Many people who dream of studying in South Africa have no idea that, in most schools and institutions, it is necessary to present health insurance to enroll. In this article, we will explain which are the best options for you who are taking a short course or more than one year!
Many people are unaware that they need health insurance as a student, but it is extremely important to make sure you have a headache-free or emergency-free stay abroad. In addition, you will most likely need proof of medical coverage to enroll in the desired course!
That’s why we’ve put together the best insurance options for students in South Africa, as well as some important information about student visas, courses, most common institutions and the South African healthcare system.
Why should international students in South Africa have health insurance?
Having health insurance is essential for you to stay well in case you need medical or other care in case of other types of emergencies in the destination country.
International students coming to South Africa need to be covered by private or public health insurance. Most international students are eligible for universal health coverage in South Africa.
However, this depends on some factors such as country of origin, course duration and age.
But this is nothing new, right? Also, I will explain other things that I think are relevant.
The ideal international student insurance plan for your needs depends on how long you will be spending in South Africa, whether you will need a visa, whether you will be eligible for the German national healthcare system and your individual choices.
These things take us to another point…
What student health insurance is required for a student visa in South Africa?
If you still have doubts, it is important to know that health insurance is mandatory if you are going to study in South Africa.
Expats living in South Africa can apply for health benefits in two ways: Universal Health Insurance and private health insurance.
If you want to know more about the types of courses you can study in South Africa, the best colleges and the visas you need, then continue reading the article after the list of the best international health insurance for international students in South Africa.
As I always recommend, it is interesting that you make a quick quote online with all the companies listed here. It will take a little more time, but it saves you a lot of money!
The 5 Best and Cheapest Health Insurance for International Students in South Africa
IMG offers a wide range of insurance plans for students (and expats in general).
They have three different insurance plans that are specific to students. One of them is only for students studying in the United States (The Patriot Exchange Program), so we are only going to talk about two of them here.
Plan #1: Student Health Advantage
This program will likely be sufficient to meet your course’s coverage requirements (but it’s always good to certify the minimum coverage required!).
The plan covers many things that some others do not, such as mental health disorders, maternity and pre-existing health conditions such as any illness or injury that are subject to the terms and conditions of the policy. In addition, it also covers COVID-19 costs.
Plan #2: Student Health Advantage Platinum
This plan is exactly like the previous one, but it offers twice the maximum coverage: $1,000,000
What I like about IMG’s International Student Insurance:
- Made specifically for students
- Covers students of all nationalities
- They have over 17,000 healthcare professionals around the world.
- Customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Covers COVID-19 and telemedicine consultations
What I don’t like about IMG’s International Student Insurance:
- In some of the plans offered, there is a one-year grace period for coverage of pre-existing conditions.
Cigna is one of the world’s largest health insurers, offering plans for travelers, expats and international students.
They offer three main plans: Silver, Gold and Platinum, which cover your needs not only in South Africa but worldwide! If you have plans to visit the United States during your stay in South Africa, you can choose to be covered there as well (although this makes your policy a little more expensive, so it might be better to just get short travel insurance for your visit to the United States).
Here’s a table that compares your plan options:
Cigna’s plans are flexible, allowing you to add whatever you need (which includes things like dental and eye care or international evacuation and crisis assistance).
The company also has a flexible payment policy that offers different options like annual, monthly and quarterly payments.
What I like about international health insurance for Cigna Global Students:
- Quick response to complaints (according to the company, 95% of refund requests are received within 10 days)
- An online help center providing access to a list of over 3,000 hospitals plus information guides
- Cigna has partnerships with more than 1.65 million hospitals, doctors, clinics and specialists around the world, which gives a range of options to the customer who needs medical care.
- 24/7 assistance to answer any of your questions
What I don’t like about Cigna Global’s International Student Health Insurance:
- The most basic plan does not cover prenatal and postnatal care
- They do not include coverage for outpatient consultations with specialists and doctors.
Now Health International has established itself as a frontrunner in the international insurance market by prioritizing client satisfaction through the delivery of efficient and affordable insurance plans.
A notable advantage of this company is its cutting-edge customer service, which provides prompt and practical information to customers.
All Now Health plans are carefully crafted to cater to the challenges faced by individuals residing in a foreign country, including international students and exchange students across the globe.
Furthermore, these plans offer complete customization, ensuring they are perfectly tailored to meet your specific needs.
