15 visa-friendly destinations for South Africans in 2020

Posted on 13 January 2020

With every new year comes a fresh list of destinations you can jet off to in 2020. Don’t let your South African passport dampen any hope of travel. Instead, use the opportunity to visit some places you may not yet explored. These are the visa-friendly* destinations ripe for the picking in 2020.

1. Mozambique


Still prolific in the Zavora area, many coconut plantations were recently decimated by an insect-borne disease; sunrise surf check at Tofinho Point. Images: Catherine Hofmeyr.

Mozambique is rapidly emerging as a fantastic long-weekend leisure and business destination.

With more flights and steadily improving roadways, it’s easier to access than ever before. There are beaches and wildlife, as well as tasty food and azure waters.

Culinary tourism is booming here, and Maputo-based Dana Tours now offers a popular guided food tour of the capital immersing visitors in the unique and vibrant flavours of Mozambican cuisine.  Piri piri chicken anyone?

No visas are required for South African passport holders.


2. Republic of Ireland

Image: Unsplash

The Emerald Isle is filled with scenery to make your jaw drop, friendly locals (if you can understand the local dialect) and age-old history. Travel to artsy Galway for a packed year-long calendar of events. The region has been named as a 2020 European Capital of Culture.

Visas aren’t required, but passengers are advised to carry the same documentation that would usually be expected with visa applications, should it be asked for at immigration and airline check-in counters. It’s advised that passengers check requirements with the embassy and airline when booking.


3. Botswana

One of the many elephants we saw in Chobe along the river. Image: Elise Kirsten.

Botswana is one of the last oases of wildlife on earth. Escape the rat race and embrace a slower, leisurely schedule governed only by game drives, mealtimes and Okavango paddles.

South African holidaymakers don’t require a visa for stays of up to 90 days.

4. Costa Rica

Costa rica

Image: Unsplash

Costa Rica is set to welcome scores of responsible, wildlife-loving travellers seeking a sustainable adventure in 2020. Costa Ricans are fiercely proud of the rich biodiversity of their tropical country and are preserving it at all costs. Lonely Planet included Costa Rica on their ‘top 10 countries to visit in 2020’ list, reporting that it could become one of the first carbon-neutral countries in 2020. Nothing but pura vida lies in store!

No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.


5. Qatar

Left, the Fanar Qatar Islamic Cultural centre, one of Doha’s most recognisable landmarks. Right, traditional coffee is served lightly roasted, and heavy on the tongue with cardamom and cloves. Image: Kati Auld.

Head off the beaten track to the Middle East’s Qatar. An intriguing mix of ultra-modern skyscrapers with a proud history and culture, you’ll be offered a fascinating glimpse into this rapidly changing country. Many South African expats call it home. Base yourself in Doha and head out to the desert for dune-bashing adventures, camel safaris and more.

South Africans do not require a visa for stays lasting up to 30 days. (Make sure to check travel advisories at the time you intend to visit, as political flareups in the Middle East can make certain areas dangerous to visit.)


6. Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

Image: Unsplash

Colombia is enjoying its return to the tourism spotlight in 2020. Julian Guerrero, Vice Minister of Tourism, reported that Colombia had experienced continuous growth in tourism for the past 15 years, thanks to improved air access, investment and cruise lines stopping in port.

‘Colombia is truly an emerging hidden gem,’ says Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation in South Africa. ‘To this end, Trafalgar has just launched a new itinerary for 2020, aptly named Colombia Rediscovered, filled with amazing experiences to immerse yourself in the vibrancy of the colourful country. Visit Bogotá, Medellin, Cartagena and learn all about our favourite brew in the famous Coffee Triangle.’

South Africans require a visa which can be obtained online before departure. Contact cancilleria.gov.co. for details.


7. Seychelles

Image supplied

An ideal destination for honeymoons, babymoons, romantic getaways and luxe barefoot-break holidays, Seychelles is blissfully visa-free.

No visa is required for stays of up to three months.


8. Maldives 


Image: Catherine Hofmeyr

For a luxe beach break filled with seaplanes, snorkelling and overwater villas, hop on a plane to the Maldives. Travellers may be pleasantly surprised to discover that a Maldives holiday might fit into their budgets.

‘The Maldives is becoming increasingly accessible for South Africans,’ says Sue Garrett, General Manager of Product and Marketing for the Flight Centre Travel Group. ‘Following the introduction of limited direct charter service to the quieter southern Maldives and good accommodation pricing, we have seen increased interest in the islands by travellers with different budgets in recent years.’

No visa is required.


9. Thailand

Phuket is both an island and a province, the largest in Thailand. The currency is the Thai Baht. Most of the population is Buddhist. Image: Ondela Mlandu.

A popular South African favourite, Thailand boasts picture-perfect beaches, delicious cuisine and cheap shopping – plus it’s visa-free for stays of up to 30 days.


10. Mauritius

No trip to Mauritius is complete without chilling at sea on a catamaran; a pineapple snack bought from a passing motorbike vendor. Image: Melanie van Zyl.

Another favourite, this time in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius needs little introduction. It’s perfect for all types of travellers, from honeymooners to families on holiday. There’s a vast range of accommodation from which to choose too. My favourite? Take your pick from one of the eight Beachcomber Hotels dotted along some of the island’s best beachfront locations.

No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.


11. Peru

Image supplied

Peru is often the first port of call for visitors heading to South America for the first time. While many travellers arrive to explore Machu Picchu, the country has much more to offer. Think great beaches, ancient citadels, tropical jungles and a proud heritage.

South African nationals do not require a visa for tourist stays of up to 183 days.


12. Zanzibar

Traditional dhows tethered in the clear green waters off Kwale Island in the south. Image: Teagan Cunniffe.

How fortunate are we that one of Lonely Planet’s Best Value destinations for 2020 is less than a three-hour flight from the SA border? Zanzibar presents incredible value for money, with packages on offer to suit all budgets. Choose from fantastic day tours, excursions and cheap and cheerful food in Stone Town’s famous night market.

South Africans do not require a visa for stays of a maximum of up to 90 days, provided their passport is valid for six months from date of entry.


13. Reunion Island

Halfway up the steep slopes of the Piton de la Fournaise. Image supplied.

Bonjour! Reunion Island is an off-the-radar gem located just a four-hour flight from Joburg. It’s an adventurer’s paradise, with volcanoes, waterfalls, lava tunnels and warm turquoise lagoons. All this, with a touch of French chic to boot.

A visa is not required for tourist stays of up to 90 days.


14. eSwatini


Image: Matthew Sterne

Earning a spot on Lonely Planet’s prestigious annual top travel destinations of the year list, the kingdom of eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) makes for the perfect long-weekend road trip this year. It’s a hidden gem, just a hop, skip and jump from our borders.

A visa is not required for stays of up to 30 days.

15. Turkey


The 19th-century tram rattles down the middle of Istiklal Cadessi in Istanbul. Image: Achmat Booley.

Turkey has long welcomed South African travellers eager to discover its diverse, multicultural delights.

Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents. Turkey’s geographic location has infused it with a wealth of history, culture and natural wonders.

South African passport holders need to apply for a free e-visa online at least 48 hours before departure. The e-visa will arrive by email, which must be printed and carried along with your passport.

* Destinations that require either no visa, free visas, e-visas or visas on arrival.

Please note: the information contained in this article should be used as a guideline only. Always check visa requirements with the relevant embassy before departure. Passports must also usually be valid for a minimum of six months from entry into the country. Always check with the relevant embassy before making any travel arrangements. 


Words by Jenna Berndt

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