Is South Africa Open to International Travel? Latest Updates
International Travel
Jul 14, 2021

For over a year, the world has struggled with Covid-19. For South Africans, it’s meant various levels of lockdown regulations for the past 12 months. Now, the new normal is to wear a mask most of the time and have many of your choices guided by pandemic-related rules.  

This leads to many of us craving some freedom, right? Do you want to get on a plane and go to an exotic island? Or perhaps you simply want family from abroad to visit you? But is international travel even allowed? And if so, to which countries?  

Rules can change at any time, but the facts below will shed some light on what the dos and don’ts are these days.  

Are All Land Borders Open? 

As of March 2021, don’t assume that all land borders are fully open and functional. Around 20 of them are operational, but over 30 have been closed at times during the national lockdown and some remain this way. Anyone hoping to cross one of them, for example, to visit family in a neighboring country, must check whether the desired border is open. Also know that Covid-19 screening is done and you must adhere to other protocols set in place.  

Which Airports are Open to International Travel? 

No longer is the country completely shut off from the outside world in terms of air travel. In content related to Covid-19 international travel, the Gazette mentions three airports that are open for chartered and scheduled international flights: 

  • OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg 
  • King Shaka International Airport in KwaZulu-Natal 
  • Cape Town International Airport 

Even with airports open, tourism will still take a while to recover. This is because of certain countries no fully opening borders for travelers to and from South Africa.  

Can You Use a Seaport? 

If you want to travel internationally by sea—even using smaller craft—the good news is that South Africa’s commercial ports are open. Of course, you need to consider whether your country of destination will allow you entry after you state that you departed from South Africa. This is where the rules can become tricky since each country has its own guidelines.  

Which Countries Can You Travel to? 

Unfortunately, the appearance of a new strain of the Covid-19 virus in South Africa sparked concern for many countries. Several of them—including the United Kingdom—have set additional guidelines in place for travelers from South Africa. For example, in regard to the UK: 

  • Not all tourists will be allowed. You’ll need residence rights or a long-term visa in most cases. 
  • You’ll need to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival, which increases the costs of travel. 
  • Covid tests will be done twice during the quarantine period. 

Still, some travel is allowed across the globe. But, check with your airline or travel agent about the travel information and requirements for your planned trip. Airlines you will most likely be able to book flights with include (but aren’t limited to): 

  • Qatar Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • KLM
  • Emirates 
  • Singapore Airlines 
  • Edelweis 
  • Air France 
  • Lufthansa 
  • British Airways 



The past year has proven how quickly lives and rules can change. Even with the assistance of vaccinations, the future still seems unclear. Will you need a COVID-19 vaccination for international travel in order to get on a plane some day? Only time will tell but let’s all work together to keep each other safe.