When in Cape Town, you can get help for ANY emergency by dialling 112 for free from any cellphone, or 107 for free from any landline.
We also recommend that if you use a cellphone, you store the name of your most important contact in an emergency situation with the prefix ICE. ICE stands for In Case of Emergency, and if you’re unable to communicate, emergency staff will scroll to this number to inform them of your condition and seek advice.
If you’re travelling from a yellow fever area, you are required to produce a certificate of vaccination. These countries are: all sub-Saharan African countries (including São Tomé and Príncipe) except SA, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique plus almost all South American countries north of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid are recommended but not required.
If you’re planning to spend a lot of time outdoors where you might be bitten by wild animals, rabies and tetanus shots are often suggested as a precaution.
Cape Town is not close to any malaria region, and you won’t be required (or need) to take any precautions against it – but may need it for travel to other parts of SA.
HIV / AIDS
Cape Town has one of the country’s lowest AIDS figures; around 6% amongst adults (South Africa’s average is17%). Nonetheless, SA has the largest number of HIV positive people in the world (5.3 million), and in any situation where you’ve been in contact with blood or had unprotected sex, we absolutely recommend an HIV test. Antibodies usually become detectable four to six weeks after infection, and you should get tested again three months later to be extra sure. If you’re still in the country at these times, all government clinics do free HIV tests.
General State of Medical facilities
As the second largest city in the country, Cape Town is well provided for with medical facilities; there are more than 38 medical centres of various types – both private and state. Many people (especially more affluent locals) will tell you horror stories about state facilities, but they are in fact staffed by capable, passionate, and highly dedicated medical practitioners. The real problems are overwhelmingly the result of being under-resourced. You can expect extremely long waits for attention; unattractive or decaying (but not unsanitary) buildings and surroundings; tired, taciturn administrative staff; and additional waiting or complexity if any form of specialised attention (like x-rays) is needed.
As a result, we do recommend that if you can afford it, you use private medical facilities whenever possible.