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Travel - Coronavirus COVID-19

Note: health minister, joe phaahla, on wednesday 22 june 2022  repealed the several covid19 regulations relating to the wearing of face masks, gatherings and persons entering the country., health regulations, adjusted alert level 1, adjusted alert level 3, alert level 1, alert level 2, alert level 3, alert level 4, alert level 5, health regulations (in place from 4 may 2022 to 22 jun 2022).

Clarification on valid vaccination certificate

The government will, with effect from 27 May 2022 recognise all verifiable vaccination proofs with QR Codes, either paper based or electronic.

The details on the certificate/card should correspond with the information of the traveller as they appear on the passport. However, in cases where the vaccination certificate or card is not verifiable, the Department officials have got the right to contact the relevant embassy or High Commission in South Africa to confirm a type proof of vaccination issued by respective countries.

Full statement

Regulation of persons entering the country to contain the spread of COVID-19

16C. (1) Subject to the provisions of subregulations (6) to (7), the measures stipulated in subregulations (2) to (5) must be adhered to.

(2) For purposes of this regulation, "vaccinated against COVID-19" means having received at least one dose of a vaccine approved for use in respect of COVID-19 by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority or listed for this purpose by the World Health Organization.

(3) All international travellers arriving at South African Ports of Entry must: (a) be vaccinated against COVID-19 and produce a valid vaccination certificate; or (b) produce a valid certificate of a negative PCR COVID-19 test, recognised by the World Health Organization, which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of departure; or (c) produce a valid certificate of a negative antigen COVID-19 test performed by a medical practitioner, registered public health authority or accredited/approved laboratory which was obtained not more than 48 hours before the date of departure; or (d) produce a valid certificate of a positive PCR COVID-19 test, recognised by the World Health Organization, for a test date less than 90 days prior to the date of arrival and more than 10 days prior to the date of arrival, together with a signed letter from a health care provider, registered in the country of origin, stating that the person has fully recovered from COVID-19, is not experiencing any new symptoms and is fit to travel.

(4) If an international traveller does not comply with subregulation (3): (a) the traveller must undergo antigen testing for COVID-19 at the Port of Entry; and (b) if the traveller tests positive for COVID-19 in the antigen test, the traveller will still be admitted into the Republic but, if the traveller is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the traveller must self-isolate for ten days after admission into the Republic.

(5). Subregulations (3) and (4) do not apply to: (a) travellers who are under 12 years old; and (b) daily commuters from neighbouring countries.

(6) The measures in this Regulation shall come into operation upon publication of this regulation in the Government Gazette.

(7) The Minister of Health may: (a) determine that the measures in this Regulation, in part or in their entirety, are no longer necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19 and give notice of this determination in the Government Gazette, whereupon the measures concerned will no longer be in operation; and (b) at any time after having made such a determination, determine that the measures concerned are once again necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19 and give notice of this determination in the Government Gazette, whereupon the measures concerned will resume operation.

The 21 land borders which are fully operational will remain as such and the 32 land borders which were closed will remain closed except for the Telle Bridge Port of Entry which will reopen on the commencement of this amendment to the Regulations.

The Cabinet member responsible for Home Affairs may, from the date of commencement of this amendment to the Regulations, issue directions regarding the opening and closing of any further Ports of Entry. 

Note:   Updated information on curfew . (30 Dec 2021)

Daily commuters from neighbouring 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.

The following is an extraction from Gazette 44124, 29 January 2021 (as amended by Gazette 44208, 1 March 2021 and Gazette 45379 of 22 October 2021)

International and domestic flights

Updated regulations of 22 March 2022 (see https://www.gov.za/covid-19/about/coronavirus-covid-19-alert-level-1 ):

Traveling to and from the Republic from neighbouring countries is allowed: Provided that travellers who are- (a) fully vaccinated must upon arrival at the land border, produce, a valid vaccination certificate; and (b) unvaccinated must upon arrival at the land border, provide a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 test, recognised by the World Health Organisation, which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel.

All international travellers arriving at the Ports of Entry who are- (i) fully vaccinated must upon arrival at the Port of Entry, produce a valid vaccination certificate; and (ii) unvaccinated must upon arrival at the Port of Entry, provide a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 test, recognised by the World Health Organisation, which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel.

(1) International flights to and from the Republic, as well as domestic flights within the Republic, are permitted in terms of regulation 42, read with regulation 43(2)(a), of the Regulations.

(2) International passenger flights to and from the Republic are permitted, subject to the following conditions: (a) A traveler must provide a valid certificate with a negative COVID-19 test outcome, recognised by the World Health Organisation, or equivalent local accredited authority, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel. South African Authorities reserve the right to verify the authenticity of the presented certificate; (b) in the event of the traveller's failure, for whatever reason, to submit a valid negative test certificate in terms of paragraph (a), upon arrival in South Africa, the traveller shall be required to do an antigen test at his or her own costs; (c) in the event of the traveller testing positive for COVID -19, he or she shall be required to isolate him or herself, at his or her own cost, for 10 days; (d) a passenger is required to wear a face mask at all times, may only remove a face mask during an emergency or when instructed by cabin crew to take it off and must observe social distancing; (e) a foreign Operator is required to submit procedures that show the level of compliance with South African COVID-19 legislation for approval to the South African Civil Aviation Authority; (f) foreign Air Ambulance Services are permitted to transport COVID-19 positive patients: Provided that they obtain approval from the Department of Health, obtain a permit issued by the Department of Transport prior to departure, and comply with the Department of Health Protocols and the Air Ambulance Guidelines issued by the Minister; (g) a child under the age of six years may be exempted from wearing a face mask; (h) a passenger who is unable to wear a face mask due to an underlying medical condition, must submit a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner to the Operator prior to departure; (i) flight deck crew are required to wear face masks for the purpose of embarking and disembarking; (j) cabin crew members are required to wear face masks at all times, except when conducting a safety briefing or during an emergency; (k) an "immunity passport", "risk -free certificate" or "passport immunity" in respect of COVID -19 is not acceptable; (l) an Operator shall not board any passenger without a valid negative COVID-19 certificate; (m) crew members shall, upon arrival in South Africa, be subjected to health protocols as contemplated in Health Directions; (n) an Operator must ensure and follow the following risk mitigation measures for crew members: (i) Conduct risk assessments to ensure that crew members are fit and proper before they undertake their travel duties and mitigate the risk of COVID -19 crew infections; and (ii) ensure that crew members are protected whilst on duty; (o) an Operator  (i) is allowed to provide pre-packed catering on-board the aircraft and must take all risk mitigation, health and safety measures to contain the spread of COVID-19; and (ii) may make available self-service complimentary magazines which passengers may pick up as they enter the aircraft, such magazine must not be shared amongst the passengers and if left behind by passengers after each use, must be safely disposed. (p) a passenger in transit- (i) must be in possession of a valid negative COVID-19 certificate, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel, from an accredited laboratory

(3) (a) International scheduled operations and charter flights carrying passengers are allowed at the following airports: (i) OR Tambo International Airport; (ii) King Shaka International Airport;  (iii) Cape Town International Airport; (iv) Lanseria International Airport; and (v) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. (b) Long-haul flight departures and landings at the airports listed in paragraph (a) are permitted during the hours of curfew as provided for in regulation 67(1) of the Regulations. (c) Passengers affected by flights referred to in (b) are required to present evidence of a valid boarding pass or flight ticket when stopped by law enforcement officers during curfew hours.

(4) Charter Operators conducting cargo and passenger operations to and from the Republic are permitted to operate at the following airports with Port Health capacity: (a) Bram Fischer International Airport; (b) Cape Town International Airport; (c) King Shaka International Airport; (d) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport; (e) Lanseria International Airport; (f) OR Tambo International Airport; (g) Polokwane Airport; (h) Port Elizabeth International Airport; and (i) Upington International Airport.

(5) With regard to international outbound flights - (a) subject to the travel requirements of the country of destination, a passenger must provide the Operator with a valid negative PCR test certificate or a valid negative COVID -19 test certificate from an accredited laboratory, certified by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority ( "SAHPRA ") and South African National Accreditation System ( "SANAS "); (b) an Operator is responsible for ensuring that passengers comply with COVID-19 requirements of the country of destination; and (c) Operators must familiarise themselves with the public health measures, including testing requirements, at the destination airports prior to departure. (6) Domestic passenger flights are permitted at the following domestic airports, as approved: (a) Bram Fischer International Airport; (b) Cape Town International Airport; (c) East London; (d) George Airport; (e) Hoedspruit Airport; (f) Kimberly Airport; (g) King Shaka International Airport; (h) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport; (i) Lanseria International Airport; (j) Margate Airport; (k) Mthatha Airport; (I) OR Tambo International Airport; (m) Phalaborwa Airport; (n) Pietermaritzburg Airport; (o) Pilanesburg Airport; (p) Plettenberg Bay Airport; (q) Polokwane Airport; (r) Port Elizabeth International Airport; (s) Richards Bay Airport; (t) Sishen Airport; (u) Skukuza Airport; and (v) Upington International Airport.

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, subject to national legislation and any directions issued in terms of subregulation (2), for the transportation of goods for export and for import.

The Cabinet member responsible for trade. industry and competition may, after consultation with the Cabinet members responsible for transport and finance, issue directions that provide for the management, administration and prioritisation of exports or imports, taking into account the need to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19 and to deal with the destructive and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cabinet member responsible for transport may, after consultation with the Cabinet members responsible for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, trade, industry and competition, health, justice and correctional services, finance and public enterprises, issue directions relating to health

Public transport

For purposes of this regulation "long distance travel" is a trip of 200 km or more.

The Cabinet member responsible for transport must, after consultation with the Cabinet members responsible for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, health, police, trade, industry and competition, and justice and correctional services, issue directions for the resumption of different modes of public transport to cater for the gradual return to work of people, in respect of- (a) domestic air travel; (b) rail, bus services, taxi services; (c) e-hailing services; and (d) private vehicles.

Bus and taxi services - (a) may not carry more than 70% of the licensed capacity for long distance travel; and (b) may carry 100% of the licensed capacity for any trip not regarded as long distance travel in terms of subregulation (1).

A driver, owner or operator of public transport may not allow any member of the public who is not wearing a face mask, to board or be conveyed in a public transport owned or operated by him or her.

The directions to be issued by the Cabinet member responsible for transport must set out the health protocols that must be adhered to and the steps to be followed for the limitation of the exposure of members of the public using public transport to COVID-19.

Adjusted Alert level 3 [updated on 25 July 2021]

The nationwide curfew is extended from 22H00  until  04H00 . Apart from permitted workers and for medical and security emergencies, nobody is allowed outside their place of residence during curfew. 

Partial re-opening of borders

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 subregulation (3).

Daily commuters from neighbouring 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.

International air travel is restricted to the following airports - (i) OR Tambo International Airport: (ii) King Shaka International Airport;  (iii) Cape Town International Airport;  (iv) Lanseria International Airport; and (v) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. Long-haul flight departures and landings at the airports listed in paragraph (a) are permitted during the hours of curfew as provided for in regulation 33(1). All international travellers arriving at the airports listed in paragraph (a) must provide a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 test, recognised by the World Health Organisation, which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel. 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.

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.

Air travel [ updated 29 January 2021 ]

International flights to and from the Republic, as well as domestic flights within the Republic, are permitted in terms of regulation 42, read with regulation 43(2)(a), of the Regulations.

International passenger flights to and from the Republic are permitted, subject to the following conditions: (a) A traveller must provide a valid negative Polymerase Chain Reaction ( "PCR ") test certificate, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel, from an accredited laboratory and, in line with World Health Organization requirements or equivalent local accreditation authority. South African Authorities reserve the right to verify the authenticity of the presented PCR negative test certificates; (b) in the event of the traveller's failure, for whatever reason, to submit a valid negative test certificate in terms of paragraph (a), upon arrival in South Africa, the traveller shall be required to do an antigen test at his or her own costs; (c) in the event of the traveller testing positive for COVID-19, he or she shall be required to isolate him or herself, at his or her own cost, for 10 days; (d) a passenger is required to wear a face mask at all times, may only remove a face mask during an emergency or when instructed by cabin crew to take it off and must observe social distancing; (e) a foreign Operator is required to submit procedures that show the level of compliance with South African COVID -19 legislation for approval to the South African Civil Aviation Authority; (f) foreign Air Ambulance Services are permitted to transport COVID-19 positive patients: Provided that they obtain approval from the Department of Health, obtain a permit issued by the Department of Transport prior to departure, and comply with the Department of Health Protocols and the Air Ambulance Guidelines issued by the Minister;  (g) a child under the age of six years may be exempted from wearing a face mask; (h) a passenger who is unable to wear a face mask due to an underlying medical condition, must submit a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner to the Operator prior to departure; (i) flight deck crew are required to wear face masks for the purpose of embarking and disembarking; (j) cabin crew members are required to wear face masks at all times, except when conducting a safety briefing or during an emergency; (k) an "immunity passport", "risk-free certificate" or "passport immunity" in respect of COVID -19 is not acceptable; (l) an Operator shall not board any passenger without a valid negative PCR or a valid negative COVID -19 test certificate; (m) crew members shall, upon arrival in South Africa, be subjected to health protocols as contemplated in Health Directions; (n) an Operator must ensure and follow the following risk mitigation measures for crew members: (i) Conduct risk assessments to ensure that crew members are fit and proper before they undertake their travel duties and mitigate the risk of COVID-19 crew infections; and (ii) ensure that crew members are protected whilst on duty; (o) an Operator is allowed to provide catering on -board the aircraft: Provided that it takes all risk mitigation and health and safety measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, which includes the provision of prepacked meals; (p) a passenger in transit - (i) must be in possession of a valid negative PCR test certificate or a valid negative COVID-19 test certificate, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel, from an accredited laboratory; (ii) who displays symptoms of COVID-19 must, upon arrival and under the direction of Port Health - (aa) be taken through primary and secondary screening, including COVID-19 testing, where applicable; (bb) if travelling with family, be quarantined, at own cost, with the whole family; and (cc) if a positive test result is obtained, be isolated, at own cost; and (iii) must follow all Department of Health protocols and guidelines, a child or a person with disabilities may be exempted from COVID-19 testing if testing will prove to be a challenge: Provided that Operators must consult local public health authorities to confirm the requirement prior to departure.

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

Charter Operators conducting cargo and passenger operations to and from the Republic are permitted to operate at the following airports with Port Health capacity: (a) Bram Fischer International Airport; (b) Cape Town International Airport; (c) King Shaka International Airport; (d) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport; (e) Lanseria International Airport; (f) OR Tambo International Airport; (g) Polokwane Airport; (h) Port Elizabeth International Airport; and (i) Upington International Airport.

With regard to international outbound flights - (a) subject to the travel requirements of the country of destination, a passenger must provide the Operator with a valid negative PCR test certificate or a valid negative COVID-19 test certificate from an accredited laboratory, certified by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority ( "SAHPRA ") and South African National Accreditation System ( "SANAS "); (b) an Operator is responsible for ensuring that passengers comply with COVID-19 requirements of the country of destination; and (c) Operators must familiarise themselves with the public health measures, including testing requirements, at the destination airports prior to departure.

Domestic passenger flights are permitted at the following domestic airports, as approved: (a) Bram Fischer International Airport; (b) Cape Town International Airport; (c) East London; (d) George Airport; (e) Hoedspruit Airport; (f) Kimberly Airport; (g) King Shaka International Airport; (h) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport; (i) Lanseria International Airport; (j) Margate Airport; (k) Mthatha Airport; (I) OR Tambo International Airport; (m) Phalaborwa Airport; (n) Pietermaritzburg Airport; (o) Pilanesburg Airport; (p) Plettenberg Bay Airport; (q) Polokwane Airport; (r) Port Elizabeth International Airport; (s) Richards Bay Airport; (t) Sishen Airport; (u) Skukuza Airport; and (v) Upington International Airport.

General aviation [updated 29 January 2021]

General and recreational aviation and aerial work, consistent with the applicable COVID-19 Regulations and Directions, are permitted.

Air cargo [updated 29 January 2021]

The following International Airports, designated as Ports of Entry, have Port Health capability and will be ready to handle air cargo: (a) Bram Fischer International Airport; (b) Cape Town International Airport; (c) King Shaka International Airport; (d) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport; (e) Lanseria International Airport; (f) OR Tambo International Airport; (g) Pilanesberg Airport; (h) Polokwane Airport; (i) Port Elizabeth International Airport; and (j) Upington International Airport.

The loading and off-loading of air cargo in and out of International Airports, designated as Ports of Entry, are permitted.

Cargo transport [updated 25 July 2021]

Rail, ocean. air and road transport is permitted for the movement of cargo to and from other countries and within the Republic, subject to national legislation and any directions issued in terms of subregulation (2), for the transportation of goods for export and for import.

The Cabinet member responsible for trade, industry and competition may. after consultation with the Cabinet members responsible for transport and finance, issue directions that provide for the management, administration and prioritisation of exports or imports, taking into account the need to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19 and to deal with the destructive and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cabinet member responsible for transport may, after consultation with the Cabinet members responsible for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, trade, industry and competition, health, justice and correctional services, finance and public enterprises, issue directions relating to health protocols applicable to sea cargo operations and air freight operation.

Public transport [updated 25 July 2021]

The Cabinet member responsible for transport must, after consultation with the Cabinet members responsible for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, health, police, trade, industry and competition, and justice and correctional services. issue directions for the resumption of different modes of public transport to cater for the gradual return to work of people, in respect of- (a) domestic air travel; (b) rail, bus services, taxi services; (c) e-hailing services; and (d) private vehicles.

Bus and taxi services - (a) may not carry more than 70 percent of the licensed capacity for long distance travel; and (b) may carry 100 percent of the licensed capacity for any trip not regarded as long distance travel in terms of subregulation (1).

A driver, owner or operator of public transport may not allow any member of the public who is not wearing a face mask, to board or be conveyed in a public transport owned or operated by him or her.

Railway operations [ updated 29 January 2021 ]

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 sanitise and disinfect its stations and hubs and, upon completion, must announce the resumption of any other commuter services.

Gautrain may continue commuter services between- (a) Park Station and Hatfield; and (b) Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport.

Cross-border road transport [ updated on 29 January 2021 ]

Cross-border road transport passenger services are not permitted to operate with effect from the date of publication of these directions, except when transporting passengers in line with the provisions of regulation 42(1) and 42(2) of the Regulations.

Cross-border freight transport and logistics in respect of specified cargo, and retail goods to neighbouring countries are permitted.

Sea ports [ updated on 10 February 2021 ]

Commercial seaports and foreign crew changes

All commercial sea ports remain open. 

Foreign crew changes are permitted at all nine commercial ports. (a) Signing-on crew must produce, at the first South African Port of Entry, a valid negative Polymerase Chain Reaction ( "PCR ") test certificate or a valid certificate of negative COVID-19 test results, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel, from an accredited laboratory and in line with World Health Organization requirements. (b) in the event of the crew member's failure, for whatever reason, to submit a valid negative test certificate in terms of paragraph (a), upon arrival in South Africa, the crew member shall be required to do an antigen test at his or her own costs; (c) The failure of a crew member to produce a valid negative PCR test certificate or a valid certificate of negative COVID -19 test results will warrant quarantine, at the crew member's or employer's own cost.

(a) Signing-off crews are not required to produce a valid negative PCR test certificate if the vessel has not had crew changes or has not visited a foreign port within 10 days before arrival at a South African sea port. (b) A crew member's failure to adhere to the requirement contemplated in paragraph (a) or (b), in instances where the vessel has had crew changes or has visited a foreign port within 10 days before arrival at a South African sea port, will warrant quarantine, at the crew member's or employer's own cost.

(a) Foreign crew may layover at a designated quarantine facility for a period not exceeding seven days, at their own cost, but must, immediately after this period has lapsed, proceed directly to the nearest Port of Entry and comply with South African immigration requirements and Port Health protocols. (b) Shore leave is allowed for foreign crew in line with South African immigration requirements and Port Health protocols.

Passenger ships visiting South African sea port

Passenger ships for international leisure purposes are prohibited from disembarking any international passengers at any South African sea port.

Passenger ships are allowed to call at any South African sea port only for the following purposes: (a) Disembarking returning South African citizens and holders of South African permanent residence permits; (b) replenishing fuel, stores and provisions; (c) medical evacuation; and (d) search and rescue.

Small craft to call at designated South African commercial ports

All small crafts are allowed to call at the following designated South African commercial ports: (a) Port of Cape Town; (b) Port of Durban; and (c) Port of Richards Bay.

All small crafts are allowed to call at the designated commercial ports referred to above for purposes of repairs, stores, provisions, refueling and leisure.

South African Sailing must, within 96 hours prior to arrival of a small craft at a designated South African commercial port, submit to the National Department of Transport a request or application for entry by a small craft to South African commercial ports, which request or application must- (a) be forwarded by electronic mail to [email protected] , with a copy forwarded to [email protected] ; and (b) contain the following information: (i) The name of the small craft; (ii) registration number of the small craft; (iii) last Port of Call and date of departure; (iv) South African first Port of Call; (v) South African second Port of Call; (vi) estimated date of arrival; and (vii) the total number of sailors on board, including the nationalities of such sailors.

The National Department of Transport will issue via emails a list of approved requests to all relevant stakeholders, upon receipt.

All sailors must comply with the South African immigration requirements and Port Health protocols.

Transportation of cargo

The transportation of cargo from the sea ports of entry to their final destination is permitted.

The transportation of cargo to the sea ports of entry for export is permitted.

The loading and off-loading of cargo in and out of commercial ports are permitted.

(1) Every person is confined to his or her place of residence from 22H00 until 04H00 daily, except where a person - (a) has been granted permission through directions by the relevant Cabinet member or a permit; or (b) is attending to a security or medical emergency. ( See Alert level 1 general regulations )

Re-opening of borders (As updated from Gazette 43897 of 11 November 2020)

The 18 land borders which were partially operational, will be fully operational, and the 34 land borders which were closed, will remain closed.

