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Travelling During the COVID-19 Outbreak

The South African government has declared it a National Disaster and with over 95 milion coronavirus cases confirmed world wide, we understand that you are concerned about travelling right now. We hope to offer you reassurance, assistance and useful information regarding your South Africa Travel Online flight bookings below.

If you need further information regarding COVID-19, please visit the government website www.sacoronavirus.co.za.

SA Moves Down to Lockdown Level 3

From 26 July 2021, South Africa moved down to lockdown level 3 lifting all domestic travel restrictions. Leisure travel to and from Gauteng will be allowed and domestic travel is still allowed. Passengers have to continue wearing masks for their own safety.

Other changes saw curfew move to 22h00 - 04h00. Restrictions still apply to funerals and large gatherings, especially indoor ones like churches.

Comair Extends Suspension of Flights

Both British Airways South Africa and Kulula Airways announced that they are suspending all services until 31 August 2021, citing concerns over the new Delta variant. This extends beyond the current lockdown, which will be reviewd on 25 July 2021.

FlySafair, Airlink and Cemair all announced that they will continue operating and adjust their schedule where necessary to match reduced demand.

Level 4 Lockdown Extended

President Ramaphosa extended lockdown level 4 until the 25th of July 2021 as cases continue to rise. Domestic leisure travel to and from Johannesburg is still not allowed, however restaurants and gyms can now fill 50% capacity to the maximum of 50 people at a time.

Bus and taxi services may not carry more than 70% capacity for long-distance travel (a trip of 200km or more) but may carry 100% capacity for shorter trips. All passengers are required to wear a mask.

Passengers are still allowed to travel regionally and interantionally from Cape Town International, King Shaka International and OR Tambo International Airports. Passengers can also transit at OR Tambo International Airport.

A passenger needs to have a valid reason for travelling to Johannesburg. These include business travel and funerals, but not leisure travel. Please find the relative government forms to be complete here.


Domestic Airlines Cancel Operations

Several domestic airlines announced flight cancellations following domestic leisure travel restrictions being put in place during lockdown level 4. The travel restrictions will be reviewed on the 11th of July 2021.

Comair announced that both Kulula and British Airways will suspend domestic and regional operations between 5 until 29 July 2021. They hope to resume operations on 30 July, provided the lockdown doesn't get extended beyond this date.

LIFT only operated flights between Cape Town and Johannesburg and announced that they won't operate the route between 5 and 30 July 2021.

Airlink, FlySafair and Cemair all subsequently confirmed that despite needing to make schedule changes to meet the changes in demand, they will continue to operate all domestic routes.

Adjusted Level 4 Lockdown

The President announced an adjusted level 4 lockdown for South Africa starting the 18th of June 2021. This is due to the start of the third wave, fueled by the new Delta COVID-variant that has already ravaged Gauteng.

Travel-related restrictions are limited to Gauteng. While passengers can still transit through Gauteng, passengers cannot travel for leisure purposes to or from Gauteng domestically except for those returning home. This regulation does not affect international travel.

Passengers needing to travel to Johannesburg for work, funerals or reasons allowed need to complete one of these government forms found in the Government Gazette.

Additional regulations include restrictions on group gatherings and the sale of alcohol. Most restrictions included in the announcement will be reviewed in two weeks' time.

Airport Terminals Accessible To All

ACSA announced towards the end of 2020 that the three major airports - King Shaka International, Cape Town International and OR Tambo International Airport- will again be accessible to all, including those with no travel plans. The rest of the country's airports will still only be accessible to ticket holders.

It is presumed that the Airports Company South Africa will do everything in their power to stem the spread of the second wave. There will likely still be some level of screening done before you can enter the building, including compulsory hand sanitising, and everyone will have to wear a mask.

 

No More Domestic Health Questionnaires

ACSA announced that they will no longer require passengers to present completed goverment health questionnaire in order to board a flight. This became effective on the 25th of November 2020 following notification from government that it will no longer be required. Mango also shared the news. It hasn't been publicly verified by government yet.

ACSA will still screen all passengers before they enter the terminals and continue limiting entry to ticket holders boarding flights.

