Updated travel restrictions for South Africa

 ·20 Sep 2021

Germany has removed South Africa from its list of high-risk countries, giving travellers another route into the European Union’s (EU) Schengen region.

In a notice on Sunday (19 September), the German federal government announced that 14 countries have been removed from the list, no longer subject to strict entry requirements.

Some travel restrictions remain in place, however, with travellers aged 12 years or older needing hold proof of the following upon entering Germany:

  • A negative Covid-19 test result; or
  • Proof of a full Covid-19 vaccination; or
  • Proof of recovery from an infection.

This proof must be held prior to entering Germany and must be presented to the airline before departure where applicable.


Germany’s easing of restrictions comes just a day after the UK government announced that it will keep South Africa on its red list for travel – holding in place incredibly restrictive and expensive quarantine conditions for local travellers.

Under the UK’s travel rules, travellers who have been in a country or territory on the red list in the last 10 days will only be allowed to enter the UK if they are British or Irish nationals or have residence rights in the territory.

These travellers are subject to rigorous Covid testing and have to quarantine at a designated hotel at their own cost. A 10-day package costs £2,285 for a single adult (R46,000), and £1,430 (R29,000) for each person over 11. Children aged 5 to 11 will bump the total up by £325 each.

While analysts speculated that South Africa would be removed from the red list following petitions from local citizens, appeals from the South African government, and local branches of multinational corporations, this did not materialise.

The relationship between Britain and South Africa is an important economic corridor with Britain exporting R62 billion to South Africa in the year to end-March while it imported R90 billion, noted Busi Mavuso, the chief executive of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA). The UK is South Africa’s second-largest trading partner, behind the EU, she said in a newsletter on Monday. For the UK, South Africa is the largest trading partner in Africa.

Before the pandemic, 440,000 UK travellers visited South Africa in 2019, making it the most important overseas market for tourists to South Africa, Mavuso further pointed out. They spend R10 billion during their visits. This activity is a key part of our tourism industry which directly employs 657,000 people, 87% of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The UK’s decision therefore has significantly negative effects on development in South Africa. The lack of a clear rationale for the UK’s decision risks creating resentment towards the country at a crucial time in its engagement with the rest of the world. This is particularly sensitive for South Africans who have close cultural and familial ties to the UK,” said Mavuso.

The UK’s Department for Transport and Health and Social Care published an updated list this week, leaving South Africa stuck on the red list. Only eight countries were removed from the list, including Egypt and Kenya.

Current restrictions 

mapping tool developed by travel website Skyscanner shows that as of 8 September, South Africa has 77 ‘major restrictions’ from other countries in place. This is up from around 60 major restrictions before the third Covid wave hit.

These countries have suspended travel, may be closed to entry, or entry may only be possible if you are a citizen/meet strict entrance requirements.

By comparison, there are currently 30 moderate restrictions for South Africa, where travel is possible, but only if travellers meet certain entry requirements, including taking Covid-19 tests.

The below table gives an overview of some of the major travel restrictions still in place for South Africa as of Monday (20 September).

This does not constitute travel advice and is for comparison purposes only. South Africans should still check with the respective health authorities before travelling.

Country Restrictions on people travelling from South Africa
Australia  Australia’s borders are currently closed, and entry to Australia remains strictly controlled to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Travel to Australia is only available if you are exempt or you have been granted an individual exemption.
China Chinese and foreign passengers travelling from or transiting through South Africa must apply for ‘Green Health Codes’ (for Chinese citizens only)  by submitting their Covid-19 negative certificates for nucleic acid tests to Chinese embassies or consulates.
France Fully vaccinated travellers are no longer subject to restrictions to travel to or from France, whatever the country of departure. However, the French embassy strongly advises against travel from France to countries on the “red” list, including South Africa.
Germany Germany has removed South Africa from its list of high-risk countries, giving travellers another route into the EU’s Schengen region. However, some travel restrictions do remain in place, and travellers aged 12 years or older must hold proof of being vaccinated or tested upon entering Germany.
Spain South Africa is classified as ‘high risk’ by Spanish authorities. While travel is permitted, travellers should expect mandatory testing and quarantine requirements.
New Zealand Entry to New Zealand from all countries remains strictly controlled to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. South Africans are expected to go through managed isolation if they are allowed entry.
United Kingdom South Africa is still on the red list for entering England. If you have been in a country or territory on the red list in the last 10 days, you will only be allowed to enter the UK if you are a British or Irish National or have residence rights in the UK.
US Only people that qualify for the NIE visa exception are allowed entry into the US. The US also requires all air passengers entering the country to present a negative Covid-19 test, taken within three calendar days of departure or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days​. Airlines must confirm the negative test result or proof of recovery for all passengers two years of age and over before boarding.

Read: Relaxed lockdown restrictions being considered for South Africa: health minister

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