South Africa - taking precautions after World Cup fever. Visitors need to be sure of their international healthcare cover

South Africa has long been a haven for Brits and other nationalities looking for a new life abroad. The beautiful scenery, wealth of natural resources and fantastic climate have attracted visitors to the country for many years. However, the country is not without its problems – a rocketing AIDS epidemic, extreme violence and social problems from the fall out of apartheid. Despite this, the country has proved by hosting the FIFA 2010 World Cup that it is a strong economy with the ability to compete on the world stage. Following on from the World Cup, travel to South Africa continues to increase and enquiries into working in the country have gone up substantially.

Good advice for the globally mobile when working, living, or visiting overseas is to research your destination country thoroughly in advance of your move there. People can often take facilities such as healthcare for granted, as they wrongly assume the health system is on a par with the NHS or European countries for example. South Africa is an enormous country with a diverse combination of state of the art healthcare facilities but it also has only very basic healthcare servicing many poorer communities. Plastic and general surgery is often to such a high standard, that many people have visited the country specifically for surgical procedures. In contrast, there can be little or no healthcare provision in remote rural areas. To try and assist those with less money, the government runs a scheme for local nationals which charges them an amount for public sector healthcare based on their income and the number of dependents they have. The vast majority of immigrants and expatriate, though, will not have access to public sector healthcare and so must ensure they have adequate healthcare cover.

Visitors and those residing in the country should also ensure their vaccinations are up to date, as well as taking precautions to avoid infections such as AIDs and Malaria. According to the NHS, if you are travelling to South Africa you should have vaccinations against Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Cholera and TB. The Yellow Fever vaccination is only needed if you are travelling to a high risk rural area, and Diphtheria and Hepatitis B are needed if you are working in unhygienic, high risk sectors, such as health workers. Finally anti-Malaria tablets are needed in the summer months in Kruger National Park, Limpopo and KwaZulu Natal. Some general precautions include wearing high factor sunscreen during the summer months, together with hats. Most tap water is safe, but if you are not 100 per cent sure it is best to drink bottled water, which is widely available across South Africa. When looking for health insurance it is always best to look for a provider that covers repatriation costs, ancillary services and surgery costs to cover the risk of having to be evacuated to a larger town or even abroad.

Although such costs are cheaper in South Africa than in the US for example, it may be that finding a suitable healthcare centre involves far more complications and travel, given the real possibility of exposure to serious disease and poor sanitation. Debbie Purser, CEO of April International UK commented: ‘Anyone who has visited South Africa will understand straight away why people would like to visit and or relocate there. Its fabulous climate and scenery needs to be enjoyed with the confidence of a healthcare policy that covers every eventuality. Although South Africa has some world class health facilities, they are not easily accessible. That’s why it is key that your policy should enable you to be transported quickly and safely to the nearest healthcare centre, ensuring your medical attention is the best on offer.’