Baros Maldives, an island retreat in the Indian Ocean.
  • International leisure travel for South Africans is becoming easier, if not recommended by the government, even though borders are open.
  • The country has made its way onto some green lists around the world, and other destinations may only require a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival.
  • But with lists and protocols updated regularly, it may be hard to commit to long-term holiday plan.
  • Here's where you can go on a holiday abroad, as things stand right now.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africans eager to travel outside of the country for fun now have open borders, airlines to choose from, and destinations that will accept tourists from SA.

That list of destinations has grown as SA's coronavirus caseload has declined, most importantly the number of new infections within the past seven days in terms of the population size, seeing more countries remove SA from no-travel red lists, or dropping onerous quarantine requirements that made holidays all but impossible.

At the same time, some foreign destinations popular with South Africans are starting to generally relax their inbound travel rules, in an attempt to rekindle their tourism industries.

Local journeys are still very much the safest and most predictable way to travel; many countries update their red lists as often as once a week based on the latest data, and there’s little guarantee that countries won’t change their policies at the last minute.

Further complicating matters is that even if a foreign country accepts South Africans without quarantine, if that country is on South Africa’s long red list, then residents may well be subjected to South Africa's own Covid-19 protocols on return, including quarantine for entire families.

Also note that the South African government officially, and vocally, discourages foreign travel for its citizens at this time.

Here are the destinations currently welcoming South Africans without extended mandatory quarantine periods – at least for now.

Maldives

The island nation of the Maldives is heavily dependent on foreign tourism, and was quick to reopen to international tourists, including South Africans. 

Key to the country’s reopening is its resort-centric approach. Although there’s officially no quarantine, visitors must remain at a registered tourist facility for the entirety of their stay. Considering that this is how most travellers tend to experience the Maldives anyway, remaining at an idyllic resort hardly seems like a particularly taxing requirement.

According to the country’s ministry of health, visitors must submit a health declaration form online prior to arrival, and all tourists must present a negative Covid-19 result taken within the last 72 hours upon arrival.

Turkey

Turkey is one of the more popular, affordable, and accessible destinations for South Africans to visit - and there are, during normal times at least, plenty of regular, direct flights between South Africa’s main cities and Istanbul. 

Turkey was one of the first countries to move to fairly relaxed travel conditions. It was also one of the first to let Americans visit on leisure trips, even during the height of the pandemic in that country.

Turkey has opened its borders to all travellers who meet the country’s immigration rules, which for South Africans is typically a quick and easy online process. 

According to Turkish Airlines, the country’s national carrier that operates flights to and from South Africa, all passengers on board will undergo “a medical examination”. Those who show symptoms will be tested for the coronavirus, and those who test positive, “will take medical treatment”.

Dubai

Dubai opened up to international tourists in early July. It’s a city that serves South Africans primarily as a stopover to other international destinations, but many still choose to holiday there each year. 

From August 1, citizens of 29 specified countries required a Covid-19 PCR test on arrival, including South Africa. Although some destinations in the United Arab Emirates require a mandatory 14-day quarantine, according to the government of Dubai’s department of health, quarantine is only necessary if you test positive on arrival.

Dubai has other requirements as well: visitors must install the government’s tracking app on their phones, are be subject to medical screenings, and must have medical insurance before travelling.

Djibouti

Djibouti may not be high on the list of many South African travellers, but with relaxed coronavirus travel restrictions and a burgeoning tourism industry, it’s a good option for those looking for a change of scenery on the African continent.  

Djibouti’s Ambouli International Airport opened to international arrivals and departures in mid July. Arriving visitors must submit to a Covid-19 test on arrival, and remain in the airport while the results are processed, which the US Embassy in that country says takes approximately four hours. 

If the test is negative, visitors are free to go. Those who test positive must return on the next flight, and if a high concentration of positive Covid-19 tests appear on a single arriving plane, all passengers may be denied entry.

There are several airlines now flying to and from the country, including Air Djibouti, Air France, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Ethiopian Airlines, but most require a stopover which may complicate matters slightly depending on the route and that country’s Covid layover policy.

As an added bonus, South Africa has made it clear it has no intention of red-listing other countries on the continent, which makes for a lesser chance of cancelled flights or other drama.

Tanzania

Tanzania – a country which is deeply reliant on international tourism – has had an open border policy for some time, although this has come with varying conditions over the past few months.

At present, the Tanzanian government has removed its mandatory 14-day quarantine requirements for most travellers, though some are still required to produce a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival.

According to the US consulate in that country, “[t]ravelers from other countries with symptoms and signs related to Covid-19 infection will undergo enhanced screening and may be tested on arrival.”

Tanzania, and the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, have proven popular destinations for South Africans given the ease of entry, relatively cost effective flights, and variety of natural attractions, from beaches to safaris.

SA no-red-listing policy for African countries also applies.

Switzerland

Switzerland was the first European country to add South Africa to its green list, meaning South African tourists need not quarantine there for 14 days. 

Although flights to and from the country typically connect elsewhere in Europe, which may complicate the tip, it’s an enticing destination for wealthier South Africans fond of mountains, lakes, and the odd exorbitantly-priced scenic train ride.

Be warned though, the country’s Federal Office of Public Health regularly updates its green list, and any sudden spike in cases could render a quarantine-free trip there void.

Germany

Entry into Germany depends largely on where travellers are arriving from, and those arriving from certain countries are likely to have a harder time attaining a quarantine-free stay than others.

The German government maintains a list of countries it considers high risk, in which South Africa features, but this does not mean a mandatory quarantine period is unavoidable. 

According to its rules, those entering Germany from a high-risk area “are subject to a mandatory Covid-19 test and may be subject to quarantine under the specific quarantine ordinances issued by the competent federal state”.

A negative test may, therefore, exempt South African travellers from Germany’s self-isolation requirement, but some states may also apply their own requirements – including the submission of a second negative test before being exempt from quarantine.

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