Level 1 FAQs

General

  • What is the approved occupancy level for accommodation establishments?

    The Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs issued amended regulations on 17 December 2020 clarifying that accommodation establishments, including hotels, lodges, B&Bs, timeshare facilities, resorts and guesthouses are allowed to operate at full capacity of the available rooms for accommodation, with patrons observing a distance of at least one and a half metres from each other when in common spaces.   

  • Is the Department of Home Affairs open to process travel documents?

    The Department of Home Affairs has resumed applications for identity cards or documents and all types of passports, as well as visa services, including submission of applications through VFS Global in the following visa categories:

    • Visitor’s visas
    • Study visas
    • Treaty visas
    • Business visas
    • Crew visas
    • Medical treatment visas
    • Relative visas
    • General work visas
    • Critical skills visas
    • Intra-company transfer visas
    • Retired person visas
    • Corporate visas
    • Exchange visas
    • Waiver of prescribed requirement  
    • Appeal or review against a decision on application for a temporary residence visa 

    Explanation of these visa categories can be found on the Department of Home Affairs website

    Visa services, including applications for a visitor’s visa will also be rendered at the South African Missions abroad. The application process for Lesotho Exemption Permits and Zimbabwean Exemption Permits has also resumed from 1 October.

  • Which international ports of entry are open in South Africa?

    Johannesburg’s OR Tambo, Durban’s King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports are the only airports that will allow international air travel to arrive or depart.

    All commercial seaports will be opened. Small crafts will be allowed entry into seaports in line with health and border law enforcement protocols. This excludes passenger ships for international leisure purposes.

    The 18 land borders which were partially operational during the previous lockdown levels are fully operational. Additionally, Sani Pass (Lesotho) was reopened on 22 October. Below are the open land borders:

    COUNTRYPORTHOURSCONTACT
    ZimbabweBeitbridge Bridge24 hoursTel & Fax: (015) 530 0070
    EswatiniOshoek07:00–22:00Tel: (017) 882 0138/9
    Fax: (017) 819 3481
    EswatiniMahamba07:00–22:00Tel: (017) 826 0076
    Fax: 017) 826 0077
    EswatiniMananga07:00–18:00Tel: (013) 790 7075
    Fax: (013) 790 0077
    EswatiniGolela07:00–22:00Tel: (034) 435 1070
    Fax: (034) 435 1048
    EswatiniJeppes Reef07:00–20:00Tel: (013) 781 0382
    Fax: (013) 781 0383
    NamibiaNakop24 hoursTel: (054) 571 0008 / 0077
    Fax: (054) 571 0009
    NamibiaVioolsdrift24 hoursTel: (027) 761 8760
    Fax: (027) 761 8931
    MozambiqueLebombo06:00–00:00Tel: (013) 793 7311
    Fax: (013) 793 7091
    LesothoCaledonspoort06:00–22:00Tel: (058) 223 8400
    Fax:( 058) 223 1012
    LesothoFicksburg Bridge24 hoursTel:( 051) 933 2760
    Fax: (051) 933 4540
    LesothoMaseru Bridge24 hoursTel: (051) 924 4300
    Fax: (051) 924 4000
    LesothoQuacha’s Nek06:00–22:00Tel: (039) 256 4391
    Fax: (051) 633 1099
    LesothoVan Rooyens Gate06:00–22:00Tel: (051) 583 1525
    Fax: (051) 583 1530
    LesothoSani Pass06:00–18:00Tel: (033) 702 1169
    Fax: (033) 702 2233
    BotswanaGroblersbrug08:00–22:00Tel: (014) 767 1019
    Fax: (014) 767 1264
    BotswanaKopfontein06:00–24:00Tel: (018) 365 9055
    Fax: (018) 365 9026
    BotswanaRamatlabama06:00–22:00Tel: (018) 390 2533
    Fax: (018) 393 0334
    BotswanaSkilpadshek06:00–24:00 Tel: (018) 366 0011
    Fax: (018) 366 0012

    *Compiled from cross-referencing the list of all ports of entry with the list of closed ports

  • Where can I find a list of international embassies and consulates in South Africa?

    Should a foreign national require assistance in South Africa, a list of all foreign representation in South Africa is available on the Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s website. Diplomatic missions are listed alphabetically by country name.

  • Where can I find a list of South African embassies and consulates abroad?

