South Africa is reopening for tourists, but will UK travellers be allowed to visit?

Sep 17, 2020

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After nearly six months of lockdown from the rest of the world, one of TPG’s favourite countries is reopening its borders for tourism on 1 October.

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“We are ready to open our doors again to the world”, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement announcing the decision, “and invite travellers to enjoy our mountains, our beaches, our vibrant cities, and our wildlife game parks in safety and confidence”.

The country closed its borders to foreign travellers in late March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. South Africa has been one of the world’s hardest-hit countries. But after extensive efforts to flatten the infection curve, the country says it is now ready to begin welcoming back tourists. Pre-pandemic South Africa hosted 17 million visitors a year.

Here’s what we know so far.

In This Post

Can you Visit South Africa right now?

President Ramaphosa is allowing travellers from a select number of low-risk countries to visit South Africa during this initial phase of reopening. It’s not known yet if U.K. travellers will be permitted to visit, as South Africa has not yet released the list of approved countries.

Additionally, South Africa doesn’t yet appear on the FCO’s list of countries it deems safe, and nor does it appear on England’s travel corridors list.

But TPG will keep a close eye on details as they emerge, and update this article with information as soon as it is available.

Before departure

Travellers must be able to show proof of a COVID-19 PCR test, with negative results dated within 72 hours of departure time. Entering arrivals who present a negative PCR test won’t need to quarantine after passing health screenings, including temperature checks, at the arrival airport. But any traveller who either fails to present a timely PCR test or shows additional symptoms upon arrival will be asked to quarantine for 14 days at their own expense.

Travellers must also download the South Africa coronavirus mobile tracing app for the duration of their stay in South Africa.

Upon arrival

Foreign travellers arriving in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Face masks are required in all public spaces
  • A curfew is in effect each night from 12 a.m. midnight until 4 a.m. beginning Sunday, 20 September
  • Most gathering will be allowed at 50 percent of the venue’s capacity, with 250 people allowed at a maximum indoors, or 500 people maximum at outdoor venues
  • Individuals may purchase alcohol for personal consumption between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
  • Beaches, wildlife game parks and other outdoors tourist attractions will be open
  • While hotels, restaurants, and other tourism-based businesses will be open, there may be individual restrictions on capacity and hours, and social distancing guidelines will remain in effect.

Flights and hotels

We don’t yet know if U.K. travellers can enter South Africa during this initial phase of reopening, so TPG chose dates farther out in 2021 to hedge our bets. The great news is that wintertime in the Northern Hemisphere is sunny summertime in South Africa, so a winter trip might be just what you need.

Flights to South Africa

Three major airports in South Africa will open for international tourism in this next phase of reopening:

  • Johannesburg (JNB)
  • Cape Town (CPT)
  • Durban (DUR)

Assuming travellers in the U.S. and UK are allowed to visit, here are some flights we found available in 2021:

Round-trip flights from London (LHR) to Johannesburg (JNB) on British Airways in March, starting from £421:

Hotels in South Africa

Hotels.com lists more than 10,000 properties available to book throughout the country in February 2021, and Airbnb also lists a range of properties available throughout South Africa for late 2020. Unfortunately, a number of higher-end properties, including the beautiful Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town, are closed until further notice.

Marriott lovers, pay attention: Your points go a long way in South Africa. The huge hotel chain has a number of properties in Johannesburg, including the Category 1 all-suite Protea Hotel Johannesburg Parktonian begins at just £40/night in cash, or 7,500 points per night.

Hilton travellers don’t have as many options. The Hilton Sandton outside of Johannesburg’s city centre starts at £87 per night in cash, or 22,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

As a general rule, accommodations in South Africa are quite wallet-friendly for the quality of experience they offer. In 2019, I booked a two-bedroom Airbnb with a balcony view of Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain for just £615 over nine days.

Bottom line

TPG loves South Africa, and we hope you do too. But don’t get too excited just yet: It’s possible that U.K. travellers won’t be able to visit for a little while yet.

Featured photo by Getty Images.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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