Your Questions About South African Money Answered

When you plan your trip to South Africa, you probably have many questions about South African money. In this article, we give you answers to the most commonly asked questions about South African money and its banking system:

What is South Africa’s money called?

The official South African currency’s name is the South African Rand, called Rand in South Africa. 

Read more about the South African economy here.

Where did the name for the South African Rand come from?

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The name for the South African Rand is from the Witwatersrand (“white waters’ ridge” in English). Ridge translates to rand in Afrikaans and Dutch. They built the city of Johannesburg on the Witwatersrand, where they found many of South Africa’s gold deposits.

Facts about South Africa’s money

The South African rand’s currency code is ZAR, compared to the US Dollar’s USD and the British Pound’s GBP. The currency symbol for the South African rand is just R, compared to the $ for USD and £ for the GBP. The rand can be divided into cents. There are 100 cents in 1 Rand or R1.

South African banknotes

South Africa’s banknotes currently comprise five denominations: R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200. Each denomination has a different dominant colour, size and animal theme. All the notes have a picture of the former president, Nelson Mandela, on the front.   

On the back, the notes have animals:

BanknoteThe picture on the back
R10 Rhinoceros
R20Elephant
R50Lion
R100Buffalo
R200Leopard
Animals on the back of the South African banknotes

South African coins

The coins in South Africa are available in six denominations: 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, R1, R2 and R5. 

The 10 cents coin

The 10 cents coin is copper, giving it a red appearance. The back of the coin features an Arum Lily, one of South Africa’s distinguished flowers. 

The 20 cents coin

The 20 cents coin has a King Protea on the back. The King Protea is South Africa’s national flower

The 50 cents coin

The reserve side of the 50 cents coin shows a Strelitzia flower, also known as a crane flower or bird-of-paradise flower. 

The R1 coin

The R1 coin shows a springbok on the back. The springbok is South Africa’s national animal.

The R2 coin

The reverse of the R2 coin shows a Kudu. The Kudu is the king of the antelope, and the male Kudu has wide spiralling horns. 

The R5 coin

The R5 coin features the Black Wildebeest or Gnu on the back. You typically find Wildebeest in the northern grass veld regions of the Cape, Free State, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the southern regions of Gauteng.

Other countries using the South African Rand

South African Money
South African Money

South Africa is one of the countries that are part of the Common Monetary Area comprising Namibia, Eswatini and Lesotho. Each of these countries has its own currency with Namibia using the Namibian Dollar, Lesotho using the loti, and Eswatini using the lilangeni. Still, they have pegged these currencies to the South African Rand since their introduction. You can still use the South African Rand in these countries. Botswana also used the South African Rand as its currency, but the pula replaced it in 1976.

South Africa’s central bank

The South African Reserve Bank is South Africa’s central bank. It oversees monetary policy and protects and enhances financial stability. 

Where is South African money made?

The South African Reserve Bank has two subsidiaries, the South African Banknote Company and the South African Mint, that make the banknotes and coins, respectively. 

The banking sector in South Africa

South Africa’s “big four” banks include Standard Bank, First National Bank, Nedbank and Absa. South Africa has a world-class banking sector, and you will experience no problems using credit cards and withdrawing funds while travelling South Africa.

The exchange rate of the South African currency against foreign currencies

The South African currency is much weaker than most advanced economies’ currencies. Here are some of the prevailing exchange rates:

South African Rand to USD1 USDR15.97
The Rand to GBP1 GBPR21.28
South African Rand to Euro1 Euro18.07

Questions about South Africa’s money

Here are some frequently asked questions about South African money for your trip:

How Much Money Should I Bring?

When you estimate how much money you should bring to South Africa, consider a few things. Firstly, South Africa is significantly cheaper than the US, Great Britain or European countries. The most expensive cities are Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town. Secondly, you can use your credit card in most cities and larger towns in South Africa. In the rural areas with their small shops, you may need cash to make purchases. 

Food costs

Food in South Africa is not expensive and is generally of high quality. Here are some average costs to consider:

ItemZAR costUSD price
Coffee R30 per cup$1.87
Cooldrink or sodaR15 per drink$0.93
BeerR30-R40 per beer$1.87-$2.50
Meal at an inexpensive restaurantR160 per person$10

Always remember to give a tip when dining at restaurants. It is common to give at least 10% of your total billed amount.

Sightseeing

To sightsee, the cost of tickets vary. Here are some costs for popular activities:

AttractionZAR priceUSD price
Robben Island Boat TripR600$37.58
Entrance ticket to Gold Reef CityR250$15.65
Cable car up Table Mountain (return)R320-R390$20-$24.42

Transportation

Regarding transportation, using Uber or Bolt is inexpensive. Alternatively, renting a car is even more cost-effective, but consider the additional costs of fuel, parking and insurance. 

Cash to bring with

How much money you need to bring with you depends on the size of your family and the activities you will take part in. Since there are ATMs everywhere, you don’t need to bring much cash to South Africa as you can withdraw money everywhere. In fact, it is safer to carry smaller amounts of cash.

Using Your ATM Card in South Africa

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You can find ATMs everywhere in South Africa. You can find them at the airports and in shopping malls. South Africa uses Visa and Master Cards, and you should not have difficulty using any foreign bank’s card in South Africa. ATM’s instructions are available in English. The amount you can withdraw may depend on the network and your own bank limit. It has also been my experience that the exchange rate at the ATMs is relatively good, often better than at the money changers. 

Exchanging money in South Africa

You can exchange money at the banks in the larger cities in South Africa or at foreign exchange dealers at the airports or larger cities. 

Sources:

Banknotes and coin

South African rand 

Rand

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By Sabs

Editor of the South Africa Travel Blog that focuses on travel to South Africa, including destinations, attractions, accommodation, food & drink.