Unlocking the World

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

CNN StaffUpdated 17th May 2022
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 May 17.
(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 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. Some such restrictions have since been lifted.

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 protocols to follow -- see below.

Entry requirements

As of March 22, fully vaccinated travelers can enter South Africa without taking a PCR test provided they have proof of their inoculations. Unvaccinated arrivals can also enter provided they show proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of the date of travel. Those arriving without a test, if required, 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 3: High level of Covid-19 in South Africa. Make sure you're fully vaccinated before traveling.

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.