Visitors require a valid passport to enter every country in Southern Africa. To accommodate visas and border stamps, you’ll need at least one or two empty pages per country you intend to visit, especially if your itinerary calls for multiple border crossings. If your passport is close to full, get a new one or pick up an insert – but apply for it well in advance. If your passport is due to expire, replace it before you leave home, as some officials won’t admit you unless your passport is valid at least three (or even six) months beyond the end of your stay.

Crossing borders with a vehicle considerably increases the time you'll spend completing the formalities and continuing on your way.

Customs Regulations

Customs information varies from country to country in the region.

Visas

For everywhere except Mozambique, visas are either not required or available on arrival for most nationalities for stays of between 30 and 90 days.

Further Information

Visa requirements vary according to your nationality. In general, travellers from North America, Commonwealth countries and most of Western Europe don’t require visas (or can obtain them on arrival) for much of the region.

At the time of writing, the only place in Mozambique you can reliably get a visa at the border is Cóbuè on Lake Malawi. We strongly advise that you organise your visa beforehand. You can do it in person or via post from the embassy in your home country.

If you’re from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe or Latin America, you should check with the local embassies of the countries you intend to visit, as some may accept only visas issued in your home country.

At the time of writing, the following rules apply for most Western travellers:

Botswana

Visa or Entry Permit Available on Arrival

up to 30 days

Cost

free

Lesotho

Visa or Entry Permit Available on Arrival

up to 30 days

Cost

free

Malawi

Visa or Entry Permit Available on Arrival

1 month

Cost

US$75

Mozambique

Visa or Entry Permit Available on Arrival

no (unless no Mozambique embassy in your home country)

Cost

varies according to nationality

Namibia

Visa or Entry Permit Available on Arrival

up to 90 days

Cost

free

South Africa

Visa or Entry Permit Available on Arrival

up to 90 days (except New Zealand)

Cost

free

Swaziland

Visa or Entry Permit Available on Arrival

up to 30 days

Cost

free

Zambia

Visa or Entry Permit Available on Arrival

1 month

Cost

US$50

Zimbabwe

Visa or Entry Permit Available on Arrival

up to 30 days

Cost

US$30-55

Useful Documentation

Depending on which countries you’re visiting, you may need the following: a vaccination certificate to show you have had all the right jabs; a driver’s licence, and perhaps an International Driving Permit (for the rare occasions when it may be required to hire a vehicle, or for insurance purposes if you’re buying a vehicle); youth hostel card and a student or youth identity card (such as ISIC), which may be good for accessing discounts on flights, long-distance buses and visits to sites of interest (especially museums).

A Southern African Visa?

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is moving towards a universal system, albeit extremely slowly, to be theoretically introduced when all countries are up to speed on the required technical and security arrangements. Basically it will enable tourists to obtain a single visa for all countries within Southern Africa. But don't hold your breath.