood restaurants and local eateries are popular.
Vegetarians and vegans can get along without a problem. Many fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, pastas, and breads can be found in stores throughout the country. When shopping for groceries, weigh your produce before you get to the check-out stand.
The water supply at UCT is safe, but take bottled water with you into townships and informal settlements, or when working on community service projects.
Daily Life Abroad
Local Transportation
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.

​Getting Around On Campus

You can use the UCT shuttle service or walk in groups on campus to/from housing. The Jammie Shuttle, a university bus service, is a safe mode of transport to and from most areas populated by students. In addition, UCT offers a campus escort service through the Student Protection Service. It is available from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. for on-campus escorts. If walking, use the buddy system (see Safety section below).
Walking alone anywhere, on or off campus, is not advised.
Review the Staying Safe section of this guide for more information on safe and unsafe local transportation options.

Travel Within South Africa

During school holidays and after the program ends, students often travel throughout South Africa and even venture to other parts of Africa. UCEAP participants have gone up the east coast to St. Lucia, Swaziland, and Kruger National Park. Private tours of Namibia and Botswana are available at UCT. Carefully research the companies providing the tours and the political situation of the countries you would like to visit. IAPO can provide useful suggestions.
It is imperative that you let IDACA know when you are going to be out of town, even if it is only for a weekend or post-program travel. Unfortunately, some students have been robbed or involved in accidents during their travels. Parents often call UCEAP to inquire about the safety of their students; play it safe and inform both UCEAP and your parents about your travel plans. Use the “Travel Signout” tool in your MyEAP account to indicate your travel plans.
Extracurricular Activities
​Participating in extracurricular cultural and social activities while abroad is an excellent way to meet people and integrate into the community. Join sports, musical, theater, or arts groups; volunteer at local organizations; attend lectures and receptions held in academic and community circles; and get the most out of your time abroad.
At the University of Cape Town, many students become involved in extramural outreach activities such as joining SHAWCO (Student Health and Welfare Caring Organization), working with children, health care, Ubunye, and environmental issues. During orientation, IAPO introduces you to outreach opportunities and addresses the new culture of South Africa. Past events organized by IAPO include a drumming circle, township tours, train rides along the coast, and hikes up Table Mountain.
Students with Disabilities
If you would like to request disability accommodations at the University of Cape Town, you must initiate your request through UCEAP.   
For more information:
Travel Sign-out Form

Leaving your host city for more than 24 hours?

You are required to complete the online sign out through your MyEAP account. 
Click on Travel Signout and complete all required fields. During an emergency (abroad or in the U.S.), it is important for UCEAP officials to know how to reach you so we can help you. 
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Working Abroad
If you have a valid study permit, you are allowed to work part-time for no more than 20 hours a week (although not during academic vacations).

If you plan to work as part of your studies or to get work experience, you will need to apply for permission from Home Affairs and include:
  • A formal offer to do practical training.
  • Consent from the educational institution.
  • Proof that your are still a registered student.
Read more here.
LGBTIQ Students
​South Africa presents a moderate risk to the LGBT community due to its uneven provision of legal protections and a largely intolerant society. Although South Africa has a progressive legal stance toward LGBT rights, compared to other African nations, application is not consistent. Many South Africans perceive homosexuality to be "un-African," and there have been numerous reports of attacks targeting homosexuals. Despite discrimination by some of the population, the South African LGBT community is strong. With a history dating back to the apartheid period, the LGBT community has been campaigning for equal treatment in South Africa and working to draw attention to the issue of homophobia prevalent throughout all of Africa. Johannesburg has a particularly vibrant LGBT community.
RainbowUCT is a student society at the University of Cape Town. It is a society run entirely by students, and exists for all people who appreciate sexual diversity. 
​For more information,
UCEAP Insurance

Know Before you Go

While abroad you are automatically covered by the UCEAP Travel Insurance Policy.  Coverage begins 14 days before the official start date of your UCEAP program term. Coverage ends 31 days after the official end of the UCEAP program term.
The UCEAP travel insurance does not include coverage for preventative care, checkups, and vaccinations. Read details in Benefits at a Glance. Familiarize yourself with the coverage, exclusions, and eligibility criteria. Your travel insurance policy number is ADDN 04834823.  It is underwritten by Chubb Insurance Company.
There is no deductible or co-insurance but the travel insurance works on a reimbursement basis.  You can submit a claim for a refund consideration of covered expenses.  For more information about the medical claim proces or about non-medical claims.
Do not assume that if you seek medical care abroad for a covered illness or injury that the local hospital will bill your insurance.  Generally, hospitals around the world, including the US, do not bill insurance companies (unless there is a special arrangement with a local hospital in your UCEAP country).  It is your responsibility to inquire with the hospital, at the time of service, and make arrangements to pay any outstanding bills. Payment for medical services abroad is ultimately your responsibility.
For more information refer to your Pre-Departure Checklist, Insurance tab, or the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Insurance chapter.

For Questions about Coverage, Benefits and Claims Status

ACI at

Staying Healthy
Local Medical Facilities
The UCT Student Wellness Service offers a comprehensive outpatient health service by both medical practitioners and nurses, who are dedicated to helping students to remain healthy, and to make the correct life choices while pursuing their academic goals. Students are encouraged to seek assistance and guidance as early as possible.

