Student Life

Health & Safety


There are no serious or unusual health risks in Johannesburg.  General health considerations for South Africa include:

  • Although not mandatory, it is a good idea to be up to date on basic vaccinations.  A yellow fever vaccination may be necessary for students traveling to or from South Africa and certain countries in Africa.
  • Tap water is generally fine to drink in Johannesburg.
  • South Africa has a very high level of HIV infection and the AIDS pandemic has had a widespread effect on communities across the country.  Approximately 1 out of every 10 South Africans is HIV positive.
  • Malaria is not a concern in Johannesburg but is a risk in certain areas of South Africa.

For more information on common health concerns and risks in South Africa from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, click here.

The University of the Witwatersrand has a well-staffed health services clinic called the Campus Health and Wellness Centre (CWHC).  It is well-equipped and provides walk-in services and an on-site doctor.  In the event of a serious emergency, Johannesburg is home to a number of excellent hospitals and medical facilities.  Students in the International Human Rights Exchange (IHRE) program participate in an international health insurance plan to designed to cover medical emergencies.  


There is a plethora of opinions and experiences about safety in Johannesburg. Like any other big city found throughout the world, Johannesburg has its share of crime.  The IHRE program strongly recommends that students come to South Africa prepared, by being well-read on the country, including its recent history and current political and social climate. South Africa demands a high level of common sense, tact, and diplomacy of its visitors.  Students will need to pay greater attention to safety and security situations than they do at home. Ongoing personal vigilance is the key to remaining safe in Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa.

The IHRE program places the safety, security, and well-being of participants as the highest priority.  Students will receive a safety security briefing as part of the pre departure and orientation process with tips and strategies for a safe stay in South Africa and outlining what to do in case of an emergency.  IHRE provides students with a local cell phone for their use while staying in Johannesburg along with an emergency contact card to carry in their wallets.  IHRE staff are available 24/7 in the event of an emergency.

The following link contain useful information on safety and security in South Africa:

Students are encouraged to contact us to discuss any questions or concerns they may have about health and safety issues in Johannesburg and in South Africa in general.


Bard College, Institute for International Liberal Education, PO Box 5000, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504-5000

Tel: 845-758-7081, Fax: 845-758-7040, E-mail: