Vax and relax: Five places in Europe you can take a post-jab holiday
The world is slowly opening to South Africans who've had the jab. If you fancy some far-flung adventure - no quarantine required - here are some options
After slamming the gates on us for our high Covid-19 infection rates and the dreaded Beta variant earlier in the year, the world is slowly tiptoeing back to welcoming tourists from SA, particularly those who have been vaccinated.
Of course, our incredible neighbours in Southern Africa — including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique — have been open for a while, but Europe’s reopening has been far more tentative.
At last things are gradually starting to change. If you’ve sewn up your second Covid jab — or plan to in the near future — and you fancy a holiday a bit more far flung, you’ve got more options now than since the pandemic began.
Note that the two vaccines currently administered in SA — the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) and the Pfizer Inc-BioNTech — are both accepted by these countries.
The Republic of Ireland has always been a particularly appealing destination for South Africans, not only for its wealth of natural and historical attractions but also because our “Green Mamba” passport is welcome there visa-free.
Now, SA is among 23 countries that were recently removed from Ireland’s list of “designated states”, those from which new arrivals are required to spend 14 days in quarantine.
Fully vaccinated South Africans can now enter without quarantine, provided they have not been in any countries that it deems “high-risk” - currently Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia andPeru - in the 14 days before arrival.
Full vaccination means at least seven days have passed since your second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech, or 14 days after the single-dose of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen).
Unvaccinated travellers can also enter with a negative PCR test result taken a maximum of 72 hours before arrival.
It is worth noting, however, that currently only people who can prove they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months are allowed entry to Ireland's restaurants, bars and other forms of indoor hospitality. Outdoor seating remains available for all.
Children between 12 and 17 will be required to have a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours before arrival, even when travelling with fully vaccinated or recovered adults. Children under 12 do not need a PCR test.
Queries for the Irish Embassy in SA must be submitted via this form.
“Vacation without drama” is the catchphrase of Switzerland Tourism - which could feasibly add “... but with vaccines” to that for the time being.
Non-vaccinated South Africans are not welcome in this famously mountainous, central European nation except under extreme circumstances, and leisure travel doesn't count. If you’re fully vaxxed though, the doors are wide open and they're quarantine free.
As confirmed by the Swiss Embassy in SA, Switzerland is open for travellers from non-Schengen states who meet certain requirements — one of which is proof of vaccination.
The vaccination proof must include the person’s surname, first name, date of birth as well as date and place of vaccination and the vaccine used.
Find more information and the latest on Covid-19 entry regulations at the Swiss Embassy in SA.
Fully vaccinated travellers from SA are welcome in France - that is 28 days after receiving the Johnson & Johnson and seven days after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccines. You are also eligible for entry if you have recovered from Covid-19 and have had one dose of a vaccine.
France has an online system through which those vaccinated outside the EU (including in SA) can have their status verified and converted to a format that is recognised in France. You can find the application form here.
At the time of writing, it is stated that the system will be open to non-European foreign nationals arriving before September 5, but that “requests concerning arrival at a later date will be processed later”.
Until the end of September, the Covid certificate is not required for minors aged 12 to 17 years, and children under 12 are not subject to Covid certificate requirements.
Once your application has been processed you will receive a QR code which you can print out and carry with you or add it to France’s official contact tracing app, called TousAntiCovid app - for easy scanning at venues requiring a pass.
You can find more information about the app and links to download from the Apple Store and Google Play here.
For the latest on Covid-19 entry requirements as well as online visa applications, see the French Embassy in SA.
Fully vaccinated travellers arriving from SA are allowed to enter Spain. Both vaccines are acceptable 14 days after the last shot.
You will have to fill out a health control form before departure, which you can do here. That page also has links to download the SpTH app (available for Android and iOS), which you can use instead to fill out the health form.
As with France, once your form has been processed you will receive a QR code which you must present both at the time of boarding and upon your arrival in Spain. Children under 12 do not need proof of vaccination but must complete the Health Control Form and obtain a QR code.
BLS International, which normally processes Spanish visa applications in SA, remains closed due to Covid-19. Residents in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape must apply at the Consulate General of Spain in Cape Town. Residents in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, the Free State, North West and Lesotho must apply at the Embassy of Spain in Pretoria.
For up-to-date Covid-19-related travel rules, see here.
Since August 1, SA has been listed by Germany as “only” a high risk area — and not a (worst-case) area of variant of concern. Hence, fully vaccinated South Africans can enter without having to quarantine, provided at least 14 days have elapsed since the last vaccine dose.
The website for the German missions in SA, Lesotho and Eswatini addresses what qualifies as acceptable proof of vaccination and states specifically that “the commonly used SA Vaccination Record Card — if properly filled out — does fulfil these formal requirements”.
You will also have to register online before arriving in Germany and carry proof of registration with you.
Finally, you will need a Schengen visa. Germany has outsourced the visa-application process to TLScontact, which has branches across the country.
You can find the latest Covid-19-related entry requirements here.