Foreign travel advice

South Africa

Important COVID-19 Travel

Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you must stay at home. You must not travel, including abroad, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so. It is illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes.

Check the rules that apply to you in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you intend to travel to the UK from abroad, including UK nationals returning home, you must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to 3 days before departure. If you do not comply (and you do not have a valid exemption) your airline or carrier may refuse you boarding and/or you may be fined on arrival.

Before you return to the UK you must provide your journey and contact details. You must self-isolate when you enter the UK from any foreign country except Ireland, unless you have a valid exemption.

When you enter England from abroad (except Ireland), you must follow the new requirements for quarantining and taking additional COVID-19 tests. For those travelling from a country on the banned travel list you will be required to quarantine in a hotel. Different rules apply for arrivals into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you are legally permitted to travel abroad, check our advice on your country of destination. Some other countries have closed borders, and may further restrict movement or bring in new rules including testing requirements with little warning.

Summary

The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to:

  • the whole of South Africa based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.

In response to the new variant of COVID-19 in South Africa, there are restrictions on passengers arriving in the UK from South Africa. Direct flights between South Africa and the UK have been suspended. Visitors arriving into England who have been in or transited through South Africa in the previous 10 days will not be permitted entry. British and Irish nationals, and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK arriving in England from South Africa will be required to quarantine in a hotel. Different rules apply for arrivals into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

From 1 January onwards, those with residence rights includes: holders of Indefinite Leave to Remain; holders of existing leave to enter or remain (i.e those with biometric Residence permits) or an entry clearance/visa that grants such leave e.g. students, workers, etc (excluding visit visas); holders of EU Settlement Scheme (“EUSS”) leave; those who have rights of entry under the Withdrawal Agreements (including returning residents with a right of residence under the EEA Regulations and EEA frontier workers); family members of EEA nationals with rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Travel to South Africa is subject to entry restrictions

  • Most new coronavirus cases in South Africa are caused by a new variant of COVID-19. The South African authorities have said that the new variant may be more contagious than previous variants. Details on COVID-19 case numbers and current regulations are available at www.sacoronavirus.co.za.

  • In response to the new variant of COVID-19 in South Africa, there are restrictions on passengers arriving in the UK from South Africa. Direct flights from South Africa have been suspended.
  • Visitors arriving into the UK who have been in or transited through South Africa in the previous 10 days will not be permitted entry.
  • British and Irish citizens, and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK will still be able to enter via indirect routes from South Africa. If you only hold a visit visa for travel to the UK, you will not be able to enter if you have been in South Africa in the past 10 days (See Coronavirus).
  • If you are eligible to enter England from South Africa, you must follow the new requirements for quarantining in a hotel and taking additional COVID-19 tests. Different rules apply for arrivals into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • Some third countries, including major transit destinations, have also cancelled flights to and from South Africa. Others have, or may, introduce additional testing requirements before you depart South Africa.
  • If you have a ticket to or from South Africa, you should check with your airline before travelling.
  • If you need to secure a PCR test for a departing flight, you should ensure you locate a testing facility that is prepared to test travellers at the required time. You should not use NHS testing facilities if travelling from the UK.
  • There is pressure on public and private healthcare capacity in South Africa, particularly in areas with high numbers of coronavirus cases. While the standard of private healthcare in South Africa remains generally high, you should be aware that access to healthcare, including emergency services, might be more restricted than usual in such areas.
  • Strict health protocols, including curfews, remain in place. South African government guidance and restrictions are regularly updated, and can sometimes change at short notice. You should ensure you understand and comply with these protocols before and during travel. See the Coronavirus page for more information.
  • Upon arrival in South Africa, you will need to produce a paper copy of a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) COVID-19 test to border officials. The test must have taken place no more than 72 hours before your departure. It should be conducted by a certified medical practitioner, and should have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted the test. We advise that you carry several paper copies of your test, as you may need to present it more than once on your journey. Children under 5 are not required to provide a PCR test result.
  • If you do not have a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, you may have to quarantine at your own cost.
  • You will need to complete and produce an online travel health questionnaire on your personal device before arriving in South Africa. The questionnaire is available from the South Africa Department of Health.
  • You should read the Entry requirements page in full before you plan your travel.

Check our advice on foreign travel during the coronavirus pandemic and sign up for email alerts for this travel advice.

If you’re travelling to South Africa during coronavirus, see the Coronavirus page for more information.

During the COVID-19 pandemic it is more important than ever to get travel insurance and check your cover. See the FCDO’s guidance on foreign travel insurance.

The South African government allows international travel to and from South Africa for any purpose, including tourism. However, the FCDO advises against all but essential travel to South Africa based on the assessment of COVID-19 risks. There are strict health protocols including curfews in place. If you choose to travel, you should ensure you understand and comply with these protocols before travelling. You should read Entry requirements in full before planning your travel.

The British and Irish Lions are due to tour South Africa in July and August 2021. Under current South African regulations, British fans will be allowed to enter South Africa, providing they comply with strict health protocols. See Entry requirements for more information. You should be aware of the possibility that entry requirements may change before the tour, and ensure you are insured in the event that regulations change.

Over 430,000 British tourists visited South Africa in 2019. Most visits are trouble-free, but a small number of British people encounter problems. You should take sensible precautions to protect your safety.

There is a high level of crime including rape and murder in South Africa. Most violent crimes tend to occur in townships, isolated areas and away from the normal tourist destinations. However, armed robberies have taken place in other places, for example one leading to the death of a tourist on Table Mountain in Cape Town in recent years. See Crime

There are special requirements for travelling to South Africa with children under the age of 18. See Travelling with children

There are regular protest marches, demonstrations, and periodic incidents of public disorder across South Africa, which can become violent. See Protests and demonstrations

Beach conditions and local safety provisions vary considerably throughout the South African coastline and every year several people drown due to the strong sea currents. See Water safety

Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in South Africa. See Terrorism

British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists. See Fraud and scams

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.