Foreign travel advice

South Africa

Important COVID-19 travel guidance

Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you must stay at home. You must not leave home or travel, including internationally, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so. Check the rules that apply to you in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you intend to travel to England, Scotland, or Wales 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.

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.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to South Africa

South Africa’s land borders are closed until 15 February. You will need to enter and exit South Africa by air. South African citizens, permanent residents, and individuals with a long-term temporary resident visa may still enter South Africa via land borders.

Strict health protocols are in place for international travellers to South Africa. You will need to produce a paper copy of a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) COVID-19 test to border officials upon arrival in South Africa. 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. If you do not present proof of a test upon arrival, you may be required enter a government quarantine facility 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 not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.

Business travellers providing services across the borders between South Africa and the Southern African Development Community are allowed multiple entry subject to producing a certificate of negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure. It should be conducted by a certified medical practitioner, and should have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted the test. This certificate is valid for 14 days. You cannot currently enter and exit South Africa via land borders.

For any questions regarding the process to enter South Africa, you should speak to your local South African High Commission.

Transiting South Africa

It is possible to transit South Africa and travel to a third country via air. Land borders are currently closed. If you wish to transit through South Africa, you must bring a paper copy of a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) COVID-19 test result. The test should not be older than 72 hours from the time of 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. If you cannot produce a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test then you may have to enter a government quarantine facility 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.

Screening on arrival

Screening processes have been introduced at all major ports of entry, including airports, for arrivals, departures and transit passengers. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the authorities. Additional screening may include temperature measurements and check on recent travel to affected areas.

Quarantine requirements

If you fail to produce a paper copy of a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test you will be required to quarantine at a government-appointed facility at your own cost. Self-isolation is not required if you have provided the negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test.

Data collection

The South African government requires you to complete a health declaration form with your details on arrival, including your address, contact information, and recent travel history. This can also be completed online at South Africa Department of Health

Testing on departure

Screening processes have been introduced at all major ports of entry, including airports, for arrivals, departures and transit passengers. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the authorities. Screening may include temperature measurements and check on recent travel to affected areas. If you feel unwell, you should not attempt to travel. Presenting at the airport with symptoms may result in you being sent to a government health facility for quarantine and further testing.

Regular entry requirements

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for at least 30 days beyond your intended date of exit from South Africa, in line with South African immigration regulations. However, some immigration officials still request that a passport should have at least 6 months validity on the date of entry to South Africa. To avoid problems at the airport on arrival, you’re advised to ensure your passport is valid for six months.

Travelling with children

There are special requirements for travelling to South Africa with children under the age of 18. There are different requirements for unaccompanied children entering South Africa.

Check the advisory from the South African Department of Home Affairs for more details, and consult your nearest South African high commission or embassy if you have any questions about these requirements.

Residence permits

If you have Permanent Residency in South Africa, you can leave and re-enter South Africa but must carry valid documentation with you proving your permanent residency rights. When re-entering South Africa you will be asked to produce a paper copy of a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test not older than 72 hours from time of departure to port authorities. It should be conducted by a certified medical practitioner, and should have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted the test. Failure to do so will result in you being sent to a government-appointed quarantine facility at your own cost.

Receipts issued by the Department of Home Affairs for applications to renew a permit will not be accepted by the immigration authorities. For more information, contact the South African High Commission or the South African Department of Home Affairs.

Dual citizenship

If you hold South African citizenship, you must enter and exit South Africa on your South African passport. It is an offence for a South African citizen aged 18 or over to enter or leave the country on a foreign passport.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

South African authorities advise that UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, transit and exit from South Africa.

ETDs should have a minimum of 6 months validity for entry, transit or exit.

Biometric capturing

South Africa has implemented biometric capturing at all ports of entry. This may result in some delays at land borders. You should allow additional time for border crossings.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.