February 11

Is It Safe to Travel to South Africa Right Now?


February 11, 2021

Editor’s Note: This blog was last updated on 28 May 2021. At the time of writing, all information was up to date. Please contact your Rhino Africa Travel Expert for any updates or further information.

“Are South Africa’s borders open?” The burning question on the lips of those whose safari dreams were halted in 2020, as well as those who moved the destination to the very top of their bucket list in 2021. The second question follows almost immediately: “But, is it safe?”

During this trying time, it has been reaffirmed that travel is one of life’s greatest pleasures. That quality trumps quantity. After going through long periods of isolation, stuck looking at the same four walls, the fantasy of South Africa’s wide-open spaces is more alluring than ever. 

However, at the moment, there are so many misconceptions and misleading headlines floating around, crushing travel dreams unnecessarily.

More importantly, the stigmatised, inaccurate news is affecting the livelihoods of those working in the travel and hospitality industries by causing unnecessary panic and travel cancellations.

That’s why it’s essential to get right to the source of the truth. And we are here to help clear up a couple of things about travelling to South Africa right now.

South African Flag waving in front of Table Mountain
South Africa is open for visitors.

But Is It Safe to Travel to South Africa Right Now?

Let’s first address the elephant in the room. 

And by that, we refer to how the international media has portrayed South Africa during this pandemic.

Myth 1: The New Covid Strain Originated in South Africa

This harmful headline news is simply not accurate. The variant is by no means unique to South Africa and has popped up all over the world. It’s only because it was first identified in South Africa that it is (unfairly) dubbed the “South African strain”. 

The 501Y.V2 variant could’ve emerged anywhere. However, thanks to the brilliant South African scientists, it was formally identified. It’s reminiscent of when bad press gave Spain the blame for the Spanish Flu although it never originated there. 

South Africa is also not the only country who uncovered new strains. Other variants have also been identified, such as the one in the United Kingdom, India and Brazil. 

However, this stigmatisation of the country could lead to discrimination against South Africans going forward.

To help prevent this, the World Health Organisation is currently putting a nomenclature process in place, which will standardise the naming process for all variants.

Myth 2: South Africa is Inundated with Covid Cases 

As of 28 May 2021, South Africa has conducted over 11.4 million Covid-19 tests in public and private health care facilities. The current recovery rate stands at a promising 94%. There is also sufficient hospital capacity, including beds, ICU space and ventilators. On top of this South Africa is fast approaching having over 1 million people vaccinated, with extensive roll-out of the vaccine in the coming weeks.

South Africa is currently on Level 1 restrictions, which includes several regulations. For example, everyone must wear a mask at all times when in public. There are limitations on gatherings, and a curfew starting at 12 am and ending at 4 am. All non-essential establishments such as restaurants and bars must close by 11 pm. All of these measures have significantly helped lower South Africa’s infection rate.

When you travel with Rhino Africa, your safety is of the utmost importance to us. That’s why we ensure that all our suppliers are adhering to the strictest safety measures, processes and procedures at their lodges and camps to ensure we create an environment that is both safe and hygienic.

Airlines have also introduced additional hygiene protocols following Covid-19 protocols. 

Covid-19 mask graffiti on wall
Signs of the times.

General Day-to-Day Safety Measures You Can Follow Include:

  • Wearing a three-layered cloth mask, or an N95/KN95 respiratory mask at all times when out in public, only removing it to eat or drink. 
  • Frequently washing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Sanitising your hands when out in public. 
  • Social distancing from other people (don’t worry, this does not include wildlife, so you can get up-close on safari!).
  • Stick to outdoor activities, gatherings and dining – it’s more magical anyway! 

South Africa Welcomes You 

As it stands, South Africa is open to guests of all nationalities, subject to visa requirements and Covid-19 protocols. As with travelling to anywhere in the world right now, there are specific regulations and procedures in place that you need to follow to ensure safe arrival, visit and departure. 

South Africa is ready to welcome you. In fact, South Africa needs you. The travel and hospitality industries have been hit the hardest and are struggling to stay afloat. Your visit will make the world’s difference in the livelihoods of everyone employed in the industry.

What Will I Have To Do When Entering South Africa?

Before You Set Off 

1. Complete a Health Questionnaire

Before entering our beautiful country, you have to complete this Traveller Health Questionnaire to ensure your own, as well as everyone else’s safety. You will have to present this form before entering the terminal building. Ensure that you do this no more than two days before your trip, both when you are entering and when you are leaving South Africa.

2. Take a Covid Test 

You will have to do a Covid-19 test 72 hours before leaving on your trip to South Africa. You must have the original printed version indicating that you have tested negative and not a copy. 

