South Africa’s currency is the ‘rand’ and the country has a modern and extensive banking system. There are cashpoints / ATMs in even the smallest towns and while it’s advisable to carry a small amount for emergencies, you can draw extra cash almost everywhere. Criminals do sometimes target ATMs, especially in busy urban areas. Be attentive and don’t use machines which look like they may have been tampered with. If you see anyone suspicious, move on. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, including petrol stations. Some retailers refuse Diners Club and American Express, and foreign credit cards are not accepted at toll roads or international road borders, so be sure to have cash for those specific situations.
If you do arrive with cash, note that any foreign currency to the value of $10,000 or more (or local currency of more than R25,000) must be declared to South African customs. If you purchase clothes, presents or other goods within South Africa, you can also claim the 15% VAT back at the airport when you leave. To do this, you must have the full tax invoice for each item. It must say ‘tax invoice’ on it, and include the seller’s full details (including tax number) and the cost of the goods in rands.