Frequently Asked Questions
Which airlines are operating flights to and from South Africa?
Each airline will have its own threshold for flying to and from South Africa based on demand for seats—which need to be filled on both inbound and outbound legs. For this reason, we may see that not all airlines immediately begin flying to South Africa. Schedules may remain in flux for some time to come as countries, including South Africa, continuously update their list of permitted countries and entry requirements based on infection rates, which will have an impact demand.
Specific ticket enquiries will need to be taken up with the respective airline.
Will airlines be permitted to land in South Africa from high-risk countries?
Airlines from high-risk countries are permitted to land in South Africa, but their crew will be required to isolate in facilities at designated accommodation at the cost of their employer.
Passengers disembarking from flights originating from high-risk countries must be South Africans or meet the business travel exemption (with approval of the Department of Home Affairs). All arrivals must also meet the entry requirements including a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 PCR test.
Is transit through South African airports allowed (from high- or low-risk countries)?
A passenger in transit (regardless of the country of departure) must be in possession of a negative PCR test certificate or a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel, from an accredited laboratory.
If a passenger in transit displays COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival, they will not be allowed to board their flight and will undergo primary and secondary screening, including repeat COVID-19 testing. If a positive test result is obtained, they will be quarantined at their own cost.
Are domestic airlines operating in South Africa?
Yes. Cemair, Airlink, FlySafair, and Mango Airlines are all flying domestic routes in South Africa and domestic flights are permitted across all provinces (for all purposes).
Which airports are open for air travel?
The following South Africans airports are open to domestic air travel:
- Bram Fischer International Airport
- Cape Town International Airport**
- East London Airport
- George Airport
- Hoedspruit Airport
- Kimberly Airport
- King Shaka International Airport**
- Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
- Lanseria International Airport
- Margate Airport
- Mthatha Airport
- OR Tambo International Airport**
- Phalaborwa Airport
- Pietermaritzburg Airport
- Plettenberg Bay Airport
- Polokwane Airport
- Port Elizabeth International Airport
- Richards Bay Airport
- Sishen Airport>
- Skukuza Airport
- Upington International Airport
**Additionally open to international air travel
Passengers should arrive at the airport at least two hours before a domestic flight to ensure enough time is allocated for screening and operational procedures. Until it is otherwise announced, only passengers are permitted inside the terminal buildings. Passengers with a temperature higher than 38 degrees will not be permitted to enter the airport. Masks must be worn and social distancing of 1,5 metres must be adhered to at all times in the airport.
Travellers should complete the following screening questionnaires from the Department of Health, to be submitted before all flights:
Exit Screening Questionnaire (https://www.airports.co.za/Documents/Exit%20Screening%20Questionnaire.pdf)
Domestic screening Questionnaire (https://www.airports.co.za/Documents/Domestic%20Screening%20%20Questionaire.pdf)
Which countries are allowed to come to South Africa? What are the different levels of risk and requirements?
Based on the latest WHO criteria on infection and death rates, South Africa has developed a risk categorisation model for different international travellers. This model classifies international travellers according to a scale of high, medium and low risk.
High-risk travellers are those who come from countries with higher numbers of COVID-19 infections and reported deaths compared to South Africa.
Medium risk travellers are from countries with a relatively equal number of infections and death toll to South Africa. Low-risk travellers originate from countries with lesser number of infections of COVID-19 and death toll than South Africa.
The list of countries and categorisation will be reviewed every two weeks and updated based on the latest WHO figures.
Travellers (leisure, corporate and other) from the African continent as well as from medium- and low-risk countries will be allowed into the country subject to the entry requirements (i.e. screening, visas, testing, quarantine).
Below is the list of countries currently considered high risk, and from which leisure travellers are not allowed:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- North Macedonia
- Puerto Rico
- United Emirates
- United Kingdom
Exceptions will be made for individuals from high-risk countries who are business travellers, diplomats, repatriated persons, investors and people with scarce and critical skills or participating in professional sporting or cultural events.
