South Africa is reopening for tourists, but will U.S. travelers be allowed to visit?
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
After nearly six months of lockdown from the rest of the world, one of TPG’s favorite countries is reopening its borders for tourism on Oct. 1.
“We are ready to open our doors again to the world,” South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement announcing the decision, “and invite travelers to enjoy our mountains, our beaches, our vibrant cities, and our wildlife game parks in safety and confidence.”
The country closed its borders to foreign travelers in late March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. South Africa has been one of the world’s hardest-hit countries. But after extensive efforts to flatten the infection curve, the country says it is now ready to begin welcoming back tourists. Pre-pandemic South Africa hosted 17 million visitors a year.
Here’s what we know so far.
Can you Visit South Africa right now?
President Ramaphosa is allowing travelers from a select number of low-risk countries to visit South Africa during this initial phase of reopening. Given the high infection rates in the United States, it’s doubtful that U.S. travelers will be permitted to visit anytime soon. South Africa has not yet released the official list of approved countries, but on Friday September 18, there were reports that citizens of all fellow African nations would be able to visit. United Kingdom travelers will also have to wait on an update.
But TPG will keep a close eye on details as they emerge, and update this article with information as soon as it is available.
- Giving back through PeaceJam in South Africa
- Donate now to TPG’s PeaceJam fundraising campaign for a chance to win a $10,500 prize package
Travelers must be able to show proof of a COVID-19 PCR test, with negative results dated within 72 hours of departure time. Entering arrivals who present a negative PCR test won’t need to quarantine after passing health screenings, including temperature checks, at the arrival airport. But any traveler who either fails to present a timely PCR test or shows additional symptoms upon arrival will be asked to quarantine for 14 days at their own expense.
Travelers must also download the South Africa coronavirus mobile tracing app for the duration of their stay in South Africa.
- Face masks are required in all public spaces
- A curfew is in effect each night from 12 a.m. midnight until 4 a.m. beginning Sunday, Sept. 20
- Most gathering will be allowed at 50 percent of the venue’s capacity, with 250 people allowed at a maximum indoors, or 500 people maxium at outdoor venues
- Individuals may purchase alcohol for personal consumption between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
- Beaches, wildlife game parks and other outdoors tourist attractions will be open
- While hotels, restaurants, and other tourism-based businesses will be open, there may be individual restrictions on capacity and hours, and social distancing guidelines will remain in effect.
Flights and hotels
We don’t yet know if U.S. travelers can enter South Africa during this initial phase of reopening, so TPG chose dates farther out in 2021 to hedge our bets. The great news is that wintertime in the Northern Hemisphere is sunny summertime in South Africa, so a winter trip might be just what you need.
Flights to South Africa
Three major airports in South Africa will open for international tourism in this next phase of reopening:
- Johannesburg (JNB)
- Cape Town (CPT)
- Durban (DUR)
Assuming travelers in the U.S. and UK are allowed to visit, here are some flights we found available for October and November 2021:
Round-trip flights from London (LHR) to Johannesburg (JNB) on British Airways in October, starting from $667:
High taxes and fees are a great example of why award flights aren’t a great deal in this circumstance: That same New York flight for late November still costs $582.75 in taxes in fees, as well as 80,000 AA miles.
Hotels in South Africa
Hotels.com lists more than 10,000 properties available to book throughout the country in February 2021, and Airbnb also lists a range of properties available throughout South Africa for late 2020. Unfortunately, a number of higher-end properties, including the beautiful Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town, are closed until further notice.
Marriott lovers, pay attention: Your points go a long way in South Africa. The huge hotel chain has a number of properties in Johannesburg, including the Category 1 all-suite Protea Hotel Johannesburg Parktonian begins at just $52/night in cash, or 7,500 points per night.
Hilton travelers don’t have as many options. The Hilton Sandton outside of Johannesburg’s city center starts at just over $100 per night in cash, or 22,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
As a general rule, accommodations in South Africa are quite wallet-friendly for the quality of experience they offer. In 2019, I booked a two-bedroom Airbnb with a balcony view of Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain for just $800 over nine days.
TPG loves South Africa, and we hope you do too. But don’t get too excited just yet: Chances are, U.S. travelers won’t be able to visit for a little while yet.
Featured photo by Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.