Travel Restrictions for South Africa: Coronavirus and Limitations

coronavirus south africa travel restrictions

South Africa welcomes millions of international visitors every year and encourages new arrivals.

That is why the government is currently testing a new electronic visa to help foreigners obtain a permit to travel to South Africa online in minutes, making holiday planning fast and hassle-free.

Of course, the South African authorities have certain travel restrictions and limitations in place to ensure the safety of South African citizens and everyone in the country. Moreover, temporary urgent measures can also be taken if the situation requires it. That is why both locals and foreigners alike should always check for official announcements from the government.

Travelers will find useful information on this page regarding South African travel restrictions — both permanent and temporary. That includes the extraordinary measures taken to fight the coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus and South Africa: Travel Bans Are Now Active

The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to over 180 countries worldwide has lead the World Health Organization to define COVID-19 as a pandemic. For this reasons, several governments across the globe are joining forces and taking steps to minimize the risk of further contagion.

The South African government has announced that starting from Wednesday the 18th of March 2020, travel to and from the most affected areas is suspended.

Not only it will be impossible for visitors from the worst-hit countries to enter South Africa and vice versa, but visas already granted to those citizens will be revoked. Moreover, those who can enter South Africa visa-free thanks to bilateral agreements must now apply for a permit prior to departure.

The Minster of Transport Fikile Mbalula commented:

“Aviation is one of the high-risk sub-sectors of transport which enables high levels of mobility and by extension the rapid spread of the coronavirus. As a sector, we are continuously putting measures in place to mitigate the risks.”

The ban is intended to be temporary and regulations will return to normal once the coronavirus situation improves.

Who Is Affected by the South African Travel Ban?

The new travel restrictions are so far limited to those travelers who come from high-risk countries:

  • China
  • South Korea
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Germany
  • The United Kingdom
  • The United States

Foreign nationals who have recently been to the above areas will not be let into South Africa and their visa applications will be rejected.

Citizens of medium-risk countries will need to submit a health certificate together with their visa application. The document must certify that the visitor has been tested for coronavirus and that the results are negative. Medium-risk countries include, for example, Portugal, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

South Africa passport holders returning from one of the countries affected by the travel ban will undergo medical screening and will be put in quarantine.

The minister of home affairs Aaron Motsoaledi reassured the public that South African borders will not be closed and that movement will only be “slowed down” for now.“Our aim here is to stop the spread of disease, not to alienate human beings” he stated.

Those who are already in South Africa may extend their visa until July provided that they can give a “good reason” for it.

Locals are encouraged to limit movement to the strictly necessary, however, no travel ban is being enforced for domestic movement.

As this is an ongoing situation, everyone is invited to keep up to date with official statements as new developments unfold.

How Has Coronavirus Affected South Africa?

Fortunately, South Africa has so far reported an extremely low number of cases. Only 150 people have been infected and coronavirus has yet to make any victims.

Exploring South Africa is therefore relatively safe. However, it’s paramount that everyone does their part to limit the contagion. Medical experts around the world are advising people to:

  • Wash their hands frequently with warm water and soap
  • Use hand sanitizer when water and soap are not available
  • Carry a face mask
  • Avoid contact with infected people
  • Cover their face with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing

Other Travel Restrictions for South Africa

Of course, other permanent travel restrictions apply. Normally, all foreigners that complete visa applications for South Africa accurately and submit all relevant documents are granted their permit swiftly.

All those entering South Africa must have an eligible passport with at least 30-day validity after their intended date of departure. Should the passport expire before then, travelers may be prevented from entering the country.

Other requirements that must be met by foreign nationals include:

  • Health. Some passengers are obliged to provide documentation such as a yellow fever vaccination certificate
  • Travel plans. Foreign citizens may be required to provide proof of their intention to leave South Africa after their trip (typically, this may be a return or onward ticket).
  • Sufficient funds. Travelers’s financial means must be sufficient to support them for the entirety of their time in South Africa. Some may be asked to provide proof in the form of a bank statement, credit card, or cash.
  • Good character. Those with criminal convictions or a history of deportation from other countries may be prevented from entering.

Not meeting the above requirements and not showing the relevant documentation if asked may result in being denied entry.