Traveling to and from the Republic is allowed, subject to subregulations (3).

All international travel will resume subject to- (a) the traveler providing a valid certificate of a negative test which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel; and (b) in the event of the traveler's failure to submit a certificate as proof of a negative test, the traveler will be required to quarantine him or herself at his or her own costs.

International air travel is restricted to the following airports- (a) OR Tambo International Airport; (b) King Shaka International Airport; and (c) Cape Town International Airport.

Daily commuters from neighbouring countries who attend or teach at a school in the Republic, and who are allowed entry into and exit from the Republic, 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.

All commercial seaports will be opened.

All small crafts are allowed to call at the following designated South African commercial ports:

(a) Port of Durban; (b) Port of Cape Town; and (c) Port of Richards Bay

(2) All small crafts are allowed to call at the designated commercial ports referred to in subdirection (1) for purposes of repairs, stores, provisions, refueling and leisure.

(3) South African Sailing must, within 96 hours prior to arrival of a small craft at a designated South African commercial port, submit to the National Department of Transport a request or application for entry by a small craft to South African commercial ports, which request or application must-

(a) be forwarded by electronic mail to mscc @dot.gov.za, with a copy forwarded to Nepfumbadam @dot.gov.za; and (b) contain the following information: (i) The name of the small craft; (ii) registration number of the small craft; (iii) last Port of Call and date of departure; (iv) South African first Port of Call; (v) South African second Port of Call; (vi) estimated date of arrival; and (vii) the total number of sailors on board, including the nationalities of such sailors.

(4) The National Department of Transport will issue a list of approved requests to all relevant stakeholders, upon receipt.

(5) All sailors must comply with the South African Immigration requirements and Port Health protocols. ".

Travelling to South Africa

Travellers intending to visit the country will be 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 test.

Upon arrival in the port of entry, the traveller will be screened for any COVID-19 symptoms or for contact with people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus. 

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

Should the traveller display any COVID-19–related symptoms or been in contact with an infected person(s), 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.  The accommodation at a quarantine site will be at the traveller’s cost.

( Gazette 43954 of 3 December 2020 )

The following category of persons are exempted from provisions of subparagraph (3)(b) but must comply with applicable entry requirements set out by the Department of Home Affairs; (a) Daily commuters from neighbouring countries who attend or teach at a school in the Republic; (b) Children below the age of five years; (c) cross border freight operators; (d) Airline crew who upon arrival in the Republic do not disembark and; (e) Medical evacuation crew undertaking medical evacuations subject to having medical surveillance plans stipulating routine screening and testing of crew.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 11 November 2020 that "we are also opening up international travel to all countries subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative Covid-19 certificate".

Any person from a country listed as having a high COVID-19 infection and transmission rate, who wish to undertake a business travel into South Africa, may with effect from 01 October 2020, in writing, apply to the Minister of Home Affairs and demonstrate reasons for their request to enter the Republic for business purposes during the period of the national state of disaster.

Such applications must be directed to email [email protected] (link sends e-mail) and supported by— (a) a copy of passport and/or temporary residence visa; (b) proof of business activities to be undertaken in the Republic;   (c) proof of travel itinerary; and (d) proof of address or accommodation in the Republic.

People who are not allowed from high risk countries are leisure travellers only. List of high risk countries : (as of 19 October 2020 ).

  • Bangladesh     
  • Italy 
  • Netherlands
  • Philippines
  • United Kingdom

AIR SERVICES

Gazette 43752 of 1 October 2020  as amended by Gazette 43956 of 3 December 2020

International flights and domestic flights

International flights to and from the Republic, as well as domestic flights within the Republic, are permitted in terms of regulation 75, read with regulation 76(2)(a) of the Regulations.

With effect from the date of publication of these Directions [3 December 2020], international passenger flights to and from the Republic shall be permitted, subject to the following conditions:

(a) A traveller must provide a valid negative Polymerase Chain Reaction ( "PCR ") test certificate, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel from an accredited laboratory and in line with World Health Organization requirements or equivalent local accreditation authority, South African Authorities reserve the right to verify the authenticity of the presented PCR or COVID-19 test certificates; (b) in the event of the traveller's failure, for whatever reason, to submit a valid test certificate in terms of paragraph (a), as proof of a negative PCR test or a valid COVID-19 negative test status upon arrival in South Africa, the traveller shall be subjected to a compulsory quarantine or undergo COVID-19 testing in line with the National Health Regiments; (c) a passenger is required to wear a face mask at all times, may only remove a face mask during an emergency or when instructed by cabin crew to take it off and must observe social distancing, hand washing and sanitize regularly; (d) a foreign Operator is required to submit procedures that show the level of compliance with South African COVID-19 legislation for approval to the South African Civil Aviation Authority; (e) foreign Air Ambulance Services are permitted to transport COVID-19 positive patients: Provided that they obtain an approval from the Department of Health, obtain a permit issued by the Department of Transport prior to departure, and comply with the Department of Health Protocols and the Air Ambulance Guidelines issued by the Minister; (f)  child under the age of five years may be exempted from wearing a face mask; (g) a passenger who is unable to wear a face mask due to an underlying medical condition, must submit a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner to the Operator prior to departure; (h) light deck crew are required to wear masks for the purpose of embarking and disembarking; (i) cabin crew members are required to wear masks at all times, except when conducting a safety briefing or during an emergency; (j) an "immunity passport", "risk-free certificate" or "passport immunity" in respect of COVID-19 is not acceptable; (k) an Operator shall not board any passenger without a valid negative PCR or a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate; (l) crew members shall, upon arrival in South Africa, be subjected to health protocols as contemplated in Health Directions; (m) an Operator must ensure and follow the following risk mitigation measures for crew members: (i) Conduct risk assessments to ensure that crew members are fit and proper before they undertake their travel duties and mitigate the risk of COVID-19 crew infections; and (ii) ensure that crew members are protected whilst on duty; (n) an Operator is allowed to provide catering on-board aircraft: Provided that they take all risk mitigation, health and safety measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, including the provision of pre-packed meals; (o) a passenger in transit - (i) 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; (ii) who displays symptoms of COVID-19 must, upon arrival and under the direction of Port Health- (aa) be taken through primary and secondary screening, including COVID-19 testing, where applicable; (bb) be quarantined, at own cost, if a positive test result is obtained; and (cc) if travelling with family, be quarantined, at own cost, with the whole family; (p) a child or a person with disabilities may be exempted from COVID-19 testing if testing will prove to be a challenge: Provided that Operators must consult local public health authorities to confirm the requirement prior to departure; (q) 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; and (r) Charter Operators conducting cargo and passenger operations to and from the Republic are permitted to operate at the following airports with Ports Health capacity: (i) Bram Fischer International Airport; (ii) Cape Town International Airport; (iii) King Shaka International Airport; (iv) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport; (v) Lanseria International Airport; (vi) OR Tambo International Airport; (vii) Polokwane Airport; (viii) Port Elizabeth International Airport; and (ix) Upington International Airport.

With regard to international outbound flights- (a) subject to the travel requirements of a country of destination, a passenger must provide the Operator with a valid negative PCR test certificate or a valid COVID-19 negative test certificate from an accredited laboratory certified by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority ( "SAHPRA ") and South African National Accreditation System ( "SANAS "); (b) an Operator is responsible for ensuring that passengers comply with COVID-19 requirements of the country of destination; and (c) Operators must familiarise themselves with the public health measures, including testing requirements, at the destination airport prior to departure.

Domestic passenger flights are permitted at the following domestic airports, as approved: (a) Bram Fischer International Airport; (b) Cape Town International Airport; (c) East London; (d) George Airport; (e) Hoedspruit Airport; (f) Kimberly Airport; (g) King Shaka International Airport; (h) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport; (i) Lanseria International Airport; (j) Margate Airport; (k) Mthatha Airport; (I) OR Tambo International Airport; (m) Phalaborwa Airport; (n) Pietermaritzburg Airport; (o) Pilanesburg Airport; (p) Plettenberg Bay Airport; (q) Polokwane Airport; (r) Port Elizabeth International Airport; (s) Richards Bay Airport; (t) Sishen Airport; (u) Skukuza Airport; and (v) Upington International Airport.

The loading and off-loading of air cargo in and out of International Airports, Designated as Ports of Entry, is permitted. 

Gazette 43753 of 1 October 2020 , as updated with Gazette 43957 of 3 December 2020

Foreign crew changes and prohibition of cruise ships calling at sea ports

Foreign crew changes are permitted at all nine commercial ports.

Signing-on crew must produce a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction ( "PCR ") test certificate or a valid certificate of COVID -19 negative test results, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel, from an accredited laboratory and in line with World Health Organization requirements at the first South African Port of Entry.

In the event of a crew member's failure to produce a valid PCR test certificate, this will warrant quarantine, at the crew member's own cost.

Signing -off crews are not required to produce a valid PCR test certificate if the vessel has not had crew changes or has not visited a foreign port within 10 days before arrival at a South African sea port.

A crew member's failure to adhere to the requirement contemplated in paragraph (a), will warrant quarantine, at the crew member's own cost.

Foreign crew may layover at a designated quarantine facility for a period not exceeding seven days, at their own cost, but must, immediately after this period has lapsed, proceed directly to Ports of Entry and comply with South African Immigration requirements and Port Health protocols.

Shore leave is allowed for Foreign Crew in line with South African Immigration requirements and Port Health protocols.

Cruise ships are prohibited from calling at any of the South African sea ports, except for the disembarkation of returning- (a) South African crew; (b) South African citizens; or (c) holders of South African permanent residence permits.

All passenger ships for international leisure purposes are prohibited from disembarking any international passengers at any South African sea port.

Passenger ships are allowed to call at any South African sea port only for the following purposes: (a) Disembarking returning South African citizens and holders of South African permanent residence permits; (b) replenishing fuel, stores and provisions; (c) medical evacuation; and (d) search and rescue.

Registered research foreign vessels and marine safety tugs are allowed to dock at sea ports, subject to mandatory quarantine laws, as may be applicable.

All other cargo vessels must be allowed to dock at sea ports for purposes of cargo works, repairs, replenishing fuel and provisions.

CROSS-BORDER ROAD TRANSPORT

Gazette 43754 of 1 October 2020

Cross-border road transport passenger services are permitted to operate from 1 October 2020.

Cross-border freight transport and logistics in respect of specified cargo and permitted retail goods to neighbouring countries, which include goods imported through the South African Ports of Entry for re- export to neighbouring countries, is permitted.

Provision of improved access to hygiene and disinfection control at cross-border public transport facilities

All owners of cross-border road transport facilities must, at regular intervals, for the duration of the national state of disaster, sanitise their facilities, and provide adequate sanitisers or other hygiene dispensers for washing of hands and disinfection equipment for users of public transport services.

Owners of cross -border road transport facilities must put measures in place to adhere to social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Embarkation of cross-border road transport vehicles

All cross -border road transport operators must - (a) ensure that cross -border road transport passenger vehicles are sanitised before picking up and after dropping off passengers; (b) ensure that all cross- border road transport vehicles are clean and tidy; (c) ensure that all cross -border road transport vehicles' doors and window handles, arm rests and hand rails are sanitised after every load; (d) encourage cross -border road transport passengers to sanitise after entering the vehicle and after getting off the vehicle; (e) put measures in place to adhere to social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19; and (f) provide disinfection information materials and procedures.

All drivers of cross-border transport vehicles must wear a cloth face mask or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth.

Any marshal or security officer who interacts with members of the public in a cross -border road transport facility must wear a cloth face mask or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth.

The sanitisers used to sanitise all cross- border road transport vehicles must have a minimum of 70% alcohol content.

No person will be allowed to use any form of cross -border road transport or enter a cross -border road transport facility, building, place or premises if they do not wear a cloth face mask or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Bus and taxi services - (a) may not carry more than 70% of the licensed capacity for long distance travel; and (b) may carry 100% of the licensed capacity for any trip not regarded as long distance travel in terms of subregulation (1). [ See Alert level 1 general regulations  ]

Public transport services, private vehicles and loading capacity of public transport vehicles

All long distance intra-provincial and inter-provincial travel by private vehicles and public transport services are permitted.

For purpose of long distance travel,

(a) minibus, midibus or minibus taxi-type services are permitted to carry not more than 70% of their maximum licensed passenger carrying capacity for long distance intra-provincial travel and inter-provincial travel and are subject to the following limitations: (i) A minibus licensed to carry 10 passengers, is limited to carry a maximum of 7 passengers; (ii) a minibus licensed to carry 15 passengers, is limited to carry the maximum of 10 passengers; and (iii) a midibus licensed to carry 22 passengers, is limited to carry a maximum of 15 passengers; and

(b) bus services are permitted to carry not more than 70% of their licensed passenger carrying capacity for long distance intra-provincial and inter-provincial travel.

For purpose of any trip not regarded as long distance travel -

(a) bus, minibus, midibus, minibus taxi-type services, e-hailing services, meter taxis, shuttle services, chauffer driven vehicles and scholar transport vehicles are permitted to carry 100% of their maximum licensed passenger capacity; and

(b) rail operations are permitted to carry not more than 70% of their licensed passenger capacity.

Private vehicle are permitted to carry their maximum licensed passenger capacity.

Tourist transport services is permitted.

All international flights are prohibited, except those conducted for- (i) the transportation of fuel, cargo and goods; (ii) humanitarian operations; (iii) the evacuation of a South African national or permanent resident to the Republic; (iv) the repatriation of a foreign national to their country of nationality or permanent residence; (v) medical emergencies in respect of a life-threatening condition; (vi) the movement of staff of diplomatic and international organisations; (vii) the return of a South African national or permanent resident to their place of employment, study or residence, outside the Republic; or (viii) other categories, as authorised by the Minister of Transport, but excluding international passenger air travel for leisure purposes.

The following International Airports designated as Ports of Entry have port health capability and are permitted to handle air cargo: (a) Bram Fischer International Airport; (b) Cape Town International Airport; (c) King Shaka International Airport; (d) Kruger Mpumaianga International Airport; (e) Lanseria International Airport; (f) OR Tambo International Airport; (g) Pilanesberg Airport; (h) Polokwane Airport; (i) Port Elizabeth international Airport; and (j) Upington International Airport.  

Domestic passenger flights are permitted.

Domestic passenger flights are permitted at the following domestic airports: (i) Bram Fischer International Airport; (ii) Cape Town International Airport; (iii) East London Airport; (iv) George Airport; (v) Hoedspruit Airport; (vi) Kimberly Airport; (vii) King Shaka International Airport; (viii) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport; (ix) Lanseria International Airport; (x) Margate Airport; (xi) Mthatha Airport; (xii) OR Tambo International Airport; (xiii) Phalaborwa Airport; (xiv) Pietermaritzburg Airport; (xv) Port Elizabeth International Airport; (xvi) Richards Bay Airport; (xvii) Skukuza Airport; and (xviii) Upington International Airport.

General Aviation

(1) Aerial work is permitted. (2) General aviation is permitted. (3) Recreational aviation is permitted.

Maritime transport

Foreign crew changes may only take place at the port of Cape Town and at the port of Durban, under the following conditions: (a) A request for crew changes must be completed by a shipping company or its representative on a form which corresponds substantially with Form A and submitted, at least 96 hours (four days) prior to the crew change, to the Department of Transport; (b) the form referred to in paragraph (a) must be accompanied by a detailed crew list, which also specifies the signing-on crew and signing-off crew. (c) the crew must comply with all the travel requirements and health protocols at ports of entry; (d) crew changes may take place at port and off port limits; (e) signing-on crew may directly transit from the airport to board the vessel: Provided that, if a layover is necessary, the crew must be quarantined as per the Port Health Protocol at the employer's costs and the name of the quarantine facility must be specified in the form referred to in paragraph (a); and (f) signing-on and signing-off crew may only in exceptional circumstances be permitted to layover.

Cruise ships are prohibited from calling at any of the South African ports, except for the disembarkation of returning - (a) South African crew; or (b) South African citizens or holders of permanent residence permits.

South African citizens and holders of permanent residence permits are advised to refrain from making use of international maritime transport or cruise ships.

All passenger vessels are prohibited from- (i) disembarking any passengers at any South African port; (ii) calling at any of the ports, except for the disembarkation of returning South African crew, South African citizens and holders of permanent residence permits. Signing-off crew of a passenger vessel may - (i) disembark from a passenger vessel at the port of Cape Town and at the port of Durban; and (ii) directly transit to the airport

Railway operations

Long-distance rail services (1) All long- distance rail services, both public and private operations, are permitted. (2) Shosholoza Meyl, Premier Classe, Blue Train and private rail operators, such as Rovos Rail, may resume domestic services.

Movement between provinces

Movement of persons between provinces is prohibited, except for-

(a) persons doing so in the course of carrying out work responsibilities or performing any service permitted under Alert Level 3, provided that such person is in possession of a permit issued by the employer; (b) persons travelling for purposes of- (i) moving to a new place of residence; or (ii) caring for an immediate family member: Provided that such person is in possession of an affidavit; (c) members of Parliament performing oversight responsibilities; (d) learners or students who have to commute to and from those schools or institutions of higher learning during periods when those schools or institutions are permitted to operate; (e) the attendance of funerals; (f) the transportation of mortal remains; (g) obtaining medical treatment; (h) persons who are returning to their place of residence from a quarantine or isolation facility; or (i) any movement permitted under regulation 41.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

(1) During the national state of disaster all borders of the Republic must be closed, except for ports of entry designated by the Cabinet member responsible for home affairs, for (a) the transportation of fuel, cargo and goods; and (b) humanitarian operations, repatriations, evacuations, medical emergencies, movement of staff of diplomatic and international organisations and other exceptions as may be determined by the relevant Cabinet member by directions.

(2) The Cabinet member responsible for home affairs, or a person designated by him or her, may allow entry into or exit from the Republic for- (a) emergency medical attention for a life-threatening condition; (b) the evacuation of a South African national or permanent resident to the Republic; (c) the repatriation of a foreign national to his or her country of nationality or permanent residence; (d) the return of a South African national or permanent resident to his or her place of employment, study or residence, outside the Republic; or (e) daily commuters from neighbouring countries who attend school in the Republic, and who are allowed entry and exit into and from the Republic, subject to compliance with protocols relating to- (i) screening for COVID-19 and quarantine or isolation, where necessary; (ii) wearing of a cloth face mask or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth when in a public place, or another appropriate item to cover the nose and mouth; (iii) transportation; and (iv) sanitisation and social distancing measures as per the relevant health protocols on safety and prevention of the spread of COVID-19.

(3) (a) A foreign tourist who arrived in the Republic prior to the period of lockdown, which ended on 30 April 2020, and who remained in the Republic- (i) must remain in his or her place of temporary residence until otherwise determined by the Cabinet member responsible for international relations and cooperation; and (ii) may be subject to screening for COVID-19 and be quarantined or isolated, as required. (b) The evacuation of foreign tourists may be allowed where arrangements, including an arrangement for evacuation by air charter, have been made by the relevant embassy: Provided that a tourist who is escorted to the point of exit may be screened again.

MARITIME TRANSPORT

Movement of cargo from our sea-ports to its final destination is allowed.  Similarly, full operations for the port of Mossel Bay and port of Saldanha Bay for movement of Cargo will be permitted. Furthermore, allowance will be made for South African registered seafarers to embark and disembark ships with a mandatory quarantine for those returning. To this extent, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) shall be directed to issue a Marine Notice to this effect.

All international passenger flights are prohibited except those flights authorised by the Minister of Transport.

Limited domestic air travel for business purposes will be allowed, subject to restrictions on the number of flights per day and authorization based on the reason for travel.  The availability of port health services will also guide the scheduling of flights.  The resumption of domestic flights will be rolled out in three phases. 

Guided by these considerations, commercial aircraft movement will be allowed from these airports:

  • OR Tambo International Airport
  • Cape Town International Airport
  • King Shaka International Airport, and
  • Lanseria International Airport

Domestic passenger flights are permitted from these airports:

  • Bram Fischer International Airport
  • East London Airport
  • George Airport
  • Kimberley Airport
  • King Shaka International Airport
  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
  • Pietermaritzburg Airport
  • Port Elizabeth International Airport
  • Richardsbay Airport
  • Skukuza Airport; and
  • Upington International Airport.

All aerial work to conduct the following will be permitted from 01 July 2020:   (a) agricultural spraying, seeding and dusting; (b) cloud spraying, seeding and dusting; (c) culling; (d) construction; (e) aerial harvesting; (f) aerial patrol, observation and survey; (g) aerial advertisement, including banner towing and other towing of objects; (h) search and rescue; (i) parachuting; (j) aerial recording by photographic or electronic means; (k) fire spotting, control and fighting; and (l) spraying, seeding or dusting other than for agricultural purposes and clouds.

General Aviation is permitted for the following purposes: (a) Approved Regional re-positioning flights for all South African and foreign registered aircraft into and from South Africa for return after maintenance and repair, to perform maintenance and repair or to continue with contractual work within South Africa or foreign countries within the region; (b) Exchanging of crew members operating in foreign countries as and when required; and (c) Transporting of aviation technicians, mechanics and engineers internationally for essential support and assistance to aircraft. (d) Proficiency flights provided that the flight is authorised by the South African Civil Aviation Authority and remains within the general flying area, airfield or airport boundaries. (e) Recreational aviation is permitted for proficiency flights provided that the flight is authorised by the South African Civil Aviation Authority and remains within the general flying area, airfield or airport boundaries.

Limited domestic air travel also means that flights will only be allowed to depart and land at selected airports in a phased manner as earlier explained.

Only passengers will be allowed inside the terminal buildings.  Therefore, no accompanying members of the public will be allowed inside the terminal buildings.

Temperature screening will be conducted at the terminal building entrances, before any passenger is allowed entry.