If the passport of a traveller from a high-risk country indicates that they have spent 10 days or more in a low-risk country before departure to South Africa, they will be considered to be arriving from a low-risk country and subject to the low-risk entry requirements.
What are the requirements to enter South Africa?
All arrivals must present a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, obtained not more than 72 hours (3 days) from the time of departure from the country of origin to South Africa. The test must be conducted by a certified medical practitioner and the certificate must have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted the test.
Failure to present proof of a valid and negative test will require the traveller to quarantine at their own cost.
All arrivals will be screened for any COVID-19 symptoms and/or for contact with people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Should the traveller display any COVID-19–related symptoms or have been in contact with an infected person, they will be expected to take a mandatory COVID-19 test. This test will be at the traveller’s cost. If the COVID-19 test comes back positive, the traveller will be subjected to a 10-day quarantine at a designated site, at the traveller’s cost.
All arrivals must provide proof of accommodation address should they need to self-quarantine at the time of arrival in the country, subject to the accommodation allowing for self-quarantine.
All arrivals will be asked to download the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app. Information on the app can be found here: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/covidalert/.
Foreign national arrivals from low- and medium-risk countries will be subject to the prevailing visa requirements. Our understanding of this is that the visa regime that was previously in place stands (e.g. if a 90-day waiver was in place before, it will be reinstated now if the traveller is coming from a low- or medium-risk country). Foreign national arrivals from high-risk countries may enter with an application in compliance with the exemptions laid out by government (see question below) and subject to the prevailing visa requirements.
All foreign national arrivals must have travel insurance that covers the cost of any testing or quarantine.
What are the exceptions for travellers from high-risk countries and what is the process for entry?
Exceptions will be made for individuals from high-risk countries who are business travellers, diplomats, repatriated persons, investors, people with scarce and critical skills, and people participating in professional sporting and cultural events.
Business travellers must apply, in writing, to the Minister of Home Affairs and demonstrate reasons for their request to enter South Africa. This application must be sent to Covid19BusinessTravel@dha.gov.za and include:
- A copy of passport and/or temporary residence visa;
- Proof of business activities to be undertaken in South Africa;
- Proof of travel itinerary; and
- Proof of address or accommodation in South Africa.
They will likewise be subject to the prescribed screening procedure and isolation or quarantine rules, depending on the circumstances. On arrival, they must present a valid certificate of a negative test obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel. Failure to present proof of a negative test will require the traveller to quarantine at their own cost.
Where can I find a list of South African embassies and consulates abroad?
Should a South African or foreign national require assistance abroad (e.g. returning home, visa purposes, etc.), a list of all South African representation abroad is available on the Department of International Relations and Cooperation website (http://www.dirco.gov.za/webmissions/index.html). South African missions abroad are listed alphabetically by the country in which they are located. The individual websites for these embassies, high commissions and consulates abroad are also listed (http://www.dirco.gov.za/foreign/sa_abroad/index.htm).
Which international ports are open?
Johannesburg’s OR Tambo, Durban King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports are the only airports that will allow international air travel to arrive or depart.
All commercial seaports will be opened.
The 35 land borders that were closed during the previous lockdown levels will remain closed.
The 18 land borders which were partially operational during the previous lockdown levels will be fully operational (i.e. allow passage of South Africans and permitted foreign nationals). These include*:
- Zimbabwe: Beitbridge Bridge
- Eswatini: Mahamba, Oshoek, Golela, Mananga, Jeppes Reef
- Namibia: Nakop, Vioolsdrift
- Mozambique: Lebombo
- Lesotho: Caledonspoort, Ficksburg Bridge, Maseru Bridge, Quacha’s Nek, Van Rooyens Gate
- Botswana: Groblersbrug, Kopfontein, Ramatlabama, Skilpadshek
*Compiled from cross-referencing the list of all ports of entry with the list of closed ports.
Where can I find a list of international embassies and consulates in South Africa?
Should a foreign national require assistance in South Africa, a list of all foreign representation in South Africa is available on the Department of International Relations and Cooperation website (http://www.dirco.gov.za/foreign/forrep/index.htm). Diplomatic missions are listed alphabetically by country name.
