After years of record low fares and an ever shrinking world, countries closed their borders in response to covid-19, and all of a sudden, the world felt big and imposing again. For all travelers, South Africa’s announcement to close travel until mid 2021 brought even more shock and dismay, particularly as autumn months set in. There’s good news though.

In a stunning announcement, South Afric reversed plans to remain closed to outside visitors, and will instead reopen October 1st, 2020 to international tourism. Can you join the fun? Perhaps, but you’ll definitely need a negative covid-19 test for arrival.

35857495 - colorful bathhouses at muizenberg, cape town, south africa, standing in a row.

South Africa Is Opening

South Africa is moving to “Level 1”, its lowest level of covid-19 emergency alertness on September 21st, and will open international borders on October 1st, 2020 as part of the vital recovery process.

The move is particularly surprising due to South Africa’s early calls to quash all tourism, which ruled the destination out for many. In the early months of the covid-19 pandemic, South African officials preemptively ruled out any international tourism and travel until February, 2021, and the “good” news of travel rebounding on October 1st represents a stunning change.

New Entry requirements for South Africa

All travelers hoping to visit South Africa will be required to provide a recent negative covid-19 test prior to travel, or will face a quarantine upon arrival into South Africa. The covid-19 test must be certified and approved for use in travel.

On arrival into approved South African gateways all international travelers will undergo basic screening, and any symptomatic travelers may be asked to isolate until another negative covid-19 result is given.


Hot tip: drinking too much on the plane can make you look sweaty and unwell, which health officials may deem necessary for additional testing.


All covid-19 tests must be taken within 72 hours of arrival into South Africa, and all air arrivals will be funneled through Johannesburg (JNB), Cape Town (CPT) and King Shaka Airport in Durban (DUR). Direct flights to each hub are available from most regions of the world, and airlines including Qatar Airways and Emirates offer one stop service from virtually any gateway.

Once arrived, travelers visiting South Africa must also download a track and trace app, which will help alert any visitors of potential contact with infected persons. Quarantine is not currently required for passengers flying into South Africa, provided they bring a negative covid-19 test, download the tracing app and are on eligible country lists.

Should you go? South Africa is battling the pandemic along with the rest of the world, so only book a trip after creating a comprehensive overview of medical options and what insurance coverage may be necessary, in the event that things aren’t all sunny days.

Who Can Visit South Africa When Travel Reopens?

Unfortunately, not all details on which countries will be included on South Africa’s initial visitor list are available at the time, but it’s understood that most travelers will be eligible again. Countries with the highest current rates of covid-19 infection are said to be excluded, or may potentially face additional quarantine, which could mean bad news for US visitors.

Meanwhile, most of Europe, which represents large visitor demographics for winter travel to South Africa would likely be included, and eligible to visit, as would the Middle East, thanks to relatively low infection numbers. Travel to or from Asia remains largely closed off, but North American gateways including Canada are likely to be eligible, in addition to South American countries.

Just as winter getaways were beginning to seem like a pipe dream, one of the greatest options in any year is once again available. Here’s what to expect in Cape Town, a love letter to Cape Town, and all you need to know about safety. Will you find yourself in Cape Town this year?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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