Background: Inappropriate use of antimicrobials is a key factor increasing antimicrobial resistance, a major global public health problem including in South Africa. Key drivers include antibiotics being dispensed without a prescription. Objectives: To determine the accessibility of antibiotics without a prescription in community pharmacies in urban areas in South Africa and determine whether counselling was provided when antibiotics were dispensed. Patients and methods: Prospective, observational study, employing simulated patients (SPs), presenting with upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) and urinary tract infections (UTIs), undertaken to establish whether antibiotics can be obtained without a valid prescription in South Africa. This pilot study was conducted in privately owned (n = 20) and corporate (franchised, n = 14) community pharmacies in three regions in Gauteng Province. Results: Antibiotics were sold in privately owned pharmacies without a prescription in 80% (16/20) of cases while no antibiotics were dispensed in corporate (franchised) pharmacies. Of the 16 pharmacies selling antibiotics without a prescription, pharmacist assistants were involved in 37.5% (n = 6) and counselling was not provided to 19% of SPs. Ciprofloxacin (42.9%) and metronidazole (28.6%) were the most common antibiotics dispensed. No antibiotics were dispensed for URTIs, only UTIs. Conclusions: Dispensing antibiotics without prescriptions can be common among privately owned pharmacies in urban areas in South Africa. Corporate pharmacies, which probably have a greater income, appear to follow current legislation banning such activities. To limit selling with no prescription, community pharmacists and assistants especially in urban areas should be educated on appropriate patient care and legal requirements, with dispensing electronically monitored.