face masks and visitor PCR testing rules relaxed


South Africa has further eased its Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Fully vaccinated travelers entering the country no longer need to take a PCR test before departure.

New rules also mean face masks are not mandatory in outdoor venues, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

The president said in a televised address that the county was “learning to live with the virus in our presence.”

The changes come after South Africa recorded falling rates of Covid-19 cases and severe illness from the virus in recent weeks. The country has been one of the hardest hit in Africa by the pandemic.

If you’re thinking of visiting South Africa, here’s everything you need to know about traveling there, from what to do before you go, to the rules when you arrive.

Is South Africa open to tourists?

Travelers are once again welcome to South Africa. Vaccinated and unvaccinated tourists can visit and there are different rules in place for each.

Transiting passengers can also fly to South Africa and must follow the rules in place for their final destination.

Do I need a PCR test to travel to South Africa?

Only unvaccinated passengers will be required to take a PCR test before flying to South Africa. This must be taken no later than 72 hours before travel and children under 5 are exempt from vaccination and testing requirements.

Passengers must have received their last dose of vaccine at least 14 days before flying to South Africa.

What should I do before leaving?

Travelers at a check-in counter at Johannesburg airport on November 27, 2021, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of a new Covid-19 Omicron variant.  AFP

In addition to being vaccinated or taking a PCR test, visitors must also complete a traveler’s health questionnaire before flying to South Africa.

Downloading the Covid Alert South Africa app is another requirement for all arriving passengers. This is how authorities can contact and trace people once they have landed in the country.

Upon arrival at the airport, travelers should expect to be screened for symptoms of Covid-19, including temperature checks.

What Covid-19 restrictions are in place in South Africa?

Boys walk past a mural of children wearing face masks amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Soweto's Kliptown, South Africa October 27, 2021. Reuters

President Ramaphosa also announced changes to the Covid-19 rules in place in South Africa during his televised address.

Capacity limits in sports stadiums and concert halls will be lifted and face masks will no longer have to be worn outside.

Travelers will still be required to wear face masks indoors, including at all times in airport terminals, and should follow the rules in place for the province they are visiting.

Should I self-quarantine in South Africa?

Travelers to South Africa do not need to self-quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status.

Which airlines fly to South Africa?

Etihad Airways resumed flights from Abu Dhabi to Johannesburg earlier this month. The direct eight-hour journey starts at around Dh2,100, depending on the date of travel. From Dubai, you can travel with Emirates to Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, with fares starting at Dh2,800. South African Airways also flies from the country to the United Arab Emirates.

When is the best time to visit South Africa?

South Africa enjoys winter from May to August.  Photo: Shutterstock

Being part of the southern hemisphere, South Africa has a temperate climate and enjoys winter from May to August and summer from December to March.

The best time to visit is in the spring, for warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine. May to October is the dry season, which is ideal if you’re going on safari, thanks to the low grass providing better visibility and much cooler temperatures than in summer. April is a good shoulder season if you want to avoid the crowds.

Updated: March 25, 2022, 2:03 p.m.

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