Toll free numbers to call when you are in distress

SADAG UCT Student Careline: 0800 24 25 26 free from a Telkom line or SMS 31393 for a call-me-back. This line offers 24/7 telephonic counselling, advice, referral facilities and general support to students facing any mental health challenges or contemplating suicide. The line is available to offer support and advice to anyone who is concerned about a student who might be in distress. The line is able to advise and refer callers to both internal UCT resources and external (NGO, public and private) mental health resources.

Use the SADAG UCT Student Careline if you are placed on a waiting list by reception at the Student Wellness Service or if you require emotional support while waiting for an appointment. The SADAG website contains useful information about mental health issues as well as details of their national helplines.
Physical Health
If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your health clearance to UCEAP, you must immediately notify your UCEAP Program Specialist.
If you feel sick or have a medical emergency, seek medical attention and contact either the International Office (IAPO) or Ida Cooper Associates immediately. They can recommend a clinic, provide the links to necessary UCEAP medical insurance claim forms to complete, and assist if arrangements need to be made with your professors due to extended absence from class.
Carefully follow the advice received during the required online UCEAP travel health course and the in-person consultation with a travel health specialist to learn about vaccine-preventable diseases. 
Know Before you Go 
  • Practice preventive healthcare and take responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will reduce your risk of serious illness or injury.  
  • Watch the 5-minute U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention podcast “Tips for a Healthy and Safe Trip to South Africa.” 
  • Educate yourself. Many illnesses are preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These illnesses include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, Guinea worms, tapeworms, and typhoid fever.
  • While on your campus and before UCEAP participation, consult your UC campus health insurance and review benefits as many travel vaccinations are now covered for SHIP-eligible students.

Know Before you Go

Inform yourself before you travel.  Just as language and currency vary around the world, so does medical care.  Know what to do if you get sick.
Read the Health chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and your Program Guide for important information to plan for a healthy stay abroad.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Traveler's Health web page has important information about health risks present in the country where you will be studying.
Prescription Medications
Do not mail medications to South Africa. 
Refer to “Medication & Supplies” in the Health section of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad for more information.


  • Understand your UCEAP travel insurance terms of coverage.
  • If you need a refill while abroad, you must see a local doctor. US prescriptions are not valid in other countries.  Note:​ If the visit to the local doctor is considered preventive care, it will not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance; your campus or private insurance plan may cover it.  You must travel with a letter from your prescribing explaining your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name. 
  • If you need to find out if this appointment would be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance, contact ACI at For more information about the UCEAP travel insurance, refer to your UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, or your pre-departure checklist, Insurance tab.
  • Two classes of medicines – narcotics and psychotropics – are under the control of international law. This covers any medicine that can have an effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the potential to be abused. The narcotic class mostly relates to analgesic opioids and their derivatives (e.g. morphine and codeine) which tend to be highly regulated. Psychotropics are all those medications likely to be used to treat mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychotic conditions.

Before Departure

  • If you plan to purchase medication using the UCEAP Travel Insurance coverage, you must fill and pay for medication when coverage is effective (14 days before the official start of the program).  Do not assume that your local pharmacy knows about the UCEAP travel insurance policy.  It is not the same as your campus health insurance coverage. You will need to pay for the medication and submit a claim to the UCEAP insurance.
  • Find out whether your medication is legal in your UCEAP country.
  • If traveling with a prescription containing controlled substances, review international agreements governing the transportation of medications across borders check the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) website. The INCB is responsible for international drug control. If traveling with controlled substances, you must have a letter from your doctor. Generally, amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse) are illegal in other countries. Talk with your doctor to switch you to another medication.
  • Talk to your doctor to see whether he/she can prescribe an adequate supply of your prescription medication to last through the end of the program.  Ask your doctor how to adjust your dosage depending on time zone changes.
  • Get a letter from the prescribing physician, on letterhead, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name as brand names vary considerably around the world.

Traveling with prescription medications

  • Keep the medication in its original packaging clearly labelled with your name, doctor’s name, generic and brand name, and exact dosage. Carry it in your carry-on luggage, provided it is in pill or solid form. For more information, particularly if your medication is in liquid form, consult the US Transportation Security Administration., Traveling with Medications.
  • Carry copies of all original US prescriptions.
  • Carry the letter on letterhead from the prescribing physician for all prescribed medications, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic names. This is extremely important in case you need treatment or a medication refill abroad.

Why is a letter from your treating physician necessary? 

If your particular medication cannot be taken into the country, talk to your doctor.  If you need to switch prescriptions, your doctor may need to make changes to your medication at least 3-6 months before departure to monitor side effects and dosage.  The letter from your doctor indicating condition, treatment and medication regimen, can help a local physician to assess you and to consider reissuing your prescription provided it is licensed in your UCEAP country. Note that the local doctor's appointment for medication refill may not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance.

Consult with ACI, Read more in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Health section.