What I like about Now Health International Student Plans:
- Clear information and 24/7 customer service
- Coverage in over 190 countries and territories
- Various international insurance options and customizable plans
- Some plans offer coverage for maternity routines
What I don’t like about Now Health International Student Plans:
- In some procedures, Now Health works with a reimbursement system
- For plans with routine maternity coverage, you must wait a 12-month waiting period to access this benefit
Whatever you need, Goyer Global Health is sure to have a plan for you. Their plans range from basic or premium, short-term or long-term, and individual or family.
They have three different plans. Here’s a quick rundown of what each of these plans includes:
- Consultations, surgery and anesthetics
- Therapeutic devices (such as cardiac pacemakers) if needed as a rescue measure
- Congenital diseases (up to a maximum of €100,000 per life)
- Does not cover maternity and childbirth
- Consultations, surgery and anesthetics
- Auxiliaries and therapeutic devices (such as artificial limbs and prostheses) up to €2,000
- Congenital diseases up to a maximum of €150,000 per life
- Maternity and childbirth care (up to €5,000 with a waiting period of 10 months)
- Consultations, surgery and anesthetics
- Unlimited therapeutic devices
- Congenital diseases up to a maximum of €200,000 per life
- Maternity care, childbirth care and midwifery or nursing services at the hospital (up to €20,000 with a 10 month waiting period)
What I like about Foyer Global Health plans:
- Plans include consultations, surgeries and basic dental treatments
- 24/7 customer service by phone or email with experienced consultants, doctors and specialists
- They offer evacuation and repatriation service
- They offer medical support and pre-trip advice (vaccinations, preparation of a first aid kit)
What I don’t like about Foyer Global Health plans:
- Your most basic plan does not include prenatal and postnatal care
These are the 4 levels of student health insurance coverage they offer (they all work great for South Africa!):
- Offers the lowest deductibles and the highest maximum coverage
- Six-month wait for pre-existing conditions to be covered
- Sports coverage for club/intercollegiate activities
- Covers personal liability
- Six-month waiting period before a pre-existing condition can be covered
- Optional Crisis Response pilot for rescue, your personal belongings and crisis fees
- Coverage for pre-existing conditions starts 12 months after purchasing the insurance
- Mid-tier benefits and higher deductible (for a lower monthly fee overall)
- Lowest cost plan (with the lowest corresponding benefits)
- Highest deductibles of all plans
- Does not cover club sports
- Can only cover a pre-existing condition in its acute onset
Here is a comparison of the 4 HCC StudentSecure plans (click to see the full chart):
What I like about HCCMIS StudentSecure plans:
- Emergency dental care (in the event of an accident) up to a maximum of US$250 per tooth and a maximum of US$500 during the certification period
- Savings plan if you pay the full amount before
- One of the cheapest plans on this list
What I don’t like about HCCMIS StudentSecure plans:
- Does not have coverage for pre-existing conditions in the Smart plan
- There is a six-month waiting period for coverage of pre-existing conditions (even if you subscribe to the Elite plan)
- Only in the Elite plan is there coverage for vaccines
- There is no maternity and nursery coverage for newborns on the Smart plan
- Your low-cost plans may have high deductibles
3 International Health Insurance Companies that can also be used by International Students in South Africa!
The two companies mentioned below do not offer specific health insurance for those studying abroad. Instead, they offer international health insurance that will (almost certainly) be accepted by your school or university as proof of coverage.
So my advice is that you ask for a quote from these two companies and compare it to the quote you got from the companies listed above. If you find that one of these two companies offers good coverage at a lower price than the other options, check with your German school or university to see if they accept this type of policy.
If they do, this is a great chance to save money before venturing into your new home!
– Diplomat Long Term and Diplomat International of Global Underwriters
Global Underwriters offers international health insurance plans for many types of travelers, including exchange students and international students.
When it comes to GU plans, I recommend Diplomat Long Term and Diplomat International for international students in South Africa.
What I like about Global Underwriters plans:
- Have coverage for medical evacuations, emergency dentistry and repatriation of mortal remains
- The Diplomat Long Term and Diplomat International plans provide coverage of up to $1,000,000
- In addition to medical coverage, the plans offer assistance in the event of lost luggage and travel interruption.
- 24/7 customer service
What I don’t like about Global Underwriters plans:
- Diplomat International plan does not cover Covid-19
- The Diplomat Long Term plan does not cater for students residing in Australia and Iran, as well as New York, Maryland, South Dakota (but this is not an issue if you are going to South Africa!)
- Plans can be a little more expensive than others on this list.
Geoblue is another great option if you are looking for health insurance to cover you while studying in South Africa.
What I like about Geoblue’s international health insurance:
- Very adaptable and flexible plans based on your individual needs
- 24/7 customer service
- Some of their plans cover extras like evacuation, preventative medical appointments, and maternity care.