The End of the Red List

Last night, 11 November 2020, president Ramaphosa announced that the red list of countries woud be coming to an end. Travellers from all over the world will be welcome in South Africa, provided they have a negative COVID test. No exact date was given, so it is assumed to be effective immediately.

Updated International Red List

The South Africa government has updated the so-called red list of countries yesterday, 19 October 2020.

The now shortened list includes Spain, Germany, France, the UK and USA among the 22 countries listed. South Africans can travel to these countries, as long as they meet the entry requirements of their final destination. Residents and citizens of these countries can't travel to South Africa for leisure purposes.

International is Back - But These Countries Are Still Banned

Government finally released the long-awaited list of countries to which travel restrictions would still apply on the 30th of September 2020. Unfortunately more questions were raised rather than answered, but we'll try our best to break it down below. The list of 60 countries is also perplexing in some instances - Germany and Spain didn't make the list despite numbers soaring, yet Iceland is on it. The list will be reviewed every two weeks and currently only applies to leisure travel.

The government list included 60 countries considered high risk. Leisure travellers from these countries will not be allowed into South Africa, with the only exceptions for business travellers, those with high-skills visas and investors. 

Passengers who have spent the previous ten days in a low-risk country, according their passport stamps,  will be considered coming from a low-risk country and can enter South Africa.

South African citizens are free to travel to any international country that will accept them and can’t be denied entry to their home country upon their return (SA Constitution). They will however be asked to produce a negative COVID test no older than 72 hours in order to enter the country. You also have to provide proof of your address at the time of arrival and could be asked to quarantine, either at home or at a government chosen facility.

All passengers entering the country will be screened and can be forced to take a COVID test or to quarantine. Quarantine can take place at your residence or a government chosen facility and will be at your own cost.

Travel Restrictions Still Apply To These Countries:

  1. Albania
  2. Argentina
  3. Armenia
  4. Austria
  5. Bahrain
  6. Belgium
  7. Bolivia
  8. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  9. Brazil
  10. Chile
  11. Columbia
  12. Costa Rica
  13. Croatia
  14. Czech Republic
  15. Denmark
  16. Ecuador
  17. France
  18. Georgia
  19. Greece
  20. Guatemala
  21. Guyana
  22. Honduras
  23. Hungary
  24. Iceland
  25. India
  26. Iran
  27. Iraq
  28. Ireland
  29. Israel
  30. Jamaica
  31. Jordan
  32. Kuwait
  33. Lebanon
  34. Luxembourg
  35. Maldives
  36. Malta
  37. Mexico
  38. Moldova
  39. Montenegro
  40. Nepal
  41. Netherlands
  42. North Macedonia
  43. Oman
  44. Palestine
  45. Panama
  46. Paraguay
  47. Peru
  48. Portugal
  49. Puerto Rico
  50. Qatar (You can connect on the airport)
  51. Romania
  52. Russia
  53. Slovakia
  54. Suriname
  55. Switzerland
  56. Ukraine
  57. United Emirates
  58. United Kingdom
  59. USA
  60. Venezuela

International Travel To Resume 1 October 2020

Following weeks of guesses and misleading statements from concerned parties, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced earlier this week that we are moving to lockdown level 1 on the 20th of September 2020 and that international travel can resume on 1 October 2020. This is not without stringent measures and certain requirements to preserve the great gains we have made in the fight against the coronavirus.

Our government will in time release a list of countries for which travel restrictions will still apply, passengers need a negative coronavirus test result no older than 72 hours in order to enter the country and selected arrival points have been designated.

We look forward to experiencing the 'new normal' with you as international travel starts to resume. Be sure to have your mask and hand sanitiser at the ready!

Could We Enter a Travel Bubble?

The concept of a 'travel bubble' was first introduced by Australia and New Zealand, who made an agreement to allow tourists to travel between the two countries with no quarantine requirements. While this hasn't been implemented yet, it hasn't stopped people from latching on to the concept!

This has been one of the hottest topics for discussion during the pandemic, particularly for the hard-hit South African tourism industry. It recently shifted from a completely academic discussion to a real possibility when South African Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane introduced the concept at a panel discussion last week.