Mental Health
If you are currently in treatment in the U.S., discuss your UCEAP program details with your doctor so you can work on a plan in case you need to reach out for care. If you are taking a prescription medication, talk with your prescribing physician before departure about getting the supply you need for going abroad.  For information about traveling with medications, refer to the Prescription Medications section in this guide.​

Your mental health is important to us all. Create a plan with your treating doctor. Managing your mental health while studying abroad – whether or not you have a pre-existing condition – is something every person must think about when going abroad. Being away from usual stress at home can sometimes be a relief when abroad; experiencing new adventures can be a useful distraction. You will also have times when you feel confused, uncomfortable, annoyed, and many of the same emotions that you manage in your daily life at home.
Cultural adjustment and homesickness are normal. They are usually transitory—lasting a couple of weeks—and do not imply mental illness or an inability to cope. Most students who experience culture adjustment function reasonably well under the stress and are able to keep up with the responsibilities of school and everyday life.

You may feel homesick or sad. Feeling down, anxious, homesick, depressed or stressed might be your body’s reaction to the new environment and different life away from your usual support network. Don't cope alone.  Reach out for help to the local UCEAP program staff and your friends.  If you have been feeling unhappy for longer than a few days, or it is staring to affect your enjoyment of life and/or your studies, then you should see a doctor immediately.
The UCEAP travel insurance policy covers outpatient visits as any other illness up to $500,000; there is no co-pay or deductible, and you can make an appointment with any doctor. Budget for this expense as you must pay up front and submit a claim to the insurance company for a refund consideration.  Doctors, hospitals, and clinics will require you to pay bills at the time of treatment. You must then submit a completed claim form and paid receipts to the UCEAP insurance company. For information about the claims process, access Insurance Claims Process. If you have questions about your UCEAP travel insurance benefits contact ACI at
UCEAP students have seen the following doctors. Contact the local support staff for instructions on making appointments, paying for consultation, and filing a claim with the UCEAP insurance company for a refund.
Dr. Kerry-Ann Louw, Psychiatrist
UCT Private Academic Hospital
Telephone:  +2721 4042123
Dr. W. Sanders, Psychiatrist
Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital
Telephone:  +2721 4242070

Toll free numbers to call when you are in distress

SADAG UCT Student Careline: 0800 24 25 26 free from a Telkom line OR SMS 31393 for a call-me-back. This line offers 24/7 telephonic counselling, advice, referral facilities and general support to students facing any mental health challenges or contemplating suicide.

The line is available to offer support and advice to anyone who is concerned about a student who might be in distress. The line is able to advise and refer callers to both internal UCT resources and external (NGO, public and private) mental health resources.
Contact the SADAG UCT Student Careline if you are placed on a waiting list by reception at the Student Wellness Service or if you require emotional support while waiting for an appointment. The SADAG website contains useful information about mental health issues as well as details of their national helplines.
Health Risks

Sun Intensity and Protection

The sun intensity is strong.  Avoid unprotected sun exposure. Use sunblock and sunglasses throughout the year. Avoid midday sun or stay under the shade. Excessive sun exposure is detrimental to individuals of all ethnicities and skin types. Sunburn is a common acute effect, particularly in those with fair skin, and sun exposure is the major environmental risk factor for skin cancer.
The Ultra Violet (UV) index is an internationally recognized measure of the suns potential to do damage to our skin and eyes. For more information, check AccuWeather, South Africa, By damaging the skin's cellular DNA, excessive UV radiation produces genetic mutations that can lead to skin cancer. Both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization have identified UV as a proven human carcinogen.

Basic Preventive Care against Diseases

Many diseases, like malaria and dengue fever, are spread through insect bites. Follow precautions to prevent insect bites.
To prevent serious parasitic infections, avoid swimming, wading, or rafting in bodies of fresh water such as lakes, ponds, canals, streams, or rivers.
Rabies is prevalent throughout the country. Talk to a travel clinic specialist before departure from the U.S. Do not pet animals.

Drinking Water

Drinking water in cities and towns is mostly safe, but raw sewage, industrial waste, and pesticides contribute to water contamination in rural and remote areas. Drinking water may be unsafe in South Africa, especially in rural areas. Use only bottled (and properly sealed), boiled, or otherwise purified water for drinking and cooking. Do not use ice cubes made from unpurified water sources. Eat only thoroughly cooked food served hot, or fruits and vegetables that you have cleaned and peeled; avoid salads.

Consume only pasteurized milk and dairy products, or use powdered or canned milk and cured cheeses. Avoid street vendors and unregulated food establishments.


Malaria is hyper endemic and present in some of the areas.The U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) recommends discussing with your doctor the best ways to prevent malaria. Purchase your antimalarial medication before travel. The UCEAP insurance covers antimalarial medication if filled and paid for within 14 days before the official start date of the program. 

Drugs purchased abroad may not be manufactured according to U.S. standards and may not be effective. They may also be dangerous, contain counterfeit medications or contaminants, or be combinations of drugs that are unsafe to use. Halofantrine (marketed as Halfan) is widely used abroad to treat malaria. The CDC recommends that you do not use halofantrine because of serious heart-related side effects, including death. Avoid using antimalarial drugs that are not recommended unless you have been diagnosed with life threatening malaria and no other options are immediately available.
For a current list of malaria risk areas and information on related health topics, visit the U.S. CDC’s Health Information for Travelers to South Africa web page.


