South Africa is open! What you need to travel to South Africa

more than a year ago
After a long period of border closures, followed by bans on entry from certain 'high risk ' countries, as of November South Africa's borders are now again open to all international travellers, subject to health and safety protocols. Provided of course that you are allowed to leave your own country South Africa is ready and waiting to welcome you! 

Do I need to have a test for the Coronavirus to enter South Africa?

If you are planning to visit South Africa, on arrival in the country you must present a negative PCR or Covid-19 test certificate, not older than 72 hours from departure time from the country of origin. 

Tests must be conducted and signed by a certified medical practitioner and this should be an original paper copy (a digital copy on your phone will not be accepted). South African authorities reserve the right to verify the authenticity of test certificates. Note that if you arrive and cannot present proof of a negative test you will be required to quarantine in a government quarantine facility at your own cost. 

What else do I need to prepare before leaving for South Africa?

Foreign nationals must have travel insurance that covers the costs of testing, quarantine and hospitalisation (if needed) before boarding their flight to South Africa. You will be asked to show proof of this when you check-in.

What do I need to do at the border when I arrive in South Africa? 

You will need to show border officials your passport, visa (if applicable), the proof of your negative Covid-19 test and your travel insurance and the address details of the accommodation where you will be staying in South Africa.

You will also need to complete an Entry Health Screen Form (you may be given these on the plane to complete before landing). You will then be screened by Port Health Officials (this involves having your temperature taken and a few questions about your general health). If at this point you appear to be very ill with symptoms you must remain in quarantine until a repeat Covid-19 test is carried out.

All travellers must wear masks at all times within the airport or border post. Travellers are also encouraged to install the COVID Alert SA mobile app.

International flights will only operate in and out of these three airports: OR Tambo in Joburg, King Shaka in Durban and Cape Town International Airport. For overland travel, travellers may access any of the 18 open land borders.

Covid-19 protocols in South Africa

South Africa is currently in Level 1 of its response to the pandemic, the lowest level of alert in the risk-adjusted response strategy.  All parts of the economy are functioning and there are very few restrictions on travel and leisure in place. The main thing most foreign travellers will notice is the broad adherence to wearing masks. Masks are expected to be worn in all public places, particularly in shops and on public transport (this includes inside a taxi or Uber vehicle).

Upon entry to most shops you will be given hand sanitiser to clean your hands before you enter and after leaving. At restaurants or cafes you may also be screened (temperature checked) and asked to fill in your name and phone number in case you need to be contact traced at a later stage (you are also expected to be wearing your mask on arrival, although you may take it off when seated). The majority of venues follow this system although it is not uncommon to find some exceptions where rules have been relaxed somewhat. 

When departing from an airport note that only passengers with valid tickets to fly that day are allowed inside the terminal building. Masks must be worn everywhere inside the terminal and while on the plane.

The main restrictions still in place refer to gatherings. Funerals are still restricted to not more than 100 people and social distancing during the funeral is strongly encouraged as these events have frequently been identified by the government as 'super spreaders'. Other outdoor gatherings may not have more 500 people (with this number being based on a 50% capacity ratio), indoor events are limited to a maximum of 250. 

Travelling safely and responsibly in South Africa

For more on how to navigate South Africa's Covid-19 protocols, what to expect when you get here and some thoughts on travelling responsibly during these difficult times, read our guide to travelling in South Africa during the pandemic.


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