South Africa travel rules: Can I go on holiday there and what tests do I need?

As of 11 October, South Africa is no longer on the UK’s red list for international travel.

This means that travellers coming into Britain from South Africa no longer have to quarantine for 11 nights in a government-mandated hotel, at a cost of thousands per person – making a holiday there a much more appealing prospect, just in time for winter.

But is South Africa letting UK travellers in?

Here’s what we know so far.

Can UK arrivals enter South Africa?

Yes. Foreign nationals may visit South Africa for any reason, including tourism.

You must arrive with a paper copy of a negative PCR test result (South African authorities recommend printing a few of these as you may have to show them at various stages of your trip), taken within the 72 hours prior to your departure from the UK. This is regardless of vaccination status.

“It should be conducted by a certified medical practitioner, and should have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted the test marked clearly on it, as well as the time at which the sample was taken,” read the guidelines on the website.

If you fail to present this, you will have to pay to take an antigen test at the airport you have arrived at, and if you test positive you will have to quarantine for 10 days at your own expense.

Otherwise, arrivals with a negative test result are free to continue with their travels.

You’ll also need to fill out a health questionnaire before travel, and thermal screening is in place at South African airports.

Are flights and holidays operating to South Africa?

Yes – flights are operating with the major airlines, albeit a slightly reduced service. Virgin Atlantic, for example, is currently operating three flights a week to Johannesburg but none to Cape Town, though this may change in the coming months.

British Airways has several flights per week between London and Johannesburg, but none to Cape Town.

In terms of package holidays and tours, tour operators such as Trailfinders never stopped offering future travel to South Africa for those who wanted to book ahead.

“Trailfinders sends more UK visitors to South Africa than any other tour op. After it was removed from the red list late last Thursday, our South Africa enquiries immediately increased substantially, the destination was once again back in our top 10 most popular last week,” a spokesperson told The Independent.

As of 11 October, the Foreign Office has also removed its advice against all but essential travel to the country, so British travellers should have no problem getting a valid travel insurance policy to cover their trips.

What’s the Covid situation like on the ground?

South Africa has been easing its travel restrictions in the past few weeks.

On 30 September President Ramaphosa announced that the country would move from an alert Level 2 to Level 1 in a bid to boost economic activity – the night-time curfew has been reduced to midnight-4am, and no alcohol is sold after 11pm.

You have to wear a mask in public places, and on public transport – refusing to do so is a criminal offence – and numbers are limited on buses and trains.

Internal flights are operating within the country, and you must wear a face mask on all flights at present.

What about coming back to the UK?

Since South Africa is now off the red list, and on the symbolic ROW (“rest of world”) list, fully vaccinated UK travellers only need to book a day two PCR test for their return, taking it and sending it off for results within the two days after landing.

Unvaccinated travellers or those who have only had one jab will need to self-isolate for 10 days on return, plus take an additional PCR test on day eight of quarantine.


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