Souvenirs from South Africa

by on Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Artwork purchased on ISV’s Adventure Tour in Mozambique (c) Tori Terhune, ISV South Africa Alumni

Your best souvenirs in South Africa are definitely going to be the friends you make and the experiences you share on your ISV program. However, it’s normal to also want to bring home something special to remind you of your time in Africa.

What can you buy? A good variety of products and souvenirs can be bought in South Africa, especially products such as woodwork, silk, ceramics, jewelry, woven baskets and clothing.

Aside from locally-specific items at their Volunteer Project sites, ISV South Africa alumni also highlighted African paintings, hand carved/made drums or masks, a local liqueur called Amarula, and Rhino Awareness/Conservation bracelets. There are some new Cheetah and Wild Dog bracelets out too; you can get these at Kruger National Park and at Johannesburg International Airport.

Buy a Rhino Force bracelet and help to protect this endangered species

When can you shop? On your Volunteer Project you’ll have some free time where you might have some shopping opportunities. While you could wait to go shopping on the ISV Adventure Tour (for those of you doing it), there’s always a risk that you won’t find the same things.  However, on Tour, there are loads of chances to shop around, such as the Chameleon Village Market (May to Sept season) or Greenmarket Square in Cape Town (Nov-Feb season). Prices do vary greatly; ask your ISV leaders where the best deals can be found. On the Wild Africa Excursion there are also lots of options within walking distance of our accommodation at Jolly boys.

Choose wisely- can I bring my purchase home? Don’t forget that some countries (like Australia and New Zealand) have very strict laws on what you can bring back into the country in order to limit the transfer of potentially harmful goods. Check out our blog on customs here.

To bargain or not to bargain? In regular shops, pay the price that is listed. In markets, it’s expected to haggle/barter for the price.  Southern African’s respect someone who can get a good price without the buyer or seller losing face.  Check out our blog on bargaining etiquette here.

Is the product made from an endangered plant or animal?  Help dim the demand for trade in illegal wildlife and other products by carefully choosing what you buy.  Read more about this crucial topic here.

Shop carefully. You could be contributing to the illegal trade in wildlife products

Where was the souvenir made? Products made in South Africa vs those made overseas help protect local jobs and support local industry. Some examples of popular local products include beadwork by local Xhosa woman, wood and stone carvings.

Do I need to tip? Tipping for services are customary in Southern Africa:  Taxis 10%, waiters/waitresses 10-15%.  Local guides R10.

Can I claim back the VAT?  In Southern Africa, all goods and service taxes (VAT) are added to purchase prices (the price you see includes the added tax). As a visitor to South Africa, you are able to claim back all VAT expenses you have with receipts. Simply identify yourself as a tourist to shop assistants, and request a Tax Invoice for the goods you have purchased. You will need to keep all of your receipts of purchases that you paid VAT for and claim them back when departing South Africa. When departing South Africa (i.e., at the airport), go to the VAT refund counter after you clear immigration.

Shop wisely and have fun finding the very best souvenirs in South Africa.

To learn more about ISV’s program in South Africa visit our website:

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