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Reviewed 26 April 2021

Months into the year 2021, the travel industry is gearing up for a return to small normalcy with borders reopening, easing of quarantine requirements, and the creation of travel bubbles. Travellers looking to visit South Africa may want to familiarize themselves with the rules and requirements of entry into the country before packing their bags and securing their bookings.

So can anyone travel to South Africa now? What important things do travellers need to know if they are planning to fly to South Africa?


What is the current situation like in South Africa?

As of 26 April, the cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has reached 1,575,471 cases, with 1,501,185 cases of recoveries and 54,148 fatalities. The country is reported to have the highest number of infections on the continent, with the new virus variants causing growing concerns.

South Africa is one of Africa’s major tourist destinations and had welcomed 16.44 million visitors in 2018, contributing over 1.5 million jobs and R425.8 billion to the economy.


Am I allowed to travel to South Africa now?


International scheduled operations and charter flights carrying passengers are allowed at the following airports:
(i) OR Tambo International Airport;
(ii) King Shaka International Airport; and
(iii)Cape Town International Airport.

According to the South African government, if you intend to visit the country, you’re expected to produce a PCR  (polymerase chain reaction) test that is not older than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin to South Africa. This test must be conducted by a certified medical practitioner and should have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted such a test. Travellers must also download and install the Covid Alert SA app for the duration of their South Africa visit. 

Travellers from all countries are now allowed to enter South Africa subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative Covid-19 certificate.

In the event of the traveller’s failure to submit a certificate as proof of a negative COVID-19 test, the traveller will be required to do an antigen test on arrival at his or her own cost and in the event of a traveller testing positive for COVID-19, he or she will be required to isolate him or herself at his or her own cost, for a period of 10 days.

Furthermore, 20 land border crossings have been opened to allow for normal travel to and from Botswana, Lesotho, Kingdom of Eswatini, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The Home Affairs Ministry has lifted the restrictions implemented on 11 January in a bid to control the rising coronavirus infections in South Africa.

While border travels through these land borders have been enabled, certain restrictions still apply as follows:

  • Covid-19 screening and quarantine where necessary;
  • The wearing of a face mask;
  • Sanitisation and social distancing measures.

Railway operations:

Long-distance by rail services, including public and private operations, is permitted.

PRASA may continue commuter services between-
(a) Cape Town Southern line and Simonstown;
(b) East London and Berlin;
(c) Pienaarspoort and Pretoria Central; and
(d) Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage.

PRASA will continue with the maintenance, servicing and testing of its fleet and further sanitize and disinfect its stations and hubs and, upon completion, must announce the resumption of any other commuter services.


All commercial seaports will remain open and small crafts will be allowed entry into seaports, in line with all health and border law enforcement protocols.

Cargo transport:

Rail, ocean, air and road transport is permitted for the movement of cargo to and from other countries and within the Republic

Do I need to quarantine if I travel to South Africa?

South African Government states that in the event of your failure, for whatever reason, to submit a certificate as proof of a negative PCR test certificate or a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate upon arrival in South Africa, you shall be subjected to a compulsory 10-day quarantine at a government-designated facility as contemplated for in Health Directions, at your own cost. An immunity passport, risk-free certificate or passport immunity in respect of COVID -19 is not acceptable.

Upon arrival at the airport in South Africa, you will be screened for any COVID-19 symptoms or for contact with people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus. 

Should you display any COVID-19–related symptoms or been in contact with an infected person(s), you will be expected to take a mandatory COVID-19 test.  This test will be at your cost. If the COVID-19 test comes back positive, you will be subjected to a 10-day quarantine at a designated site. The accommodation at a quarantine site will be at your cost.

You will also need to provide proof of accommodation address should you need to self-quarantine at the time of arrival in the country.


What are the things that are open right now in South Africa?

South Africa is currently on Adjusted alert level 1. A nationwide curfew has been imposed from 9pm to 6am. Most normal activity can resume, with precautions and health guidelines followed at all times. The population is prepared for an increase in alert levels if necessary.

The 20 land borders which are fully operational, will remain as such and the 33 land borders which were closed, will remain closed.

Traveling to and from the Republic is allowed, subject to sub-regulation.

Daily commuters from neighboring countries who attend or teach at a school in the Republic, and who are allowed entry into and exit from the Republic, are subject to compliance with protocols relating to-
(a) screening for COVID -19 and quarantine or isolation, where necessary;
(b) the wearing of a face mask;
(c) transportation; and
(d) sanitisation and social distancing measures as per the relevant health protocols on safety and prevention of the spread of COVID-19.


What are the concerns associated with the new coronavirus variants?

A new variant of the virus emerged in South Africa last year, and has contributed to record case numbers in the southern African region, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Dubbed the 501Y.V2The new variants are reportedly more transmissible and concerns are growing regarding the inability to track them due to the absence of the type of testing required in most countries.


Are there airlines flying to South Africa now?

As per South African Government’s website, South Africa is currently on adjusted alert level 1, which means that international travel is allowed from all destination countries. However, it is mandatory to follow the protocols in place.

A search through Wego showed that there are currently a few international flight schedules in operation to South Africa, for its major cities Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

Domestic flights for business and leisure purposes are available from all commercial airports in South Africa.


FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Can I travel to South Africa right now?

Currently, all international flights to South Africa have been suspended. Exceptions are for international flights with the purpose of repatriation, medevac and flights in states of emergency. Check out the full details on Wego Travel Blog.

Is the O.R Tambo International Airport open for international flights?

South Arica is currently under Lockdown level 3, phase 1, meaning that although the O.R. Tambo International, Cape Town International and, King Shaka International airports are currently in operation, no commercial international flights will be allowed to depart. Find out the latest updates on Wego Travel Blog.

Is South Africa open for tourists?

Although pressure has been mounting on the South African government to swiftly resume tourism, domestic tourism will remain on hold until December of this year. Read the full story on Wego Travel Blog.

Is it safe to travel to South Africa?

South Africa has the highest rate of COVID-19-related infection in the whole of Africa. An indefinite, nationwide lockdown is currently in place, and residents are barred from leaving their homes on non-essential errands. Get the full details on Wego Travel Blog.

Are safaris and game parks still open?

Game parks are still allowed to operate under strict conditions and limited capacities. As interprovincial movement is prohibited, only those living in the same province will be offered service. Read the full story on Wego Travel Blog.