A South African passport allows entry to 103 countries visa-free

It’s common knowledge that, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, international travel and tourism have been restricted. Fortunately, now that increasing numbers of countries are vaccinating their citizens, the outlook for taking trips abroad is looking up. At the time of writing, destinations ranging from Germany to Mexico allow South Africans to visit. That’s good news if you’re thinking about your next holiday.

It’s worthwhile reading up on the visa requirements and any coronavirus restrictions for where you’re next planning to go. 

According to the Henley Passport Index released this week, South Africa’s passport allows people to visit 103 countries visa-free. Of these the 20 standouts include: Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Hong Kong, Ireland, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand. You can find the full list on Henley’s My Passport page. Just select your passport (South Africa) from the drop-down list for the full range of countries you’re visa-exempt for.

Different kinds of visas

If you’re planning a trip abroad, it’s worth taking into account that, according to the index, the list of visa-free countries for South Africans includes destinations where you’ll have to apply either for a Visa on Arrival (VoA) or an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA). Although you won’t have to visit an embassy to get entry permission in these cases, there’ll still be some paperwork to obtain, either beforehand online or when you arrive.

To help you sort through the different types of visas while you’re organising your journey, here are some quick explanations.

1. Visa-exempt

You’re fully visa-exempt for a country when you require no prior authorisation to enter. Instead, you’ll typically need just a passport that’s valid for at least six months from the date of your visit. In terms of travel paperwork, this is the easiest, fastest option. According to Henley’s latest index, South Africans are fully visa-free for 62 countries.

2. Visa on Arrival

You apply for and obtain a VoA when you arrive at your destination, usually right after you get off the plane at customs. In most cases, you’ll have to fill in a form by hand and pay a fee. A border agent will check your application and, as long as everything’s in order, they’ll hand you your visa and stamp your passport.

The advantage of a VoA is that you get your visa there and then, so you save yourself the time and effort of visiting an embassy before your trip. This cuts down on the bureaucracy, making organising your trip more convenient. South Africans can get a VoA at 27 destinations, according to Henley’s latest index.

3. Electronic Travel Authorisation

eTAs are online visas that you apply for and receive in advance of your trip. They’re also known as eVisas (Electronic Visas). 

The benefit of eTAs is that you can apply from any internet-connected device and, once approved, you’ll receive your travel authorisation in your email inbox to print and take with you. The process is simple, plus you have the comfort of knowing that you’ve got your visa before you set off, unlike with Visas on Arrival.

A growing number of countries are offering eTAs and eVisas to attract visitors and boost their tourism sectors, and eVisas are available on websites such as this one. According to Henley’s updated index, South Africans can get an eTA to visit Sri Lanka.

4. Embassy visa

This is a traditional visa that you apply for at the embassy of the country you’re planning to visit. You’ll fill in an application form there, you may have to attend an interview and, once approved, you’ll receive a paper visa to present at customs when you arrive. South Africans require an embassy visa to visit 96 destinations, according to the Henley’s index.

Other documents needed 

Depending on where you’re travelling to, there may be different types of visas available and other supporting documents required. These documents may include proof of a return or onward flight ticket. It’s worthwhile checking these in advance with a trustworthy source, such as your destination’s embassy, their government’s website or their official tourism website.

Here’s a list of the possible supporting documents that you may need to show:

  • A photocopy or scan of your passport’s photo page;
  • Recent colour passport photos;
  • Proof of a return or onward flight ticket to your next destination;
  • Evidence of a hotel booking or other accommodation;
  • Proof of reservations, for example to tourist attractions or restaurants;
  • Evidence of the financial means to support yourself on your trip, such as a bank statement and
  • Proof of vaccinations, for example against Covid-19 and yellow fever.

To ensure that your trip goes smoothly, it’s best to compile these documents and show them either as part of your visa application, at the border at customs, or both. In addition, it’s worthwhile making photocopies of these documents and storing them in your accommodation while you’re on your trip.

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Andrew Price
Andrew Price is a seasoned traveller who’s visited destinations ranging from the US to Russia to China. He lives in Madrid, Spain, with his dog

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