    Should a South African or foreign national require assistance abroad (e.g. returning home, visa purposes, etc.), a list of all South African representation abroad is available on the Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s website. South African missions abroad are listed alphabetically by the country in which they are located. The individual websites for these embassies, high commissions and consulates abroad are also listed here.

  • Entry Requirements

  • What happens if a traveller arrives at a port of entry without a certified negative PCR test?

    In a statement from government, issued on 8 October, the following procedure was outlined for travellers arriving at a port of entry without a certified negative PCR test:

    1. The traveller will be screened for signs and symptoms on arrival.
    2. Upon failure to produce a certified PCR test result, the traveller will be directed to a testing facility at the port of entry.
    3. A staff member from NHLS will conduct an antigen test, sometimes referred to as a rapid test, immediately.
    4. Travellers must be prepared to pay for the antigen test out of pocket (approximately ZAR 150-170) and can claim the fees from their health insurance service provider (pending the relevant insurance agreement).
    5. If the traveller tests negative, they will be allowed to proceed through the port of entry, provided they have been cleared of red flags at the screening phase.
    6. If the traveller tests positive, they will be required to quarantine at a facility designated by that particular port of entry. They will not be permitted to travel across provinces. Contacts of a traveller testing positive at the point of entry, including those who were in proximity of the traveller within the conveyance, will also be tracked and traced.
    7. Travellers who arrive without a certified PCR test and who refuse to test at the port of entry will not be permitted entry and will be required to quarantine at a designated facility.

    It is unlikely that the intention of government is for the antigen test to replace the PCR test certificate for arrivals to South Africa by air travel. But the antigen test may be a solution for cross-border travel or where testing is poorly available. Therefore, until otherwise directed, international commercial airlines will still require the PCR test certificate before boarding flights to South Africa.

    We are seeking further clarity on this procedure to ensure that travellers who are safe to enter, are able to do so without unnecessary burden, as well as assessing what this means for overland travel between South Africa and neighbouring countries.

  • Who requires a visa to enter South Africa?

    The Department of Home Affairs has reinstated the visa exemption status of the citizens of the following countries which had been revoked at the commencement of the COVID-19 lockdown in March: South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, USA, UK, France, Portugal, and Iran.

    A list of all visa exemptions can be found on the Department of Home Affair’s website.

    Citizens of countries which require a visa to visit South Africa, or applicants of long-term visas, can submit applications through VFS Global.

    Visa services, including applications for a visitor’s visa, will also be rendered at the South African Missions abroad. 

  • Can an arrival self-quarantine, if required, rather than go to a government quarantine facility?

    It is our understanding that self-quarantine should be allowed for South African residents and foreign nationals with approved accommodation. However, this matter has not appeared in a government gazette and there are various aspects on which we are seeking confirmation.

    In support of our understanding, it was stated at the briefing on 30 SeptemberTravellers will have to provide proof of accommodation addresses in case they need to self-isolate at the time of arrival in the country. If they show symptoms and indicate that they have a booking in a hotel or accommodation that is of a character that allows for self-isolation, that traveller would be allowed to enter the country, provided they undergo the required quarantine period.

    The character spoken of above refers to the accommodation or place of residence having access to the following:

    • Separate bedroom with an on-suite bathroom and toilet that is not shared with another person
    • Prepared meals to be served in the room preferably in disposable utensils alternatively separated and washed properly. 
    • Support from friends or family that can facilitate the drop off of food and medicine at the gate if they are not able to make use of online shopping facilities and contactless deliveries. 
    • Access to a thermometer that will allow for the monitoring of temperature daily. 
    • Access to the internet either through my phone or computer to allow reporting symptoms daily. 
    • Access to a private physician that he or she can contact should he or she be in need of medical advice or care. 
    • No visitors are permitted to visit the quarantined person.

    If a traveller arrives in South Africa and exhibits symptoms, they will not be allowed to board a connecting flight without first undergoing a COVID-19 test and receiving a negative result. If the test comes back positive, the traveller will not be allowed to continue their journey but will need to do a 10-day quarantine at a designated site.

  • What are the requirements to enter South Africa?