HIV and AIDS remain major public health concerns. Currently, Sub-Saharan Africa in general remains one of the most affected regions in the world.
In South Africa, many people may be infected yet unaware of their status; potentially infected persons or those whose HIV infection status is unknown pose risks.
Unprotected sexual intercourse remains the epidemic’s driving force in sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike some infectious diseases, transmission of HIV is mediated directly by human behavior. Changing behaviors that enable HIV transmission is the ultimate goal or outcome required for HIV prevention. Other than abstinence, a latex condom is the most efficient and available tool to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Only certain fluids—blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur.
The blood supply might not be adequately screened. The South African government precautions to safeguard the blood supply are increasing, but at this time the blood supply is not considered to be reliably safe. Discuss non-blood alternatives with your physician before departure during the UCEAP Health Clearance appointment. Exercise caution at all times to avoid serious accidents or injuries that could require a blood transfusion.
South Africa has the largest antiretroviral therapy program in the world, but also has the world’s largest epidemic, so access to treatment is limited.
You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom. Whether your partner is a host country citizen, a fellow student, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs.

What to do if you suspect HIV infection:

If you have been exposed to HIV (or even suspect exposure), seek immediate medical assistance. Do not delay, as the first 72 hours are critical. Even though no vaccine is available to prevent infection with HIV, all South African universities and hospitals have thorough protocol (including emergency antiretrovirals) for handling possible HIV exposure or infection.
Food Allergies
Students with severe food allergies should take precautions, as the cuisine may include ingredients that can cause anaphylaxis in those affected. A language barrier increases the risks associated with severe food allergies. 
Precautions to take include:
  • Research the local cuisine. Be aware that some popular local sauces may contain nuts.
  • Discuss the risks with your doctor six to eight weeks before departure to discuss your treatment plan while abroad.
  • Carry the medications you need to prevent an adverse reaction like antihistamines or epinephrine injectors with refills. Pack it in your carry-on, not your checked luggage. Your medication must be in its original packaging, with your name.
  • Have a letter from your physician to present to airport security that states your need to have the epinephrine auto injector with you at all times.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or tag with instructions for assistance in both English and the local language. Wearing medical identification at all times can help should a life-threatening reaction occur.
  • Tell others about your food allergy.
  • Carry a card written in English and the local language explaining what foods cause allergies and possible reaction. Make several copies in case you lose one. Be sure to have a native speaker verify that you have written everything correctly.
For more information, read the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Health chapter, Allergies section.
Air Quality
​Air pollution routinely exceeds recommended thresholds in urban areas, especially Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Tshwane (Pretoria). Individuals with asthma or chronic cardiorespiratory conditions should consult with a healthcare provider and carry necessary medications. On days when air quality is particularly poor, affected individuals should take personal precautions to reduce respiratory stress.
Staying Safe
Minimize Risk

You play an active role in protecting your personal health, safety, and well-being. Consider an action plan.

With the right information - and by thinking ahead - everyone can play a part in minimizing or preventing personal risks. Take time to assess the risks, plan ahead to reduce them, and think how you would lessen the consequences if things go wrong. Start by outlining activities you plan to engage in through your program and/or during independent travel; label the risk and rate it based on the likelihood of harm and the severity of consequences. Consider measures you can take to reduce the severity and chance. Plan your itinerary carefully, let your friends and relatives know where you will be, and research the safest way to travel.
The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) has established policies and procedures and has contracted with emergency assistance and security providers, to help you minimize your risk exposure and enhance your safety. 
Be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate and unpredictable terrorist attacks, which make it impossible to protect yourself from. Remain vigilant in all public areas in your UCEAP city and country and wherever you travel. Many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their own country or region, are not looking for student or higher education targets.

Terrorist attacks using vehicles are very hard to prevent and appear to be on the rise. If you are in a crowded public place, know how you can exit quickly, identify barriers or safe places where you can shelter-in-place, and watch out for any vehicles that appear to be going at very high speed.

Report anything suspicious to local authorities.  Read all security-related correspondence and advice from local staff.  Schedule direct flights, if possible.  Avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas. Minimize time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area.  Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals. Have a plan for what you will do in the case of an emergency.  If you are ever caught in a situation where somebody starts shooting, follow the active shooter guidelines: drop to the floor, get down as low as possible, and hide if possible.  Cover yourself behind a solid object. Silence your phone. Do not move until the danger has passed.

Steps to manage or minimize risk and enhance your personal safety

  • Familiarize yourself with all UCEAP resources and emergency support services while on UCEAP.

  • Assess your surroundings.  Learn to recognize danger.
  • Remain aware at all times. Do not walk around talking on the phone or listening to music on your headphones.

  • When entering larger venues, always decide on a meeting place with those you are with just in case you get separated. Always identify possible exits.

  • Be attentive to what is unusual or threatening. Assess reasonable and safe options. Trust your "gut feelings"; if you feel threatened, act if safe to do so and leave the area immediately. Find somewhere more secure.
  • Research potential risks you can encounter before you travel. 
  • Increase your safety and reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime by staying on top of your drinking. Know your limits. In many countries beer, wine and liquor in some countries contains a higher alcohol content than similar products in the U.S. Know what you are drinking and how much alcohol it contains.
  • Practice the buddy system, which promotes safety.  This system helps ensure that you, and a partner, will look out for each other.  Choose your buddy wisely.  The ideal buddy should feel that the buddy system is very important. If you are having a problem, your buddy can help to alert others and get you to safety.
  • Have a communication plan. Who will you call on site if you are facing an emergency? Do your friends and relatives know how to reach you when you are traveling?
Register online with the U.S. embassy through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.
Read the UCEAP the Guide to Study Abroad, Safety Chapter  for more information on how to prepare to have a safe experience and access the U.S. Department of State Students Abroad website for updated travel information.

