South Africa is putting plans in place to open its borders to all international tourists and lift its travel ban on European countries and the United States.

On Wednesday South Africa's president Cyril Ramaphose announced that the country will continue its phased plans for sustainable and safe tourism by opening borders to international travelers who present a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival. "We are also opening up international travel to all countries subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative COVID-19 certificate," the New York Times reports he said in a television address.

Two Giraffes In The Wild
Domestic tourism will be the first focus of the new plan © Georg Schneider / EyeEm / Getty Images

South Africa reopened its borders to some international tourists, including foreign students and those from low-risk countries, on October 1 for the first time since the pandemic struck in March. But now its borders will open wider as summer season approaches in the southern hemisphere; welcoming international travelers who present a paper copy of a COVID-19 result from a test taken within 72 hours of travel.

While Mr Ramaphosa didn't specify exactly when the borders will open, it's likely to happen sometime soon. "By utilizing rapid tests and strict monitoring, we intend to limit the spread of infection through importation of those who will be traveling to our country," he said.

Supertubes beach in Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa, popular surfing beach
Supertubes beach in Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa, popular surfing beach ©MD_Photography/Shutterstock

According to the South African government, it has been in consultation with the tourism sector since the beginning of lockdown, looking into ways to cushion it and mitigate against any potential job losses in the future. As well as that, it has been looking at phased recovery plans. Mr Ramaphosa said he believes the new tourism measures will "greatly assist businesses," particularly those within the travel and hospitality sector.

For now, South Africa's borders are currently closed to those from high-risk countries, including the US, UK, Australia and most European nations. Even as it prepares to kickstart tourism, Mr Ramaphosa warns that South Africa is still very much in the grip of the pandemic. There are concerns that opening its borders could put the country in a vulnerable position. "We have also seen in other countries how a resurgence can dash hopes for a swift economic recovery," he warned.

This article was first published on June 8, 2020 and updated on November 12, 2020.

You might also like:

Kenya resumes international flights
Cape Town: a wildlife lover’s playground
The Garden Route: South Africa's ultimate road trip

Download the Guides App

The Lonely Planet Guides App is available on iOS and Android and features 8000 cities, 352,000 places and an immersive 360 degree experience of your destination of choice.

Download the Guides App

Explore related stories

Photo taken in Johannesburg, South Africa

Budget Travel

10 ways to experience South Africa on a budget

Sep 11, 2023 • 6 min read