South Africa Covid-19 travel guide: face mask and visitor PCR test rules eased

Vaccinated travellers no longer need pre-departure negative test results and face masks are only required indoors

Face masks are no longer required in outdoor places in South Africa. Reuters
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South Africa has further eased its Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Fully vaccinated travellers flying to the country no longer need to take a pre-departure PCR test.

New rules also mean that face masks are not required in outdoor places, said President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The president said, in a televised address, that the county was “learning to live with the virus in our presence”.

The changes come after South Africa recorded declining rates of Covid-19 cases and severe illness from the virus in recent weeks. The country has been one of the hardest hit in Africa by the pandemic.

If you're considering visiting South Africa, here’s everything you need to know about travelling there, from what to do before setting off, to the rules in place when you arrive.

Is South Africa open to tourists?

Tourists are welcome in South Africa, with no PCR tests for vaccinated travelers. Unsplash

Travellers are welcome in South Africa again. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated tourists can visit and there are different rules in place for each.

Transit passengers can also fly to South Africa, and should follow the rules in place for their final destination.

Do I need a PCR test to fly to South Africa?

Only unvaccinated passengers will need to take a PCR test before flying to South Africa. This must be taken no more than 72 hours in advance of travel and children under the age of 5 are exempt from vaccine and testing requirements.

Passengers need to have received their final dose of a vaccine at least 14 days before flying to South Africa.

What do I need to do before I go?

Travellers at a check-in counter at Johannesburg airport in November 27, 2021, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant Omicron. AFP

As well as being vaccinated or taking a PCR test, visitors also need to complete a traveller health questionnaire before flying to South Africa.

Downloading the Covid Alert South Africa app is another requirement for all arriving passengers. This is so authorities can contact-trace people once they land in the country.

On arrival at the airport, travellers should expect to be screened for symptoms of Covid-19, including undergoing temperature checks.

What Covid-19 restrictions are in place in South Africa?

Boys pass a mural of children wearing facemasks amid the coronavirus disease outbreak, at Soweto's Kliptown, South Africa, October 27, 2021.  Reuters

President Ramaphosa also announced changes to Covid-19 rules in place in South Africa during his televised address.

Capacity limits at sports stadiums and music venues will be lifted and face masks no longer need to be worn outside.

Travellers will still need to wear face masks indoors, including at all times in airport terminals, and should follow the rules in place for the province they are visiting.

Do I need to quarantine in South Africa?

Travellers flying to South Africa do not need to quarantine, regardless of vaccination status.

Which airlines are flying to South Africa?

Etihad Airways resumed flights from Abu Dhabi to Johannesburg earlier this month. The eight-hour direct journey starts at about Dh2,100, depending on date of travel. From Dubai, you can fly with Emirates to Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, with fares starting at Dh2,800. South African Airways also flies from the country to the UAE.

When is the best time to visit South Africa?

South Africa enjoys winter from May to August. Photo: Shutterstock

Part of the southern hemisphere, South Africa has a temperate climate and enjoys winter from May to August, and summer from December to March.

The best time to visit is in the spring, for warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine. May to October is dry season, which is great if you're going for a safari trip, thanks to low grass providing better visibility and temperatures being much cooler than in summer. April is a good shoulder season if you want to avoid the crowds.

Updated: March 25, 2022, 2:03 PM