No passengers will be allowed inside the terminal buildings without masks.

At boarding gates, boarding will be staggered and prioritized in terms of the number of passengers to board.  Sectional boarding will be implemented to avoid unnecessary contact inside the aircraft.  

Inside the cabin, full capacity will be allowed.  It must be noted that the risk of COVID-19 infection onboard a commercial passenger airliner is lower than in many other confined spaces.  All our commercial aircrafts are fitted with the High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters.  These are manufactured to the same standard as those used in hospital operating theatres and industrial clean rooms, with the same efficacy of 99.97% in removing viruses.  

While the total air supply inside the cabin is essentially sterile and particle free, the biggest risk is if someone enters or remains in that environment, while unwell with a viral infection.  This risk will be mitigated through the adoption of effective sanitization and personal hygiene protocols.

The following measures will apply inside the cabin of the aircraft:

  • no catering will be allowed;
  • no magazines on board;
  • the last row will be reserved for isolation of suspected cases.

All aircrafts must be disinfected before entering into service and after each flight;

Loading capacity for all airport buses must be limited to 70%.  These buses must be disinfected after off-loading.  Drivers, baggage handlers and ground handlers must be fully equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

On arrival, all passengers must be screened as they enter the terminal building.  Suspected cases must be referred to Port Health.

When we presented Level 4 Directions, we indicated that commuter rail will resume operations gradually on an incremental basis, based on detailed plans submitted by operators.  Indeed, the Gautrain resumed its operations at the beginning of May 2020.  As on 1 June 2020, the Gautrain will resume the airport service.

We have concluded that PRASA is not ready to resume with the Metrorail commuter service. We have therefore revised our timelines in respect of the resumption of the Metrorail commuter service.  The revised target date is now 1 July 2020, on the following lines:

  • Pretoria to Pienaarspoort;
  • Cape Town to Simonstown;
  • East London to Berlin; and
  • Port Elizabeth to Uitenhage

Long distance trains remain prohibited.

Every person is confined to his or her place of residence from 21H00 until 04H00 daily, except where a person has been granted a permit, which corresponds with Form 2 of Annexure A, to perform a service permitted under Alert Level 3, or is attending to a security or medical emergency. ( Gazette 43521 of 12 July 2020)

With the increase in the number of people returning to work and learners and students returning to institutions of learning, long distance public transport crossing Provincial, Metropolitan or District boundaries is permitted to operate.  The condition for such operation is that public transport vehicles are only permitted to transport persons permitted to travel between Provinces in terms of the Regulations.  Such travel is only restricted to:

  • Persons undertaking work responsibilities or performing a service permitted under Alert Level 3, provided they are in possession of the requisite permit.
  • Persons moving to a new place of residence;
  • Persons caring for an immediate family member;
  • Learners or students who have to commute to and from those schools or institutions of higher learning during periods when those schools or institutions are permitted to operate.
  • Attendance of funerals;
  • Transportation of mortal remains;
  • Obtaining medical treatment;
  • Persons returning to their place of residence from a quarantine or isolation facility;
  • Movement of children; and
  • Members of Parliament performing oversight responsibilities.

Bus and taxi services may operate under the following conditions: (a) May not carry more than 70% of the licensed capacity for long distance intra-provincial and permitted inter-provincial travel; and (b) may carry 100% of the licensed capacity for any trip not regarded as long distance travel.

Capacity restrictions:

  • eHailing and Metred Taxis remain at 50% loading capacity
  • Shuttle, Chauffer and Charter services remain at 50% loading capacity.

Adjusted alert level 4 is in place from 28 June 2021. Alert level 4 was in place from 1 to 31 May 2020.

Amendments will be published as soon as possible.

Movement of persons (as updated on 27 June 2021)

17. (1) Every person is confined to his or her place of residence from 21H00 until 04H00 daily, unless a person- (a) has been granted permission through directions issued by the relevant Cabinet member or a permit, which corresponds with Form 7 of Annexure A, to perform a service other than a service related to an activity listed under Table 1; (b) is attending to a security or medical emergency; or (c) arrives on a flight or is travelling to or from an airport which necessitates travelling during restricted hours of movement: Provided that the person traveling is in possession of a valid boarding pass as proof of flight or a copy of the airline ticket.

(2) Any person who fails to abide by the curfew referred to in subregulation (1) commits an offence and is, on conviction, liable to a fine or a period of imprisonment not exceeding six months, or to both such fine and imprisonment.

(3) Closing time for the places permitted to remain open is 20H00.

(4)(a) lnterprovincial travel for leisure to and from Gauteng is prohibited. (b) Travel to and from Gauteng is permitted - (i) for persons doing so in the course of carrying out work responsibilities or performing any service permitted under Adjusted Alert Level 4, provided that such person is in possession of a permit issued by the employer which corresponds with Form 7 of Annexure A; (ii) for the attendance of a funeral in or out of Gauteng: Provided that the person wishing to travel to or from Gauteng must obtain a permit which corresponds substantially with Form 4 of Annexure A. from his or her nearest magistrate's office or police station to travel to the funeral and back; (iii) for persons transiting through Gauteng; (iv) for the transportation of mortal remains; and (v) for learners who have to commute to and from school or higher education institutions on a daily basis during periods when those institutions are permitted to operate. (c) Travelling for purposes of- (i) moving to a new place of residence; (ii) caring for an immediate family member: Provided that such person is in possession of an affidavit which corresponds with Form 6 of Annexure A. (iii) oversight responsibilities by members of Parliament; (iv) obtaining medical treatment; and (v) returning to their place of residence from a quarantine or isolation facility, is allowed.

(5) The head of court, or a person designated by him or her, or a station commander of a police station or a person designated by him or her, may issue the permit to travel to a funeral, as contemplated in subregulation 4{b)(ii).

(6) Any person who was not at their place of residence, or work before the lockdown period and who could not travel between other provinces to or from Gauteng with the coming into operation of these regulations, will be permitted, on a once-off basis, to return to their places of residence or work, where after, the prohibition on travel to and from Gauteng will continue to apply.

Partial re-opening of borders (as updated on 27 June 2021)

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

(2) Traveling to and from the Republic is allowed, subject to subregulation (3).

(3) Daily commuters from neighbouring 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 COVI D-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.

(4) (a) International air travel is restricted to the following airports- (i) OR Tambo International Airport; (ii) King Shaka International Airport; (iii) Cape Town International Airport; (iv) Lanseria International Airport; and (v) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. (b) Long-haul flight departures and landings at the airports listed in paragraph (a) are permitted during the hours of curfew as provided for in regulation 17(1). (c) All international travellers arriving at the airports listed in paragraph (a) must provide a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 test, recognised by the World Health Organisation, which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel. (d) 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. (5) 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.

Transportation of cargo (as updated on 27 June 2021)

27. (1) Rail, ocean, air and road transport is permitted for the movement of cargo to and from other countries and within the Republic, subject to national legislation and any directions issued in terms of subregulation (2), for the transportation of goods for export and for import.

(2) The Cabinet member responsible for trade, industry and competition may, after consultation with the Cabinet members responsible for transport and finance, issue directions that provide for the management, administration and prioritisation of exports or imports, taking into account the need to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19 and to deal with the destructive and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(3) The Cabinet member responsible for transport may, after consultation with the Cabinet members responsible for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, trade, industry and competition, health, justice and correctional services, finance and public enterprises, issue directions relating to health protocols applicable to sea cargo operations and air freight operation.

Public transport (as updated on 27 June 2021)

28. (1 ) For purposes of this regulation "long distance travel" is a trip of 200 km or more.

(2) The Cabinet member responsible for transport must, after consultation with the Cabinet members responsible for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, health, police, trade, industry and competition, and justice and correctional services, issue directions for the resumption of different modes of public transport to cater for the gradual return to work of people, in respect of- (a) domestic air travel; (b) rail, bus services, taxi services; (c) e-hailing services; and (d) private vehicles.

(3) Bus and taxi services- (a) may not carry more than 70 percent of the licensed capacity for long distance travel; and (b) may carry 100 percent of the licensed capacity for any trip not regarded as long distance travel in terms of subregulation (1).

(4) A driver, owner or operator of public transport may not allow any member of the public who is not wearing a face mask, to board or be conveyed in a public transport owned or operated by him or her.

(5) The directions to be issued by the Cabinet member responsible for transport must set out the health protocols that must be adhered to and the steps to be followed for the lim itation of the exposure of members of the public using public transport to COVID-19.

Sale, dispensing or transportation of liquor (as updated on 27 June 2021)

29. (1) The sale, dispensing and distribution of liquor is prohibited.

(2) The transportation of liquor is prohibited, except where alcohol is required for industries producing hand sanitizers, disinfectants, soap, alcohol for industrial use and household cleaning products.

(3) The transportation of liquor for export purposes is permitted.

(4) No special or events liquor licenses may be considered for approval during the duration of the national state of disaster.

The nation-wide lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act and will entail the following:

  • From midnight on Thursday 26 March until the end of April all South Africans will have to stay at home.
  • The categories of people who will be exempted from this lockdown are the following: health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services – such as the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers – and other persons necessary for our response to the pandemic.

It will also include those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and telecommunications services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical and hygiene products. A full list of essential personnel will be published.

  • Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine and other supplies or collect a social grant.
  • Temporary shelters that meet the necessary hygiene standards will be identified for homeless people. Sites are also being identified for quarantine and self-isolation for people who cannot self-isolate at home.
  • All shops and businesses will be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the JSE, supermarkets, petrol stations and health care providers.

Ceasing of passenger and commuter Rail Operations ( Gazette 43159 of 26 March 2020 )

(1) All long- distance rail services, both public and private, must stop operations for the duration of the lockdown. (2) Services of Shosholoza Meyl, Premier Class and Blue Train operated by PRASA and Transnet have been suspended . (3) The private rail operators such as Rovos Rail must cease operation. (4) All commuter rail services must stop operations for the duration of the lockdown including all Metrorail and Gautrain.

rohibition of International and Domestic Flights ( Gazette 43189 of 31 March 2020 )

(1) All international and domestic passenger flights are prohibited irrespective of the risk category of the country of origin except those flights especially authorised by the Minister of Transport for the evacuation of South African Nationals in foreign countries.

Repatriation ( Gazette 43189 of 31 March 2020 )

(2) (a) Repatriation of foreign national from South Africa back to their respective countries is allowed provided the following conditions are adhered to: (i) Foreign Countries must charter their aircraft to South Africa without passengers except with the crew. (ii) The crew is not be allowed to disembark.

Evacuation ( Gazette 43189 of 31 March 2020 )

(3) (a) Evacuation of South African citizens who desires to come back home is allowed provided: (i) He or she has a fully paid return flight ticket; (ii) On arrival they will be subjected to mandatory quarantine for a period of up to 21 days; and (iii) The crew shall be allowed to disembark subject to mandatory quarantine laws as may be applicable.

(4) (a) The following technical flights are allowed: (i) Medical evacuation flights; (ii) Aircraft in a state of emergency; (iii) Overflights; (iv) Technical landings for refuelling ; (v) Aircraft operations related to humanitarian aid, relief flights and other safety related operations. (b) Medical evacuation flights should not carry passengers except, patients and crew that will upon landing shall be subjected to mandatory quarantine laws as may be applicable. (c) Technical landing flights are allowed on condition that no passenger may disembark.

(5) The following Airports should have standby operational staff who will receive aircraft that are in distress. (i) Port Elizabeth; (ii) Bram Fischer; (iii) Upington; (iv) Polokwane; (v) Kruger Mpumalanga.

(6) Disembarkation of Flight Cargo Crew is permitted on condition that it will be subjected Quarantine laws applicable in South Africa.

Air Cargo ( Gazette 43160 of 26 March 2020  as amended by Gazette 43176 of 27 March 2020 )

(1) The following International Airports Designated as Ports of Entry have Port Health capability and are ready to handle air cargo and services: (a) O.R Tambo; (b) King Shaka; (c) Upington; (d) Polokwane; (e) Bram Fischer; (f) Kruger Mpumalanga; (g) Pilanesberg; and (h) Port Elizabeth; and (i) Cape Town.

(2) Lanseria International Airport must not allow the landings and departures of any international flights for the duration of the lockdown. (3) (1) The loading and off -loading of air cargo in and out of International Airports Designated as Ports of Entry is permitted. (2) (a) Air cargo from medium to high risk countries must be sanitised immediately after being off- loaded from the aircraft. (b) Sanitisation of cargo must be applied to air cargo carried by any South African aircraft coming from medium to high risk countries.

Embarkation and disembarkation of foreign nationals at international airports designated as Ports of Entry ( Gazette 43105 of 18 March 2020 )

(1) Crew from high risk countries shall be subjected to medical screening and quarantined up to 21 days. (2) Disembarkation of foreign nationals from high risk countries is suspended on all airports until further notice. (3) Embarkation and disembarkation is permissible under the following circumstances: - (a) disembarkation of a returning South African citizen and permanent residents. (b) embarkation of a departing foreign national. (c) disembarkation of a declared medical emergency of foreign nationals must be approved by the Port Health Services. (4) South African citizens and permanent residents are advised to refrain from all use of air travel until further notice. (5) The loading and off -loading of cargo in and out of airports is permitted.

Charter Operators ( Gazette 43105 of 18 March 2020 )

(1) All Charter Operators for the duration of this regulations, are required to operate in the International Airports that have the Ports Health capability and be subjected to Health assessment. (2) The following International Airports have the necessary capacity and will be ready to handle the Charter flights: a) O R Tambo b) Lanseria c) King Shaka d) Upington e) Polokwane f) Bram Fischer g) Kruger Mpumalanga h) Pilanesberg i) Port Elizabeth; and i) Cape Town

Countries impacted by South Africa's travel restrictions. ( Gazette 43105 of 18 March 2020 )

(1) South Africa has restriction access to foreign nationals and travellers from (High Risk Countries) a) China b) Germany c) Italy d) Iran e) South Korea f) Spain g) United Kingdom h) United States of America i) France (2) South Africa has imposed extra screening measures on people from places such as: (Medium Risk) (3) a) Hong Kong b) Portugal c) Singapore This list is subject to change in line with risk rating of World Health Organization (WHO).

Provision of improved access and hygiene, disinfection control on all public transport facilities. ( Gazette 43157, 26 March 2020 )

All owners of public transport facilities must on regular intervals provide adequate sanitizers or other hygiene dispenser for washing of hands and disinfection equipment for users of public transport services for the duration of the directions.

Embarkation of public transport passengers in the public transport vehicles ( Gazette 43157, 26 March 2020 )

(1) All operators must ensure that public transport vehicles are sanitized before picking up and after dropping off passengers. (2) Operators must ensure that all public transport vehicles door and window handles, arm -rest and hand rails are sanitized before picking up and dropping off passengers. (3) Operators must ensure that all public transport vehicles are clean and tidy. (4) All public transport operators must provide disinfection information materials and procedures. (5) All drivers must wear a mask. (6) Any marshal who interacts with members of the public in public transport facility should wear a mask. (7) The sanitisers used to sanitise all public transport vehicles must have a minimum of 60% alcohol content.

Prohibition of service of certain public transport during lockdown ( Gazette 43157, 26 March 2020 ) (As amended by Gazette 43183, 30 March 2020 and  Gazette 43186, 31 March 2020 ) )

(1) All long distance and inter-provincial services are prohibited for the duration of the lockdown. (2) Transportation of passengers by buses is prohibited except when the bus is used for purposes of fearing passengers rendering essential services. (3) Public Transport permitted to ferry essential services workers will operate from 05h00 to 10h00 and from 16h00 to 20h00. (4) Buses and taxis shall be permitted to operate from 05h00 until 20h00 in order to cater the transportation needs of South Africans most vulnerable which is effective from 30 March 2020 until 03 April 2020

(5) Notwithstanding the provisions of direction (3), public transport is provided with the following grace periods for picking up and dropping off, of passengers: (a) Minibuses and Midibuses Public Transport is permitted to proceed to a pickup point an hour before the operating times, which is from 05h00 to 10h00 without loading passengers; and (b) Minibuses and Midibuses Public Transport is permitted to proceed to drop off points an hour after the drop off time of 10h00 which would be 11h00. (c) Minibuses and Midibuses Public Transport is permitted to proceed to a pick-up point without loading passengers at 15h00 in order to start picking up at 16h00 to 20h00 to finish dropping off passengers at 21h00.

6) (a) During the lock -down period and unless determined by the Minister of Transport, private institutions or companies may make arrangements for the transportation of their workers who are rendering essentials services as listed in Annexure B of Disaster Management Act 2002, Amendment Regulations issues in terms of Section 27 (2) in line with the operating shifts, work time schedules as determined by the responsible head of operations, Manager, Head of the Department or a person with responsible authority within such institution; and (b) The operating shifts or work schedules or time table should be stamped and signed by such person with authority as contemplated in direction 6(6) (a) above."

Prohibition of standing in a public transport vehicle ( Gazette 43157, 26 March 2020 )

(1) No person is allowed to stand in a public transport vehicle.

Loading capacity of road public transport (sedan, minibus, midibus) (As amended by  Gazette 43212 of 7 April 2020 )

(1) A public transport sedan is limited to carrying not more than 50% of its permissible passenger carrying capacity. (2) During the lockdown period, the following public transport vehicles must not carry more than 70% of their maximum licensed passenger seating capacity as follows: (a) A minibus licensed to carry 10 passengers, is limited to carry a maximum of 7 passengers; (b) a minibus licensed to carry 15 passengers, is limited to carry the maximum of 10 passengers; and (c) a midibus licensed to carry a maximum of 22 passengers, is limited to carry a maximum of 15 passengers. (3) All public transport operators must put measures in place to adhere to social distancing to curb the spread of COVID -19.

Buses and Taxis

Effective from 30 March 2020 until Friday, 3 April 2020, buses and taxis will be permitted to operate from 05:00 until 20:00 in order to cater to the transportation needs of society’s most vulnerable.  ( https://www.gov.za/speeches/minister-fikile-mbalula-relaxas-hours-public-transport-vehicles-grant-beneficiaries-29-mar )

Cross-Border Road Transport

Prohibition to provide cross -border road transport ( Gazette 43158 of 26 March 2020 )

(1) Despite any permit issued in terms of the Act, no person may provide cross -border Road Passenger transport for the duration of lockdown. (2) Cross -Border freight movement will continue to and from our neighbouring countries.

Prohibition on cruise ships calling at any of the sea ports ( Gazette 43163 of 26 March 2020 )

(1) No crew changes are permitted in all commercial ports until further notice. (2) Cruise ships are prohibited from calling at any of the sea ports except the disembarkation of a returning South African crew and a permanent resident. (3) South African citizens and permanent residents are advised to refrain from use of this form of travel until further notice. (4) The loading and off -loading of cargo in and out of commercial ports is permitted.

Embarkation and disembarkation of persons at a South African sea port ( Gazette 43103 of 18 March 2020 )

(1) No passengers or crew changes are permitted in the designated ports until further notice. (2) Embarkation and disembarkation of passengers are suspended on all sea ports until further notice unless under the following circumstances: - (a) disembarkation of a returning South African citizen and a permanent resident. (b) embarkation of a departing foreign national. (c) emergency medical evacuation shall be managed utilising the existing Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre protocols. (3) South African citizens and permanent residents are advised to refrain from use of this form of travel until further notice. (4). The loading and off-loading of cargo in and out of all sea ports is permitted.

Prohibition of Passenger Vessels visiting South African Sea Ports ( Gazette 43211 of 7 April 2020 ) (1) All passenger vessels are prohibited from disembarking any passengers or crew at any of South African sea ports. (2) Passenger vessels will be allowed to call at any of South African sea ports only for the following purposes: (a) Disembarking South African crew; (b) Disembarking returning South African citizens and holders of permanent resident permit; (c) Replenishing fuel, stores and provisions. (3) The crew shall be allowed to disembark subject to mandatory quarantine laws as may be applicable. (4) All other cargo vessels will be allowed into all the sea ports for purposes of cargo works, replenishing fuel and provisions.

Repatriation of South African Seafarers ( Gazette 43211 of 7 April 2020 )

(5) (a) Repatriation of South African seafarers: (i) South African seafarers returning to South Africa via any of the sea ports will be allowed to disembark; (ii) South African seafarers returning to South Africa via any means other than a ship calling at a sea ports will be subjected to the provisions of the applicable laws that govern the respective mode of transportation they use; and (iii) All returning seafarers will be subjected to a quarantine period of up to 21 days as well as any measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Evacuation ( Gazette 43211 of 7 April 2020 )

6) (a) Evacuation of seafarers and passengers on board all ships along the South African coastline will be allowed in terms of Search and Rescue as well as the Merchant Shipping Act, 1957 (Act No. 57 of 1957) and subject to the following: (i) The evacuation must comply with the provisions of Medical Evacuations as contained in the South African Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Act, 2002 (Act No. 44 of 2002) ; (ii) The evacuation to be carried out in terms of the approved Standard Operating Procedures for evacuation as contained in the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center Manual obtainable from the South African Maritime Safety Authority website; and (iii) All evacuated patients will be subjected to mandatory quarantine for a period of up to 21 days.

(7) (a) The following ships are allowed: (í) Cargo working ships; (ii) Passenger vessels allowed only for purposes of disembarking SA crew and returning SA citizens; (iii) Ships calling for refuelling and supplies.

(8) The following sea ports are open for purposes of handling cargo, refuelling and ship supplies: (i) Richards Bay; (ii) Durban; (iii) East London; (iv) Coega; (y) Port Elizabeth; (vi) Mosselbay; (vii) Cape Town; (viii) Saldanha Bay.

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travelling to south africa from europe

South Africa

Our travel advice helps you to make informed decisions when you’re planning a trip overseas and offers you an objective assessment of the risks you could face.

Security Status

Safety and security, local laws and customs, additional information, embassy contact, security status.

