More than 100 countries you can travel to visa-free on a South African passport, as lockdown restrictions ease

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.

South Africa 

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.

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.


Angola Benin Botswana
Cape Verde Islands Comores Islands Eswatini
Ethiopia * Gabon Gambia
Ghana * Guinea-Bissau * Kenya
Lesotho Madagascar * Malawi
Mauritania * Mauritius Mozambique
Namibia Nigeria * Rwanda *
Senegal Seychelles * Sierra Leone *
Somalia * Tanzania Togo *
Tunisia Uganda * Zambia


Cambodia * Hong Kong Indonesia
Kyrgyzstan * Laos * Macao
Malaysia Maldives * Nepal *
Philippines Singapore South Korea
Sri Lanka * Tajikistan * Thailand
Timor-Leste *


Georgia Ireland Kosovo
Russian Federation


Fiji Palau Islands* Vanuatu
The Marshall Islands* Samoa*
Micronesia Tuvalu*


Antigua and Barbuda Bahamas Barbados
Dominican Republic Grenada Haiti
Jamaica St. Kitts and Nevis St. Lucia
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Trinidad and Tobago


Argentina Belize Bolivia *
Brazil Chile Costa Rica
Ecuador El Salvador Guatemala
Guyana Honduras Nicaragua
Panama Paraguay Peru
Uruguay Venezuela

Middle East/Other 

Armenia* Jordan * Qatar
Iran * Oman
Israel Palestinian Territories

Read: UK updates red list system for travel – with changes expected for South Africa.

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More than 100 countries you can travel to visa-free on a South African passport, as lockdown restrictions ease