While our local transmission numbers would first need to decrease further, she mentioned that this could be the first step to re-opening borders. This way we could test our safety measures put in place and prove to international travellers that we are ready for their return when the time comes.

With the possibility of being able to visit one of our neighboring countries soon, which would you like for South Africa to enter into a travel bubble with? We're holding thumbs for Mauritius, because we all deserve paradise!

Lockdown Level 2: Domestic Leisure Travel Allowed

South Africans will enter lockdown level 2 on the 18th of August 2020, which will allow them to travel domestically for leisure purposes. So no permit will be required and you can leave your own province. Airlines will likely increase their capacity if the demand increases. International travel is still restricted and limited to repatriation flights.

Availability of International Flights

Airlines are very hopeful that the South African government will lift the lockdown restrictions soon and open borders, which is why many have loaded inventory on the global sales systems. This is why you'll often get results when searching for international flights about a week to a month before the departure dates. These flights will always be cancelled, sometimes mere hours before departure, if the government doesn't open our borders before departure.

Please understand that no one knows when our borders will open, the airlines are hopeful when making the flights available but often these last-minute cancellations results in passengers losing money and not being able to get refunds.Therefore no agent will advise anyone to book these flights.

By everyone's best estimation, which is still a guess, we think borders will open early next year. If we are lucky they will open in time for the December holidays, but no one knows for certain.

So if you need to travel internationally right now, you can contact us for more information about a repatriation flight. Otherwise we advise you book further in advance and make sure you are satisfied with the airline's policy in the event that the flights have to be cancelled.

Domestic Travel Within Your Own Province

You can now travel for leisure within your own province, no permit needed. You might have to provide proof that you reside within the province during check-in at your accommodation.

Still No Domestic Travel for Leisure

Government clarified on Friday, 10 July 2020, that travel for leisure is still not allowed during lockdown level 3. This includes both inter-provincial and intra-provincial travel, meaning you can't cross a provincial border or travel for leisure within your own province. This contradicts earlier interpretations of government regulations, which made it seem like leisure travel was allowed within your own province.

Repatriation Flights

If you find yourself trapped overseas and needing to return home, please contact us on travel@southafrica.to as we can assist with flights on Emirates and Turkish Airlines when available.

While no scheduled international flights are currently available, airlines are operating selected charter flights to help return people to their home. These flights are on a one-way basis and often more expensive than a scheduled flight on the same route. Passengers can unfortunately not use their travel vouchers for cancelled flights towards these bookings.

Domestic Flights Safety & Requirements During Lockdown

Lockdown Level 3 and Limited Domestic Travel

We moved down to lockdown level 3 on 1 June 2020 and with it government relaxed regulations for domestic travel and flights. Passengers needing to travel for business can now book a bus or flight to cross province borders.

Domestic flights are only allowed on the so called "golden triangle" route between Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. Flights are now also allowed to Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Kruger and Pietermaritzburg. Flights to George and East London are not allowed yet as the airports haven't met government safety standards yet.

Passengers travelling will need to adhere to new rules, including wearing a mask for the duration of the bus trip or flight. Additionally temperature checks and screening for symptoms will take place and passengers could be denied travel if they don't pass these.

Social distancing will also be adhered to, in the airport only passengers in posession of a valid ticket will be allowed entrance and buses are only operating at 50% capacity to allow for more distance on board. FlySafair is even allowing passengers to pay R750 to book out the middle seat if they are serious about social distancing. The airline said that middle seats will only be booked once all other seats are filled.

All passengers travelling on bus or planes will require a permit in accordance with the Disaster Management Act (s33(4)). This can be acquired by completing the forms or writing an affidavit in accordance with the Disaster Management Act, 2002, as amended, here and here. We have provided the full list of reasons to cross borders as well as the necessary forms required for each.

The alternative to this form is a sworn affidavit which would need to be signed by a magistrates office or a police station. FlySafair's handy tool can help you generate a permit that needs to be signed and stamped by your office. Other airlines also have similar forms that could be completed and signed.

Currently no passenger can be allowed boarding without such a permit. Domestic travel is still not allowed.