High Degree of Caution

Latest Travel Alert

South Africa is currently facing nationwide power shortages with scheduled power outages called load shedding. These outages can last for hours, affecting private accommodations, shops, banks, ATMs, public lighting, traffic lights, and security systems.

Power cuts can also impact critical infrastructure like water provision and telecommunications, leading to unpredictable outages. The increased risk of criminal activity, such as robberies and traffic incidents, is a concern during power cuts. It is advisable to inquire with your accommodation provider about their strategies for minimizing the effects of load shedding, such as the use of generators or solar power. To stay informed, you can check planned municipal power outages through the Eskom website or via "load-shedding" apps.

General Travel Advice

Irish citizens who are planning to visit South Africa for less than 90 days, do not require a visa. If you wish to visit for longer than 90 days please consult your nearest  Embassy or Consulate  of South Africa before travelling.

A valid passport is required for travel to South Africa and Irish passports should have a minimum validity of 30 days from your intended date of departure from South Africa. Passport cards cannot be used. Your passport must have at least two blank pages and must not be damaged in any way. If your passport fails on either count, it will be not be accepted by the South African authorities.

There is a very high level of crime, including violent crime, in South Africa. The most violent crimes tend to occur away from the normal tourist destinations, but you should take sensible precautions to protect your safety. Crime increases in areas where large crowds gather, so be particularly vigilant if you're attending sporting or other events that attract large numbers. (See Safety and Security)

There are strict documentation requirements in place for people travelling with children to/from and through South Africa. For more information on these important requirements, please view the Additional Information tab.

Visitors to South Africa are advised to follow the guidance of national and local authorities and stay fully informed of what's going on by monitoring local news and social media.

Citizens can also follow the Embassy of Ireland in Pretoria on Twitter @ IrishEmbassyPretoria  to ensure access to relevant updates and alerts.

Emergency Assistance

Visitors can contact the emergency services in South Africa on the following numbers:

  • South African Police Service: 10111
  • General Ambulance Number: 10177
  • Fire Brigade: 10111
  • Emergency Call from mobile phone: 112
  • Cape Town Emergency: 107
  • Cape Town Emergency (from mobile): +27 (0)21 480 7700

Our tips for Safe Travels:

  • Get comprehensive travel insurance that covers all your planned activities.
  • Register  your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
  • Follow us on twitter  @dfatravelwise  for the latest travel updates.
  • Read our  ‘Know Before You Go’  guide.

Political unrest

The political situation in South Africa is reasonably stable but dangerous incidents can happen. Always keep yourself informed of what's going on around you by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser and avoid demonstrations and public gatherings, which can sometimes turn confrontational.

Protests and demonstrations

In South Africa, there are frequent protest marches, strike-related demonstrations, and occasional incidents of public disorder that have the potential to escalate into violence. These protests, marches, and demonstrations can happen unexpectedly throughout the country. It is advisable to steer clear of areas where such events are taking place, particularly in city centres and townships

Stay informed by monitoring local news and social media for updates, and consider utilizing GPS to identify alternative routes if there are roadblocks or protests in your vicinity, as these events can change direction rapidly.

Although the threat from terrorism in South Africa has generally been classified as low, in  July 2018, police  investigated a series of incendiary devices placed at different locations in the Durban area. Two of these devices were triggered, causing small fires. You should exercise usual caution if you encounter unexpected devices or packages. If in doubt, contact the police

South Africa has a high level of crime, including violent crime, rape and murder. While most cases occur in townships or in areas away from normal tourist destinations, nowhere is completely safe and you should exercise caution when travelling in both urban and rural environments, including city centre areas at night (city centres are usually referred to as Central Business Districts or CBDs in South Africa). Take basic safety precautions:

  • Don't carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place 
  • Don't carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don't use ATMs after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
  • Don't change large sums of money in busy public areas and don't give personal or financial account information details to people you don't know
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafes, train and bus stations. Be vigilant when passing through South Africa's airports; pickpockets and thieves patrol them
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible. Walking at night is not advisable and many tourists consider public transport to be unsafe; private car rental is the safest option for independent travel
  • Use only recognised hire car companies or official taxis. If you book a taxi or car to meet you at the airport, ask in advance for the driver's name for confirmation

Table Mountain National Park, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill

There has been a spate of violent assaults and muggings on hikers and tourists in Table Mountain National Park, including on Lion’s Head and Signal Hill. Take care in quieter isolated areas of the park, especially during early mornings and evenings. Stick to busy marked trails on popular days such as weekends, and do not hike alone.

Kruger National Park

South Africa National Parks (SANParks) advise against using the Numbi gate entrance to Kruger National Park. There have been a number of violent incidents involving tourists on the R538 road leading to the gate.

Follow SANParks advice on using alternative entrances. If you stay outside the park, contact your lodge in advance to find out if any disruptions will affect your trip. Get up-to-date SANParks news on the park website.

Armed car-jacking is a serious concern throughout South Africa. Thefts and smash-and-grab robberies from vehicles are common. You should keep the doors locked and windows closed, and exercise caution when travelling, particularly at night and at filling stations.

If mugged or your car is hijacked you should remain calm, offer no resistance and hand over possessions without question. Avoid eye contact. 

Reporting a crime

If a victim of a crime while in South Africa, report it to the local police immediately on 10111 (112 from mobile phones). And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Pretoria if you need help.

The rules of the road in South Africa are broadly similar to those in Ireland. Roads are generally good, but some roads in the more remote areas are poor. The standard of driving in South Africa can vary greatly and there are many fatal accidents every year. 

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance. An Irish licence will be valid for up to 12 months after entry, provided it carries the photograph and signature of the holder 
  • Drive cautiously at all times and adhere to South Africa's traffic laws, such as speed limits
  • Avoid 'road rage' situations as they can quickly escalate and turn violent
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Wear your seatbelts at all times
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you're stopped at traffic lights
  • Four-way-stops are common at quieter intersections – the first vehicle to arrive has priority. Roundabouts (circles in SA) should be treated with caution. Traffic lights are known as robots in South Africa
  • Park in well-lit areas. Don't pick up strangers. Don't stop to help (apparently) distressed motorists, as this is a technique sometimes used by hijackers. It is better to report the incident to the police
  • Avoid using ATMs in garages and in poorly lit areas. Be vigilant of anyone trying to help at an ATM
  • Never leave bags, suitcases, or items of value on display in your car – these should be locked away in the boot
  • Avoid isolated beaches and picnic spots across South Africa and stay in company. Walking alone anywhere, especially in remote areas, is not advised and hikers should stick to popular trails. Call the police on 10111 (112 from mobile phones) at the first sign of a threat.

Hiring a vehicle

If hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you're allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

If renting a car, save the emergency roadside assistance numbers. Download an offline map if you do not have access to a GPS.

When travelling to and from Cape Town International airport, you should stick to the M3 and N2 where possible, and avoid the R300 and the R310 between Muizenberg and the N2 intersection. There have been a number of incidents involving car jackings of tourists in rental cars on these routes of late.

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Illegal drugs

The penalties for both the supply and possession of drugs are severe in South Africa and can include life imprisonment.

Prostitution

Prostitution is illegal in South Africa. The risk of HIV and AIDS infection in South Africa is very high. If you suspect that you have been exposed to possible infection, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Medical Facilities

Hospital treatment in large cities in South Africa is good but can be expensive. Medical facilities in rural areas can be basic. In remote areas, air evacuation is sometimes the only option for medical emergencies.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Vaccinations

Check what vaccinations you may need for your trip at least eight weeks before you travel. We can’t advise you on vaccinations, but you can get information about vaccinations from your local GP or an International Health and Travel Centre.

Evidence of vaccination (in the form of a certificate) can be a requirement for entry to some countries.

Make sure you bring enough medication for your entire trip and for any unexpected delays. You may wish to also bring copies of your prescription in case you lose your medication.

HIV and Aids

The level of HIV and AIDS infection in South Africa is very high. You should exercise necessary caution if engaging in activities that expose you to possible infection. If you suspect that you have been exposed to possible infection, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Malaria is prevalent in parts of Mpumalanga, Limpopo province and KwaZulu-Natal (particularly the Wetlands area around St Lucia). Before travelling to these areas, including Kruger Park, you should seek medical advice on suitable anti-malarial medication and take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in rural South Africa, especially in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo provinces. You’re advised to maintain a high level of personal hygiene and drink only bottled water if travelling in these areas.

Yellow Fever

Anyone arriving in South Africa from a country where yellow fewer is present must have a yellow fever vaccination certificate valid at least six days before entry into South Africa. If you don’t have this certificate on arrival in South Africa you could be refused entry or vaccinated at the airport and quarantined for up to six days.

Hospitals and clinics

Christian Barnard Hospital 

+27 (0)21 423 4835

Constantia Berg Mediclinic

+27 (0)21 799 2196

Johannesburg

Bedford Gardens Hospital    

+27 (0) 11 677 8500

Sandton Medi-Clinic      

+27 (0) 11 709 2000

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital   

+27 (0) 11 933 8000

24Hours Emergency     

+27 (0)11 706 7710

Little Company of Mary Hospital   

+27 (0)12 424 3600

Pretoria Academic (Steve Biko) Hospital  

+27 (0)12 354 1000

Zuid-Africanns Hospital    

+27 (0)12 343 5482

Die Wilgers Hospital     

+27 (0)12 807 8100

Unitas Hospital Centurion    

+27 (0)12 677 8000

Addington Hospital     

+27 (0)31 327 2000

Netcare Parklands Hospital    

+27 (0)31 242 4000

King Edward VIII Hospital    

+27 (0)31 360 3111

Crompton Hospital     

+27 (0)31 702 0777

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

If your visit to South Africa is for less than 90 days, you won't need a visa. You are strongly advised not to overstay the 90 day limit as the South African Department of Home Affairs has in place strict rules and penalties in respect of visitors who overstay without permission.

A valid passport is required for travel to South Africa and Irish passports should have a minimum validity of 6 months from your intended date of departure from South Africa.

It’s advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you when travelling to South Africa and you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times during your stay.

If your passport is lost or stolen while you’re abroad, you should contact the Irish Embassy in Pretoria . We’ll do our best to help you as quickly as possible but this can take some time. Your location and circumstances may limit the help we can give you.

What we can do:

  • Issue you with an emergency travel document to get you home.
  • If required, provide advice on applying for new passport.

You will need a police report if you want to make a claim on your travel insurance. We will not provide you with a travel document without a police report.

Travelling with Children

Additional documentation is required for travellers accompanied by children, and for unaccompanied children travelling to and from South Africa.  For full details of the requirements for travellers entering or leaving South Africa with children, read the  advisory from the South African Department of Home Affairs .  If you have queries or concerns regarding these requirements we recommend that you consult with the  Embassy or Consulate  of South Africa in your country of residence, or with the South African authorities if you are resident in South Africa.

The currency in South Africa is the rand. Exchange control regulations mean that it’s difficult to buy foreign currency without going through lengthy and elaborate procedures.

There is a high incidence of credit card fraud and fraud involving ATMs. As at home in Ireland, when you’re using an ATM, be careful to ensure your PIN number can’t be observed by others when you’re withdrawing money. Offers of help from bystanders should be refused. Don’t change large sums of money in busy public areas.

South Africa has a subtropical climate and warm temperatures for much of the year. The Western Cape gets most of its rainfall in winter, but the rest of the country is generally a summer-rainfall region. 

South Africa’s seasons are opposite to those in Europe.

Monday to Thursday 09:00-12:00

Embassy of Ireland, South Africa

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs.

You should check any exclusions and in particular that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

@DFATravelWise

Citizens registration, travel insurance tips, contacting us.

Contact our Embassy in South Africa for assistance

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travelling to south africa from europe

ADVICE FOR TRAVELLERS- LEVEL 1

*DISCLAIMER Updated as per Gazette 46078 of 22 March 2022 .

The country has been on adjusted alert level 1 from 30 December 2021.

Adjusted regulations include:

  • 50%  – maximum capacity of venues for indoor and outdoor gatherings.
  • 72  – maximum hours for the validity of a COVID-19 test as proof of vaccination at indoor and outdoor venues.
  • 1 000  – maximum number of people permitted to gather indoors without proof of vaccination.
  • 2 000  – maximum number of people permitted to gather outdoors without proof of vaccination.
  • 200  – maximum number of people permitted at a funeral.
  • 72  – maximum hours for the validity of a negative PCR test travellers entering South Africa will need to show.
  • The wearing of masks in indoor public places is still mandatory.

How is South Africa doing with regard to COVID-19 response? South Africa has conducted over 23.6 million COVID-19 tests in both public and private health care facilities. 

What Is COVID-ALERT App? The COVID-Alert APP alerts subscribers and provides relevant information if they have been in contact with any person who has tested positive for the virus.  The APP helps to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. We request all international travellers who intend to visit the country to download the APP so that they can monitor and minimise their risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Where can I download the COVID-ALERT app ? You can download the app from the   Apple App Store  or   Google Play  before you arrive in South Africa or on arrival.

When will borders be opened for international travel? The 20 land borders which are fully operational, will remain as such and the 33 land borders which were closed, will remain closed.

What informed the decision to open the borders to international travel? Government has adopted a gradual reopening of borders and ports of entry for international travel for business, leisure and other travel guided by the communique published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Public Health on considerations for international travel, as well as epidemiological and transmission rates both in South Africa and the traveller’s countries of origin.

What are the health protocols when travelling to South Africa? Travellers intending to visit the country will have to produce a valid certificate of of a negative COVID-19 test, recognised by the World Health Organization, that was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel.

In the event of a 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 their own expense. 

Which airports will be opened for international air travel? Three airports will be opened and operational for international air travel.  These airports are: O.R. Tambo International (in Johannesburg, Gauteng); Cape Town International (in Cape Town, Western Cape); King Shaka International in (Durban, KwaZulu-Natal); Lanseria International Airport; and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport

What about daily commuters from neighbouring countries? Daily commuters from neighbouring 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 complying 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.

Which land ports of entry will be opened for travellers from other African countries? 20 land borders are fully operational and the 33 land borders, which have been closed, will remain closed. Travellers who present themselves at borders that are unable to accommodate them will be directed to the currently operational border posts for processing.

What about transit travellers? Transit travellers through South Africa by air will be allowed to connect to their destinations, subject to them complying with applicable health protocols.

How are countries identified as high risk, medium risk and low risk? 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 and low-risk travellers originate from countries with lesser number of infections of COVID-19 and death toll than South Africa.

Will leisure travellers from high-risk countries be permitted to travel to South Africa? The South African Government’s relaxing of level 1 lockdown rules around international travel allows entry for visitors from any country, provided they follow the prescribed health and safety guidelines.

Can I travel to a high-risk country to visit a family member?  Yes, you can, however, you will be subject to the travel protocols in that country. Please be mindful though that countries can close their borders to international travellers at any given stage to curb the spread of the virus. 

Which are the high-risk countries? The list of high-risk countries are frequently updated and can be accessed on the Home Affairs website: www.dha.gov.za

What are the compliance requirements for airline operators? A Foreign Operator (meaning an airline) is required to submit procedures that show the level of compliance with South African COVID-19 legislation for approval to the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

What are the compliance requirements relating to passengers? Passengers are required to wear face masks at all times and may only remove face masks during emergencies or when instructed by cabin crew to take them off. In addition  and must observe social distancing, ensure handwashing, and sanitise regularly.

A passenger who is unable to wear a face mask due to an underlying medical condition must submit a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner to the Operator prior to departure.

A child under the age of two years may be exempted from wearing a face mask. This is because masks can restrict breathing for small children as their airways are smaller than older children and adults.

A passenger must provide to the Operator a certificate of a negative COVID-19 tests, recognised by the World Health Organization, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel. If a passenger is symptomatic, the necessary protocols of the National Department of Health will be followed.

What are the compliance requirements relating to crew members of airlines? Crew members are required to wear face masks at all times, except when conducting a safety briefing and during an emergency. Crew members shall upon arrival in South Africa be subjected to health protocols as contemplated for in Health Directions. An Operator must ensure the following risk mitigation measures for crew members:

(a) conduct risk assessments to ensure that crew members are fit and proper before they undertake their travel duties and mitigate the risk of COVID-19 crew infections; and

(b) ensure that crew members are protected whilst on duty.

What about travellers wishing to enter South Africa via seaports? To facilitate ease of transportation of goods and medicines to and from the country, ships will be allowed to dock, load and off-load cargo. Crew members from the cargo ships will be allowed to crew changes. These crew members will also be medically screened for COVID-19 symptoms. 

Have visa services resumed? Visa services, including submission of applications through VFS Global, have resumed in the following categories: Visitor’s visas; study visa; treaty visa; business visa; crew visa; medical treatment visa; relative’s visa; general work visa; critical skills work visa; intra-company transfer work visa; retired person visa; corporate visa; exchange visa;  waiver of the prescribed requirement, as contemplated in section 31(2) (c) ; and appeals or reviews contemplated in section 8 of the Immigration Act.

What about the visa-free status of citizens from certain countries? The visa-free status does not alter the current Covid-19 Regulations. The visa-free status of citizens from the following countries and territories has been reinstated:

  • South Korea

There are a number of regular visitors from mainly European countries that have been accustomed to long periods of visitation to our country during our summer season when it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Most of them own properties in the country. We appreciate the significant economic contribution that they make through their activities in the country. To this end, we will also allow visitors, in whichever category, who are coming to stay for a three months period or more subject to Covid-19 protocols.

People who need to apply must direct email requests to: [email protected], supported by—

(a) a copy of passport and/or temporary residence visa;

(b) proof of business activities to be undertaken in the Republic;

(c) proof of travel itinerary; and

(d) proof of address or accommodation in the Republic.

Public Enquiries: 0800 60 11 90

travelling to south africa from europe

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travelling to south africa from europe

  • Passports, travel and living abroad
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South Africa

Warnings and insurance.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office ( FCDO ) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice .

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:

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  • information for women, LGBT and disabled travellers

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  • How to get to South Africa

Book your individual trip , stress-free with local travel experts

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  • South Africa
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As sub-Saharan Africa's economic and tourism hub, South Africa is well served with flights from London and the rest of Europe. The majority of these touch down at Johannesburg's OR Tambo International, but there are also frequent flights into Cape Town. From North America there are a relatively small number of nonstop flights into Johannesburg.

Flights from the UK and Ireland

Flights from the us and canada, flights from australia and new zealand.

Meet your South Africa local travel expert

Zorica V, Local Expert

7 days  / from 4800 USD

Cape town and Garden Route - a luxury guided tour

Cape Town and the Garden Route have it all - a fascinating culture, safaris, chocolate and wine tasting, and much more. Discover the coastal city of Cape Town and the Peninsula before heading out to the Garden Route with Knysna and Mossel Bay, where you'll experience some game drives.

The Cape Peninsula and Safaris in Kruger and Pilanesberg

15 days  / from 4000 USD

The Cape Peninsula and Safaris in Kruger and Pilanesberg

Wildlife in South Africa is still truly wild, a fact that you'll be able to discover in this fascinating two weeks trip. Enjoy whale watching in Cape Town and first safaris in Aquila before heading up north: the famous Kruger and Pilanesberg national parks with all its wildlife await.

Explore the North of South Africa: Sun City and Madikwe game reserve

7 days  / from 3000 USD

Explore the North of South Africa: Sun City and Madikwe game reserve

For those short on time, staying close to Johannesburg may make sense. On this trip, you'll arrive and depart in South Africa's capital Johannesburg and then transfer to the theme park Lost City before continuing to Madikwe for a few days of game drives to spot plenty of wildlife.

Secret gem in South Africa - Northern Cape Self Drive

17 days  / from 4500 USD

Secret gem in South Africa - Northern Cape Self Drive

Embark on an epic self-drive adventure from Cape Town to the Northern Cape. Witness the breathtaking floral displays of Namaqualand, marvel at the diverse wildlife in Karoo National Park, and be captivated by the awe-inspiring cascades of Augrabies Falls.

A family self drive in South Africa & Swaziland

7 days  / from 950 USD

A family self drive in South Africa & Swaziland

Take the family on an African adventure in your own rental car, it's the ideal companion to discover Kruger National Park at your own pace. Further on to Swaziland and then Hluhluwe, this trip focuses on wildlife and exploration, all at your leisure.

A Kruger adventure

3 days  / from 1000 USD

A Kruger adventure

Kruger National Park is one of the best known national parks in South Africa and always worth a visit. Starting and ending in Johannesburg is the most convenient one, the perfect stop to then take a domestic flight towards George or Cape Town for the rest of your trip.

Safaris, culture & wine - South Africa's must do's

17 days  / from 3650 USD

Safaris, culture & wine - South Africa's must do's

Explore cosmopolitan Johannesburg, go on safaris in Kruger NP, sip wine on the Cape Peninsula and explore the Eastern Cape - this fast-paced itinerary allows you to truly immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle of South Africa, discovering the most fascinating parts of the country.

Cape Amazing: Cape Town Explored

8 days  / from 2970 USD

Cape Amazing: Cape Town Explored

Visit Cape Town, South Africa's most breathtaking city, as you follow the circular route around the stunning peninsula. Make the most of deserted sandy beaches, quaint towns and rich winelands before you fly to Kapama Private Game Reserve for an encounter with the Big Five.

Best of South Africa

17 days  / from 5000 USD

Best of South Africa

Discover the best South Africa has to offer - start with the marvelous city of Cape Town with its peninsula, further on to the wine lands with gorgeous views of the Garden Route and on to culture, heritage & wildlife in Plettenberg Bay. End your trip with an authentic Kruger experience.

Complete Cape Town: Wildlife, Wine and Whales

7 days  / from 1610 USD

Complete Cape Town: Wildlife, Wine and Whales

Discover the natural beauty all around Cape Town. Located on the southwestern tip of South Africa, the area is home to rugged coastlines, undulating vineyards, and expanses of grassland, home some of the largest, wildest and most majestic creatures on earth.