    The entry requirements are as follows:

    • All arrivals must present a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, obtained not older than 72 hours (from the time the test was administered to the time of departure from the country of origin), from an accredited laboratory.
    • All arrivals will be screened for any COVID-19 symptoms and/or for contact with people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus.
    • Should the traveller display any COVID-19–related symptoms or have been in contact with an infected person, they will be expected to take a mandatory COVID-19 test. This test will be at the traveller’s cost. If the COVID-19 test comes back positive, the traveller will be subjected to quarantine at a designated site, at their own cost.
    • All foreign national arrivals are subject to the prevailing visa requirements.
    • All arrivals must complete an entry screening health questionnaire.
    • Arrivals may be asked to provide proof of accommodation address (or place of residence) should they need to self-quarantine at the time of arrival in the country.
    • Arrivals may be asked to download the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app. Information on the app can be found here.

    PLEASE PRINT OUT ALL REQUIRED DOCUMENTS to present at check-in before boarding your flight to South Africa.

  • Does the COVID-19 certificate need to be signed by a doctor?

    Although it appeared in Minister Naledi Pandor’s briefing on 30 September that the certificate must have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted such test, this requirement does not yet appear in a gazette (and is therefore not law). The gazette only stipulates that the test must be from an accredited laboratory and in line with the World Health Organization requirements.

    The gazette further stipulates that South African authorities reserve the right to verify the authenticity of presented PCR or COVID-19 test certificates.

    The PCR test certificate, however, should clearly state (whether in English or a foreign language) the result of the test, the date/time it was administered, and the contact and details of the practice or facility, etc. in case South African authorities want to verify it.

  • Are there exceptions for frequent travellers?

    A government gazette dated 3 December 2020 states that frequent travellers must provide to the port health official a completed traveller health questionnaire and a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test result, not older than 72 hours from the date of departure from the country of origin. This initial test result will remain valid for 14 days when presented on entry for subsequent travel.

    A frequent traveller is defined in the gazette as a person who travels through the borders of South Africa on more than one occasion within a 14-day period, excluding airline crew and cross border freight operators.

    It should be noted that there was a similar exception that appeared in a 4 October announcement from Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. This applied strictly to SADC business travellers. However, we received traveller reports that airlines would not board passengers without the 72 hour PCR test result.

    Therefore, it is not clear if this will be applied at land and air borders and whether or not airlines will adopt this direction and board ‘frequent travellers’ with a OCR test result older than 72 hours (but less than 14 days).

    In a ‘worst case’, at a land border crossing, if a traveller arrives with a PCR test that is older than 72 hours (but less than 14 days) and the border authorities do not accept this or if the traveller simply arrives without a PCR test at all—according to the new directions, the traveller will undergo a rapid antigen test and if clear, be allowed to enter and carry on travelling.

    We are seeking further clarity and confirmation on all aspects of this issue.

  • What test results are accepted?

    All arrivals to South Africa (South Africans and foreign nationals) must present a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, obtained not more than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin to South Africa. An immunity passport, risk-free certificate, or passport immunity in respect of COVID-19 is not acceptable.

    Although it appeared in Minister Naledi Pandor’s briefing on 30 September that the certificate must be signed by the medical practitioner who administered the test, the gazette only stipulates that the test must be from an accredited laboratory and in line with the World Health Organization requirements. The South African Authorities reserve the right to verify the authenticity of presented test certificates.

    Failure to produce a certified PCR test result on arrival will require the traveller to go to a testing facility at the port of entry where they will undergo an antigen test. Antigen tests (different from antibody tests) are immunoassays that detect the presence of a specific viral antigen. The advantage of the antigen test is that it costs about R150-R170, opposed to R850 for the PCR test, and the results are available in 15 minutes. This procedure is outlined in a statement from government, issued on 8 October. We are raising queries about this procedure and its impact on the tourism industry.

    We are also awaiting clarity on the issue of test certificates in a foreign language but it is likely that they will be accepted, as it doesn’t appear anywhere in the regulations that certificates must be in a certain language.

  • Outbound Requirements

  • Who is allowed to enter South Africa?

    Travellers from any country, whether they hold South African or foreign passports, are allowed to enter South Africa, subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate not older than 72 hours.

    Normal visa requirements prevail, i.e. if you are from a country that was previously visa exempt, then you do not require a visa (or special permission from the Department of Home Affairs) to enter South Africa. A list of visa exemptions can be found on the Department of Home Affair’s website.

  • Which countries currently accept South African travellers?