Please note that government can amend these requirements at any stage and that while we have done our best to ensure that the information provided is accurate, we can't guarantee that we will be able to communicate any possible change to this requirement to you in time. Therefore each passenger has a responsibility to check on requirements with the airline or their travel consultant closer to departure date to ensure that you are meeting the latest requirements. 

Airlines Resuming Operations During Level 3

FlySafairwill resume flights on the 15th of June 2020. SA Airlink plans to launch flights between between Cape Town - Johannesburg and Johannesburg - Durban from the 8th of June 2020. Mango Airlines has announced that they will resume operations between Cape Town - Durban, Johannesburg - Duran and Johannesburg - Cape Town on 15 June 2020.

SAA currently has no plan to resume domestic services in June. Comair, operating British Airways and Kulula flights, will not resume operations at this stage as they have entered business rescue and hope to restart in November.

Buses Resuming Operations During Level 3

Busses are currently only operating at 50% capacity to allow for adequate social distancing, but you can still travel on most domestic routes. Eldo Coaches, APM and Intercape are all operating along with several smaller coach companies. You can find prices and routes available here.

International Travel Slowly Resuming

With the introduction of stringent rules and safety measures, Emirates airlines has re-introduced a limited service to 9 international destinations. These include Sydney, Milan, Franfurt, Chicago, Toronto, Paris among others.

Australia and New Zealand are also talking about a "travel-bubble" that could see travel between the two countries with no 14-day self-quarantine following a flight. Europe is also looking at adopting a similar model, with countries with low infections slowly opening up travel to other EU countries. Strict requirements are in place to ensure that this doesn't result in the spread of the disease though.

Each airline is currently seeking ways to make travel and flights safer for both staff and passengers. While there is currently no uniformity in which measures will apply, it is clear that masks or a face covering that shields both your mouth and nose will be required for the duration of the flight and boarding process.

Slowly Easing Out of Nationwide Lockdown

The government has announced a staged approach to easing out of lockdown. The five level approach could see government slowly easing society back into the new normal. This also allows for more stringent measures to be in place in some areas than in others, depending on how many COVID-19 cases are being recorded.

Unfortunately as we are learning what level 4 starting on 1 May 2020 entails, it has become clear that inter-provincial travel will only be allowed once we reach a lower level.

Current draft regulations suggest that domestic travel might be allowed during level 3 in special circumstances, but unfettered inter-provincial travel will only be allowed during level 2.

FlySafair has said that while they may technically resume domestic flights under the current draft version of level 3, they will wait for demand to pick up and might only consider slowly introcuing a limited schedule during level 2 to meet demand. SAA has said that they are still waiting on clarity from government before making a decision.

International travel will only be allowed once we've eased completely out of lockdown.

And whether you agree with this or not, you have to wear your mask when leaving your house!

Nationwide Shutdown

On the 23rd of March 2020 president Cyril Ramaphosa made the difficult decision to place our country on lockdown, effective from midnight the 26 March 2020. This 21 day period will see South Africans stay at home, work from home where possible and only leave to seek medical help, for social grants and to acquire essential supplies. Some exceptions apply to workers providing essential services. Government will publish a full list of these workers soon.

This Lockdown Rules:

  • No leaving your house - unless for medical assistance, collection of social grants or shopping for essentials.
  • Restrictions on domestic travel - all long-haul bus services and flights are cancelled.
  • No international flights - all international flights are cancelled.
  • South African citizens and residents who arrive from high-risk countries will be placed under quarantine for 14 days.
  • Non-South Africans who arrive on flights from high-risk countries which were prohibited in Ramaphosa’s announcement last week will be turned back.
  • International travellers who arrived in South Africa after March 9 2020 from high-risk countries will be confined to their hotels until they have completed a 14-day period of quarantine.

Most South African domestic airlines have been accommodating and allowing free date changes or travel vouchers, meaning travellers only have to pay the difference in airfare and taxes on a new ticket.

Most international airlines have now adopted a travel voucher system for affected flights that can't be refunded.

Stay safe, stay home and look after yourselves and one another!

Changes & Cancellations

We're here to help you postpone and cancel your flights if you no longer want to travel. We believe holidays are meant to be enjoyed, not stressed about whether you have enough handsanitiser.