Cycling South Africa's Garden Route

10 days  / from 4300 USD

Cycling South Africa's Garden Route

An active, cycling adventure that is perfect for nature lovers. This exhilarating and unique tour takes you through leafy forests and up magnificent mountainsides to absorb break-taking views of the South African countryside.

City Life & Safari - South African Gems

17 days  / from 4250 USD

City Life & Safari - South African Gems

The perfect South Africa trip in just 17 days. Start in Cape Town with Mountain Table, Robben Island, the Peninsula and more. Head further to the wine lands for a relaxed stay before proceeding to Kruger National Park - 3 days of safari await before finishing your trip in Johannesburg.

Airfares depend on the season , with the highest prices and greatest demand in June, July, August, December and the first week of January. You get the best prices during the low season in October and November and from the last three weeks of January until March.

From London there are nonstop flights with British Airways ( w www.ba.com ), South African Airways ( w www.flysaa.com) and Virgin Atlantic ( w www.virgin-atlantic.com) to Johannesburg and Cape Town. Flying time from the UK is around eleven hours to Jo'burg, about an hour longer to Cape Town; nonstop fares from London start from £800 in high season and £500 in low season. You can save up to £200 by flying via mainland Europe or the Middle East, and changing plane at least once.

From the Republic of Ireland , a number of European carriers fly out of Dublin to South Africa via their hub airports.

From the US there are three nonstop flights a week from New York (JFK) to Johannesburg operated by South African Airways (SAA) in partnership with United Airlines ( w united.com). These take between fifteen and sixteen hours. Most other flights stop off in Europe, the Middle East or Asia and involve a change of plane. There are no direct flights from Canada ; you'll have to change planes in the US, Europe or Asia on hauls that can last up to thirty hours.

On the direct flights from the US to Jo'burg, expect the high/low season fare to start from $2600/1700 for a round trip; you might save from $100 to as much as $700 if you fly via Europe . Fares from Vancouver to Jo'burg start at Can$2200.

There are nonstop flights from Sydney (which take 12hr) and Perth (just under 10hr) to Johannesburg, with onward connections to Cape Town. Flights from New Zealand tend to be via Sydney. South African Airways and Qantas ( w qantas.com) both fly nonstop to South Africa from Australia; several Asian, African and Middle Eastern airlines fly to South Africa via their hub cities, and tend to be less expensive, but their routings often entail long stopovers.

Direct flights from Sydney to Johannesburg start at Aus$2800 in high season and Aus$1800 in low; a flight to Europe with a stopover in South Africa, or even a round-the-world ticket, may represent better value than a straightforward return.

The Rough Guides to South Africa and related travel guides

In-depth, easy-to-use travel guides filled with expert advice.

Make the Most of Your Time on Earth

Travel advice for South Africa

From travel safety to visa requirements, discover the best tips for traveling to South Africa

  • Crime and personal safety tips South Africa
  • Eating and drinking in South Africa
  • Getting around South Africa: Transportation Tips
  • Travel Tips South Africa for planning and on the go
  • Best time to visit South Africa

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Rough Guides Editors

written by Rough Guides Editors

updated 27.04.2021

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Find cheap flights from Europe to South Africa from R5 063

This is the cheapest one-way flight price found by a kayak user in the last 72 hours by searching for a flight departing on 11/4. fares are subject to change and may not be available on all flights or dates of travel. click the price to replicate the search for this deal..

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Good to know, faqs for booking flights from europe to south africa, how does kayak find such low prices on flights from europe to south africa.

KAYAK is a travel search engine. That means we look across the web to find the best prices we can find for our users. With over 2 billion flight queries processed yearly, we are able to display a variety of prices and options on flights from Europe to South Africa.

How does KAYAK's flight Price Forecast tool help me choose the right time to buy my flight ticket from Europe to South Africa?

KAYAK’s flight Price Forecast tool uses historical data to determine whether the price for a flight to South Africa from Europe is likely to change within 7 days, so travelers know whether to wait or book now.

What is the Hacker Fare option on flights from Europe to South Africa?

Hacker Fares allow you to combine one-way tickets in order to save you money over a traditional return ticket. You could then fly to South Africa with an airline and back to Europe with another airline.

What is KAYAK's "flexible dates" feature and why should I care when looking for a flight from Europe to South Africa?

Sometimes travel dates aren't set in stone. If your preferred travel dates have some wiggle room, flexible dates will show you all the options when flying to South Africa from Europe up to 3 days before/after your preferred dates. You can then pick the flights that suit you best.

Top 5 airlines serving from Europe to South Africa

You're like a poor man's Emirates Airlines. The Asian vegetarian food was awful. The entertainment selection was very limited and not contemporary at all. The seats were cramped. There was no plug for charging my phone (I refuse to plug into a USB port - A security risk). The plane itself was aged.

This was a really enjoyable flight. Even though I was in economy, I had a great deal of leg space, I had a nice meal, and the flight staff was helpful and friendly. A really great flight.

Crew members service are at its best Seating area is very compact, could be better

The crew here was rarely around. They walked by fast to collect trash and I felt like they didnt want to be bothered. I kept getting skipped for coffee/tea service.

The seats are too cramped in that plane. If you’re above 1,80m consider alternatives or first class I guess… There were no emergency exits to seat somewhere with more legroom

You cancelled my flight. I paid for seats and luggage handling and was not reimburst. In addition, after having to do 2 connections instead of 1, My baggage was lost. I am now 4 days without baggage.

I lost my luggage in this flight with all my personal belonging including critical medications and until now no one from Lufthansa contacted me despite filling the claim immediately after arriving to the final distinction.

Next time I will pay more to have a bigger seat! But very happy with this airline!

The secondary booking agency that Kayak used cancelled our flight the day we were to leave. I had to find a new ticket myself while waiting at the airport. I will never use Kayak again and am demanding a full refund.

Our baggages delayed 4-5 days, BA told us every day, it will arrive on the next day

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10 things to know before traveling to South Africa

Sep 4, 2023 • 9 min read

travelling to south africa from europe

Make the most of your visit to South Africa with these top planning and preparation tips © Caia Image / Getty Images

Let’s not beat about the bush:  South Africa has a bit of a scary reputation. Much is said about the country’s unenviable crime rate, but so much more can be said about all the things that make this diverse destination so magnificent. You shouldn't let anxiety about possible dangers put you off visiting this amazing African country. 

Huge and diverse, South Africa never stops doling out gifts to the traveler – world-class surf breaks , eclectic local cuisine , mountains to climb, cities to visit , tiny towns to hide away in, desert landscapes to photograph and, of course, plenty of wildlife to watch .

The country’s extraordinary variety is both its biggest draw and its biggest challenge, at least when it comes to planning a trip. Much research is needed to decide where to go, what to do and how long to stay. Visiting for less than two weeks is not ideal – three weeks or more would be a better bet if you can manage so much time away.

With tips to help you plan as well as information on health, safety and etiquette, here's what you need to know for a successful trip to South Africa.

A family walking on a beach in South Africa

1. Carry the relevant paperwork if you’re traveling with kids

If you’re entering or leaving South Africa with a child under the age of 18 , you’ll need to have a few extra bits of paper in your carry-on bag. In a bid to stamp out child trafficking, all minors need to have an "unabridged" birth certificate – that is, one that lists both parents’ names. If only one parent is traveling with the child, you’ll need an affidavit from the other parent confirming that they give consent for the child to travel. The rules keep changing and papers are not always checked, but it’s wise to have the documents at hand just in case.

2. Buy a South African SIM card and use local Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is fairly easy to find in larger cities and more touristed towns, but if you’re planning on wandering far from the main population centers, it’s worth picking up a South African SIM card on arrival at the airport. The card costs just a few rand, but like pretty much everything in South Africa, it does come with a bit of paperwork. You’ll need to “RICA” your SIM card – a fairly simple registration process that requires a photo ID and confirmation of your address in South Africa (a simple booking confirmation will suffice).

3. Carry cash, just not too much

While credit and debit cards are widely accepted, there are still a few places that only take cash in South Africa. It’s best to keep a small stash of notes and coins for purchases at corner stores, buying things from market traders and for the various tips you’ll be expected to give throughout the day (more on tipping below).

Of course, it’s not wise to walk around with large wads of cash on your person, so keep the bulk of your money hidden away in the hotel safe, or withdraw modest amounts from ATMs while you are out and about. Be wary of using ATMs on the street; theft and card scams are common, so it’s best to stick to machines inside malls or banks.

Two women with their arms around each other lean on a car and gaze out at a city view

4. If you really want to see SA, you need to rent a car

There's no sugar-coating it – public transport in South Africa often falls short. Long-distance bus services exist but routes tend to bypass many smaller destinations, and fares can be expensive for shorter hops. Long-distance trains are unreliable, and hitchhiking is most definitely not recommended. If you really want to see the country, you’re going to have to rent a car. Fortunately, there are plenty of fantastic road trips to choose from, and all the big car hire companies are represented in South Africa – just be sure to book ahead, especially if you’re traveling in the November to March peak season .

5. Listen to the locals (but be ready for a little exaggeration)

Local advice is always important, particularly in countries that have a reputation for crime and social problems. In South Africa, the host at your accommodation is a good person to ask about the best bars or restaurants, how to get around and which areas to avoid. Just be aware that there are many awesome attractions found in areas that South African locals – particularly older locals – wouldn’t consider visiting.

Once, while staying in a guest house in suburban Durban, I asked the owner if there were any places to avoid and she replied “The CBD” (city center), which would have cut my sightseeing rather short. South Africans have a tendency to exaggerate the danger posed by crime – it’s almost a part of the national psyche, and a favorite topic of conversation. You might have to do a bit more research to sort out the worthwhile warnings from the sometimes-inevitable scaremongering.

6. Be more cautious when driving in cities

When I first moved to South Africa, there was so much talk of carjackers that I expected to find balaclava-clad people lurking at every intersection waiting to appropriate my vehicle. I remember panicking at the gas station because I had to lower the window to pay, then passing my cash through an inch-high gap before driving away, stressed and sweating.

These days I often drive with the windows down, but I do approach "robots" (the local term for traffic lights) with caution, always leaving a car-length gap in front of me just in case I need to make a quick escape. Be cautious while driving, but not paranoid. Keep your doors locked and be extra vigilant when driving at night, keeping your windows up and your wits about you.

A wine waiter pours wine at a restaurant

7. Be prepared to tip

South Africa has a strong tipping culture. In many customer-facing industries, salaries are low and workers make much of their money from tips. Restaurant staff will expect a top of around 10%, but leaving 12–15% will generate bigger smiles. Drivers never pump their own gas in South Africa; you’ll be expected to pay at least R5 to the person filling your tank, or R10–20 if the attendant also checks your tires, oil or water.

Then there are South Africa’s informal parking attendants. While larger cities and towns have areas with pay-as-you-go street parking, in most places, you can park at the side of the road for free… well, sort of. Ubiquitous car guards will offer to keep an eye on your car while you’re away, and they come in a range of helpfulness levels.

Some will go the extra mile, stopping traffic to help you back out into a busy street. Others are opportunists who approach as you pull out your keys, claiming they were keeping a close eye on your car while you were shopping. Reward car guards according to the service they provide – a R5 coin is the standard thank you but R10 is more appropriate for someone who provided a more useful service.

8. South African English takes some getting used to 

While there are 11 official languages in South Africa, you’ll almost always find someone who speaks English, unless you’re in a remote rural area. There will still be a few local phrases that trip you up. One thing that often baffles foreigners is the (extremely liberal) use of the word “shame.” It’s a versatile word in South Africa. A cute child fell asleep in the car? Shame. A close family member passed away? Shame. Busy week at the office meaning you couldn’t make Friday drinks? Shame. The word is often preceded by the utterance "ag" and followed by the word "man." So the phrase "Ag, shame man" can mean anything from “awww” to “Oh no, that’s terrible!”

Also overused (often in baffling contexts) is the word “hectic.” While it can be used to discuss a particularly busy intersection, it could also be used to describe a ridiculously tall building, a very long line at the bank, an insanely windy day or a particularly large baby being born. In South Africa, hectic doesn’t really mean busy – it usually means "wow."

The lights of Johannesburg at night

9. Expect lots of talk about politics and power outages

Certain subjects are off-limits in every country, but in South Africa, politics is not one of them. Everyone has an opinion on the government’s latest endeavors, whether that’s discussing the abundance of potholes, the latest corruption scandal or – more often than not – the government's failure to provide (electrical) power to the people. You'll very quickly become familiar with the inconvenience of what locals call "load-shedding."

Basically, load-shedding is a never-ending series of planned power outages designed to take pressure off the ailing electricity grid. Cities and towns are split into zones, and depending on the severity of the load-shedding, you might end up without power for anything from two to 12 hours a day. There are eight "stages" of load-shedding, broken up into two-hour slots. Larger hotels won’t be affected thanks to backup generators, but if you’re staying in a guesthouse, hostel or private home, you are bound to encounter load-shedding at some point in your stay.

Many places come equipped with fail-safes such as emergency lights, backup power for fridges and Wi-Fi hubs, and sometimes generators big enough to power the whole property. Your host will likely give you daily updates on when the power will be off, or there’s a handy app – EskomSePush – that has all the details and comes with a handy warning notification.

10. Driving in the emergency lane is standard practice

While greetings, table manners and general day-to-day etiquette in South Africa should largely be familiar, the way South Africans drive can be a bit of a culture shock for visitors. One of the most idiosyncratic rules of the road is “yellow line driving” – many roads are single-lane highways, and enterprising drivers often use the emergency lane (hard shoulder) as a backup.

If you’re on a highway and a driver behind you indicates that they want to get by, you'll be expected to briefly move across the yellow line into the emergency lane to let them pass. If you don’t, you’re likely to find yourself privy to another favorite local driving habit: tailgating. Drivers will usually flash their hazard lights in thanks as they pass, but be aware that obliging drivers aren’t the only thing to be found on the hard shoulder. Always make sure there is good visibility before you pull over, for around the next corner you might find a troop of baboons, a stray cow or a bunch of school kids walking home.

This article was first published May 2023 and updated September 2023

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Can I travel to South Africa? The entry requirements explained

travelling to south africa from europe

Rory Goulding

Friday April 28 2023, 09:00am

The southernmost country in Africa offers that rare thing to Brits: a long-haul flight with no jet lag at the end. The seasons may be flipped to some degree, but in such a big country there’s always somewhere that’s looking at its best whatever the time of year. In January, Cape Town and its surrounds bask in a Mediterranean-type climate (hello, wineries!) while at the other end of the “rainbow nation” is Kruger National Park, where you can spot almost any member of the classic safari checklist in the dry season that peaks in August. The latter month also sees Namaqualand and other dry northwestern corners turn into dazzling carpets of wildflowers. A dynamic coast that sees the meeting point of two oceans, the rampart-like mountains of the Drakensberg, moving monuments to history, and cities that captivate with their contradictions are all part of what makes this country feel like a small continent of its own.

But what are the entry requirements? Here’s everything you need to know .

Main photo: the view of Table Mountain from Lagoon Beach, Cape Town (Getty Images)

This article contains affiliate links.

Our travel journalism is written and edited by independent experts to inform, inspire and advise our readers about the best choices for your holidays. We also feature properties and itineraries from a specially selected list of trusted operators. These buttons and adverts are clearly signposted, and provide direct links through to external sites. If you click and buy a product, we may earn revenue.

What are South Africa’s entry requirements?

Brits travelling on a UK passport can enter South Africa for any purpose for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. The date by which you must leave the country is indicated on your entry stamp. Those holding dual nationality with South Africa must enter and exit the country using their South African passport.

Check Foreign Office advice for South Africa here .

Can I travel to South Africa if I’m not vaccinated?

Yes. South Africa has removed its Covid restrictions, meaning travellers no longer need to provide proof of vaccination to enter. There is no longer any testing requirement, face masks are no longer required indoors and there are no limits on gatherings.

However, you may still be required to complete a health form to enter the country. You can check local updates here .

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South Africa Travel Restrictions

Traveler's COVID-19 vaccination status

Traveling from the United States to South Africa

Open for vaccinated visitors

COVID-19 testing

Not required

Not required for vaccinated visitors

Restaurants

Not required in public spaces, enclosed environments and public transportation.

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Can I travel to South Africa from the United States?

Most visitors from the United States, regardless of vaccination status, can enter South Africa.

Can I travel to South Africa if I am vaccinated?

Fully vaccinated visitors from the United States can enter South Africa without restrictions.

Can I travel to South Africa without being vaccinated?

Unvaccinated visitors from the United States can enter South Africa without restrictions.

Do I need a COVID test to enter South Africa?

Visitors from the United States are not required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test or antigen result upon entering South Africa.

Can I travel to South Africa without quarantine?

Travelers from the United States are not required to quarantine.

Do I need to wear a mask in South Africa?

Mask usage in South Africa is not required in public spaces, enclosed environments and public transportation.

Are the restaurants and bars open in South Africa?

Restaurants in South Africa are open. Bars in South Africa are .

A RAI OF LIGHT

  • Africa / Ask RAI / Travel Hacks / Travel tips

35 [Essential] South Africa Travel Tips for Your First Trip in 2024

Published October 6, 2023 · Updated October 6, 2023

Oh hey traveler… You’ve read my  20 reasons why you should travel to South Africa , and are now planning your very first trip to the tip of Africa .

Today you get to find out my best travel tips to South Africa in preparation for your adventure, on arrival at the airport and when travelling through the country. This article will ensure you are well-informed and well-prepared for that trip of a lifetime.

Read on to discover my essential South Africa tips worth knowing before you go  ⇓

Reading time: 8 minutes

Top Tips first time Travellers South Africa

South Africa is often referred to as a rainbow nation with a melting pot of diverse people, languages, and African and Colonial cultures. This is location dependent somewhat, but you will fit in no matter the language you speak, the clothes you wear, or the colour of your skin.

A trip to South Africa should be on the bucket list of every intrepid traveler . The country at the tip of Africa welcomes thousands of visitors each year looking to experience its diversity, its beauty, its landmark attractions , and its endless possibilities for adventure.

You often hear visitors saying, “I wish I had known …”

What follows is my travel guide and tips for visitors planning on traveling to South Africa for the first time .

Whether you’re going on a safari, planning a road trip along the coast, or visiting the lively cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban, I’ve got you covered ↓

Useful South Africa Travel Tips

Before I continue, note that I don’t think you have to know everything before you arrive. Part of the pleasure and gratification of travel is discovering and exploring the unknown without any preconceived ideas or expectations.

It is good to be prepared, but leave some revelations and encounters for the actual journey .

>> Read next: The best places to visit in South Africa

If you’re looking for more travel preparation tips, check out this guide about what to know before travelling to Egypt .

To help you prepare you for the unexpected and to arrange a stress-free trip , here are my top tips for your first trip to South Africa!

Let’s get into it. First up….

Before Travelling to South Africa: Tips

Giraffe safari Traveling South Africa travel tips

Planning a trip to South Africa:

It is worth having, in advance, a practical list of what to expect and know before travelling to and on arrival in South Africa. I know you’re wondering:

IS SOUTH AFRICA SAFE?

This is a question I get asked a lot . “Yeah, but is South Africa as a country a safe destination?”

Yes, within reason and with precaution .

Safety is a major concern of first-time visitors to South Africa. Although the country has a high crime rate and crime is an issue, the majority of incidents occur in areas that are away from the usual tourist trail and so the risk to tourists is low.

It is imperative to use common sense and to always be aware of your surroundings . It is also helpful to know which actions and places to avoid to stay safe in South Africa. With proper precaution and preparation, many problems can be avoided.

How to remain safe in South Africa as a traveller:

— Do blend in To stay safe avoid looking like a tourist.

—  Avoid ostentatious displays of expensive possessions such as jewellery, cameras, mobile phones and other valuables.

— Do not keep any items unattended … like you may do so back home. Store valuables (including passports) in the safety deposit box of your accommodation. Keep huge camera equipment, handbags, phone and other valuable belongings out of view to avoid attracting any unwanted attention.

— Better safe than sorry As a preventative measure and common caution, remember to keep your car doors locked at all times.

— Pay attention to your location and surroundings as you would in every major city around the world

— Know where you are going before you head off particularly at night

— Do not put any valuables in suitcases Carry all valuables with you in hand luggage as opposed to leaving in the checked luggage. I hear things are better now, but Johannesburg airport, in particular, had a bad reputation for things going missing from luggage.

>> Related reading: The safest African countries in 2024 ranked + essential safety tips when in Africa

WEATHER IN SOUTH AFRICA

The Best Time to Visit

South Africa experiences a sub-tropical temperate climate that is warm and generally dry . The weather is pleasant and sunny for most of the year. Winters (June – August) are mild with snowfall in the mountainous regions.

Check the weather before arrival in South Africa and make a note of the season.

Many visitors incorrectly think that it’s constantly hot , this being Africa after all. No, there are district seasons each with their own climate.

The Western Cape, including Cape Town, receives most of its rainfall during winter, so it’s best to travel here outside of this period. On the flip side, when it is hot, you can easily get sunburnt. So pack some sunscreen.

Seasons: Summer – December to February Autumn – March to May Winter – June to August Spring – September to November

AVOID : if at all possible, avoid visiting South Africa during the peak summer months of December – February . You will have to put up with inflated prices and also enlarged crowds as both international and local visitors take a break in the holiday season. You will also want to avoid school holiday periods that include mid-June to mid-July.

HEALTH REQUIREMENTS: VACCINATIONS

— Malaria tablets are advisable should you be travelling within a malaria region in malaria season.

— Currently, no vaccinations are required when visiting South Africa, however, proof of yellow fever vaccinations on arrival are needed if you travel through a country with a risk of yellow fever.

Travel Tip: Don’t forget to pack some insect repellant that is essential in helping to ward off mosquitoes and other insects.

