How to Apply for Tourism Signage

How to Apply for Tourism Signage


Signs are a means of passing a message to a large number of people without having to be there yourself. A message is written down and placed where people passing by can read it. The message, maybe in words, but often a drawing or symbol is used to pass a common idea to people with very different backgrounds and languages, such as in a sign.

When signs, used for a certain purpose like promoting tourism, are designed to work together in sending a message, we refer to all these types of signs as signage and have rules on how they may be used.



Signs are found in many shapes and sizes, from large billboards to small posters, aeroplane messages and blimps to banners and flags. They may be painted, printed, or cut out and can be made more exciting by having inside or outside lighting, being animated, three dimensional, flashing or highly technological. They may be placed on freeways, streets, buildings, windows, walls, roofs, towers, pylons, bridges, or free-standing, like road signs.

Signs give people information such as the name of a place, notice of events and directions on where to go, as well as information on products and services that can be found in an area. There are two main types of tourism signs used: road signs, which tell people where to go and what type of attraction they will find there; and advertising signs, such as those used by Bed & Breakfast places, or those which tell people about events, such as the Comrades Marathon.

It is very difficult for an individual to obtain permission to place a legal advertising sign on a freeway or provincial road and application should be done through a specialist consultant. This booklet provides a guide, for people with little knowledge of tourism signage, who wish to apply for a sign near their property, or a local road. It is intended to provide information on the initial contact with their relevant Municipality only and not detailed information on rules and regulations.


Signage is a powerful, exciting way of letting people know what tourism products can be found in a place. If done successfully, it will send a clear message on ‘who we are’, ‘where we are’ and ‘what we stand for’. This will give possible customers a better idea of what is available for them. If we design, use and managed our tourism signage well, it will be an effective silent, sales medium which could attract attention, give customers information, lead them to the right product, start and sometimes even conclude a ‘sale’.

Well-designed, uniform signage can be a tourist attraction by itself. It provides a clue to the special character a tourist might expect to find in an area and can create a sense of place and identity which, if controlled, also helps people in an area work together towards a common goal.


Signage affects the way people behave. As mentioned, it can get people working together, or it can make an area look untidy and dangerous. An area with a large number of signs, or with signs that may be hard to read, is likely to attract too much of the drivers’ attention and cause accidents. The positive benefits of tourism signage will only happen if everybody works together and follows the signage policy laid out by authorities.


Road traffic signs, tourism direction signs and outdoor advertising are controlled by national, provincial and local legislation, the South African Road Traffic Signs Manual (SARTSM) and the South African Manual for Outdoor Advertising Control. These documents may be ordered from the Government printers and a reference copy is available at the TKZN library. In addition, local municipalities are applying their own by-laws and the manufacture of signs is subject to various regulations from the South African Bureau of Standards.

As the legislation is currently being changed, particularly with regard to road signage, it is advisable to contact your Local Municipality and familiarise yourself with the latest regulations for either road signage or outdoor advertising signage.

It is also recommended that you consider appointing a road signage consultant to deal with your signage needs. A list of these consultants is available at the end of this document.



All tourism road signage is controlled, but the following advertising signs are not:

•  Signs displayed inside a sports stadium;

•  Signs displayed in an arcade;

•  Any sign which is displayed inside a building at a distance of more than two metres from any window or other

    External opening;

•  Any price ticket smaller than 0,01m2 on an item displayed in a shop window;

•  Any national flag;

•  Any banner or flag carried through the streets as part of a procession.



When deciding on how important it is to have sign officials think about what the sign is for, what is looks like and

what type of sign it is. They also consider the:

•  Type of area and the number of signs that should be allowed;

•  Need that the road user has for the sign;

•  Rights to general public access rather than exclusive member groups;

•  Closeness of destinations to each other;

•  Safety of traffic;

•  Amount and type of competitive advertising;

•  Any other relevant factors.

Generally, signs that are used to give directions have a higher priority than signs which promote products and services, and signs which group attractions together, have a higher rating than individual signs.



While Municipalities can provide further details, in general, signs should follow the principles of:

•  Amenity and decency: They must not be detrimental to natural, or human environments, have a message which offends public morals, or obscure a legal sign owned by another person. Safety signs, as well as their supporting structures, must not be a danger to other people and/or property, especially road-users. They should be safely made, erected and be able to support twice their weight, in addition to any force they might experience, such as wind pressure.