Due to the high number of enquiries we're currently dealing with, we have had to prioritise customers travelling within the next 72 hours. Please be sure to contact us telephonically on 087 351 2051 or email us at travel@southafrica.to and follow up with a phone call if you don't hear from us soon enough.

Change and cancellation policies do differ for each booking depending on the airline, travel destination, travel dates and ticket rules. If you want to change or cancel a current booking, please contact your travel consultant to discuss the options currently available. Unfortunately we are restricted to airline policies which most often align with the relevant government policies and travel bans in place at the time.

In most cases the new lenient airline policies are very restrictive, so cancellation and change policies for travel to affected areas generally don't extend to travel beyond the end of the month. You might have to wait a while before postponing or cancelling your holiday in order for the airline to meet you half way.

Travel Insurance

It is times like these where travel insurance is truly proving its worth! If you are purchasing insurance through your travel consultant, please ensure it is a comprehensive policy. If you are relying on the free travel insurance provided by your credit card provider, please contact the insurance company to top-up your policy.

Book Your Next Holiday With Confidence

If you are planning further in advance -hoping to avoid the outbreak - you can purchase yourself peace of mind! Contact our travel consultants to find out about "Voluntary Cancellation Coverage" which would allow you to book with more confidence. This policy needs to be issued immediately after your first payment on the holiday booking, but can provide cover of up to R30 000 for flights and accommodation.

Reliable Resources

The only thing that spreads faster than the virus is the fake news about COVID-19. Please make sure you rely on these official Coronavirus advisory resources for all your coronavirus updates.

Have You Recently Returned from International Travel?

  • Please self-isolate for 14 days if this an option for you, as it stops the spread of the disease in its tracks! This means working from home where possible, online shopping or going to the shops in off-peak periods and as infrequently as possible and rather phoning friends and family than meeting up.
  • If you do show any symptoms (fever, dry cough or difficulty breathing among others) please contact your local health care provider telephonically for further advice on getting tested and treatment if necessary. Do advise them that you have been overseas and provide details, even if it isn't being asked. Don't show up to your GP unannounced and spread the disease to everyone else in the waiting room.
  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol and don't touch your mouth, nose or eyes. You should also wipe down any hard surfaces like phones, laptops and hard case bags as there is no confirmation for how long the virus can survive on hard surfaxes. It is possible to have the disease and spread it without showing any symptoms. However without us spreading the disease, it will have nowhere to go.

What If I Have to Travel Right Now?

Whether it is for work or medical treatment, if you can't cancel or postpone a trip you have to try to see the bright side. Aircrafts have never been this clean and usually crowded spaces like airport and tourist attractions can be enjoyed in relative peace. You can however take the following steps to reduce your risk:

  • Wear a re-usable cloth mask that fits snugly over your nose and chin without any gaping at the sides. Choose one made from natural materials (like cotton) that has at least two or three layers. This is the responsible choice as paper and medical grade masks should be left to medical staff and is not kind to the environment. A face shield could offer further protection, specifically for your eyes. Make sure you wear your protective gear for the duration of your journey.
  • Practice good hygiene. This includes the recommended hand washing for at least 20 seconds or use of hand sanitiser. Also try to keep your hands to yourself, don't touch anything unnecessarily. Your aircraft should be cleaner than usual, but it can't hurt to wipe down your screen, tray, belt and armrest with a sanitizing wipe.
  • Avoid crowded places and steer clear of anyone coughing or sneezing as far as possible.
  • Make sure you get enough rest and follow a healthy diet, these form the cornerstone of a healthy immune system.
  • Santise any hard surfaces that might have accidentally come into contact with the virus before touching it again. This includes your phone, laptop and any hardcase luggage and handles.
  • Self-isolate for 14 days on your return as you may carry and spread the disease even if you are asymptomatic.

Disappointed to Have Your Holiday Plans Cancelled?

If the worst you're dealing with at the moment is cancelled holiday plans count yourself lucky and take some inspiration from this creative couple. This is living proof that holiday is just a state of mind!

Plus we'll still be around to help you rebook once you feel it is safe to travel again. We can't wait until the vaccines start reducing infection rates!

There are so many more things you can do to help reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the disease, but these are a good start. Stay safe and use your time at home wisely.

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