[Covid19]: Travelling to South Africa

All visitors to South Africa are expected to follow the rules set out by the government. These include following social distancing in public spaces, regular washing or sanitizing of hands, and a compulsory wearing of masks.

In addition to this, all international travellers arriving at the designated airports will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result , recognized by the World Health Organization, that was obtained less than 72 hours from the time of departure .

Failing to submit a negative COVID-19 test result, will lead to an antigen test being conducted on arrival at own cost. Testing positive for COVID-19 will result in compulsory isolation at own cost, for a period of ten days.

❗ Update: All of South Africa’s COVID-19 entry restrictions have been lifted on June 22, 2022 . As a result: · No proof of negative pre-departure COVID-19 test results are required. · No proof of vaccination is required to enter South Africa. Yeaahhhh!

Travel tips South Africa Is it safe. How to be safe

SOUTH AFRICA PACKING LIST

Don’t overpack. This common mistake should be avoided.

Be sure to leave some room space in the luggage for souvenirs and other stuff you will come across. South Africa is a relatively affordable vacation for visitors and you will want to make purchases along the way.

What To Wear

Bring a mix of stylish and old clothes. You will have use for both depending on your activity or occasion.

Most hotels and game lodges offer an extremely quick laundry turnaround, often a same-day service, at additional services. It is not necessary to bring a separate change of clothing for each day and evening. I would recommended that you keep luggage to a minimum for your own comfort and ease of transport, especially if you are using light aircraft transfers.

Bring clothes that are lightweight, cool, and comfortable made of a natural, “breathable” fabric. Summer temperatures can reach well into the 30 – 40 degree Celsius range in some areas. Definitely bring a swimming costume and possibly an umbrella or raincoat as this is when most of the country gets its rain.

The winters are generally mild, but there are periods when a cold front makes an appearance, so be prepared with a warm jacket, fleece or sweater. Cape Town gets its rain during the winter season so it’s recommended to bring rain gear.

— Always bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen as the sun can be strong even in the winter months.

— Walking shoes are a good idea all year-round.

— Some establishments stipulate smart casual and a collard-shirt and trousers or slacks, a blouse and skirt is needed.

— For game viewing, a couple of lightweight, khaki or neutral-toned items will be useful. A scarf and hat for the dust and heat is recommended.

— Binoculars

— Camera and accessories

— Personal toiletries, lip balm and insect repellent

Wide variety of shopping

Don’t dread if you forget to pack something. Great shopping malls are dotted throughout the country, ensuring you’ll find what you need.

ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS

You will find a variety of accommodation options available , from world-class hotels and safari lodges to guesthouses, self-catering apartments, and backpacker lodges. The accommodation you choose will be entirely based on your budget, purpose of travel, and itinerary within South Africa.

If travelling during the peak season of November – January, it is important to book your accommodation in advance to get first pick and the best rates.

SOUTH AFRICA IS A DEVELOPED COUNTRY

No, you won’t find wild animals roaming the streets , according to a popular misconception.

What you will find is everything from world-class shopping centres, paved roads, and highways to gourmet restaurants, farmers’ markets, and museums here.

While some villages that border animal reserves have to deal with the occasional predator stalking their domestic cattle, you won’t spot any wild animals outside the game reserves.

Did you know: South Africa does not have one capital city , but three. Pretoria is the executive capital, Cape Town is the legislative capital, while Bloemfontein is the judicial capital.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Do You Need?

I’ve said it before, South Africa certainly is one of the adventure capitals of the world . An adventure-traveler’s delight. You can swim with sharks, jump off the highest commercial bungee in the world, go on epic hikes, or paraglide off mountains.

If you’re planning on getting your adventure on during your travels in South Africa, do make sure that your travel insurance covers extreme sports activities .

You’ll also need general comprehensive travel insurance . With this country in Africa being a relatively far destination for most visitors, it is always a good idea to make sure you’re covered for any flight cancellations and unwanted trips to the hospital.

South Africa Travel Tips On Arrival at the Airport  

Travel passport.

Entry and Exit Requirements

Make sure to have at least two blank pages available in your passport should you require a visa to travel to South Africa. Otherwise one blank page is sufficient, even though only half a page is needed for the stamp at immigration.

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the date of departure from South Africa.

SOUTH AFRICA  VISA REQUIREMENTS

You may need a visa to enter South Africa , depending on your nationality. Citizens of 48 countries, including Canada, USA , Australia , Ireland, and the UK, can enter South Africa for tourism for up to 90 days, while passport holders from an additional 28 countries can spend up to 30 days visa-free.

All other travellers and foreign nationals need a visa to enter. Apply in person in the country of your ordinary residence or citizenship from a South African Embassy or Consulate. A system is in the process of implementing the online tourist eVisa application that will make it easier and faster to get a travel visa arranged before the trip.

No extension is available on tourism visas.

MONEY MATTERS IN SOUTH AFRICA

The currency is the Rand , which is divided into 100 cents. There are R200, R100, R50, R20 and R10 notes. Coins come in R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c.

Automatic teller machines (ATM) are situated in every mall and outside most banks in towns and cities, operating 24 hours a day.

Always advise your bank of our intention of travelling outside of the country so that your purchases are not blocked while abroad.

Credit Cards

All major international credit cards such as MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and Visa are widely accepted . You can’t purchase fuel with a credit card but you can pay road tolls with MasterCard or Visa.

In some small towns and smaller shops, you may find you’ll need to use cash . You will also need cash for tips.

I recommend withdrawing cash from the ATM when you arrive . You will get a better exchange rate from the machines when compared to using a currency exchange service at the airport.

There are plenty of ATM’s around so just take out as much as you think you may need for a few days, rather than carrying large amounts of cash.

Current exchange rate: 1 ZAR = 0,066 USD

IS SOUTH AFRICA CHEAP

How to save money

South Africa is an affordable destination , particularly when visiting from a country with a stronger currency exchange. Nevertheless, here are some ways to save money while travelling through the country:

  • Visit South Africa during the shoulder or off-peak season This means planning a trip to South Africa in Autumn (March to May) or Spring (September – November). The weather is pleasant and costs are not inflated.
  • A great way to get around South Africa on a budget over longer distances is by using the bus . My recommendation for a reliable, efficient company: Greyhound. They have an extensive long-distance network or routes across the country.
  • Choose outdoor activities that are free or cost little to nothing. Hiking is a particularly good option and the abundance of routes will delight you. Choose from Lion’s Head or Table Mountain in Cape Town to the Fanie Botha Trail in Mpumalanga and the Drakensberg Grand Traverse in Kwa Zulu Natal to Wild Coast Hike in the Eastern Cape. The options are almost endless.
  • Include camping There are variety of well-maintained, affordable campsites throughout South Africa, from Tsitsikamma National Park to Kruger National Park and a handful in-between.

Is South Africa Africa’s wealthiest country ? Check out the full list here.

TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN

All minors require the consent of their parents when travelling into or out of South Africa.

From 1 June 2015, parents or guardians travelling with children under the age of 18 will need to carry and yield on request an unabridged birth certificate along with a valid travel document.

There are additional settings for minors travelling with only one parent or unaccompanied. These rules should be checked confirmed prior to arrival in South Africa.

Although no longer compulsory as of December 2018, South Africa immigration officers still reserve the right to request a copy at their individual discretion.

BAGGAGE RESTRICTIONS

Do take note of the following baggage restrictions applied at OR Tambo International Airport:

  • Only regular-shaped bags will be allowed to be checked in. This means that the bags must have at least one flat surface to be accepted.
  • Round or irregular-shaped bags will not be allowed.
  • Bags with longs straps will not be allowed.

Passengers who try to check in bags that don’t conform to these rules will have the option of having their baggage wrapped with one flat side at airport-approved baggage wrapping stations.

AIRPORT CUSTOM ALLOWANCES

Currently the following duty-free allowance applies per person:

200 cigarettes, 250 grams of tobacco and 20 cigars, two litres of wine, one litre of other alcoholic beverages, , 50 ml of perfume and 250 ml of eau de toilette. Also, gifts, souvenirs and all other goods to the value of R 500.00. No person under 18 is entitled to the alcohol or tobacco allowance. Duty is levied at 20% thereafter.

Tax Value Added Tax (VAT)

Tax Value Added Tax (VAT) of 15% is levied in South Africa.

International travelers taking goods out of South Africa are able to reclaim the VAT that they paid on these goods. Reclaiming VAT is only applicable for goods that you are able to produce at the airport and not for any services whatsoever. When purchasing your products you should request a tax invoice.

VAT Reclaim Offices are found at Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town Airports. Before departing, visit the customs official offices where your invoices and goods purchased will be inspected. Once your invoices have been approved and stamped, the VAT Reclaim Office will refund you the appropriate amount.

MOBILE SERVICE IN SOUTH AFRICA

Mobile data connection

If your phone is unlocked, you can purchase a local pay-as-you-go SIM card from one of the many vendors around the country. The big four network operators in South Africa are Vodacom, Cell C, MTN, and Telkom.

You can also get a SIM card at the airport on arrival, but it’s a usually more expensive. You do need to show identity, such as passport, and address/proof of where you’re staying, in order for the card to be activated.

You can get data bundles that will help you stay connected as well as airtime for any phone calls you need to make. Do note that data costs are relatively high, so save all the browsing and downloading for when you’re able to connect to free wifi. Also, internet speeds are not the greatest, for the most part. But, good enough to get things done.

Mobile Phone Coverage

Cellphone coverage and network availability is extensive and easy to access . This means you’re not going to be unplugged from the outside world or family and friends back home while travelling in South Africa.

However, it is worth noting that many remote areas, don’t have cellular reception or internet connection.

The international dialling code for South Africa is 27. Emergency numbers:   112 for any emergency from a cell phone, 10111 for police response, 10177 for ambulance response.

Tips when Travelling through South Africa

Waterfall south africa travel tips

ELECTRICITY SUPPLY

Power Adaptor

The South African electricity supply is 220/230 volts with sockets accepting either two-pin or three-pin rounded plugs. Hotels often have 110 volt sockets for electric razors and a USB socket for other electronic items.

A travel (power plug) adaptor will be needed for the South African round 3-pin plug.

TIPPING ETIQUETTE IN SOUTH AFRICA

Whilst tipping is certainly not obligatory, the amount of the gratuity should express the degree of satisfaction that you have obtained. Tipping 10 – 15% of the service fee is common practice (e.g. restaurant bills, taxi fares etc.)

The above are merely guidelines and you should be comfortable with the gratuity you give. On safari it is customary to tip your guide and tracker, and this is variable based on the length of your stay, group size, experience, service, etc.

Remember, even a little (a couple rands) goes a long way.

CAN YOU DRINK THE WATER

Testing and treatment of the tap water is up to general standards and as a result it is perfectly safe and good to drink straight from the tap.

Remember to bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up throughout the day.

You don’t have to worry about buying bottles of water while travelling in South Africa. Bottled water can be used as an individual preference or when in areas where the mineral content is higher than normal. This could happen, for example, when staying at a safari lodge, but the accommodation will be able to advice in this regard. These remote locations when on game drives often have a water filtration system in place to make the water drinkable.

Water shortages: There have been water restrictions throughout the country in recent years and there were real fears that Cape Town would run out of water in 2018. The situation has drastically improved since, but even if water seems plentiful, please don’t waste it.

GETTING AROUND SOUTH AFRICA

Public transport is certainly not up to standard and there isn’t much of a system in place.

However, travelling around South Africa is possible by air, road, and rail.

It is recommended to use Uber or Bolt for shorter trips and to get around in the major cities. This service is convenient, practical, and cheaper than metered taxis. Background checks are done on the drivers to make sure their driver’s licenses are real.

There is also the Gautrain rapid transit railway system in Gauteng Province which links Johannesburg, Pretoria, Ekhuruleni and OR Tambo International Airport.

Another means of getting around South Africa are luxury inter-city bus services such as Greyhound and Trans-Lux.

DRIVING IN SOUTH AFRICA

Car rentals are legit

Another worthwhile recommendation is to hire a car to get around.

Having a car is the most viable way of seeing the region. It makes it convenient and easy to explore the country, whether it be along the Garden Route, through the Drakensberg mountains, or a self-drive safari in the Kruger National Park.

A couple things to note about driving in South Africa: — Driving is on the left-hand side of the road.

— Keep in mind that the speed limit on major motorways is 120km/h (75mph).

— Do take note in preparation and implementation, that distances take longer to drive than Google Maps suggests.

— A valid international driver’s licence is required.

— Wearing seat belts is compulsory and cellphones can only be used ‘hands free’.

— Most global car hire firms have branches in South Africa

— When renting a car: get full insurance protection, be vigilant of speed drivers, and keep nothing of value in the vehicle (or keep it in the boot, if you must).

— Manual/stick shift drive cars are particularly common in Southern Africa. If you are not comfortable with manual drive, ensure you select an automatic drive car when renting.

FUEL STATIONS: GARAGES

The fuel stations (called garages) are not self-service like in some parts of the world, but are staffed by attendants who will fill up your car for you. Here you will also be asked if you want your windscreen washed, tyre pressure checked, oil and water replenished.

It’s polite and customary to tip the attendant a couple rands for their service. Even a small amount goes a long way and is always appreciated.

Parking attendants

Often, wherever you park, be it outside restaurants, at the beach, supermarket, amongst others, will find young men offering to watch over your car and protect it from break-ins while you’re away, in exchange for some payment (a few rand) on your return.

Some of these car watchers are officially hired by the venue and some are young unemployed guys just trying to earn some money.

STOPPING AT TRAFFIC LIGHTS

Speaking of traffic lights, don’t be surprised to see guys selling all sorts of items at busy intersections. These items range from newspapers to toys, bags, and electronic accessories, among others.

Apart from selling items, you will also find some guys begging, collecting rubbish or handing out flyers. I politely decline if not interested.

Garden route Travel tips South Africa Road trip Driving Getting around

PEOPLE OF SOUTH AFRICA

People are generally friendly , willing to help should the need arise, and excited to share their stories and culture with you.

Don’t let the misconstructions and impressions of the apartheid days make you think otherwise.

Men generally greet each other with a handshake, while women greet with a kiss on the cheek. If you’re not sure, a handshake is a safe bet.

LANGUAGE IN SOUTH AFRICA

There are 11 officially recognised languages , most of which are indigenous to the country.

English is spoken everywhere you go so it is fairly easy to communicate as you go around. English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government and official documents. All the road signs and official forms are in English and service staff will speak English.

Official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, SiSwati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu!

>> Related reading: Learn how to say hello and thank you in South Africa and around the world here.

LOCAL PHRASES

In South Africa, roundabouts are called circles and traffic lights are referred to as robots! So, don’t be surprised if you’re told to continue past the circle and turn left at the first robot.

Howzit is a common greeting that is used instead of hi or how are you while lekker is an Afrikaans word that is now mainstream, meaning nice, awesome, or good.

SOUTH AFRICA TIME

Time zone: South African Standard Time is Greenwich Mean Time GMT + 2 hours . Central European Winter Time +1 , and Eastern Standard Winter Time +7.

The country does not change its clocks during the year, and there are no regional variations within the country.

Speaking of time, apart from Johannesburg, South Africa operates on a laidback, slow pace. This is the wonderfully slow South African way, as rarely are things on time. Embrace it as you’ll be back home and rushing around before you know it.

Also, locals tend to eat dinner earlier in the evening than the rest of the world average. On the same note, attractions tend to close earlier than the rest of the world average. Take note of this when planning.

WHAT IS THE FOOD LIKE IN SOUTH AFRICA

A trip to South Africa is guaranteed to encompass good food as the country boasts an amazing variety of restaurants from fine dining to casual eateries.

The vast number of supermarkets are also stocked with a wide range of produce, making self-catering simple.

>>Related reading: Crazy weird foods around the world (including mopani worms in South Africa) Full details HERE

The ever popular braai

The country is big on meat . “Braais” the Afrikaans word for grilled meat, comparable to a BBQ, is insanely popular all over. Any social gathering is bound to have a braai going on.

Confession: I am not a fan of the braai, in the least. I know, what kind of local am I?

Other popular dishes to try include chakalaka, potjiekos, malva pudding , bobotie, mealie pap, bunny chow, melktert, and the ever popular biltong.

At restaurants, waiters do not automatically bring the bill at the end of the meal, but will wait until you ask for it.

Post-meal etiquette

Taking your meal home in a “ doggy bag ” is completely normal.

SMOKING LAWS

In accordance with South African law, do note that smoking is prohibited in public areas and buildings, unless they are specifically designated as smoking areas.

SAFARI IN SOUTH AFRICA

There is a plethora of game reserves where you have the potential of seeing some incredible wildlife, including the big 5, in their natural habitat. If you’ve been about seeing animals in the wild, South Africa is your calling.

It can be dry and very dusty on game drives through the reserves. Be sure to take a scarf and sunglasses along, as this will come in handy. It is also recommended to bring your own pair of binoculars along.

National Park fees

Each of the SANS national parks are individually gated, even when within a brief distance of each other. This means an entry fee needs to be paid for each park .

The non-residential fee is often three times the rate for locals.

Watch out for baboons

In the national parks and some rural regions, there is a real hazard of baboons going through your belongings should they smell food.

Ocean currents

You won’t be able to spend a whole lot of time in the waters along the West coast, as these tend to be icy cold from the Benguela current. On the other hand, waters on the East coast are perfectly suited for swimming.

DO BRING MORE MEMORY

You may just need more memory cards than initially anticipated for all the moments that you will want to capture while traveling South Africa.

IT MAY BE ADDICTIVE 😉

Yes, many travellers often return to South Africa after that initial experience. You might just become one of them.

>> Get hyped for your trip to SA with this: List of best songs about Africa .

rhino in south africa travel guide before visiting

Keep these tips for traveling South Africa in mind and have a good trip. As always, do not hesitate to contact me should you require additional information about any upcoming travels, here or on Instagram . Be sure to check out this list of the best places to visit in South Africa for first timers

>> Read Next:

  • 20 reasons to visit South Africa
  • The best countries to visit in Africa
  • The 15 most beautiful countries in Africa to visit
  • 200 quotes about Africa to inspire
  • What is responsible tourism + simple ways to implement

Have you been to South Africa? What else would you like to know before you go? Let me know in the comments below!

Hamba Kahle,

Save this for later. PIN it to your Africa Travel Board!

30+ South Africa Travel Tips for Your First Trip _ Places to visit_ Africa Travel Guide

Tags: adventure africa First time south africa Travel Tips

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South Africa

Latest update.

Exercise a high degree of caution in South Africa due to the threat of violent crime.

South Africa

South Africa (PDF 811.22 KB)

Africa (PDF 1.68 MB)

Local emergency contacts

National emergencies.

Call 10111.

Fire and rescue services

Call 10177.

Call 10111, or go to the nearest police station.

Advice levels

Exercise a high degree of caution in South Africa.

  • ​​​​​ Protests and large gatherings can occur anywhere in South Africa at any time. Avoid areas affected by protests and demonstrations.  Use major roads where it's safe to do so and verify that alternate routes recommended by your GPS are safe prior to travel. Monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities. 
  • Crime and violence are serious issues across South Africa, including murder, rape, assault, food and drink spiking, robbery and carjacking. South Africa experiences more crime during its rolling blackouts (load-shedding). Be particularly alert in major city centres and township areas and when travelling after dark. Crimes in South Africa often involve the use of weapons.
  • Terrorism is a threat worldwide and can occur anywhere at any time. Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places and follow the advice of local authorities. 
  • Opportunistic criminals also target travellers at the approaches to Kruger National Park, including Numbi Gate, and at the Lebombo/Komatipoort border. Criminals have also been targeting tourist vehicles at the approaches to Pilanesberg National Park and Sun City Resort.
  • Criminals target travellers and their bags at airports and on public transport. Vehicles parked or stopped at intersections are also targeted. Criminals have posed as fake tourist police to extort and rob tourists.
  • ATM and credit card fraud are common. Criminals wait near ATMs to rob people who have withdrawn cash. Be aware of your surroundings, and only withdraw small amounts. Keep your credit card with you at all times.
  • Respect local wildlife laws. Only use professional guides or tour operators. Follow park regulations and advice from wardens. Don't swim in lakes and rivers due to the risk of wildlife attacks and disease.

Full travel advice: Safety

  • HIV/AIDS infection rates are high in South Africa. Take steps to reduce your risk of exposure.
  • Malaria and other insect-borne diseases, such as filariasis, are common. Make sure your accommodation is insect-proof. Use insect repellent.
  • You must present a yellow fever vaccination certificate if you're over one year old and travelling from a country where yellow fever is widespread. 
  • Private hospitals are generally better equipped than public facilities. Medical evacuation is your only option in remote areas.

Full travel advice:  Health

  • Drug offences carry severe penalties, including long jail terms.
  • Dual nationals must enter and exit South Africa on their South African passport. Penalties for travelling on another passport include fines, refusal of entry and jail.

Full travel advice:  Local laws

  • You don't need a visa if you're visiting South Africa for tourism purposes for up to 90 days. In other cases, you'll need a visa. Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. Contact the nearest embassy or consulate of South Africa for the latest details.
  • Major routes can be subject to protest activities, often with little or no warning. Exercise caution and stay informed when planning travel and driving.
  • Before you travel by road, check for any disruption on your route. Use major roads where it's safe to do so and verify that alternate routes recommended by your GPS are safe. There have been instances of travellers being rerouted by their GPS through unsafe areas.
  • Rolling blackouts can affect both land and air travel. Confirm with your airline or travel provider.

Full travel advice:  Travel

Local contacts

  • The  Consular Services Charter  tells you what the Australian Government can and can't do to help when you're overseas. 
  • The  Australian High Commission in Pretoria  can provide consular help to Australians in South Africa.
  • To stay up to date with local information, follow the High Commission’s social media accounts.

Full travel advice:  Local contacts

Full advice

Civil unrest and political tension, demonstrations and protests.

