Want to go overseas? Five FAQs about SA's Covid travel rules answered
Where can you go? What will you need? We've broken down the government regulations to help you plan your international holiday
WHICH DESTINATIONS CAN I TRAVEL TO FROM SA?
The SA government has issued a list of high-risk (so called “red”) countries from which travellers are not permitted to enter SA for leisure purposes. (You can find the list here.)
There is no stipulation, however, that South Africans cannot visit those countries. In principle therefore, you can go wherever you like, as long as you meet the entry requirements for your destination/s.
Bear in mind that leisure travellers are not welcome in many countries across the world, and everyone’s so-called red and green lists are constantly changing. If you plan to travel to any international destination, double check their entry requirements and make absolutely certain that you meet them.
You should also prepare for the possibility that their rules may change while you are there — and consider how that could affect your plans. Many countries that will allow you to enter will also expect you to quarantine on arrival, generally for 10-14 days, so take that into account.
HOW CAN I FIND THE TRAVEL RULES FOR MY DESTINATION?
The best place to find this information will be the official government and consular websites.
Many airlines also have detailed information on their websites for the countries to which they fly, since they are responsible for ensuring passengers meet the entry requirements and will not allow anyone to board who does not meet them.
The International Air Transport Association (Iata) also has a useful world map showing the latest regulations for each country. Find it here.
WHAT WILL I NEED TO FLY OUT OF SA?
- A passport: The department of home affairs has resumed the processing of passport applications. Visit their website for details on how to apply in person. You can also apply online.
- A completed exit screening questionnaire: The department of health requires all travellers to complete this questionnaire, which must be submitted before all flights.
- A negative Covid test (probably): Strictly speaking, our regulations don't require SA residents to produce a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on leaving. You will, however, be screened at the airport and anyone exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms will be prohibited from boarding. At the same time, most international commercial airlines are requiring that passengers produce a certificate of a negative Covid-19 test that has been conducted within 72 hours (sometimes 96 hours) of departure. The same may be required when arriving at any transit airport/country.
- Other documents required by your destination: Such as visas. Again, check your destination's official government and consular websites.
WHICH AIRLINES ARE FLYING OUT OF SA?
Currently, international flights are only possible via three airports: OR Tambo International in Joburg; Cape Town International; and King Shaka International in Durban.
Some of the airlines currently flying out of SA — or set to resume shortly, with flights available for booking — include the following:
- British Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
- Air France
- Qatar Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- Egypt Air
WHERE CAN I GET A QUICK COVID TEST FOR TRAVEL?
The PCR test costs R850 and, if required, must be conducted no more than 72 hours before your departure (for some destinations it is 96 hours). Remember to take your passport along.
- PathCare is offering tests specifically for travel purposes at any of its 67 testing facilities nationwide. The turnaround time is 24-48 hours and results will be sent via e-mail. Alternatively, you can collect a hard copy from your nearest branch. Find a full list of testing facilities and contact details here.
- Ampath also offers tests for travel purposes. You can do a test without a doctor’s referral but will need one if you plan on claiming back from your medical aid. Results will be available within 24-48 hours. You will be sent a link to register to access them on the Ampath website. Alternatively, you can ask for an e-mail. Go here for a list of dedicated testing sites in each province.
- Lancet is offering tests for travellers without a doctor’s referral. You will need to present your ID and pay for the test upfront. The turnaround time is 24-48 hours and results will be sent via SMS or emailed to you upon your request. For a full list of dedicated testing sites in each province, their contact details and operating hours, click here.
- Only in Gauteng, NextPath is offering tests with same-day (24 hours) results for travellers. You do need a doctor’s referral but they can provide one on-site for an additional R200. No bookings are necessary and drive-through tests are also an option. Results are sent via SMS and a report is e-mailed to you. The Sandton testing centre is open every day of the week, including public holidays.
• This article was updated on October 14 with new information regarding the labs offering Covid-19 tests for travellers.
• All information correct at the time of publication. As the Covid situation is constantly in flux, we recommend you double-check with the resources suggested before making any concrete plans.