    This information will be constantly in flux as countries update entry requirements based on infection rates and reciprocity. The most reliable and up-to-date information will be found from the source. Here are examples of official websites:

    IATA’s COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map is also regularly updated with restrictions per country. However, it is still best to double-check this information against what is available from official government sources as IATA cannot guarantee total accuracy given the ever-changing nature of the international response to COVID-19.

  • Do South Africans require a COVID-19 test prior to departing South Africa?

    South Africans (citizens and residents), as well as foreign national travellers, do not require a COVID-19 test to depart South Africa. However, it may be a requirement of some airlines and countries of destination.

    At the airport, travellers will be screened and anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms will be prohibited from boarding. Travellers departing South Africa should also bring with them a completed exit screening questionnaire

    Any additional requirements will be stipulated by the airline and/or country of destination. The airline is responsible to ensure that all passengers comply with the COVID-19 requirements of entry for the country of destination before boarding and will not allow passengers to board who do not meet these requirements.  

    This information will be constantly in flux as countries update entry requirements based on infection rates and reciprocity. The most reliable and up-to-date information will be found from the source (i.e. official government and consular websites).  

    IATA’s COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map is also regularly updated with restrictions per country. However, it is still best to double-check this information against what is available from official government sources as IATA cannot guarantee total accuracy given the ever-changing nature of the international response to COVID-19. 

    Travellers should also be aware that testing may be conducted at some international airports.  

  • Where can I get tested in South Africa before I travel?

    There are over 200 testing sites across South Africa. Pathcare, Lancet and Ampath all list their testing sites per province along with address, contact information and operating hours. The cost for a Covid-19 test in South Africa is R850 and results take 48-72 hours to process depending on patient priority.

  • Aviation

  • What can I expect when flying to South Africa?

    Passengers flying to South Africa should allow extra time for check-in and screening at the airport. It is the responsibility of the airline to ensure that all passengers have the required documentation and meet the requirements to enter South Africa (as well as any other destination country).

    For flights to South Africa, the airline will check that passengers have a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, obtained not more than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin to South Africa and a valid visa to enter South Africa, if applicable.

    Please print out all required documents to present at check-in before boarding your flight to South Africa.

    All passengers must complete an entry screening health questionnaire. This can be completed online up to 2 days prior to departure.

    As passengers disembark, there will be officers standing by to collect the COVID-19 test certificates.

  • What airports are open for domestic air travel in South Africa?

    The following airports are open to domestic air travel in South Africa: 

    • Bram Fischer International Airport
    • Cape Town International Airport**
    • East London Airport
    • George Airport
    • Hoedspruit Airport
    • Kimberly Airport
    • King Shaka International Airport**
    • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
    • Lanseria International Airport
    • Margate Airport
    • Mthatha Airport
    • OR Tambo International Airport**
    • Phalaborwa Airport
    • Pietermaritzburg Airport
    • Plettenberg Bay Airport
    • Polokwane Airport
    • Port Elizabeth International Airport
    • Richards Bay Airport
    • Sishen Airport
    • Skukuza Airport
    • Upington International Airport

    **Additionally open to international air travel  

    Passengers should arrive at the airport at least two hours before a domestic flight to ensure enough time is allocated for screening and operational procedures. Security staff will check temperatures at the entrance and persons with a temperature higher than 38 degrees will not be permitted to enter. Masks must be worn and social distancing of 1,5 metres must be adhered to at all times in the airport.

    Travellers should complete the domestic screening health questionnaire from the Department of Health prior to their domestic flight, and the entry/exit screening questionnaire prior to entering/departing South Africa.

  • Which airlines are operating flights to and from South Africa?

    Each airline will have its own threshold for flying to and from South Africa based on demand for seats—which need to be filled on both inbound and outbound legs. For this reason, we may see that not all airlines immediately begin flying to South Africa. Schedules may remain in flux for some time to come as countries, including South Africa, continuously update their list of permitted countries and entry requirements based on infection rates, which will have an impact demand.

    SATSA will update its website with airline information as and when it becomes available. 

    Specific ticket enquiries will need to be taken up with the respective airline.

  • Inbound

  • Do travellers from Africa have to produce a COVID-19 test on arrival?

    Yes, all travellers from Africa will have to produce a valid certificate from an accredited laboratory of a negative COVID-19 PCR test not older than 72 hours, at all ports of entry. This includes South Africans (re-)entering the country.