Protests and large gatherings can occur anywhere in South Africa at any time. Services may be disrupted. Avoid areas affected by protests and demonstrations. Before you travel by road, check for any disruption on your route and use major roads where it's safe to do so. Verify that alternate routes recommended by your GPS are safe. There have been instances of travellers being rerouted by their GPS through unsafe areas. Follow the advice of local authorities. Monitor local news, radio, and social media for updates.

To protect yourself if you encounter a protest or local tension:

  • monitor local media and other sources for updates, including advice on curfews imposed by authorities
  • don't attempt to cross protester roadblocks, as this could provoke a violent reaction
  • plan for interruptions to phone and internet services
  • avoid areas affected by protests or unrest
  • contact your airline or tour operator to confirm arrangements before you travel
  • follow the instructions of local authorities.

If you're near a demonstration, leave if it's safe to do so.

There have been reports of protesters damaging property belonging to bystanders. Avoid taking photographs or video footage of demonstrations and protests.

More information:

  • Demonstrations and civil unrest

Crime and violence are serious issues in South Africa.

Crime rates in South Africa are significantly higher than in Australia and often involve weapons.

Criminals continue to target tourist vehicles along the approaches to Kruger National Park, including Numbi Gate. Avoid Numbi Gate if possible, only travel in daylight hours, stay on main roads, and be aware of potential criminals in the vicinity of all gates and park approaches.

Armed criminals have been targeting tourist buses along the approaches to Pilanesberg National Park and neighbouring Sun City Resort, including near Lekgalong. If you can, avoid the R556 and use alternative routes available on the N4/R565 via Rustenburg. Travel in daylight hours and be aware of potential criminals near all gates and park approaches and when travelling through small towns.

Police in South Africa deal with a high volume of aggravated crime. Their resources are stretched. You may not get the level of service you would in Australia, especially for less serious crimes such as theft and fraud.

The South African Police Service doesn't have a 'Tourist Police' force. Criminals have posed as 'Tourist Police' to extort and rob tourists, including stopping tourist buses to check proof of identity and search luggage.

Crime at airports

Crime in and around airports can occur.

Criminals have robbed arriving passengers, following them from the airport to:

  • foreign currency exchange facilities
  • tourist accommodation

Theft from luggage also occurs. To avoid this, don't place valuables in checked-in luggage.

Other crimes

Crime in South Africa includes:

  • food and drink spiking
  • mugging, robbery  and theft, sometimes with weapons and violence

Robberies involving violence can occur at shopping centres. South Africa experiences more crime during its rolling blackouts (load-shedding), including at shopping centres. Be alert at all times.

Assaults and robberies on local commuter and metro trains happen:

  • between Johannesburg and Pretoria
  • in Cape Town

Theft from hotel rooms and guest houses does happen, including within game parks.

Criminals have stolen bags and backpacks from public places, including restaurants and bars. Be alert in all public spaces.

To avoid theft:

  • don't leave luggage and valuables unattended
  • place your luggage and valuables in safekeeping facilities

Crime rates are significantly higher after dark.

To protect yourself against crime, avoid travelling to:

  • central business districts
  • townships, unless with an organised tour run by a reputable company
  • isolated beaches, lookouts and picnic areas

There's a threat of kidnapping across South Africa. Kidnappings are generally for financial gain or motivated by criminality. Foreign nationals have been kidnapped in the past. Pay attention to your personal security.

Crime involving vehicles

There have been arson attacks on cargo trucks to block roads in South Africa. Check local media for reports of attacks and avoid these areas. 

If you encounter an attack, don't intervene, don't take pictures or videos, and leave the scene as soon as it is safe to do so.

Thieves posing as vendors or beggars target cars:

  • on highways off-ramps
  • at intersections
  • at traffic lights

'Smash and grab' thefts from vehicles and carjacking are common, particularly:

  • on major routes
  • at major intersections
  • during traffic congestion

Cash-in-transit attacks target armoured courier vans, sometimes using automatic weapons, creating a significant risk of death or serious injury to anyone nearby. Avoid driving alongside, parking next to, or being a pedestrian next to cash drops at banks and other venues.

Criminals also place debris on roads to stop vehicles. Don't stop to clear debris.

Road spiking occurs on South African roads, where criminals place spikes on roads to damage vehicles and force motorists to pull over.

To prevent theft when travelling by car:

  • keep doors locked and windows up, even when driving
  • keep valuables out of sight
  • avoid driving after dark
  • maintain situational awareness and stop at designated areas such as petrol stations
  • if followed by a suspicious vehicle, go to a police station, petrol station or alert a security company

Attacks against hikers

There have been a number of attacks against hikers by criminals on hiking trails and in national parks and reserves. These have included Lions Head, Signal Hill and Table Mountain near Cape Town.

To prevent attacks when hiking:

  • hike in groups
  • advise friends, family or your accommodation provider where you are hiking and how long for
  • be alert to your surroundings and circumstances.

Crime involving cash and credit cards

ATMs in major cities are common. ATMs in rural areas are less common.

ATM and credit card fraud is common. Criminals use skimming devices to copy your card details onto a blank card.

Criminals wait near ATMs and rob people withdrawing cash.

Criminals use spotters to identify victims who have withdrawn cash or made expensive purchases. Be aware of your surroundings.

To protect yourself against cash and credit card crime:

  • only withdraw small amounts of cash at ATMs
  • refuse offers of help at ATMs
  • keep all ATM and credit card payment slips secure
  • keep your credit card in sight at all times when using it

Don't use ATMs that open onto the street. Only use ATMs in controlled areas, such as:

  • shopping centres
  • inside service stations

Scams are common.

Don't be fooled by scams. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

If you're a scam victim, don't travel to South Africa to try and get your money back. The risk of assault is too high.

Fake internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes operate from some African countries. These typically take place on internet dating sites or chat rooms.

Someone you meet online may ask you to send money so they can travel to Australia to visit you. As soon as the scammer receives the money, they end their relationship with you.

Some may ask you to travel to Africa to meet them. When you arrive in Africa, they may kidnap, assault or rob you.

Report fraud and scams to the Commercial Crimes Unit of the South African Police Service in Johannesburg on +27 (12) 743 0148 or +27 (11) 220 4052

Cyber security

You may be at risk of cyber-based threats during overseas travel to any country. Digital identity theft is a growing concern. Your devices and personal data can be compromised, especially if you're connecting to Wi-Fi, using or connecting to shared or public computers, or to Bluetooth. 

Social media can also be risky in destinations where there are social or political tensions or laws that may seem unreasonable by Australian standards. Travellers have been arrested for things they have said on social media. Don't comment on local or political events on your social media. 

More information:   

  • Cyber security when travelling overseas  

Power shortages and rolling blackouts (Load-shedding)

Rolling blackouts (load shedding) are occurring throughout South Africa, which are affecting private residences, businesses, municipal lighting, traffic lights, and hotels. 

Blackouts can also affect water availability, internet connectivity, mobile phone network coverage, fuel availability, residential security features, and food supply. 

Power outages can potentially increase crime; for example, traffic jams due to power outages provide opportunities for smash-and-grab crime. Residences can be targeted when lights are out, and security systems are not functioning. Ongoing conditions have led to increased protests and demonstrations, and in some cases, civil unrest, throughout the country.  

Be prepared for issues that may arise from blackouts: 

  • have a communications plan for when there is no or limited power (landline locations, external mobile phone battery/power banks, additional charging cords, hard copies of important numbers).
  • maintain several days’ worth of non-perishable food, drinking water, and other essential items, including medicine and first aid supplies. 
  • store torches, batteries, radios and basic tools in quick-access locations.  
  • identify safe areas around the city, including hotels, hospitals or police stations that may not lose power. 
  • monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities. 

Terrorism is a threat worldwide. An attack could happen anywhere and at any time.

  • Consider likely terrorist targets and the level of security provided, including places visited by foreigners, such as shopping centres.
  • Always be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
  • Report any suspicious items or activities to the police.

In July 2020, ISIL (Daesh) issued a warning via its digital newspaper that its fighters would start attacking Western gas interests in Mozambique 'sooner or later' and also warned it could conduct attacks in South Africa because of South Africa's involvement in anti-ISIL operations in Mozambique. 

In October 2022, there were reports of terrorists planning an attack in Sandton, Johannesburg.

To reduce your risks:

  • take official warnings seriously
  • monitor the media for threats

If there's a terrorist attack:

  • leave the affected area immediately if it's safe
  • avoid the area afterwards in case of more attacks.

Adventure activities

Wildlife safety.

Respect local wildlife laws. Maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife.

Only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators.

Follow park rules and the advice of wardens.

Swimming safety

Be cautious about swimming in lakes and rivers due to the risk of wildlife attacks or waterborne disease.

Climate and natural disasters

If a  natural disaster  happens, follow the advice of local authorities.

  • Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System

Travel insurance

Get comprehensive  travel insurance  before you leave. 

Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won’t pay for these costs.

If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.

If you're not insured, you may have to pay many thousands of dollars up-front for medical care.

  • what activities and care your policy covers
  • that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away.

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition. 

See your doctor or travel clinic to:

  • have a basic health check-up
  • ask if your travel plans may affect your health
  • plan any vaccinations you need

Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.

If you have immediate concerns for your welfare or the welfare of another Australian, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or contact your  nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate  to discuss counselling hotlines and services available in your location.

  • General health advice
  • Healthy holiday tips  (Healthdirect Australia)

Medications

Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

If you bring restricted medication or don't have the right documents, you could:

  • be arrested
  • have your medication confiscated

This includes countries where you don't leave the airport.

If you intend to bring medicine, check if:

  • there's a limit on how much you can take
  • whether you need any certifications

If your medication is illegal in South Africa, ask your doctor in Australia about alternatives.

Take enough legal medicine so you remain in good health on your trip.

Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:

  • what the medication is
  • your required dosage
  • that it's for personal use

Health risks

Yellow fever

If you're travelling from a country where yellow fever is widespread, you'll need a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter South Africa. This doesn't apply to a child aged under 1 year.

If you can't show proof of vaccination, authorities may not let you enter.

You can't get vaccinated when you arrive.

The rate of  HIV/AIDS  infection in South Africa is very high.

Take steps to reduce your risk of exposure to the virus.

Victims of violent crime, especially rape, should seek immediate medical help.

Insect-borne diseases

Malaria  is present in parts of South Africa, especially:

  • remote areas in the far north
  • remote areas in the east
  • Kruger National Park

The 90km area along the border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe is a designated malaria risk zone. Some areas nearby may have a malaria risk during the year.

Other insect-borne diseases, including  filariasis , are also prevalent.

To protect yourself from disease:

  • make sure your accommodation is insect-proof
  • use insect repellent
  • wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing

Take medicine to prevent malaria if travelling to an area where it's common.

Cholera  mainly occurs in rural areas. More serious outbreaks can happen from time to time.

To protect yourself against cholera:

  • avoid ice cubes
  • avoid raw and undercooked food, such as salads
  • be strict with your hygiene habits if you travel in rural areas
  • drink boiled water or bottled water with sealed lids

Tap water in major cities is generally safe to drink.

  • Infectious diseases

Other health risks

Waterborne, foodborne and other infectious diseases are prevalent.

Diseases include:

  • drug-resistant  tuberculosis
  • Rift Valley virus
  • bilharzia (schistosomiasis)

Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.

To protect yourself from illness:

  • avoid contact with animal tissues or blood when visiting farms or game reserves
  • only drink pasteurised or homogenised milk
  • don't eat raw meat
  • don't swim in freshwater
  • avoid contact with dogs and other mammals

If you're bitten or scratched by an animal, get medical help immediately. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or diarrhoea.

Medical care

Medical facilities.

The standard of medical facilities in South Africa varies.

Public medical facilities are generally low standard compared with Australia. Private hospitals are often better equipped.

Many regional hospitals only provide basic facilities.

There's no shared healthcare agreement between Australia and South Africa.

Before admitting you, hospitals usually ask for:

  • confirmation of medical insurance
  • up-front deposit for services
  • public hospitals will treat foreigners for free, but the level of care varies.

In remote areas, air evacuation to a major city is sometimes the only option in an emergency. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

Decompression chambers are located at:

  • St Augustine's Hospital, Durban
  • Milpark Hospital, Johannesburg
  • Eugene Marais Hospital, Pretoria

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our  Consular Services Charter . But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

If you're detained or arrested, you need to ask officials to tell the Australian High Commission in Pretoria. 

  • Arrested or in prison

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include long prison sentences.

  • Carrying or using drugs

Commercial surrogacy

Get legal help if you're visiting South Africa for commercial surrogacy.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you’re overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.

  • Staying within the law

Dual citizenship

You can't enter or exit South Africa on an  Australian passport  if you're an Australian-South African dual national.

If you try, you may be:

  • turned away from border points
  • jailed for up to 12 months

If you're unsure if you will be treated as a South African dual national, check with:

  • the South African Department of Home Affairs
  • the nearest South African embassy or consulate.
  • Dual nationals

Visas and border measures

Every country or territory decides who can enter or leave through its borders. For specific information about the evidence you'll need to enter a foreign destination, check with the nearest embassy, consulate or immigration department of the destination you're entering. 

Visa-free travel for short stays

You don't need a visa if you're visiting South Africa for tourism purposes for up to 90 days. In other cases, you'll need a visa.

Leaving and re-entering South Africa won't automatically give you another 90 days.

Check South Africa's immigration rules about:

  • overstaying visas
  • working in or migrating to South Africa
  • changing your visa status
  • extending your visa by travelling to a neighbouring country and attempting to return
  • South African Department of Home Affairs

Other formalities

South African dual nationals can’t enter or leave South Africa with a foreign passport. See  Laws

South African authorities:

  • don't accept  provisional travel documents
  • do accept Australian emergency passports

Travel with children

Children travelling on a valid passport with one or both parents are no longer required to present a birth certificate, parental consent letter and other supporting documentation. However, this is a requirement for other situations, such as unaccompanied minors travelling (under the age of 18) or legal guardianship.

To check the requirements for other situations, such as legal guardianship or unaccompanied travelling minors, visit the South African Department of Home Affairs. 

Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you’re just transiting or stopping over.

Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.

You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.

The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport’s expiry date before you travel. If you’re not sure it’ll be valid for long enough, consider getting  a new passport .

Your passport must have at least 2 completely blank pages to endorse your entry permit on.

If your passport doesn't comply with these requirements, authorities may stop you from boarding.

Lost or stolen passport

Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.

Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.

If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:

  • In Australia, contact the  Australian Passport Information Service .
  • If you're overseas, contact the nearest  Australian embassy or consulate .

Carry copies of a recent passport photo with you. You may need to replace your passport while you're overseas.

  • South African High Commission in Australia

Passport with 'X' gender identifier

Although Australian passports comply with international standards for sex and gender, we can’t guarantee that a passport showing 'X' in the sex field will be accepted for entry or transit by another country. Contact the nearest  embassy, high commission or consulate of your destination  before you arrive at the border to confirm if authorities will accept passports with 'X' gender markers. 

More information:  

LGBTI travellers  

There are limits to how much money you can bring into South Africa. Foreign nationals can enter with a maximum of either:

  • 25,000 Rand (ZAR)
  • foreign currency equivalent to $US10,000

You may have to declare the amount of money you're carrying when you arrive or leave.

Local travel

Power Shortages and Rolling Blackouts (Load Shedding)

Rolling blackouts (load shedding) occur throughout South Africa, affecting traffic lights and causing road congestion and delays. It may also affect other modes of travel, such as air and rail travel. Check with your airline or travel provider.

Public transport

Avoid using minibus taxis. Ask your accommodation host or tour guide for advice about using public transport.

Book local transport through a reputable provider.

  • Transport and getting around safely

Taxis and rideshare services

Tensions between metered taxis and rideshare drivers can escalate to violence.

Be careful:

  • around train stations
  • when travelling to and from airports

Avoid catching a rideshare service that is close to a metered taxi.

Driving permit

To drive in South Africa, you must:

  • have a valid Australian driver's licence, and
  • be at least 18 years of age

Driving without the correct licence can affect your insurance.

If you move to South Africa, you can swap your Australian driver's licence for a South African licence. You must do so within the first 12 months of your residency. Contact the issuing road authority if you're requested to obtain a verification of your driver's licence to convert your licence. 

If you're going to ride a motorcycle, check whether your travel insurance policy covers you. Always wear a helmet.

Use extreme caution on roads.

Road travel

There have been arson attacks on cargo trucks across South Africa. These attacks can cause damage to infrastructure, road closures and lengthy delays. Before you travel by road, check for any disruption on your route and use major roads where it's safe to do so. Verify that alternate routes recommended by your GPS are safe using verified sources. Monitor local news, radio, and social media for updates. There have been instances of travellers being rerouted by their GPS through unsafe areas. Follow the advice of local authorities. 

Road conditions are generally good but can vary, especially in rural areas.

Hazards in urban and rural areas include:

  • excessive speed
  • poor driving skills
  • difficult conditions
  • pedestrians and animals straying onto roads, especially at night
  • drunk driving, especially at night

People have been attacked travelling on alternate and secondary roads to Cape Town International Airport. When travelling to or from the Cape Town International Airport:

  • remain on the M2 or N2 highways if safe to do so
  • avoid detours through Borchard’s Quarry Road leading to Nyanga
  • Airport transfers are available

You're more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in South Africa than in Australia.

  • Driving or riding

Emergencies

Depending on what you need, contact your:

  • friends and family
  • travel agent
  • insurance provider

National emergencies                                                                      

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Travel restrictions to Europe will start to be lifted. Image : AdobeStock

Travel restrictions to Europe: What you need to know before booking your trip

(Partner Content) After months of stay-at-home orders, many of us are dreaming of packing our bags and traveling to Europe. Perhaps to try the tastiest gelato in Venice, Italy, or to check off a life-long dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

Nikita Cloete

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, regulations are quickly changing — including entry restrictions. It’s an excellent idea to stay on top of news and to be informed of current restrictions and regulations, especially if you are planning to travel. 

This article includes helpful information for travellers who wish to visit Europe, including restrictions, visa regulations, and why applying with an ETIAS form will be extremely important in the near future. 

Who needs a visa for the EU?

There are 44 countries in Europe, including 26 members in the Schengen Area. Thanks to the Schengen Agreement, participating members maintain open borders with one another. This means that individuals who have access to the Schengen zone can freely travel from one country to another without the need to re-apply for visas. 

Many governments around the world have visa-free agreements in place with the Schengen Area, and therefore do not have to apply for a visa for Europe. This includes the United States, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Japan, among others. Others, including South Africa, China, India, and Russia will need to apply for a Schengen visa before they can enter. 

Who can travel to Europe right now?

Unfortunately, as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, the majority of international travel is at a standstill. Most countries in Europe are closed off to international traffic and flights have either been cut completely or scaled back. Most European Union members ( such as Sweden ) only recommend essential travel, such as those holding EU passports, residents of the EU, students with appropriate visas, and spouses and children of EU citizens. Other exceptions include humanitarian workers, diplomats, and asylum seekers. 

What travellers need to know about the ETIAS

Beginning in 2022, citizens will need to apply for the European Travel Information and Authorization System , also known as the ETIAS authorisation, before they can visit Europe and legally enter the Schengen zone. 

The goal of the ETIAS is to add an extra layer of security for both visitors and locals in the Schengen Area. Other benefits of rolling out the ETIAS program include better border management, smaller queues, and shorter wait times for travellers, so that you can get to your destination faster instead of waiting all day in passport control. 

It is important to note that the ETIAS will become mandatory for nationals of countries who currently do not need a visa to enter Europe. Until the end of 2022, visa-free entry is allowed for such countries. 

How to obtain an ETIAS

As we mentioned in the beginning, applying for the ETIAS will become a crucial step for travellers who want to visit Europe. Thankfully, the process is extremely simple and should only take a few minutes to complete! 

Unlike applying for a traditional visa, which might include a visit to the nearest embassy, an in-person interview, or finding a sponsor, individuals can apply for the ETIAS from the comfort of their own home. All it takes is a device with an internet connection (like a smartphone or computer), a valid email address, and a valid credit or debit card to pay the application fee. 

The ETIAS application asks a few questions regarding the individual’s personal information, passport details, travel itinerary, and a handful of yes/no questions. After the form has been filled out and the application fee has been paid, applicants can expect to receive their approved ETIAS within a few business days.  

When will we be able to travel to Europe again?

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries are re-opening and closing at a moment’s notice. In fact, many governments recently limited travel to and from South Africa after a new variant of the coronavirus, dubbed 501Y.V2, was discovered in December 2020. 

At the moment it’s still unclear when individuals will be able to visit Europe, as each country has its own rules and fluctuations in the number of cases. Some experts believe that travel will pick up once the vaccine is rolled out globally , although this might take a while. Industry experts are looking at the possibility of travel opening up in late 2021, or even 2022 depending on the circumstances. 

Many are putting a positive spin on the situation and exploring their own region. Thankfully, South Africa has plenty of places to see and things to do — and it’s possible to explore safely as long as you follow our tips . Until the disease is under control and experts believe it is safe to travel again, we’ll be checking things off our South African bucket list. 

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As a health care provider, be sure to prepare your globe-trotting patients for travel by providing a quick pretravel risk assessment, consultation, and care. THINK TRAVEL:

  • Ask your patients if they plan on any international travel .
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*Travelers may also need routine (non-travel) vaccines or boosters before travel including influenza; measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); tetanus (Td or Tdap); varicella; pneumococcus; and polio. Check CDC’s Destination Pages for country-specific vaccine recommendations.

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If you are a U.S. citizen planning to travel abroad, you may need a visa to enter a foreign country. Learn how to find your destination's visa requirements.

While not all countries require visas for American travelers, many do. Look up your destination using the U.S. State Department's Learn About Your Destination search tool . On the country’s information page, you will find entry, exit, and visa requirements. You will also find travel advisories and a link to the country’s embassy.

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South Africa Travel Advisory

Travel advisory november 7, 2023, south africa - level 2: exercise increased caution.

