Unlocking the World

Traveling to South Africa during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN StaffUpdated 29th November 2021
Cape Town is one of the world's most striking cities.
Editor's Note — Coronavirus cases are in flux across the globe. Health officials caution that staying home is the best way to stem transmission until you're fully vaccinated. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on November 29.
(CNN) — If you're planning to travel to South Africa, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

The coronavirus continues to be a significant threat to health in South Africa and some countries, including the UK and the United States, currently advise against all but essential travel there. The emergence in southern Africa of the Omicron variation of coronavirus has prompted many countries to add South Africa to their no-go lists, barring or restricting access to anyone who has been there in recent days.

What's on offer

Breathtaking coastline, buzzing cities, wine country and, of course, the Big Five -- South Africa is a real bucket list destination. Most tourists pair a safari -- the 7,523 square mile Kruger National Park, in the northeast of the country, is one of the largest game reserves in Africa -- with a city break in coastal Cape Town. But there's so much more on offer: sprawling, tree-lined Johannesburg is one of the largest man-made forests in the world; beachside Durban, home to much of South Africa's Indian population, is one of the world's best places for a curry; and other natural paradises are all over the country, including iSimangaliso Wetland Park, whose Zulu name, "something wondrous," is the perfect description. And of course there's Soweto, the township outside Johannesburg, whose museums bring the horrors of Apartheid home and whose restaurants are some of the best in the city.

Who can go?

Anyone can visit, subject to usual visa regulations, though not all borders are open and there are strict protocols to follow -- see below.

Entry requirements

International arrivals must fly into Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town within curfew hours. All travelers must complete a screening form within 48 hours of their trip to produce on their device at the airport. On arrival, they must present a paper copy of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival. It must be signed by the person who took the test. You should take several copies, in case you have to hand them over at different stages. Those arriving without a test will be subject to an antigen test and will be quarantined for 10 days at their own expense if they test positive.

US CDC travel advisory:

Level 4: Very high. Avoid travel to South Africa.

Useful links

Our latest coverage

If you're wondering how South Africa has been looking recently, here's a look at its summer under lockdown from January.
Looking for inspiration? We picked our favorite places to visit in this astonishing country. Or dream of a trip with this article about the aptly named Paradise Beach.