Henley & Partners has published its latest passport index for 2021, outlining the countries that South Africans can travel to visa-free right now.
The data shows that the past 18 months of the pandemic have resulted in the broadest global mobility gap in the index’s 16-year history, with passport holders from top-ranking Japan and Singapore able to travel visa-free to 166 more destinations than Afghan nationals, who sit at the bottom of the index with access to just 26 countries without requiring a visa in advance.
Based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the index shows that countries in the global north with high-ranking passports have enforced some of the most stringent inbound Covid-19-related travel restrictions.
Many countries with lower-ranking passports have conversely relaxed their borders without seeing this openness reciprocated.
This has created an ever-widening gap in travel freedom even for fully vaccinated travellers from countries at the lower end of the passport power ranking who remain locked out of most of the world, Henley & Partners said.
“Japan, which shares the top spot on the index with Singapore due to their visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 192, currently bars almost all foreign nationals from entry,” it said.
“Germany, which sits alongside South Korea in joint-second place with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 190, currently restricts nearly 100 countries from entry.”
At the lower end of the index, Egypt ranked 97th and has no travel restrictions. Yet, its citizens can access just 51 destinations globally without acquiring a visa in advance.
“Similarly, Kenya, which ranks 77th, has no travel bans in place, yet its passport holders can access just 72 destinations visa-free,” Henley & Partners said.
The index shows that South Africa has dropped six places in the rankings to 58th.
As of 6 October, 2021, South African passport holders can access 103 destinations without obtaining a prior visa. However, as with other countries lower down the list, it faces ongoing travel restrictions due to the pandemic.
A mapping tool developed by travel website Skyscanner shows that South Africa has 73 ‘major restrictions’ from other countries in place. 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 34 moderate restrictions on South Africa, where travel is possible, but only if travellers meet specific entry requirements, including taking Covid-19 tests.
48 countries have ‘low-risk restrictions’ meaning that travellers likely won’t have to face enforced quarantine periods.
The below map provides an overview of the current restrictions in place.
Commenting on the mounting barriers to entry faced by African countries, South African journalist Justice Malala said that the rest of the world remains largely inaccessible to travellers from the continent, with new obstacles emerging.
“In an attempt to restart the economy, the South African government announced in early September that it had commenced with developing a digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate to confirm proof of vaccination that would align with international standards, which would be available before the end of the month.
“Officials had previously said the country would introduce a vaccine passport together with other African nations — but achieving uniformity and legitimacy of the document across the continent is proving a challenge,” he said.
Below are the 103 countries South Africans can travel to visa-free, according to the latest Henley & Partners report.
* Indicates visa on arrival or eTA.
|Cape Verde Islands||Comores Islands||Eswatini|
|Ghana *||Guinea-Bissau *||Kenya|
|Namibia||Nigeria *||Rwanda *|
|Senegal||Seychelles *||Sierra Leone *|
|Somalia *||Tanzania||Togo *|
|Cambodia *||Hong Kong||Indonesia|
|Kyrgyzstan *||Laos *||Macao|
|Malaysia||Maldives *||Nepal *|
|Sri Lanka *||Tajikistan *||Thailand|
|The Marshall Islands*||Samoa*|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Bahamas||Barbados|
|Jamaica||St. Kitts and Nevis||St. Lucia|
|St. Vincent and the Grenadines||Trinidad and Tobago|