    Exceptions to the 72-hour PCR test requirement apply to the following categories:

    • Daily commuters from neighbouring countries who attend or teach at a school in South Africa
    • Children below the age of five years
    • Cross border freight operators
    • Airline crew
    • Medical evacuation crew undertaking medical evacuations

    In addition, frequent travellers, defined as persons who travel through the borders of South Africa on more than one occasion within a 14-day period (excluding airline crew and cross border freight operators), must present a 72-hour PCR test upon initially entering South Africa. Thereafter, this initial test result may be presented on entry for subsequent travel for up to 14 days.

    It should be noted that we have not received first-hand reports of how the 14-day exception is handled on the ground. It is not clear if this will be applied at land and air borders and whether or not airlines will adopt this direction and board ‘frequent travellers’ with a PCR test result older than 72 hours (but less than 14 days).

  • Which countries are allowed to come to South Africa?

    On 11 November 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa is open to international travel from all countries, effectively eliminating the risk categorisation model for different international travellers.

    Entry is still subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative COVID-19 test certificate.

    It was also announced that by using rapid antigen tests and strict monitoring, South Africa intends to limit the spread of the infection through importation. We are seeking further details on the use and availability of rapid antigen testing at ports of entry.

    On the same date, the Ministry of Corporate Governance (COGTA) released the updated Level 1 regulations.

  • Is transit through South African airports allowed?

    Transit travellers are allowed to connect to their destinations through South Africa by air but must comply with the applicable health protocols and produce a certificate of a negative COVID-19 PCR test not older than 72 hours.

    If a passenger in transit displays COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival at a South African airport, they will not be allowed to board their flight and will undergo primary and secondary screening, including repeat COVID-19 testing. If a positive test result is obtained, they will not be permitted to board on onward flight and will be quarantined at their own cost.

  • Terms & Conditions

  • Are suppliers changing their cancellation and booking policies?

    Each supplier (airline, tour operator, etc.) will have its own change and cancellation policies, and many are being more lenient when it comes to deposits or postponements. As a consumer, if you are in a position to postpone rather than cancel, you not only help the supplier and several players along the value chain, but you also keep something to look forward to and don’t have to compromise on your expectations.

    Be sure to read and understand all the terms and conditions of your ticket or booking upfront so that there are no surprises down the line.

  • Insurance

  • Is travel insurance required to enter South Africa?

    Although it is obviously recommended that travellers take out comprehensive travel insurance, the issue of insurance is currently not gazetted and is therefore not enforceable. Moreover, many insurance companies currently don’t have existing insurance products that cover the requirements as mentioned by the government in their briefings.

  • How do I pick a travel insurance policy?

    Be sure to check the requirements of your travel destinations as some, like South Africa and Brazil, are requiring that foreign national arrivals have COVID-19 travel insurance. (However, in the case of South Africa, this requirement for travel insurance appeared in Minister Naledi Pandor’s briefing on 30 September but has not been gazetted and we are seeking further clarity on this issue.)

    Travel insurance policies will differ based on factors such as your age, the length of your trip, and what you want to be covered. A standard insurance policy may cover cancellation for events such as the sudden bankruptcy of a travel company, unexpected illness, or a natural disaster or unrest in the destination.  

    When looking for travel insurance that covers COVID-19-related events, consider the following: 

    • Travel medical: cover your expenses if you or a travel companion, such as your spouse or child, contract COVID-19 while travelling and require medical care or evacuation. 
    • Trip cancellation: cover any expenses incurred as a result of cancelling your trip prior to departure because you, or someone you care for, contracted COVID-19. 
    • Trip delay: cover any expenses incurred as a result of changing COVID-19 regulations e.g. travel bans. 

    Also note that most travel insurances will not cover disinclination or fear to travel. The exception is ‘cancel for any reason’ (CFAR) insurance. This is usually available as an optional upgrade to a standard travel insurance plan and may cost up to 50% more than a standard plan. It typically needs to be purchased within one to three weeks from the time you booked your trip or made the initial deposit, and you must cancel your travel 48 hours prior to departure. Often available in two tiers, CFAR insurance can cover you for 50-75% of your total travel costs. However, CFAR is not yet a common insurance product in South Africa.  

    Know that there is no-size-fits-all travel insurance plan and each additional cover comes at a cost. Whichever you choose, be sure to read the full insurance contract before buying to check whether it covers specifics like quarantine, testing, and flight disruptions.