Your Role in Safety Preparedness

South Africa’s crime problem is among the worst in the world. Petty thefts and burglaries are common, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur. You can protect your personal security by exercising caution and common sense and being aware of your surroundings at all times. The campus and its surroundings are not immune to crime. There are steps that you can take to reduce your vulnerability to crime. A good first step is to review the following safety guidelines.
  • Be vigilant at all times and never venture out alone.
  • Know the environment and choose safe routes and times for travel.
  • Use the buddy system; walk in groups (refer to Buddy System section in this chapter for details).
  • Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • Avoid isolated locations, such as beaches, look-outs, and picnic areas.
  • Divide your valuables up (different pockets/places), and try to never carry all of them with you at one time.
  • Carry a “decoy” wallet and use an under-garments security pouch or waist wallet.
  • Crime is significantly higher after dark in the centers of major cities and in township areas.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
In all areas of South Africa, be cautious if you are out after dark and do not go out alone. Streets, even in urban areas, are not brightly lit at night. There may be times when you cannot avoid being out after dark. In those cases, travel with a friend or in a group, and remain alert and aware of your surroundings, avoid dark or deserted areas, and use well-lit, well traveled routes.
Do not walk alone anywhere, on or off campus. If you feel at risk, proceed to a location (e.g., police station, shopping center, or service station) where help is available.
As in other countries, a thief can spot a non-local immediately. So be careful and hold onto your belongings at all times while sightseeing or walking around. There are many incidents of tourist theft in Cape Town. Do not resist.
Review the Health & Safety Overview on UCT's website for more information about campus safety.
By listening closely to the advice provided by UCEAP and host university staff, you should have a secure environment in which to live and learn.
Along with personal safety measures, consider having easily accessible a good quality, loud, rescue whistle. The loud sound of a self-defense whistle or alarm may cause temporary disorientation in an attacker and it can also signal for help, giving you time to get away.

Ocean Safety

If spending time in South Africa’s expansive coastline, be mindful of the possible presence of sharks when swimming or engaging in water sports. Accidents can occur when swimming in the ocean or walking/climbing on shore areas that are not designated lifeguard-patrolled beaches.
Beaches in many parts of the country do not have shark nets. At selected beaches, there are flags to indicate the presence of sharks. If you see a green flag, it means the water is clear and no sharks have been spotted. A black flag means that the water is too murky for the spotters to see anything. A red flag means that a shark has been spotted on that day, but is no longer visible to spotters. A white flag with a black shark means a shark has been sited and you should not be in the water.
At certain beaches, sirens will sound in the event that a shark is spotted. If you are in the water when this happens, leave the water quickly but calmly.
Visitors from the United States and elsewhere have drowned when swimming in coastal waters, where riptides, tides, and wave patterns can change unexpectedly and overwhelm even excellent swimmers.   Be aware of how dangerous rip currents are, and swim only at beaches with lifeguards in the designated swimming area. Rip currents can form in any large open water area, such as low spots and breaks in sandbars, or near structures such as jetties and piers.
Do not swim alone in isolated beach areas. Do not dive into unknown bodies of water, as hidden rocks or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death. At South Africa’s many beaches, safety precautions are clearly indicated on notice boards and, at most times of the year, lifeguards are appointed to monitor and enforce beach safety procedures.
While swimming is permitted at most of South Africa's beaches, lifeguards will mark out sections safest for doing so. Flags are erected in the sand near the water's edge to indicate the areas that are safe for swimming. It is very important that bathers do not swim outside these flags, as they may be caught in rip currents and swept out to sea. It is vitally important to follow of beach safety procedures at any beach you visit and adhere to instructions given by the beach lifeguards.
Read online surf reports and get local advice about tides and currents before you go swimming or surfing, as these vary from beach to beach and from day to day.
Beach and Water Safety Tips
  • Swim near a lifeguard
  • Never swim alone
  • Don’t dive in headfirst into unknown bodies of water as hidden rocks or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death
  • Take precautions for the heat and sun
  • Always swim between the RED and YELLOW flags
  • Obey posted warning signs
  • If in difficulty, raise a hand above your head.. Do not panic – conserve your energy. Help will arrive.
  • Obey Instructions of the lifeguard. They are there to protect you.
  • Understand and avoid rip currents and dangerous areas
  • Respect the water and the environment
Crime & Prevention
You will see the majority of houses are fenced, including electric barriers.  Keep all belongings in your room out of sight.  The majority of home thefts are done by criminals who have obtained information from third parties.  There is always a suspicion of high-value property where international students are concentrated. Leave expensive jewelry in the U.S.

