After months of closed borders and uncertainty, South Africa is finally lifting some of its restrictions for international travellers.
This is great news for both tourists and business travellers, many of whom are eager to see the country that is famed for its dramatic landscapes, safari trips to see the Big Five animals, and beautiful beaches.
Likewise, Indians make up about 3% of the population in South Africa (the largest Indian community outside of India). It is an excellent destination to see how the culture has expanded abroad.
It’s time to apply for a South Africa visa renewal and start looking at flights! We cover everything you need to know about South Africa’s reopening, as well as current restrictions and rules.
Current South Africa entry restrictions
On November 11, 2020, President Ramaphosa announced that South Africa is opening up to international travel from all countries, provided that they follow the health regulations.
Although South Africa is partially open, there are many coronavirus safety protocols that are in place.
Travellers who are planning to enter South Africa must have a negative PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test that was taken less than 72 hours before flying. Those who are flying from far away can get their PCR test in an eligible airport, such as Istanbul Airport (IST) or Frankfurt Airport (FRA). Children 5 years or younger do not need to take the PCR test.
Once in South Africa, arriving travellers must present their negative PCR test. If they cannot present the certificate as proof, travellers will need to self-quarantine at their own expense.
Which entry points are operating in South Africa?
There are currently 3 airports in operation. They include Cape Town International Airport (CPT);
O.R. Tambo International in Johannesburg (JNB); and King Shaka International in Durban (DUR).
South Africa has 20 open land borders including Beitbridge, Lebombo, and Ficksburg. The other 33 remain closed.
Domestic restrictions in South Africa
Those who are already in South Africa (or are planning ahead) will need to keep a few basic rules in mind.
South Africa is currently at Alert Level 1, which means there is a nationwide curfew from midnight until 4 AM daily. It is also mandatory to wear masks in public places, and those who do not follow the rules may be fined.
Other standard COVID-19 health and safety protocols must be followed at all times when in public, such as maintaining a social distance of at least 2 meters away from others.
Retail shops, restaurants, businesses, service providers, grocery stores, and pharmacies are operating as usual but will be strictly enforcing mask rules.
A history of South African’s fight against the Coronavirus
Much like the rest of the world, South Africa’s first coronavirus case appeared in the early days of March 2020. By March 16, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster which included a travel ban for certain countries, quarantine measures for returning travellers, and discouragement of non-essential domestic travel.
After genomic scientists found a mutation of the coronavirus (labelled the 501.v2 variant) from South Africa at the end of 2020, many nations immediately imposed a travel ban for those who were from or transited through the country.
South Africa had its worst period in January 2021, when the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. Thankfully, the number is going down after a widespread vaccine rollout and months of stay at home orders.
Where to go in South Africa?
Once travel to South Africa picks up again, there are plenty of places that deserve a spot on your itinerary.
Most tourists opt for a once-in-a-lifetime safari trip through Kruger National Park, which is one of the largest game reserves on the entire continent. Those who prefer to enjoy strolling by the seaside or suntanning will love coastal Cape Town, while photographers should head out to the multihued Bo-Kaap neighbourhood not too far from the centre.
There are also famous whale watching tours along the Cape coast, as well as the chance to enjoy big city life in Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city. In Durban, which has the country’s largest Indian community, travellers can enjoy a mix of delicious cuisine and fantastic surf spots.