- It is possible to add ophthalmology and dentistry services
- The Xplorer plan has no maximum medical coverage, covers extreme sports, does not charge deductibles for standard services, and has no cancellation fees
What I don’t like about Geoblue’s international health insurance:
- They do not serve residents of New York and Washington (although this is not a problem if you are going to South Africa)
- You need to speak to an insurance broker in person to get an accurate quote (which is very annoying)
Aetna is a recognized company in the field of health insurance.
A good advantage of Aetna is that their plans are quite flexible (you can customize based on all your needs), and they have very good customer service (as far as insurers go).
What I like about Aetna’s international health insurance:
- They’ve been in the health insurance industry for 50 years
- Flexible and customized plans
- Expert service every day, seven days a week
- Coverage for emergency evacuations, cancer treatments, repatriation and hospitalizations
- They have already won awards such as “Health Insurer of the Year” and “Best International Private Health Insurance Provider”
- Application that helps customers maintain healthier habits with a points and rewards incentive system
What I don’t like about Aetna’s international health insurance:
- Their website is not very clear about the exact coverage of some of their plans.
- They don’t offer any kind of travel insurance plan.
Table comparison of the 7 best health insurance plans for international/exchange students in South Africa
|Medical Maximum||Unlimited (for the Platinum plan)||$5,000,000||There are no limits independent of the plan||US$1,000,000 per year||$1,000,000|
|Mental Health Benefit||Unspecified||Unlimited for up to 90 days||Included in all plans with a 10-month waiting period||Outpatient: $50 per day max up to $500 in total||Yes|
|Inpatient Prescription Drugs||80% coverage out-of-network, 100% in the USA and internationally||Unspecified||Coverage available||Name-brand drugs: 50% coinsurance
Generic drugs: 100% coinsurance
Special drugs: no coverage
|Outpatient Prescription Drugs||50% of actual costs, 90 days maximum per dispensation||Unspecified||Unspecified||coinsurance
Generic drugs: 100% coinsurance
Special drugs: no coverage
|Mental Health Benefit||Inpatient and Outpatient: $5,000 lifetime maximum to paid in full depending on the plan||Inpatient and Outpatient: $50,000 lifetime maximum||None||Inpatient and Outpatient: limit not specified||Inpatient, outpatient, and therapy: limit not specific|
|Outpatient Prescription Drugs||None, unless you buy the International Outpatient Option||Up to $8,000,000||Full reimbursement||Yes||Yes|
|Repatriation of Remains||$25,000 maximum or $5,000 for cremation||Optional||Optional||$50,000 maximum or $5,000 for cremation||$13,500 maximum|
|Hospital room coverage||Offered up to the average semi-private room rate||Private room||Private Room||Usual||Usual|
|Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD & D)||Principal sum of $25,000 that is not subject to deduction||$25,000 for main policy holder, $10,000 for spouse on the plan, $5,000 for child on the plan
Total limit of $250,000
|Optional||$25,000 for main policy holder, $10,000 for spouse on the plan, $5,000 for child on the plan
Total limit of $250,000
|There is coverage|
|Emergency Dental||$500 per injury for the coverage period||Optional||Optional||$2,500||Yes|
|Maternity Care||Only covered in Platinum plan||$14,000/€11,000/£9,000 in the Platinum plan||Only available in the Special and Exclusive plans||Within the US: up to 80% coverage with a $25,000 limit within the PPO network/Outside PPO: up to 50% coverage with a $25,000 limit
Outside the United States:
Up to 80% coverage with a $25,000 limit. Benefits reduced by 25% if pregnancy is not reported within the first 90 days.
|Pre-existing condition exclusion period||Maximum limit of $1,500 with a 12-month waiting period||$14,000/€11,000/£9,000 in the Platinum plan||Coverage available||Limited of $250,000 per plan||Unspecified|
|Intensive Care Unit (ICU)||100% coverage after the deductible has been met||Full coverage with the Platinum plan||Coverage available||Up to $50,000||Not specified|
|Vaccines||Unspecified||Optional||Only in the Special and Exclusive plans||$200||Yes, but must be paid as a separate plan|
|Routine care for newborns||Unspecified||Optional||Only in the Special and Exclusive plans||Up to $750||Yes, but must be paid as a separate plan|
|Pre-existing annual maximum once covered||Unlimited depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Full reimbursement||Unlimited depending on the plan||Depends on the plan|
|Pre-existing lifetime maximum once covered||Unlimited depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Full reimbursement||Unlimited depending on the plan||Depends on the plan|
Worldwide Medical Insurance / Comparison Chart*
Part of the table courtesy of Tokio Marine HCC
*Note: this table is just for informational purposes and subject to change. It was accurate as of the time we wrote it here, but please check each company’s individual website for updated info.