South Africa is experiencing rapid political, social and economic change and we do have an undesirable  incidence of  crime -
particularly  petty  theft.  It is also  a  society  where  guns  and other  weapons  are  as  prevalent  as  in  the  United  States.  Remain alert and aware.  Take  appropriate precautions for your personal safety.
According to the U.S. Embassy, the crime rating is at a critical level. Petty muggings,  ATM scams, armed residential home invasions and murder, occur with frequency and in all neighborhoods. U.S. citizens are not specifically targeted, but are frequently victims of a wide range of crimes.

Safety Topics During Onsite Orientation

You  will  hear  about  safety  both  on  and  off  campus  during  the  UCT International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO)  orientation.  Speakers and  resources  will  include  other  students,  Campus  Security  officers  and  members  of  the South African police. Listen carefully and read all the materials that UCT will give  you.  It  is  your  responsibility  to  learn  which  actions  and  areas  are  safe  and which may put you at risk. If you are unsure about a situation or activity, ask someone in a position to evaluate the level of safety.

Some Tips

  • Unless you have an immediate need for it (e.g., cashing a travelers check), do NOT carry your passport with you on a daily basis.  A photocopy of the fron page should be adequate.
  • Do NOT walk alone at nigh; go with other students and take a taxis service to get you back to your apartment or house.  Do not explore unfamiliar areas of town on your own.  Report any harassment of threatening situaiton to the appropriate authorities, including IDACA and the IAPO.

Safety and Residential Life


UCEAP returnees report incidents of theft from apartments and houses. Although UC students have not specifically been targeted, international students may be more visible. Take responsibility for your personal safety and for protecting your property. No room or building is completely safe from theft, but you can make it more difficult for a thief to steal your equipment or property. The following are a few tips for avoiding theft in your house or apartment:
  • Keep your room door and all outside doors and windows LOCKED whether you are in or not.
  • Do not lend your keys, student ID, or security entry card to anyone.
  • Do not open a door for a stranger.
  • Lock your room door and windows when you leave, even if only for a minute. Take your keys and/or entry card with you.
  • Secure your door and window when you are alone and while you are asleep.
  • Keep valuable items out of sight in a closed drawer or locked in a safe.
  • Do not leave coats, books, cell phones, or other valuable items unattended in communal areas. Keep them in your room.
  • If you hear or see something suspicious, call the police immediately.
  • Do not leave access doors propped. 
  • Do not keep large sums of money inside your room.
  • If a robbery occurs, do not resist. Do not make any sudden moves or noise.  Remain calm and cooperate.  Thieves are prepared to use violence or at least the threat of violence.Notify the landlord or building supervisor and Ida Cooper Associates immediately for assistance.
  • Be alert about suspicious individuals who appear to be “hanging around.” Many thieves spend time doing surveillance.  Call the landlord, the Campus Protective Services (CPS) hotline: 021 650 2222/3, or South African Police Service (SAPS) to report suspicious persons or activities.

On-Campus Escort Services

CPS officers are available to escort students walking across campus at night. The CPS emergency numbers are printed on the back of every UCT identity card.The Jammie Shuttle, a university bus service, is a safe mode of transport to and from most areas populated by students.  In the event the Jammie Shuttle is not functioning (after 01:00), UCT offers CPS assistance to students.  Regular security issues are handled 24 hours per day through the UCT Campus Control.

The Buddy System

The buddy system is a safety system in which two people, buddies, operate as a single unit so that they are able to monitor and help each other.
Improved safety is the main benefit of the buddy system as it ensures that quick assistance can be provided in the event of an emergency. For personal safety to be most effective, shared involvement between you and the local administration is essential. Pay attention to their safety advice and think about your personal safety, even when visiting what might be considered a relatively safe area. Use common sense, and think before you act.
If you go to a nightclub, never leave your drink unattended and never stray from a group or leave a friend alone. The buddy system is a critical protective measure on campus and throughout the city.

Credit Card and ATM Fraud

Financial and identity theft crimes are also prevalent throughout South Africa and include credit card and ATM scams. Do not give personal or financial account information details to anyone. There are international fraud rings operating in South Africa, and credit card fraud is routinely reported. Protect credit cards, credit card numbers, and personal identification numbers associated with credit and ATM cards. Leave copies of your credit card account numbers and phone numbers with a parent or trusted friend in the U.S. so that you can retrieve this information in case your cards are lost or stolen. Regularly monitor your bank transaction records for discrepancies or signs of unusual activity. Do not allow your credit cards to be taken to a “back room” for processing; most businesses have portable credit card machines that they will bring to payers.
ATM fraud is prevalent throughout the country and can include the placement of a skimmer device on the ATM itself, or a “helpful citizen” who offers to assist you. The U.S. Embassy advises that individuals always thoroughly inspect any ATM for suspicious attachments or devices and use a machine in a controlled area such as a mall. Also, never allow anyone to provide assistance and never give out PIN codes.
Civil Unrest

Protests and strikes occur frequently throughout South Africa and often devolve into violence. Most demonstrations are related to economic conditions, labor issues, educational issues, social issues, or political developments, such as governmental policies, elections, or allegations against key figures. Protests are most common in Cape Town and cause significant transportation delays. 


Service delivery protests also occur frequently and are generally motivated by poor residents’ frustrations with shortfalls in public service deliveries. While both types of disturbances are generally localized and normally occur well away from typical tourist destinations, these disturbances can develop quickly, unpredictably, and occasionally turn violent. 