•  Design and construction: Attention must be paid to the construction, erection, sign-writing and neatness. No damage to trees, public property, electrical standards, services or other public installations is allowed. Signs should be made from durable material and steps taken to stop corrosion. If services, such as electricity are required, they must be provided without defacing a building. All cables must be fixed in place, fire proof and have a switch outside the sign, which is easy to reach. All the relevant by-laws must be followed. It might be necessary to deal with other authorities such as tourism, engineer or conservation authorities.

•  Maintenance: Signs should be erected in such a way that vandalism is discouraged. They must be maintained in good repair and serviced regularly. The responsibility for signage maintenance lies with both the sign’s owner and the owner of the property on which the sign is displayed.

•  Position restrictions: Restrictions on the placement of signs vary according to the different categories. There are detailed requirements relating to the angle at which the sign faces the traffic, the number of signs on an intersection, the distance of the sign from the road reserve, whether the road is an arterial, or lower order road and the spacing between signs. Details about these requirements can be obtained from the local authorities.

•  Illumination: There are special principles and requirements for signs which are lit, such as the position of the sign and the floodlighting, colour, size and the wattage used. It is best to let a specialist deal with applications for this type of signage.



When applying for permission to erect a sign, it is sometimes necessary to deal with more than one authority. Outdoor advertising signs, which could include tourism road signs along a local road, and/or tourism advertising both, within or outside a property’s boundary, are controlled by Municipalities. Contact details for them are at the end of this brochure.

Tourism road signs, which you may want to put up along a freeway or main road, are controlled by national and provincial authorities. It is a long and detailed process and usually needs the help of a specialist.

For road signage you should contact, in the following order: Contact/telephone your Municipality’s engineering or

temporary advertising department for signage on a road in an urban area. (See list of useful contacts):

1.  Regional Engineer, KZN Department of Transport, Pietermaritzburg for permission for signage on a provincial or district road: (033) 342 9191

2.  Regional Manager, South African Roads Agency, Pietermaritzburg, for permission for signage on a national road: (033) 392 8100

3.  Department of Transport, the Minister’s Office Pietermaritzburg: (033) 355 8600



Permission for your signage must be obtained from the different authorities. To do this, follow all the steps below:

Step 1:

Contact your Local Municipality, KZN Department of Transport or National Roads Agency, depending on the type of

road affected. Contact details are at the end of this brochure. The best times to contact engineers is before 8.30 and

after 15:00.

Step 2: Collect together:

•  Full contact details and identification of the applicant;

•  Full contact details and identification of the applicant, property owner and agent, if you are using one;

•  Exact construction details of the sign, including the materials used, height, shape, size, fixing, building, weight,

   Clearance above ground and certificate of stability from an engineer;

•  Exact sign-writing details, such as lettering type, size, color, message;

•  A drawing of the sign;

•  A sketch showing the exact sign location, all roads, distances and any other objects;

•  A photograph of the site and of other signs which are similar;

•  A site plan;

•  A layout plan with all details;

•  A maintenance plan, indemnity and public liability cover may be required;

•  Application forms or a letter to the Local Municipality.

Step 3:

Make an appointment with the relevant section of the Municipality to submit your application and discuss details.

Step 4:

Wait for a decision on your application. With Local Municipalities, this should take about a month. With national or

provincial authorities, this could take up to a year or more.

Step 5:

Once you receive permission, make your sign exactly to the agreed specifications.

Step 6:

Once construction is complete, contact the relevant official to inform them that you are ready to put up the sign,

and follow their directions.

Step 7:

Keep the sign well-maintained.



Most authorities charge a fee when you submit your application. This fee depends on the authority and on the type of signage you are applying for. You will need to pay all the costs for the manufacture, erection and maintenance of individual and advertising signs, but might only have to pay part of the costs for road signage.



To apply for signage you need to have:

•  All relevant forms filled in and signed;

•  The relevant fee;

•  Copies of signage drawings with site plans and all details;

•  The appropriate visuals indicating the details of the sign.


To keep our tourism environment user-friendly, we all need to work together. Apply for permission and follow the guidelines.


•  Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs

and Rural Development (DAERD):

(012) 310 3611

•  South African Roads Agency:

(Eastern Region) Pmb (033) 392 8100

•  South African Bureau of Standards:

(031) 203 2900

•  Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN):

(031) 366 7500

•  Sharp Signs:

(033) 343 2432

For a full list of signage consultants see the Yellow Pages of your local telephone directory.