Henley & Partners has published its latest passport index, outlining the countries that South African can travel to visa-free right now, and how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted international travel.
The data shows that the pandemic has completely upended the seemingly unshakeable global mobility hierarchy that has dominated the last few decades, with more change still to come.
At the beginning of the year, for instance, the US passport was ranked in sixth position on the index – the original ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa - and Americans could travel hassle-free to 185 destinations around the world.
That number has since dropped dramatically by over 100, with US passport holders currently able to access fewer than 75 destinations, with the most popular tourist and business centres notably excluded.
Without taking the various pandemic-related travel bans and restrictions into account, Japan continues to hold the number one spot on the index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 191.
Singapore remains in second place, with a score of 190, while Germany and South Korea are tied third, each with a score of 189.
Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners, said travel freedom is something citizens of wealthy democratic countries such the UK, the US, and Western European nations have taken for granted for decades.
“The pandemic has abruptly changed this, and there’s been a shift away from travel freedom being regarded as the prerogative of nationals with once-powerful passports, towards a realization that it is now a necessary luxury for those wishing to access first-class education, business opportunities, and quality healthcare for themselves and their families,” he said.
The index shows that South Africa has moved up one place to 52nd position, with passport holders able to access 101 destinations without obtaining a prior visa.
However, as with other countries, it faces ongoing travel restrictions.
An analysis by BusinessTech, using the Department of Home Affairs’ list of high-risk countries, shows that of the 60 countries listed by South Africa, only 18 actually allow South Africans to visit them for leisure purposes.
For some counties, travel is possible, but not directly – such as Malta or Montenegro, which would require a citizen from a ‘red list’ country (such as South Africa) to spend 14 or 15 days in a ‘green list’ country before entering.
As with South Africa’s opening of borders, countries that do allow travel for leisure and tourism purposes do not do so unconditionally, and will require travellers to either submit recent negative Covid-19 tests, or be subject to a mandatory quarantine period.
Note: As travel restrictions are changing on an ongoing basis, the below is as reported at 4 October 2020, with the latest available information from each respective country. Many countries have indicated reviews to lists in the coming weeks.
There are many regions – which South Africa has classified as low or medium risk – that are still restricting travel from South Africa.
This includes countries like Canada, Japan and most of Europe, which uses a centralised database to categorise high-risk countries.
The definition of high risk can differ from territory to territory, but countries like Russia classify it as a 14-day cumulative Covid-19 infection rate higher than 25 people per 100,000 people.
However, because these restrictions change frequently it is still important for travellers to familiarise themselves with the existing visa regimes.
Below are the 101 countries South Africans can travel to visa-free according to the latest Henley & Partners report.
* Indicates visa on arrival or eTA.
|Cape Verde Islands*||Mauritius||Swaziland (eSwatini)|
|Hong Kong (SAR China)||Maldives*||Tajikistan*|
|Macao (SAR China)||South Korea|
|Marshall Islands*||Palau Islands*||Vanuatu|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Dominican Republic||St. Lucia|
|Bahamas||Grenada||St. Vincent and the Grenadines|
|Barbados||Haiti||Trinidad and Tobago|
|British Virgin Islands||Jamaica||Turks and Caicos|
|Dominica||St. Kitts and Nevis|