Strikes can also interrupt the provision of electricity, water, fuel, and other goods and services. During strikes by public workers, access to government offices, public hospitals and schools may be difficult due to protests and picket lines.

Use caution and steer clear of any area where protests, demonstrations, or other public disturbances are taking place.

#FeesMustFall Student Protests

Student protests on South African campuses regarding routinely rising higher education costs have been happening since 1994. Their protests were largely ignored.  

South Africa is not alone in struggling with the rising cost of higher education. Students self-organizing for a change in their own circumstances, to force the institutions of higher education and the government to respond to their demands. The #feesmustfall student movement began in October 2015 when the Minister of Higher Education announced a 10.5 percent increase in fees in 2016. The new fees,would put a university education out of the reach of many black students, who were only barely able to reach it in the first place. In mid-August 2016, the Minister of Higher Education and Training announced fee structures for the 2017 academic year. This led to another wave of student protests.

Security Messages issued regarding demonstrations and strikes will now be posted on the U.S. Mission to South Africa’s website.

Traffic & Transportation Safety

UCT Transportation

There are a range of public and private transport options to help you get around campus and the city. For more information refer to the online Campus Life guide.

Jammie Bus

The Jammie Shuttle is the easiest way to get from point A to B. It’s free for students (if you show your student card) and runs weekdays, weekends and holidays. It even includes a late-night service. Check out Jammie Shuttle Term Route Maps and Timetalbles.

Golden Arrow buses are easily accessible from the Jammie Shuttle stops in Claremont and Mowbray. Check out

MyCiTi integrates with the Jammie Shuttle at the Gardens station in Buitenkant Street. From there you can head into Vredehoek, Oranjezicht and the city centre. The rapid bus service also runs to Salt River, Woodstock, Table View, Century City, the West Coast, Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, and the Atlantic Seaboard all the way to Llandudno and Hout Bay. Refer to the online MyCiti to see routes of the feeder services in these areas.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions

Deaths from road accidents are roughly twice as high in South Africa as they are globally. According to published reports, the high incidence of mortality in these collisions is due to a combination of poor driving, limited enforcement of traffic laws, road rage, aggressive driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Road conditions are generally good in South Africa. However, excessive speed, poor lighting on rural roads, and insufficient regulatory control of vehicle maintenance and operator licensing have resulted in a high and increasing number of traffic fatalities.

Public Transportation

Travel by public transportation in South Africa, except for sedan taxis, is generally unsafe.
Public transportation accidents involving trains, buses, minibus taxis and private cars are a regular occurrence in South Africa. In addition, minibus taxis and buses have been targeted by criminal elements for hijacking and robbery. Often, the safety and security standards on public transportation systems – especially in urban areas and townships - in South Africa are not on par with what travelers would expect in the United States. The use of individual metered taxis from established taxi companies and tour buses is recommended.
  • Exercise common sense at all times, especially if you are unfamiliar with the local crime situation.
  • Do not use public transportation in rural areas or mini-bus taxis while traveling, as drivers are known for irresponsible and dangerous driving.
  • Public transport is often a hub for robberies. Newly arrived travelers make easy targets because they are often distracted, disoriented, in a hurry, and may be carrying a number of items.  
  • Trains, buses, and bus stations are crowded and harbor thieves, pickpockets and purse snatchers. Keep loose items such as cameras, maps, snacks, and purses within a larger securable bag in front of—never behind—you.
  • Do not travel at night or alone. Always travel with someone you trust.

Pedestrian Safety

Unlike the United States, where traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road, traffic in South Africa moves on the left.
Drivers are often aggressive towards pedestrians and fail to yield the right of way even in marked crosswalks.
  • Stay on the sidewalk and crosswalks. Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks.  If you have to walk on a road that does not have sidewalks, walk facing traffic.
  • Drivers need to see you to avoid you.  Stay away from their blind spot. Make eye contact with drivers when crossing busy street.
  • Cross at intersections.
  • Most people are hit by cars when they cross the road at places other than intersections.
  • Look right, left and right for traffic. Stop at the curb and look right, left and right again for traffic. Stopping at the curb signals drivers that you intend to cross.
UCEAP Travel Advisories
​Any time that you travel, sign out through MyEAP and notify Ida Cooper Associates. If you wish to travel within South Africa, seek sound advice from the International Academic Programs Office (IAPO) at UCT and arrange for travel through a reputable agency that they recommend.
Driving is strongly discouraged as UCEAP students have been involved in serious car accidents in the past.
If you wish to travel to countries outside of South Africa, consult the US Department of State Travel Advisories for updated security information and research your options thoroughly.
UCEAP strongly cautions against travel to Zimbabwe. You must follow the UCEAP Travel Policy. There are a number of issues, such as limited medical facilities, restricted travel access within the country, political instability, and a high crime rate resulting from poor economic conditions, that may interfere with your ability to access services normally provided by the UCEAP student insurance, including medical evacuation.