3. Check All Other Stop-Over Country Regulations 

Remember that these regulations differ from country to country and are constantly being updated and amended.

Champman's Peak Drive in South Africa
Chapman’s Peak Drive in Cape Town, South Africa.

Upon Arrival 

1. Wear Your Mask At All Times in Public

South Africa is very strict about this regulation, and it has helped to lower the spread significantly.

2. Prove That You Tested Negative

Produce your PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test result that is no older than 72 hours. It must show the laboratory’s name, where they performed the test. Children under five years of age do not have to present a test result upon arrival.

3. Questionnaire and Screening

At the port of entry, you will be questioned and screened for Covid-19 symptoms.

4. Provide Proof of Accommodation 

You will have to present proof of accommodation if you have to self-quarantine at the time of arrival.

5. But What If I Show Symptoms?

If you show any Covid-19 symptoms, have been in contact with someone who showed symptoms / tested positive, or should you fail to present a negative Covid-19 PCR test, you will be required to take an antigen test upon arrival. If the test comes back with a positive result, you will be required to self-isolate for ten days. The cost of the test as well as the accommodation for self-isolation will be for your own cost.

6. Download the Covid Alert South Africa Mobile App

All international visitors must download the Covid Alert South Africa mobile app. This app effectively alerts subscribers with the relevant information if they have been in contact with anyone who tested positive for the virus. You can download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play before you arrive in South Africa or on arrival.

Will I Have To Get A Covid-19 Test During My Visit in South Africa?

It may be a regulatory requirement that you undergo a viral Covid-19 test during your visit.

At Rhino Africa, we can also act as an intermediary and assist you with booking your test.

What About Travel Insurance? 

You must take out adequate Travel Insurance before you visit any destination. At Rhino Africa, we have taken this load off your shoulders by teaming up with Global Rescue, a recognised industry leader. You can read more about what this entails here. 

Make Travelling to South Africa a Reality 

The strict limitations due to Covid-19 that have been imposed globally and for nearly a year now have stripped most of us of freedom we often took for granted. The pent-up desire to travel is ready to boil over. 

As humans, we have also become more purpose-driven, our eyes opening to the bigger picture and greater good in the world. We’ve unearthed a deep, inexplicable desire to explore and positively impact our planet.

Rescue African wildlife rhino
A rhino calf rescued by Wildlife ACT, Photo Credit: Wildlife ACT

Making a Difference In Your Life But Also Many Other Lives 

That deep longing to see a lion swaggering through the bushes or to see Cape Town’s Table Mountain in all its prominent glory, are not entirely selfish desires. In fact, for every seven visitors travelling to our continent with Rhino Africa, one sustainable tourism job is created. 

Table Mountain Aerial View, Cape Town, South Africa
Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.

That’s because, at Rhino Africa, our primary purpose is to make your trip a life-changing experience. However, at the same time, we are also fiercely passionate about uplifting our country’s communities and protecting wildlife. And this is only possible because of you.

Can you feel the warm African sun on your skin already? Hear the chorus of wildlife calling? Picture yourself strolling down the beach, Table Mountain protruding proudly in the distance? South Africa is awaiting your arrival.

Contact Our Travel Experts to make your journey a seamless one and one that will remain imprinted in your memory (and heart) forever. 

“You cannot leave Africa, ” Africa said, “It is always with you, there inside your head. Our rivers run in currents in the swirl of your thumbprints; Our drumbeats counting out your pulse; Our coastline, the silhouette of your soul”. – Bridge Dore

An elephant in the fading light in the Okavango Delta
There is no place quite like Africa, Photo Credit: Mankwe Bush Lodge

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Tania de Kock

  • I have visited South Africa with Rhino Africa twice before and both times it was a wonderful experience, however, the next trip will have to wait for probably 2022 or later for us in Australia.
    An exit permit is required for travel, and tourism is not one of the options for a travel permit, additionally, it is reported that there is a very long waiting list for coming back to Australia, stretching months and flights get cancelled at the last minute. There are severe caps on the people allowed back in every week, plus there is a 2-week self-funded quarantine on arrival 🙁

    • Hi Vivek,

      Thanks a lot for your message, it’s much appreciated.

      We are very happy to hear about your amazing experiences that you had and really hope that you will be able to come visit soon again.
      Better times will come, we just need to be patient.

      Sending you lots of positive vibes from Cape Town.

      The Rhino Africa Team

      • Our South African trip was canceled April 2020 for obvious reasons…we then had a baby (now 2 months old) and still have South Africa in mind but wondering how safe/feasible to do safari with an infant is??

        • Hi Gargi,

          Thank you for your message. I have passed it on to one of our lovely travel consultants who will be in touch with you shortly.

          Warm regards from Cape Town,
          The Rhino Africa Team

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