Within the past three months, two experts from Ker & Downey traveled to South Africa. We caught up with them to see what it’s really like to travel to South Africa right now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What You Need to Know to Travel to South Africa Right Now
Travel to South Africa requires a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of the time of departure. Currently, there is no quarantine required once you reach South Africa. However, both MJ and Nicky self-quarantined before their trip and after they returned as a precaution.
There are a number of testing sites around the United States that can provide in-person testing. However, we know some sites are experiencing delays in turning over results.
We can’t recommend the COVID consultants enough. Both MJ and Nicky utilized their services before their trips to South Africa in December and January. The process is simple. As soon as you know you will need a PCR test, you can order one online. Because they are non-perishable, you can order well in advance. They outline when to take your test and when to send it back to them to be processed according to when your need the results. For example, if your flight departs on a Thursday, you would FedEx your sample to them the Monday before departure. They’ll email you the results of your test between 24 to 48 hours before your flight. Additionally, if you have any questions, you are also able to call them and speak directly with someone who can answer your questions and assist you.
“Covid Consultants made getting my test results in time much easier and lessen the stress of that piece of things. Their customer service team was very responsive and helpful with information as to when I need to take test, the process and the tracking of my test results. The paperwork they provided also had all the required details the airlines and immigration officials required.” – MJ
As of January 26, 2021, all flights to the United States require passengers to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test before boarding the flight. Testing in South Africa is highly organized and can be done on the day of before your departure, depending on the company you use.
What happens if you test positive for COVID-19 before your departure back to the United States?
If you test positive before travel to South Africa, you will need to quarantine at your own expense. Many lodges and camps have prepared for this scenario, setting aside an extra tent or even a separate property for those requiring it. And while you’ll still be fed and looked after, you’ll have to remain in your tent or room.
Flying to South Africa
We recommend flying to South Africa mid-week. This makes aligning your negative COVID-19 PCR test results with your departure to South Africa much easier.
MJ and Nicky took different routes to South Africa and had completely disparate experiences. MJ noted limited meal service on her United Airlines flight to Frankfurt, while Nicky enjoyed full meal service on her Qatar Airlines route. United Airlines flight attendants only wore face masks, while Qatar Airlines flight attendants donned masks, face shields, glasses, gloves, and protective clothing.
Nicky was also pleased to find the Qatar Airlines lounges open in the airport and yet practiced diligent social distancing guidelines and safety precautions. Furthermore, it was quite easy to purchase a day pass to access them.
Given their different experiences, we suggest that you pack your own healthy snacks for your flight and avoid flights with connections in Europe for the time being.
Beyond the negative COVID-19 PCR test, South Africa requires travelers to download a health app called COVID Alert South Africa. Additionally, there is a health form you must fill out for entry. This can either be printed off at home ahead of your departure or obtained from your airline upon check-in. You must fill it out prior to your arrival. If you lose it, do not worry — you can ask for another one on the flight or upon arrival at the airport.
Once you arrive in either Cape Town or Johannesburg, you will be met off the plane with VIP Meet and Assist, which is a Ker & Downey standard. They will personally escort you through the airport, collect your luggage, and take you to your driver who will either be waiting in the airport (Cape Town) or in a nearby parking lot (Johannesburg). Throughout both airports, you will encounter one required temperature check and plenty of hand sanitizing stations.
Because of the higher possibilities of delays right now — especially via Europe — we recommend spending at least two nights on arrival in either Cape Town or Johannesburg before continuing with the rest of your South African safari. Thankfully, flights and arrival times are continuously improving and should not be an issue in the long term.
Ker & Downey has always used private transfers for our travelers who are flying to South Africa. That certainly hasn’t changed during the pandemic. The only difference you might notice with transfers is that you will be asked to sanitize your hands and sign a form before getting into the vehicle. Private drivers will also wear face masks.
Hotels and Safari Properties
Once you arrive to each hotel or safari property, staff will check your temperature and ask you to sanitize your hands. They will also request one additional form for you to fill out upon check in.
Housekeeping also minimizes the amount of time in your room. However, Nicky also recommends placing your “do not disturb” sign on your door if you do not wish for anyone to tidy your room during your stay.
Some accommodations also limit laundry service. To keep your face masks clean and fresh, we recommend packing some laundry powder or a small bottle of laundry detergent to rinse out your cloth masks. We also recommend packing a few extra masks to keep with you. Fortunately, most properties provide additional masks and bespoke hand sanitizer.
Why You Should Travel to South Africa Right Now
If you are comfortable traveling internationally, it is a great time to travel to South Africa. Not only do you have access to flexible booking terms, you also have the added perk of fewer crowds. Sites that are normally packed with tourists are practically empty. Furthermore, restaurants that usually have six-month waiting lists are also easier to get into at the moment. If you choose to travel now, you will have a truly private, top-notch safari. It is a perk that won’t last long though, so take advantage of it now.
For more inspiration on where to go, here are MJ and Nicky’s itineraries.
MJ’s Journey at a Glance:
- Johannesburg | The Residence
- Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve | Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge
- Tswalu Kalahari Private Game Rerserve | The Motse
- Cape Town | Ellerman House
- Hermanus | Grootbos
Nicky’s Journey at a Glance:
- Cape Town | Table Bay Hotel
- Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve | Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge
- Victoria Falls | Victoria Falls Hotel
Our Favorite Travel Essentials for Travel to South Africa
- Face Masks: featuring 100% cotton lining and adjustable straps
- Hand Sanitizer: travel size and as eco-friendly as possible
- Hand Wipes
- Facial Serum: to help hydrate and repair skin during long flights
Disclaimer: Some of the above links are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, Ker & Downey earns a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Ker & Downey is also not liable should you contract COVID-19 while using any of these products.
Ready to Travel to South Africa?
We know not everyone is comfortable traveling internationally right now. When you are, we’re ready to help you get there. We’ll take care of the details so that the only thing you need to worry about is packing your bag. Contact a Ker & Downey designer to start planning your safari to South Africa. In the meantime, follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more travel inspiration.