Every traveler entering South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana is required to show a passport valid for at least 6 months. Note that under South Africa's Immigration Act of 2002, the passport must also contain at least one unused page for endorsements. If you do not yet have a passport, allow plenty of time before your trip to apply for one. The websites listed provide downloadable passport applications and list the current processing fees.
For Residents of Australia -- Contact the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232, or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.
For Residents of Canada -- Contact the central Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca).
For Residents of Ireland -- Contact the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.irlgov.ie/iveagh).
For Residents of New Zealand -- Contact the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050, in New Zealand, or 04/474-8100; or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.
For Residents of the United Kingdom -- Visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency; contact the United Kingdom Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410; or search the website www.ukpa.gov.uk.
For Residents of the United States -- To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. Department of State's website or call the National Passport Information Center toll-free number (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.
South Africa -- Aside from a valid passport, citizens of the United States, the E.U., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand need only a return ticket for a 90-day stay in South Africa. Upon entering, you will automatically be given a free entry permit sticker. Visitors wanting to stay for a longer period will have to apply formally for a visa, as opposed to relying on the automatic entry permit. For more information, visit the South African Home Affairs Department website, www.home-affairs.gov.za.
Botswana -- To enter Botswana, sufficient funds to finance your stay, as well as outgoing travel documents, are required. Holders of U.S., Commonwealth, and most European passports do not require visas.
Zimbabwe -- At press time, to enter Zimbabwe, visa fees depend on nationality. For British nationals, a single entry costs $55 ($70 for double entry). U.S. nationals must pay $45 (this is automatically a double-entry visa). Canadians pay $75. Australians and New Zealanders can purchase one for $30 (double entry $45). If you intend to purchase a visa upon arrival, double check these figures -- they tend to change pretty regularly. Remember to take two passport photographs; you can print out and complete the application forms beforehand. All visitors need tickets of return or onward travel, cash at the border to pay the visa fee, and sufficient funds to support their stay. Note that visa fees are subject to frequent changes, due to diplomatic and economic unease within Zimbabwe, and visitors are advised to check current status with a travel agent. You can, of course, obtain your visa in advance, which will reduce the amount of time you need to spend at any border post, but this will incur an additional fee ($25 and upward); consult your travel agent in this regard or use Travel Document Systems. (For visa applications and physical addresses in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., visit www.traveldocs.com.)
Zambia -- Regarding visa fees to Zambia, 2009 saw a return to a more equitable tourism policy. All passport holders are now charged $50 for a single-entry visa and $80 for a multiple-entry visa. Note that day visitors to the Zambian side of Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe can purchase a $20 day visa at the bridge (visit www.zambiaimmigration.gov.zm).
What You Can Take Home from Southern Africa -- For information on what you're allowed to bring home, contact one of the following agencies:
U.S. Citizens -- U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20229 (tel. 877/287-8667; www.cbp.gov).
Canadian Citizens -- Canada Border Services Agency (tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500; www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca).
U.K. Citizens -- HM Customs & Excise (tel. 0845/010-9000, or 020/8929-0152 outside the U.K.; www.hmce.gov.uk).
Australian Citizens -- Australian Customs Service (tel. 1300/363-263 or www.customs.gov.au).
New Zealand Citizens -- New Zealand Customs, The Customhouse, 17-21 Whitmore St., Box 2218, Wellington (tel. 04/473-6099 or 0800/428-786; www.customs.govt.nz).
No inoculations are necessary, unless you're from (or traveling via) a country where yellow fever is endemic, in which case you'll need a vaccination certificate to enter. If you're a nervous traveler or are traveling off the beaten track, ask your doctor or a travel-health specialist about vaccinations for tetanus and hepatitis. It's no sweat to make sure you're immunized against polio; it's administered as drops on the tongue.
But the only real medical risk, depending on where you travel, is malaria. Parts of northern KwaZulu-Natal, Kruger National Park and surrounding reserves, Zimbabwe, and Botswana are all high-risk malaria zones, though some become low-risk areas in the dry winter months (visit www.travelclinic.co.za for a map of malaria zones, as well as maps showing risk areas for yellow fever and hepatitis; www.meditravel.co.za is another useful site). Both Hluhluwe-Umfolozi (KwaZulu-Natal) and the Kruger are usually low-risk areas from May to September (generally, this means no medication is necessary, though other protective measures are advisable). Do note that this depends on the rainfall during the previous summer -- a very wet summer will heighten the risk in what is normally a low-risk area in the winter. Check with a travel clinic, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.