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South Africa has officially reopened to travellers

The country is now welcoming international visitors again – but UK and US tourists are still barred

Huw Oliver

For more than half a year now, South Africa’s tourism industry has been at an almost complete standstill. Hotels have been closed, attractions shuttered and most flights grounded.

As countries gradually lift lockdown restrictions around the world, many of the most popular destinations are beginning to reopen borders in an effort to reboot their struggling visitor economies. And as of today, South Africa joins them: despite suggestions that the country wouldn’t reopen to international visitors until 2021, it has in fact already started welcoming travellers from certain ‘low risk’ nations.

Both business and leisure travellers from countries including Canada, Australia, China, Spain and Germany – which all have lower infection rates than South Africa – will now be allowed into the country. Visitors from all nations on the African continent will also be admitted.

Some 57 countries, including the UK and USA, remain on a ‘red list’ of countries with infection rates higher than South Africa’s – meaning no tourists will be let in (though business travellers, diplomats and others with ‘critical skills’ from these countries will be admitted from today). The country’s government said this list would be revised every two weeks.

All visitors will be required to have travel insurance, and to present a negative test result from within 72 hours of arrival.

Recent reports had suggested that the country might not open to international travellers until spring 2021, though industry groups in the country, led by The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), had been lobbying for the government to reopen the country to international travellers as early as last month.

Today’s reopening will be welcome news for them, as well as anyone who had a Table Mountain hike or Kruger National Park safari on their travel wishlist for 2020. 

Remember, many countries are still warning against all non-essential travel and some are quarantining all overseas arrivals, including their own returning citizens. Check all the relevant restrictions before you think about travelling.

Where can you travel right now? Here’s what you need to know.

How safe is flying right now? We asked an expert.

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