How safe is South Africa to international visitors right now?
South Africa saw its peak in COVID-19 infections towards the end of July 2020 and has since then, seen a gradual but steady decrease in new and active cases. As of 30 September, less than 2 000 new cases were being recorded a day and the recovery rate was at 90%. This is what prompted the South African government to downgrade the country from alert level 2 to level 1, with effect from 21 September 2020.
Is Home Affairs open again to process travel documents?
The Department of Home Affairs will resume applications for identity cards or documents and all types of passports. DHA will also resume visa services, including submission of applications through VFS Global in the following categories:
- Medical treatment
- General work
- Critical skills
- Intra-company transfer
- Retired person
- Waiver of prescribed requirement
- Appeal or review against a decision on application for a temporary residence visa
Explanation of these visa categories can be found on the Department of Home Affairs website (http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/immigration-services/types-of-visas). Please note that any mention of countries and exemptions on this page are outdated and do not pertain to South Africa’s Level 1 regulations. This should only be used as a resource to gather additional information about the visa category.
Visa services, including applications for a visitor’s visa will also be rendered at the South African Missions abroad. The application process for Lesotho Exemption Permits and Zimbabwean Exemption Permits will also resume from 1 October.
Who requires a visa to enter South Africa and for what purposes?
Foreign national arrivals from low- and medium-risk countries will be subject to the prevailing visa requirements. Our understanding of this is that the visa regime that was previously in place stands (e.g. if a 90-day waiver was in place before, it will be reinstated now if the traveller is coming from a low- or medium-risk country). Foreign national arrivals from high-risk countries may enter with an application in compliance with the exemptions laid out by government for business travel (see question above) and subject to the prevailing visa requirements.
Is entry based on country of citizenship or residence?
Entry into South Africa for foreign nationals is based on where the traveller has spent the previous 10 days.
If the passport of a foreign national traveller from a high-risk country indicates that they have spent 10 days or more in a low-risk country before departure to South Africa, they will be considered to be arriving from a low-risk country and subject to the low-risk entry requirements.
South African citizens and permanent residents will always be allowed to return home, whether or not they are travelling from or through a high-risk country and will be subject to the entry requirements (i.e. valid and negative COVID-19 PCR test result).
How do I pick a travel insurance policy?
Be sure to check the requirements of your travel destinations as some, like South Africa and Brazil, are requiring that foreign national arrivals have COVID-19 travel insurance. For South African arrivals, it must cover the cost of any testing or quarantine.
Travel insurance policies will differ based on factors such as your age, the length of your trip, and what you want to be covered. A standard insurance policy may cover cancellation for events such as the sudden bankruptcy of a travel company, unexpected illness, or a natural disaster or unrest in the destination.
When looking for travel insurance that covers COVID-19-related events, consider the following:
Travel medical: cover your expenses if you or a travel companion, such as your spouse or child, contract COVID-19 while travelling and require medical care or evacuation.
Trip cancellation: cover any expenses incurred as a result of cancelling your trip prior to departure because you, or someone you care for, contracted COVID-19.
Trip delay: cover any expenses incurred as a result of changing COVID-19 regulations e.g. travel bans.
Most travel insurances will not cover disinclination or fear to travel. The exception is ‘cancel for any reason’ (CFAR) insurance. This is usually available as an optional upgrade to a standard travel insurance plan and may cost up to 50% more than a standard plan. It typically needs to be purchased within one to three weeks from the time you booked your trip or made the initial deposit, and you must cancel your travel 48 hours prior to departure. Often available in two tiers, CFAR insurance can cover you for 50-75% of your total travel costs. However, CFAR is not yet a common insurance product in South Africa.
Know that there is no-size-fits-all travel insurance plan and each additional cover comes at a cost. Whichever you choose, be sure to read the full insurance contract before buying to check whether it covers specifics like quarantine, testing, and flight disruptions.
Do South Africans need travel insurance?