Why study South Africa and how does the Educational System work?
South Africa is a great country to study in, when you take into account factors such as: its cultural diversity, its growing economy, its great climate, the high standard of universities and the ease of getting a job!
The South African education system works like most countries that host international students. Universities are divided into private and public, under the general control of the Ministry of Higher Education and Training.
A curiosity: the oldest university in South Africa is the University of Cape Town, founded in 1829.
How to study in South Africa
Admission requirements vary depending on the university and the course you are applying for. For specific details on admission requirements for a specific course, visit the university’s website. If you are still unsure, contact the university directly to verify your eligibility.
For a general idea of whether your qualifications are accepted by universities in South Africa, you can use the online assessment provided by Universities in South Africa. If this shows that you meet the minimum legal requirements to study in South Africa, you will need to submit printed copies of your qualifying documents to the Board of Registration in order to receive an official certificate of endorsement (known as an “exemption”).
You will need to prove your knowledge of either English or Afrikaans, depending on which language you choose to study in.
A list of scholarships for South African and international students is available on the Department of Education website. Scholarships are provided by the National Research Foundation. Doctoral scholarships are offered by the Medical Research Council of South Africa.
Visa for foreign students in South Africa
If you wish to study in South Africa, you can apply for a study visa by filling out Form BI-1738. Study visas can be applied for at the nearest South African embassy, consulate abroad or directly at the university of your choice.
Study visas for pre-defined educational institutions must be valid for the duration of study.
The following documents must be submitted with the BI-1738 application form:
- A passport valid for at least 30 days after the end of the intended visit
- Payment of prescribed fee
- vaccination certificate
- Proof of financial means to cover the expected subsistence expenses during the stay
- in the Republic and also to pay the fees.
- Medical coverage proof
- A cash deposit equivalent to the value of a round-trip ticket.
- medical reports
- An official letter from the educational institution, where you intend to study, confirming provisional acceptance and duration of the course.
- Proof of medical coverage renewed annually for the period of study with a medical scheme registered in terms of the Medical Schemes Act.
- If you are 18 years of age or older, a police clearance certificate is required from each country where you have resided for 12 months or more at age 18.
The holder of a study visa may undertake part-time work for no more than 20 hours per week.
The best South African Universities
Here are the best universities in South Africa:
- The University of Cape Town, founded in 1829, is the oldest university in South Africa.
- The University of Pretoria is one of the largest in the country and the Gordon Institute of Business Science has an international reputation.
- The University of Stellenbosch is one of South Africa’s leading research universities.
- The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg is one of South Africa’s leading research institutions.
- The University of KwaZulu-Natal was founded in 2004 following the merger of the University of Durban-Westville and the University of Natal.
- Rhodes University offers not only a high standard of education but also an enchanting social life for students.
Vocational universities of technology are called technikons and offer their students four-year vocational programs, but students can also leave early and continue their studies while working.
- The Tshwane University of Technology. the institution offers 170 programs in seven faculties: engineering and built environment, science, humanities, information and communication technology, arts, economics and finance.
- The Central University of Technology, located in Bloemfontein, is the only technical university on the National Medical Device Innovation Platform. It also offers programs at regional learning centers for those who cannot study full-time on the main campus.
- The Durban University of Technology is part of the International Association of Universities. The two main campuses are in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
Combined Universities in South Africa
Combined universities offer both types of education that technical and traditional universities offer.
- UNISA (University of South Africa), headquartered in Pretoria, was founded in 1873 and is one of the largest universities in the world.
- The University of Johannesburg is one of the largest research institutions in South Africa.
- Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, located in Port Elizabeth, attracts many international students every year for its professional academic background.
Once again, these are the 5 best and cheapest travel insurance policies for international students in South Africa:
- Student Health Advantage from IMG
- International health insurance for Cigna Global students
- Now Health International
- Foyer Global Health
- Insurance StudentSecure da HCCMIS
Finally… As you prepare for your time as an international student in South Africa, make sure that health insurance isn’t something you forget about.
After all, you might not be able to apply to college without it… and you don’t want to be stuck paying out-of-pocket medical expenses!
If you still have any questions about these travel insurance options for students in South Africa (or moving abroad in general), let me know in the comments area below and I’ll be happy to help!
Planning your next trip?