a body of water with a mountain in the background

It was all sounding so good, but like many things in the covid-19 era, South Africa’s reopening to tourism was always going to be subject to change.

Whether people like it or not, and apparently many do not, South Africa is taking a harder line against visitors from countries with “high” rates of infection than expected, leaving travelers from key markets including the UK, France and the USA out of initial plans. With airlines planning to start flights as of this week, it’s chaos all around.

South Africa Bans High Risk Travelers

South Africa reopened international borders on October 1st, but not at all how many expected. When the country failed to provide a list of countries it deemed high risk in meaningful advance of borders opening, many believed it would not specifically ban visitors from any area, due to the strong covid-19 testing protocols required to enter the country for all, and health screenings on arrival too.

But, in a jumbled, utterly chaotic fashion, South Africa used the last two days of the month to let the world know that effective today, October 1st, leisure visitors from high risk countries would not be allowed to enter. Let’s hope no leisure travelers from the USA, UK or a variety of other countries were already on board.

Exceptions for travelers from South Africa’s list of “high risk countries” will only be made for business travelers, high skill visas, diplomats and “sports people”, according to tourism ministers. So which travelers are left out of initial tourism plans?

Here’s the list of countries currently on South Africa’s “red list”, from which all leisure travelers are not welcome, including…

  • Albania ​​​
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Austria
  • Bahrain
  • Belgium
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brazil ​​​ ​​​​
  • Chile
  • ​​​Columbia
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia 
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Ecuador
  • France​​​
  • Georgia ​
  • Greece
  • Guatemala ​
  • Guyana​​​
  • Honduras
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Iran
  • ​​​Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Jamaica
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Luxemburg ​​
  • Maldives
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro ​​​
  • Nepal ​​
  • Netherlands 
  • North Macedonia
  • Oman
  • Palestine
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru ​​​
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Slovakia
  • Suriname
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
  • ​​​United Emirates
  • United Kingdom              ​
  • USA
  • Venezuela

Currently, the only way around entry bans for tourist arrivals from these countries is to spend 10 days in a country deemed low risk, at which point South Africa will consider a person eligible for entry. This, like everything else, is subject to change.

a city and a body of water

When Will South Africa’s List Change?

South Africa promises to recalibrate its dreaded “red list” on a rolling two week basis, meaning although US, UK and most European travelers are currently banned, that may not be the case circa mid October. Naturally, without any assurance your country will leave the list, or remain off the list makes it incredibly hard to plan future trips.

The South African Department of Home Affairs website is the best resource to confirm any entry changes.

This very issue is a key reason airlines and tourism officials are pushing for greater testing access, to offer double testing to eliminate “knee jerk” moves which change entry eligibility. Few people are booking trips to South Africa on less than two weeks notice.

For now, travelers can only hope Zimbabwe continues full steam ahead with visitor plans which do not bar visitors from over 50 countries. There’s plenty open in Africa already.

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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  1. I haven’t heard the South African government talking about it’s citizens working in the U.K., who wish 2visit their country! Can we hear more about them?

    1. I am lady from South Africa working in UK, what to do in order to go home and see my family. I have lost three family members, now it’s really hard, we need clarity.

  2. I am in USA and I want to repatriate to South africa but in all South African offices in the USA are not answering the phones and they are not returning the messages left on their phones. I even personally went to Los Angels office, the security told me that nobody is allowed to enter the building. I have already bought the ticket. What should I do?

    1. As I understand South African citizens are allowed to go home, similarly to business persons etc. Still subject to having a negative test result within 72hrs before departure…

  3. I am a Indian Citizen married to a South African National its been over 10 months i haven seen my wife. I would appreciate any help offer for me ro repratite so I can be with my family in South Africa

  4. Shambolic as per usual!! What about SA who have to get home in emergencies ie parents close family dying

  5. How long is gonna take the situation of the people whose family is in South Africa. I can’t book the tickets now. I am here in the UK

  6. Its very sad that the SA High Commission Office is not accessible, the telephone line is TEMPORARILY out of order. Where do we get Emergency Passports.
    Covid test centres are also not user friendly, you are advised to email for queries. Very streessful & frustrating.

  7. My son who is SA has been working in Fiji and wants to come home for Christmas. It takes 2 full days to travel home and altho he could get a pass from a doctor in Fiji, by the time he arrives in Durban it will be more than 72 hrs so he would have to isolate for 2 weeks There are no cases in Fiji and haven’t been for months. Does the isolation rule apply to him

  8. I am a South African citizen working in Iraq. I go back to Douth Africa every 3 months to visit my family and take care of matters requiring my attention. I haven’t been able to do do during the lockdown and was hoping to be able when the borders opened. Unfortunately Iraq is on the list of High risk countries.
    Would I be able to visit my family and return back to Iraq.

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