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What are the entry regulations when going to South Africa?
Sep 1, 2021

What are the entry regulations when going to South Africa?

On 11 November 2020, the president of South Africa announced that the country would open its borders to all international travelers. Travelers wanting to visit our beautiful and diverse province will be required to follow specific Covid-19 regulations and have the required travel documents.


My flight lands in South Africa during curfew hours, what must I do?

Passengers on inbound flights into South Africa during curfew hours do not have to worry. You can travel to and from the airport and your place of accommodation without breaking the law; however, you will need to show your ticket or boarding pass of proof of your late-night travel if stopped by the police.

Some domestic and regional airlines have adjusted their schedules to ensure their customers can comply with the country’s new curfews. All passengers should check with their airlines before boarding to find out if their flight schedules have changed.

What to do before you leave for your holiday or business trip to South Africa:

If you are planning to visit Cape Town and the Western Cape, you will need to have a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. 

  • The test cannot be older than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin
  • The test result needs to state your name as corresponding to your passport and must be issued by a laboratory with the name of the laboratory indicated on the test. The officials will look for the words “PCR COVID NEGATIVE.”.

It is also important that you have travel insurance.

What is a PCR test?

A polymerase chain reaction test is one of the dominant ways that the global healthcare systems are testing citizens for Covid-19. The test detects the genetic information of the virus (the RNA) in someone that is already infected. The PCR is a swab test and not a blood test


Does South Africa recognise “vaccine passports” or accept proof of vaccination upon entry?

No. Currently the entry requirements do not make provision for any type of “vaccination passport” or “immunity passport”. Any traveller wishing to enter South Africa needs to present a negative Covid-19 PCR test.

For more information about the entry regulations and health protocols, click here.

What is the health screening process on arrival in South Africa?

On arrival in South Africa:

  1. You will need to complete a Traveller Health Questionnaire upon arrival at your point of entry (e.g., airport)
  2. The Port Health Officials will ask you to produce your negative PCR test.
  3. Port Health Officials will screen you for any COVID-19 symptoms, or for contact with people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus. If you present any symptoms or are found to have had exposure to Covid-19, you may need to undergo testing and isolation.
  4. If you are not in possession of a valid negative Covid-19 PCR test, you will need to take an antigen test upon arrival, if you test positive, you will be required to isolate for 10 days at your own cost.
  5. If you are told that you need to isolate or quarantine, you will need to complete and sign a written declaration in which you commit to adhering to quarantine or isolation requirements. You will be liable for all costs..

Are home PCR tests that are sent to a laboratory for testing allowed?

No. A certified medical practitioner must perform all PCR tests.

What if I haven’t done a PCR test before departure?

If you are a foreign traveler visiting South Africa, and you haven’t done a PCR test for Covid-19 before departure, you will need to take an antigen test upon arrival, if you test positive, you will be required to isolate for 10 days at your own cost. Airlines are, however, unlikely to allow you to board without a negative Covid-19 PCR test.

What is an antigen test?

Rapid antigen tests detect structural proteins of SARS-CoV-2 rather than RNA. Rapid antigen tests are less expensive and results are available in a shorter time (approximately 15-30 minutes). While less sensitive than PCR tests, rapid antigen tests are usually positive in patients with high viral loads, and could therefore aid in identifying highly infectious cases. The antigen is also a swab test.

Do children need to have Covid-19 PCR test?

Children below the age of five years do not need to have a PCR test.

If I need to quarantine or isolate, how long would it take?

The legally required period for quarantine or isolation is 10 days.


Who bears the costs of quarantine for a person entering South Africa?

In case a traveller needs to quarantine or isolate, travellers or their employers are responsible for the costs of quarantine or isolation. Travellers or their employers are also responsible for monitoring and testing of travellers in quarantine or isolation facilities. 


What do I need to know about self-quarantine and self-isolation?

A 10-day period of quarantine or isolation applies if:

  • You are entering South Africa without a valid test certificate and are found to need to quarantine.
  • You have been screened at entry into the country and found to be Covid-19 positive or are suspected of having contracted Covid-19.
  • You are in South Africa already and must:
    • quarantine:
      • either because you are suspected of having contracted Covid-19 or of having been in contact with a person who is a carrier of Covid-19, or
    • isolate:
      • because you are confirmed as being Covid-19 positive.

To meet the requirements to self-quarantine or self-isolation you need the following:

  • Separate well-ventilated bedroom with a bathroom and toilet, or a residence that is not shared with people who are not subject to quarantine.
  • Meals served in the room in disposable utensils or utensils that are separate and are washed properly if there are other people not subject to quarantine.
  • Support from friends or family can facilitate the food drop-offs and medicine at the gate if you are not able to make use of online shopping facilities and contactless deliveries.
  • A thermometer that will allow you to measure your temperature daily.
  • Access to the internet and a phone that allows the daily reporting of symptoms.
  • Access to a private physician that you can contact should you need medical advice or care; and
  • A contact number where you can be reached during the period of self-isolation or self-quarantine.

What if I show Covid-19 symptoms on arrival in South Africa?

On arrival in South Africa, if you show Covid-19 symptoms, you will need to undergo a medical examination, which may include testing and isolation.

    Can I transit through South Africa?

    Yes, you can. A passenger may transit through South Africa if they have a certified negative PCR test that was done 72 hours or less before arrival in South Africa.

    If the passenger displays symptoms of Covid-19, upon arrival, the Port Health Officials will:

    1. Take the passenger through a primary and secondary screening, including a Covid-19 test if applicable.
    2. Place the passenger in quarantine.

    What can I expect when leaving South Africa?

    Everybody leaving South Africa will be screened.

    You will have to complete a Traveller Health Questionnaire.

    If you are found to have exposure to Covid-19 or present any signs or symptoms of Covid-19 you will be subjected to a medical examination which may include testing.

    Based on the outcome of the medical examination, a decision will be made by the National Department of Health whether you will be allowed to exit South Africa.

    If you test positive for Covid-19, you will need to go into mandatory isolation or hospitalisation. You will be permitted to self-isolate if you comply with the requirements for self-isolation (as above).


    Is anybody exempt from needing to show a negative PCR test upon entry into South Africa?

    Yes, the following people are exempt (but still need to comply with necessary immigration regulations):

    • 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 who upon arrival in South Africa do not disembark, and
    • Medical evacuation crew undertaking medical evacuations subject to having medical surveillance plans stipulating routine screening and testing of crew.


    What if I travel frequently?

    The National Health Directions state that if you travel through the borders of South Africa on more than one occasion within a fourteen-day period (excluding airline crew and cross border freight operators) your initial test result as presented remains valid for 14 days.

    Please click here to view the Department of Health’s Amended Directions for yourself. 

    Can I travel to South Africa right now?

    Yes. South Africa is open to all travellers for any type of travel, subject to normal visa requirements and the presentation of a negative PCR Covid-19 test upon entry.


    What do I do if I believe that I might have contracted Covid-19 and need medical assistance?

    For health queries, please contact any of these numbers:

    National hotline: 0800 029 999
    Provincial hotline: 
    021 928 4102
    Toll-free hotline: 
    080 928 4102
    WhatsApp “Hi” to 
    060 012 3456

    All lines are operational 24/7



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