Department of State Travel Information

Travel Information is published by the US Department of State and provides an overview of the conditions related to traveling to a particular country. The website includes information about political disturbances, currency and visa regulations, crime and security, health and safety conditions, and locations of the US embassy and consulates.
Sexual Violence & Sexual Harassment
South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape and sexual assault in the world. While most rape victims are local residents, foreign visitors are also victims of rape. Adult women travelers are targeted as it is believed that they are disease-free.
Cross-cultural differences in gender relations and alcohol consumption are often associated with sexual assaults.
HIV/AIDS is estimated to be present in 18% of the adult population putting this country in the top tier of all countries. Clearly understand STD concepts and risks for HIV transmission.

IDACA 24/7 Resources

Contact IDACA immediately if you need help after getting yourself to a safe place. 

UCT Sexual Assault Response Team and 24-hour Hotline

There is a 24-hour hotline for the UCT Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) hotline: 072-393-7824.  For more information and how to get help, visit You will need to seek immediate medical attention, including antiretroviral therapy against HIV/AIDS.

What should I do if I have been Sexually Assaulted or Raped?

Every member of the UCEAP community should be aware that the University prohibits sexual violence and sexual harassment, retaliation, and other prohibited behavior (“Prohibited Conduct”) that violates law and/or University policy. The University will respond promptly and effectively to reports of Prohibited Conduct and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and when necessary, to discipline behavior that violates this Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. Report to the local
UCEAP staff and/or partners if you suspect one of these behaviors has occurred.

Fire Safety
Follow these general fire safety tips. Most college-related fires in the U.S. are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. Educate yourself about fire safety standards in your UCEAP country. Fire safety standards differ drastically around the world.
  • Know where emergency exists are located and check whether exits are passable.
  • Know how to call the local fire department.
  • Do not stay in housing above the sixth floor so you are within range of most fire department rescue ladders.
  • Print and take with you the UCEAP brochure, Fire Safety 101 for Students.
  • Purchase and use a smoke detector. Before departure contact the Fire Safety Foundation. Choose from a variety of battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, including models with sealed, 10-year batteries. Once purchased, the alarms and a multilingual installation manual – written in English and the host country’s native language - will be shipped to the address where you are residing.
  • Have an escape plan and practice it.
  • Treat every smoke alarm activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.
  • Check for fire hazards. Make sure exit routes are not blocked.
  • If you have a disability, alert others of the type of assistance you need to leave the building.
  • Refer to the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Fire Safety section for life-saving information.
UCEAP Contingency Planning
If a local situation requires increased caution or a program suspension and evacuation of participants, UCEAP will activate contingency plans. For security reasons, contingency plans are not public and cannot be shared with anyone except UCEAP officials.

Program Suspension Policy

If the U.S. Department of State or CDC issues a Travel Advisory after the start date of the program term, UCEAP may suspend the program. If time and local security conditions permit, UCEAP will consult with the UC Study Center Director, UC security provider, U.S. Embassy, U.S. Department of State regional and security analysts, other organizations that offer programs in the same country, and area experts to determine the appropriate timeframe for suspending the program and/or for the evacuation of the students from the host country.

Security Evacuation

The UCEAP required security evacuation will override any host institution, or local US Embassy evacuation on U.S. government-arranged flights, that require U.S. citizens to sign a promissory note with the government. The safe evacuation of UCEAP students, managed by UCEAP and its security providers, is covered by UCEAP itravel nsurance. UC students are required to follow UC safety directives in the event of an evacuation.
​Game Park/Safari/Hiking Safety
While visiting game parks and reserves, it is dangerous to leave your vehicle or be on foot, even in the presence of a guide. You should observe all local or park regulations and exercise appropriate caution in unfamiliar surroundings. Visitors have been seriously injured and killed by wild animals in South Africa. Even in the most serene settings, animals are wild and can present a threat to life and safety.
Visitors hiking in mountainous areas, including Table Mountain near Cape Town, should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions and ensure they have proper clothing and supplies.

Visitors to the city's main attractions, such as the Virginia and Albert Waterfront and Table Mountain, should also be cautious of theft and physical attacks aimed at robbery. During the past few years, several foreigners have been attacked, robbed, and even killed while hiking in unprotected areas of Table Mountain and adjacent mountain trails. Pick-pocketing and snatch-and-run theft are common in the city center and waterfront areas.​
In An Emergency

What Is an Emergency?

An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. The following are considered emergencies:
  • Any life/death situation
  • A traumatic event requiring immediate assistance
  • An arrest
  • Civil unrest or natural disaster in the host country

In an Emergency

Contact local emergency services first and then contact the following:

If you are in the U.S.

  • During office hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Time): Contact your Program Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office at (805) 893-4762.
  • After office hours: Call the 24-hour emergency phone numbers at (805) 893-4762 or (805) 882-2086.
If you are abroad:
Carry the local emergency contact information at all times.

Safety Resources Abroad:

U.S. Embassy Information:

Cape Town:

U.S. Consulate General: U.S. Citizen Services website
Street Address:
2 Reddam Ave.
Westlake, 7945
Phone: (27-21) 702-7300
Fax: (021) 702-7493
Hours: M–Thu, 8:00 a.m.– 5:00 p.m., Friday 8:00 a.m. - noon
After-hours emergency assistance: (021) 702-7300, outside the US: 011-27-21-702-7300 
The University of California, in accordance with applicable Federal and State law and University policy, does not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action office.

* Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.