Kaunda Selisho

By Kaunda Selisho


Vaccinated travellers: Destination options for South Africans

As more age groups get added to South Africans vaccination programme, vaccinated travellers are weighing their options.

Vaccinated travellers will soon be able to relive the joy of taking to the skies (or the roads) to journey to new and exciting destinations.

The country has been subject to numerous travel bans since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country hard but that’s about to change as countries around the world roll out vaccination programmes.

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced that the 18-34 age group would be the latest group allowed to register on the government’s electronic vaccination data system (EVDS) portal as of 1 September 2021.

Flight Centre recently shared a list of travel destinations that have eased restrictions on South Africa, as well as those set to ease restrictions soon for vaccinated travellers to consider.

“We’re incredibly excited by the ramping up of the vaccination process with the over 35s flooding in to get their jabs,” said managing director of the Flight Centre Travel Group, Andrew Stark, in a statement. 

“In the case of the tourism, travel and hospitality industry, in particular, and its far-reaching supply chain, we are deeply reliant on the widespread vaccination of South Africans to protect against the devastating loss of life and livelihoods.” 

Stark added that the only way to give our international source markets – travellers and airlines – confidence in reopening the door to South Africa is for the country to reach the herd immunity threshold of vaccinating approximately 67% of our adult population as quickly as possible.

travel recovery timeline
A timeline of how global travel will recover by Flight Centre Travel Group. Picture: Supplied

Flight Centre reports that they have been dealing with a lot of enquiries for international travel in recent months. 

“Commonly asked questions are around a destination’s entry and quarantine regulations as well as required travel documents.”

To cater to this need, the travel group has revamped their travel news website to allow vaccinated travellers to get the latest Covid travel restrictions worldwide in real-time.

“Our interactive Covid-19 Travel Map allows you to easily search destinations that are open for travel, identify travel restrictions and quarantine rules. The site is powered by Sherpa providing real-time information, although we would also advise you to check the information with your Flight Centre travel expert as the information changes day to day, and sometimes even hour to hour.”

Where can I travel if I’m vaccinated? 

Switzerland was the first country to announce that vaccinated South Africans were welcome to visit. 

This was followed by France and Canada. All vaccinated South Africans can travel to France now, while Canada will be opening its borders on 9 September 2021.

Mauritius will be open for vaccinated travellers from 1 October 2021, just in time for the popular December holiday season.

According to Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), it is not only destinations that are beginning to open their borders to vaccinated South Africans. Many popular cruise lines, such as NCL, are welcoming vaccinated travellers onboard.

“As cruising resumes, all guests and crew must be fully vaccinated at least 2 weeks prior to departure. Guest vaccination requirements are currently for all sailings embarking through 31 October 2021,” explained Nick Wilkinson, regional vice-president of business development (Middle East and Africa) for NCL.  

“Along with proof of vaccination, all guests will be required to take a Covid-19 antigen test, administered and paid for by the cruise line, and receive a negative result prior to boarding. Our guests’ safety is our number one priority,” concluded Wilkinson. 

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Things to keep in mind as a vaccinated traveller

Not only do entry regulations and required documents differ from country to country and airline to airline, they also change rapidly as infection rates rise and fall across the world. 

Vaccines that are accepted for entry also vary from location to location, as do the required documents for proving one’s vaccination status. 

“If you’re travelling to Europe, both the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved by the EMA [European Medicines Agency] – the vaccines currently distributed in South Africa.”

Kim Taylor, customer experience director at Flight Centre, says that there is no industry or government standard in place when it comes to an approved vaccination document required for international travel. This may change in future. 

“For now, Flight Centre’s recommendation is that a passenger reviews the specific entry requirements of the country they are visiting to determine how their proof of vaccination should be presented or captured prior to travel. Flight Centre Travel Experts are positioned to assist in interpreting this information,” said Taylor. 

Countries that allow entry to non-vaccinated South Africans

There is a significant number of people who are hesitant to get vaccinated, in addition to those who absolutely refuse to do so.

These circumstances do not mean that international travel is completely off the cards. 

“In many countries, entry is open, and quarantine is not required as long as South Africans get a RT-PCR Covid test done before arriving,” explained Flight Centre. 

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This currently includes locations such as Albania, North Macedonia, Egypt, Maldives, Zanzibar and SADC countries, such as Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.

As it currently stands, the Seychelles welcomes travellers (vaccinated and non-vaccinated) with the exception of those who have travelled to or those who reside in South Africa, up to two weeks before their arrival. 

Health and safety travel precautions

Whether you are vaccinated or not, you still need to take strict precautions. 

Here are some guidelines to remember: 

  • Wear a mask
  • Carry hand sanitiser
  • Practise strict social distancing
  • Self-isolate after your trip for 10 days 
  • Monitor for Covid systems after arriving back home
  • Consider getting another Covid test 3–5 days after returning home

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Compiled by Kaunda Selisho