Although it is obviously recommended that travellers take out a travel insurance, the issue of insurance is currently not gazetted and can therefore not be enforced. Moreover, insurance companies currently don’t have existing insurance that covers the requirements as mentioned by the government in their briefings.
It is also our understanding that the requirement (that was announced but not gazetted) to have travel insurance that covers the cost of COVID-19 testing and 10-day quarantine applies only to foreign national travellers entering South Africa. South Africans who do not have travel insurance with these covers will be permitted to the country.
Can South Africans transit through high-risk countries?
Yes, they can. The Minister has clarified that airlines from high-risk countries will not be banned or restricted, only international leisure travellers will be restricted from entering the country.
South Africans will always be allowed to return home, whether or not they are travelling from or through a high-risk country.
Do South Africans need a COVID-19 negative certificate to leave the country?
South African residents do not require a 72-hour COVID-19 test prior to departing South Africa. At the airport, they will be screened at the airport and anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms will be prohibited from boarding. Departing South Africans should also bring with them a completed exit screening questionnaire.
Any additional requirements will be stipulated by the country of destination. The airline is responsible to ensure that all passengers comply with the COVID-19 requirements of entry for the country of destination before boarding and will not allow passengers to board who do not meet these requirements.
This information will be constantly in flux as countries update entry requirements based on infection rates and reciprocity. The most reliable and up-to-date information will be found from the source (i.e. official government and consular websites).
IATA’s COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map (https://www.iatatravelcentre.com/world.php) is also regularly updated with restrictions per country. However, it is still best to double-check this information against what is available from official government sources as IATA cannot guarantee total accuracy given the ever-changing nature of the international response to COVID-19.
Travellers should also be aware that testing may be conducted at some international airports.
Can South Africans self-quarantine upon entry rather than go to a state-appointed quarantine facility?
Returning South Africans who are unable to present a negative test result, or who display symptoms should be able to self-quarantine at home, provided they have access to:
- Separate bedroom with an on-suite bathroom and toilet that is not shared with another person.
- Prepared meals to be served in the room preferably in disposable utensils alternatively separated and washed properly.
- Support from friends or family that can facilitate the drop off of food and medicine at the gate if they are not able to make use of online shopping facilities and contactless deliveries.
- Access to a thermometer that will allow for the monitoring of temperature daily.
- Access to the internet either through my phone or computer to allow reporting symptoms daily.
- Access to a private physician that he or she can contact should he or she be in need of medical advice or care.
- No visitors are permitted to visit the quarantined person.
However, we are awaiting confirmation on this point to clarify if it is possible and if so, what is required.
Terms and Conditions
Are suppliers changing their cancellation and booking policies?
Each supplier (airline, tour operator, etc.) will have its own change and cancellation policies, and many are being more lenient when it comes to deposits or postponements. As a consumer, if you are in a position to postpone rather than cancel, you not only help the supplier and several players along the value chain, but you also keep something to look forward to and don’t have to compromise on your expectations.
Be sure to read and understand all the terms and conditions of your ticket or booking upfront so that there are no surprises down the line.
What test results are accepted?
All arrivals to South Africa (South Africans and foreign nationals) must present a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, obtained not more than 72 hours (3 days) from the time of departure from the country of origin to South Africa. The test must be conducted by a certified medical practitioner and the certificate must have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted the test.
Failure to present a valid and negative test result will require you to quarantine at your own cost, until which time a repeat test can be conducted.
Does the COVID certificate need to be signed by a doctor?
Although this was mentioned by the minister in the recent briefing, it has not been gazetted. The gazette stipulates that passenger must provide to the Operator a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction ( “PCR “) test certificate or a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel, from an accredited laboratory and in line with the World Health Organization requirements.
The gazette further stipulates that South African Authorities reserve the right to verify the authenticity of presented PCR or COVID-19 test certificates.
What requirements are there, if any, when checking in at accommodation?
Guests will be given a safety briefing and undergo screening on arrival at their accommodation. The screening will include recording their contact details and temperature (which will be taken using a touchless thermometer). Guests will be required to wear face masks and adhere to social distancing in common areas.