Updated to reflect safety consideration when using GPS navigation. 

 Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to  crime  and  civil unrest . 

  Country Summary:   Violent crime, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles, is common. There is a higher risk of violent crime in the central business districts of major cities after dark. 

Using GPS navigation can lead to unsafe routes. GPS navigation may suggest shortcuts through townships as the quickest preferred route but can lead to increased risks of crime. 

 Demonstrations, protests, and strikes occur frequently.  These can develop quickly without prior notification, often interrupting traffic, transportation, and other services; such events have the potential to turn violent. 

Please see our  Alerts  for up-to-date information. 

Read the  country information page  for additional information on travel to South Africa. 

 If you decide to travel to South Africa: 

  • Investigate Research your route in advance, stay on major highways, avoid shortcuts through townships, and avoid reliance on GPS navigation apps.  When driving on city roads, the shortest and fastest route may not be the safest. 

For example:  The safest approach to return a rental car to Cape Town International Airport is to take the N2 highway and follow signs to Airport Approach Rd (exit 16).  Alternatively, request the rental car company to collect your vehicle and subsequently arrange an airport transfer from established taxi companies or established ridesharing services to reach the airport. 

  • Avoid walking alone, especially after dark. 
  • Avoid visiting informal settlement areas unless you are with someone familiar with the area. 
  • Do not display cash or valuables. 
  • Drive with doors locked and windows closed. 
  • Always carry a copy of your U.S. passport and visa (if applicable). Keep original documents in a secure location. 
  • Conserve water and follow  local guidance on water use for tourists  and  Save Like a Local . 
  • Check the  City of Cape Town website  for up-to-date information and guidance on how to manage water consumption. 
  • Refer to  the Nelson Mandela Bay’s website  for updates on water restrictions in effect in the Eastern Cape. 
  • Monitor water levels at the City of Cape Town’s  Water Dashboard . 
  • Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program  ( STEP ) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. 
  • Follow the Department of State on  Facebook  and  Twitter . 
  • Review the  Country Security Report  for South Africa. 
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations.  Review the  Traveler’s Checklist . 
  • Visit the CDC page for the latest  Travel Health Information  related to your travel. 

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6 things south africans need to know before travelling to europe.

Author’s thumbnail (Renee Fortune)

The time has come. That Euro trip you’ve always dreamed about is just a few clicks away and you’ve managed to find the most economical flights possible using Cheapflights.co.za . You’ve saved as many precious randelas as you’ve had to spare, and the excitement is palpable. But, dear first-time Euro traveller, we think there are a few things you should know before you visit. Interested? Then keep reading.

1. Expensive is relative

If you’re planning a trip to Europe, the horrendous exchange rate is guaranteed to be a topic of discussion around the dinner table. And for good reason. For as long as most of us can remember, the rand has performed poorly in relation to the pound and the euro. Saying that, certain things, like clothing, are an exception to this rule. In Europe, you’ll find the crowd-favourites – H&M, Zara, Topshop and Next. The prices will be similar to those you can expect at their South African counterparts, except you’ll find clothing that’s a season ahead. Bonus. Sometimes, things will even be cheaper. Grocery stores in the UK always have irresistible 2 for 1 specials that will save you a few pounds. Eating out is where things can get expensive. Currently, a cappuccino in South Africa will cost you around R25. In Italy, the damage will be around R40. In London, it will set you back R60. In Switzerland, be prepared to fork out R70. Yikes!

2. Prepare for the weather

In South Africa’s major cities, you can generally get away with wearing jeans and a tee and packing in a jacket in preparation for a chilly evening, at any time of year. In Europe though, things can get a lot more extreme. In South Africa, temperatures do drop dramatically on occasion, but in parts of  Europe the cold weather is that much more vicious. During colder seasons, the wind feels like it’s infused with icicles. It has a way of finding any exposed piece of skin and laying siege to it. Don’t underestimate it. Then there’s the heat. Unless you’re a Durbanite, you simply won’t be prepared for the level of humidity that places like Italy or Spain experience in summer. If you know you’re heading into the heat, pack light, flowy clothing that will minimize the stickiness. It will save you needing to dash from store to store, in pursuit of good aircon.

3. English is not so universal

If most of your travels have been centred on Africa or the Americas, you may be under the assumption that the world speaks and understands English. Indeed many would consider it to be the lingua franca of the world. And it is. But that doesn’t mean that non-native speakers will choose to use it, and when they do, it might be begrudgingly. Travel to places like France and Switzerland and you may find that the locals prefer you to try your best to communicate with them in their local tongue. Even if you walk from shop to shop, guidebook in hand, blurting out a few, odd mispronounced words, that’s often good enough to break the ice. Invest in a good translation app or use a guidebook and try your best to memorise a few phrases and words like “please” and “thank you.” It will go a long way.

4. Sightseeing takes time

If you’re one of those travellers who feverishly makes a list of the top attractions, trying to pack as much into a day as possible, you best pack some energy drinks and a generous dose of patience. The fact is, everyone has the same ideas. Everyone wants to visit Harrods and Madame Tussauds, the Eiffel Tower and the Milan Cathedral, so long queues are an unfortunate reality. You may spend the majority of your day waiting in long queues in the freezing cold or sweltering heat just to say that you visited one of the top European attractions. Holiday burnout is real. At the end of the day, if seeing a city is about seeing its top attractions, then go for it. But if for you, it’s about experiencing the culture, blending with the locals and finding hidden gems, then skip the queues and sidestep the tourist traps. It may be much more worth your while to choose one main attraction a day and then spend the rest of it just browsing your surrounds, casually taking in the European atmosphere.

5. Punctuality isn’t always to be expected

Depending on where you are in Europe, transport will massively differ. In the UK, public transport like trains, buses and the iconic London underground, are much more efficient than us South Africans may be used to. And it’s generally cleaner than any other kind of public transport you’ll find in South Africa, which is a big plus. Head to some areas of southern or eastern Europe however, and transport may require a bit of patience. Many parts of Greece and Spain work on Mediterranean time, and that means buses, boats and trains might not depart exactly when they say they are going to.

6. Airbnb is the way to go

Hotel rooms in Europe are relatively smaller than those you will find at South African destinations, and generally, hotel accommodation will cost you a pretty penny. Obviously, the best way to travel is to cut your accommodation costs as much as possible. Remember that friend you lost contact with when he moved to Stockholm? It’s time to reconnect. Alternatively, you can find some really great accommodation options on Airbnb for the same price as a hotel room but with more space and possibly better amenities like stable Wi-Fi and easy access to the inner city. It’s especially economical if you’re travelling in a group of 4 or more – there are some good deals out there if you split the cost. Do your research well in advance – a bit of preparation will save you time and money.

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/en/newsroom/customer-advisories/2024/january/msc-enhances-connections-between-europe-and-south-africa

MSC Enhances Connections Between Europe and South Africa

As part of MSC’s ongoing commitment to enhance services between Europe and South Africa, we are pleased to announce the following updates to our NWC to South Africa Service from March 2024. 

NWC TO SOUTH AFRICA SERVICE 

The current NWC to South Africa Service rotation will be updated with a direct call at Bremerhaven, increasing flexibility for customers shipping cargo between Germany and South Africa.

The new rotation of the service will be as follows:

London Gateway – Rotterdam – Antwerp – Hamburg – Bremerhaven – Le Havre – Sines – Las Palmas – Coega – Durban – Coega – Cape Town – Las Palmas – London Gateway

The first vessel on this new rotation will be MSC BRANKA voyage number NZ411A, due to arrive in Bremerhaven on 19 March 2024. 

travelling to south africa from europe

INGONYAMA SERVICE

In addition, a new feeder service – the Ingonyama Service – will also be implemented, linking the port of East London, South Africa, with Coega on a weekly basis.  The new service will create a direct sea connection between the manufacturing hub of East London and one of South Africa’s main ports, providing a practical alternative to truck transport between the two.

travelling to south africa from europe

The weekly service will commence with the TOKATA F departing from Coega on 25 March 2024.

Designed to increase flexibility for our customers and increase MSC’s coverage of ports of loading to/from South Africa, the additional service coverage will create a more direct offering for cargo moving between NWC and South Africa. The feeder service will also provide improved options for customers shipping goods from the industrial hub of East London with connections to MSC’s global network.

Should you have any questions, please contact your local MSC representatives  in our global network of more than 675 offices. 

National Geographic unveils best travel destinations for 2024: See full list

Kenya, kyoto, and paris, west virginia, alaska, and niagara falls all landed on national geographic's list of the best places to travel to in 2024. but this year there's a fun new twist: experiences.

travelling to south africa from europe

Looking for exciting locations to explore this year? From diving with sharks on Australia's Coral Coast to rafting the white rapids of West Virginia, National Geographic has some unique ideas for you with its annual Best of the World 2024 list .

The list, released first to USA TODAY on Tuesday, includes top destinations in the world and lesser-known ones. They range from Paris and Niagara Falls to the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia and archeological sites on the Spanish island of Menorca.

Unlike previous years, National Geographic is emphasizing must-do experiences at each destination, instead of just listing out locations. And in another step away from previous editions , the publication has added rankings to help readers prioritize their bucket list.

"I'm so excited about this," said National Geographic Editor in Chief Nathan Lump at an exclusive preview in New York last week. "We've really extended it to be bigger than ever before. And we just think that is a really, really great way to serve our travelers who are looking for great ideas all the time."

Lump said the list was being released on Tuesday to coincide with National Vacation Day, the last Tuesday of every January.

Learn more: Best travel insurance

Millions of vacation days go waste every year, and Lump said that he hopes that this year's list will inspire readers to to get out of their comfort zone and explore the world.

The list of the top 20 travel experiences is curated by National Geographic explorers, photographers, and editors. It's “a celebration” of “travel’s power to transform us and our connections with one another," the magazine said.

What are the best places to visit/experiences in 2024?

National Geographic’s top travel experiences for the year are:

  • Horseback safari in Kenya
  • Olympic Marathon in Paris, France
  • Ski tour through UNESCO sites in Georgia
  • Bear-watching at Katmai National Park, Alaska
  • Live music in Kyoto, Japan
  • Magdalena River Cruise in Colombia
  • Road trip Route 66 in New Mexico
  • Explore ancient rock art in Algeria
  • Dive with sharks on Australia's Coral Coast
  • Volcano hiking in Panama
  • Observe the total solar eclipse in Niagara Falls
  • Trek a glacier in Chile
  • Step back in time at Menorca's archaeological sites
  • Ride classic rails through the Scottish Highlands
  • Indulge your taste buds in Isan, Thailand
  • Wander the tea trail in Sri Lanka
  • Gallery hop in Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Raft the rapids in West Virginia
  • Go antiquing in the Hudson Valley, New York
  • Sleep at a floating lodge on Tofino Island, British Columbia

How did National Geographic decide these places?

Putting together and consolidating a list of places is no easy feat but Amy Alipio, senior editor at National Geographic, told USA TODAY that it's her favorite project every year.

To put together the list, Alipio explained that her team taps into their global network of experts around the world. While work on the list is an ongoing process, National Geographic sends an official call out to its global network in April, said Alipio, who has been heading the list since its inception 12 years ago.

“We asked them, ‘What places do you love? What have you seen or done lately that you were absolutely blown away by or where do you want to go next?’” she said.

This year they also asked their experts to share what exactly they would do in those locations and that made the list even more personal, Alipio said.

“We're not just mentioning places," said Alipio. "We're mentioning where to go, but (also) what to do once you're there. I think we're really pinpointing ways people can connect and immerse themselves in a destination.”

Ranking the list

This is the first time that National Geographic has ranked it's "Best of the World" list to give readers an insight into what is trending and timely.

"For example, like the horseback safari (in Kenya), – just because people are really into slow travel," she said. "But also our number two experience is really timely. It's about the Paris Olympics, which are this summer."

"I think it really was kind of like a mixture of superlative and timeliness," she adds.

The rankings have also been added as a response to audience feedback that they needed help prioritizing their travel plans.

"People do ask us like, 'What's the number one thing on this list?'" Alipio said. "And now this year, we finally can tell people, 'Yeah, well, actually, we do have a number one that we really like.'"

What U.S. sites made National Geographic's 'Best of the World 2024' list?

The following U.S. destination's made National Geographic's list this year: Katmai National Park in Alaska, Route 66 in New Mexico , Niagara Falls and the Hudson Valley in New York and West Virginia’s New River.

National Geographic recommends bear-watching at the Alaska national park along the Pacific Coast, which has the highest concentration of brown bears in the world. However, the publication suggests ditching the popular Brooks Camp visitor center and taking a trip through areas like Hallo Bay and Geographic Harbor. This activity is among the top five activities suggested by National Geographic.

National Geographic also recommends road-tripping on Route 66 through New Mexico, catching the total solar eclipse on April 8 at Terrapin Point in Niagara Falls State Park , antiquing in New York's Hudson Valley and rafting through the rapids in West Virginia's New River .

Where to see it: 2024's total solar eclipse will pass through over a dozen states

Just go to this Alaskan national park: You don't need to fly to Norway to view fjords.

Best places to visit in South and Central America

Colombia, Chile and Brazil in South America are among the best places to visit in 2024, while Panama is the best place to visit in Central America, according to National Geographic.

National Geographic recommends taking a cruise on Columbia's Magdalena River, soaking in the natural beauty and culture through the colonial towns and floating villages that surround the river.

Brazil's largest city, São Paulo, is an art-lover’s paradise, and travelers can gallery-hop through the city's numerous galleries and art exhibitions, browse renowned street art, and check out the Museu de Arte de São Paulo , which holds more than 11,000 artworks from around the world.

In Chile, National Geographic suggests trekking through Patagonia’s Northern and Southern Ice Fields glaciers before they completely succumb to rising temperatures and climate change.

If you're into sustainable tourism, National Geographic recommends exploring Panama, which is currently promoting a government-supported community tourism network that allows travelers to select trips that "provide immersive experiences in less-visited areas of the country."

Among the highlights is the Ruta de la Caldera, a system of five hiking trails around the extinct El Valle de Antón volcano.

Best places to visit in Africa

The number one destination on National Geographic's list is in Africa. Going on a horseback safari in the Borana Conservancy , a 32,000-acre preserve in northern Kenya, is the top thing to do this year, says the publication.

“To journey on horseback is to break down the walls – meant to protect, but also to separate – between oneself and the natural world,” Nichole Sobecki, a photographer and lifelong equestrian, said in a statement provided by National Geographic. “Your horse is your guide, and translator, responding to the low growl of the lion, the soft scent of a herd of elephants, the cool morning breeze descending from Mount Kenya’s glacial peaks."

The North African state of Algeria is also on National Geographic's list, ranking at number eight. Algeria is home to Africa’s largest national park and holds one of the world’s greatest concentrations of ancient rock art, according to National Geographic. Tassili N'Ajjer National Park, also a UNESCO World Heritage site , is a "geologic wonderland of sandstone pinnacles and arches surrounded by orange dunes," says the publication.

Best places to visit in Europe / U.K.

Among National Geographic's best places to visit in Europe and the United Kingdom in 2024 is Paris for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Menorca in the Mediterranean Sea for a taste of history and the Scottish Highlands for a luxury train trip .

While Paris is a bucket list location, National Geographic recommends traveling there for the Summer Olympics and participating in the Olympic marathon course. Twenty thousand regular runners will be allowed to run the 26.2-mile loop that links Paris and Versailles, beginning at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) and passing through nine districts before finishing at Les Invalides on the banks of the Seine.

"Amateur athletes will be able to run the same route as the Olympic marathon, by night, enabling as many people as possible to follow in the footsteps of outstanding athletes," according to the race website. "This will be an extraordinary experience, on a unique and original route, celebrating the heritage and history of the Paris region and the whole of France."

Best places to visit in Asia

Among National Geographic's top recommendations for Asia in 2024 are: Kyoto in Japan , Isan in Thailand, the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia – which is located in both west Asia and eastern Europe – and the newly opened Pekoe tea Trail in Sri Lanka.

"Carving a path through cloud-swathed villages and centuries-old tea estates, the new long-distance Pekoe Trail gives hikers a chance to explore Sri Lanka’s quiet central highlands," National Geographic writes .

Best places to visit in Australia

The Coral Coast , stretching almost 700 miles along the Indian Ocean north of Perth, is one of National Geographic top recommended spots for 2024. Underwater activities include exploring the world’s largest fringing reef, Ningaloo Reef, "a stunning counterpart to the over-touristed Great Barrier Reef," and swimming with dolphins, whale sharks, and manta rays.

Between July and October, some 40,000 humpback whales migrate down the Australian coast, giving travelers the opportunity to observe them up-close.

Interestingly, both National Geographic editors, Lump and Alipio, are looking forward to a deep-water adventure at Australia's Coral Coast.

Saman Shafiq is a trending news reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter @saman_shafiq7.

How Houthi Attacks Have Upended Global Shipping

By Agnes Chang ,  Pablo Robles and Keith Bradsher

Shipping routes before attacks

After attacks

Area of Houthi

Continued traffic

Ships diverted

after attacks

Note: To show the changing paths of ships that regularly traverse the Red Sea, 3,461 cargo vessels recorded at entrances to the Red Sea in the last three months are shown. Shipping routes before the attacks show ship positions from Nov. 1, 2023 to Nov. 15, and positions from Jan. 1, 2024 to Jan. 15 are shown after the attacks.

Source: Spire Global

It is an extraordinary detour: Hundreds of ships are avoiding the Suez Canal and sailing an extra 4,000 miles around Africa, burning fuel, inflating costs and adding 10 days of travel or more in each direction.

They are avoiding one of the world’s most important shipping routes, the Red Sea, where for months the Iranian-backed Houthi militia has attacked ships with drones and missiles from positions in Yemen.

The Houthis have said they are seeking to disrupt shipping links with Israel to force Israel to end its military campaign in Gaza. But ships connected to more than a dozen countries have been targeted, and a Houthi spokesman said this week that they consider “all American and British ships” to be enemy targets.

The turmoil has been sweeping. About 150 ships passed through the Suez Canal, which lies at the northwest end of the Red Sea, during the first two weeks of this January. That was down from over 400 at the same time last year, according to Marine Traffic, a maritime data platform. Those detours, and the Houthi attacks, have persisted despite airstrikes by the United States and its allies against the Houthis.

Houthi attack involving commercial vessels

Other Houthi attacks in the Red Sea

Three commercial

vessels were struck

in one day on Dec. 3.

U.S. and allies started launching airstrikes against the Houthis.

Armed Houthi

fighters boarded a

commerical vessel.

Four continuous

days of attacks.

Nov. 15, 2023

Jan. 1, 2024

Note: Attacks involving commercial vessels are attacks where at least one commercial ship is struck or targeted usually with drones or missiles. Data as of Jan. 20.

Source: United States Central Command

Shipping companies have tripled the prices they charge to take a container from Asia to Europe, partly to cover the extra cost of sailing around Africa. Shipowners that still use the Red Sea, mainly tanker owners, face rising insurance premiums.

Container rates have not yet risen as much as they did during the coronavirus pandemic. But retailers like Ikea have warned that avoiding the Suez Canal could delay the arrival of merchandise at stores. Some car factories in Europe have had to briefly suspend operations while they wait for parts from Asia.

Cost of shipping a container from China to Northern Europe

From China to U.S. East Coast

Prices spiked

Houthi attacks

in the Red Sea

Cost of shipping a container from China

to Northern Europe

Source: Freightos Data

This could worsen inflation. JPMorgan Chase estimated on Thursday that worldwide consumer prices for goods would climb an extra 0.7 percent in the first half of this year if shipping disruptions continue.

Here’s what the diversion from the Red Sea looked like for a single ship, the Maersk Hong Kong. The Singapore-flagged container ship set out from Singapore to Slovenia on Nov. 15. It reached Port Said in Egypt merely 12 days later, having passed through the Red Sea and Suez Canal.

On the way back to Singapore, it arrived at Port Said again on Dec. 17. But with the Houthis then ramping up attacks, it then made a U-turn and traveled around Africa instead, only arriving back to Singapore this Friday, after a full month of sailing.

Note: Data is from November 1, 2023 through January 19, 2024.

The Red Sea and Suez Canal have become increasingly important in the past two years not just for ships that take goods between Asia and Europe, but also for oil and liquified natural gas cargos.

European countries tried to stop buying fuel from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine in 2022. So Russia sharply increased the oil it ships through the Suez Canal, much of it to India, while Europe stepped up natural gas purchases from the Middle East, also through the Suez Canal. About 12 percent of the oil carried worldwide by tankers passes through the Red Sea, and almost as much of the world’s liquefied natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

travelling to south africa from europe

Global density

of ships 2015-2021

travelling to south africa from europe

Global density of

ships 2015-2021

travelling to south africa from europe

Global density of ships

travelling to south africa from europe

Source: World Bank

Note: Ship traffic density maps are based on vessel positions reported between January 2015 and February 2021 processed by the International Monetary Fund’s World Seaborne Trade monitoring system.

The Houthis have said that they are seeking to disrupt shipping links with Israel as an attempt to force Israel to end its campaign in Gaza. But ships connected to more than a dozen countries have been targeted, many of them not traveling to or from Israeli ports.

While no deaths or injuries have been confirmed from these attacks, some vessels have been damaged. A car carrier, the Galaxy Leader, was hijacked in November and taken to Yemen. Its 25-member crew of mostly Filipinos has been detained there.

The U.S. Navy has shot down many drones and missiles before they could reach their targets, preventing serious damage of commercial vessels. But it is costly for America and its allies to intercept cheap drones and inexpensive missiles with advanced fighter jets and other military hardware.

The stance of China, a maritime powerhouse, remains a major question in the Red Sea. Beijing has avoided criticizing the Houthis and has not participated in military actions against them. The Houthi attacks have delayed China’s annual surge in exports before its factories are idled next month for the Lunar New Year.

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