Boulders Beach, South Africa | Joseph Garcia

Published on May 14 2021
Written by: African Queen

Traveling to South Africa from the US, post-pandemic: What to expect


  • As of April 2021, a valid PCR COVID test is still required for all international arrivals into South Africa and the United States, even if you’re fully vaccinated.
  • PCR tests are easy to book and cost around $60 USD in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Masks are required in all shared safari vehicles.

Travel to Africa—it’s finally becoming a reality again for US travelers who’ve been patiently, and not-so-patiently, waiting to go on safari. Your African Safari is liaising with travelers who’ve recently returned from Africa to learn more about their personal travel experience regarding PCR tests, vaccinations, quarantining and going on safari. To get the inside scoop on what it’s like to travel from the US to South Africa right now, we spoke with one traveler, Joe, about his recent experience in a post-pandemic world.

Joe Garcia capturing the sunset at Chapmans Peak Bay
Joe capturing the sunset at Chapmans Peak Bay

Departing JFK

A negative PCR COVID test was required within 72 hours of departure.  Although Joe had a valid rapid PCR test performed, when he arrived at JFK, he was informed that the rapid test was not accepted and that he’d need a real-time PCR test. Luckily, he was able to have the test done on-site, at JFK, and health insurance covered much of the cost.

JFK to Istanbul, Turkey

Turkish Airlines were diligent in their adherence to CDC guideline. Although the flight was full, with no middle seats left open, hygiene packages, which included a spare mask, hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes, were distributed to passengers before boarding the plane. The flight was around 10 hours and passengers were suggested they change masks every four hours, and provided fresh masks if needed, but they were not required to do so.

Istanbul to Cape Town, South Africa

After nine hours in Istanbul, where a negative PCR test was required, Joe took his second 10-hour flight to Cape Town. The same preventative measures that were taken on the first leg of the journey were also taken on this flight.

Entering South Africa from the US

Upon arrival in South Africa, passengers were required to produce a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old. Self-isolation and quarantining were recommended for a period of two weeks upon arrival into Cape Town, but not mandated.

Chapmans Peak Bay
Chapmans Peak Bay


South Africa was more cautious and efficient in preventative measures. In public places such as stores and restaurants, social distancing was strictly enforced.  There was often a staff member placed inside the entrance to sanitize hands and, in some instances, take down details such as name and phone number, should the person need to be contacted in the event of someone testing positive.

Rhino in South Africa

South Africa safari

Travelers looking to go on safari in South Africa should expect the following, at least through the end of 2021.

  • Transportation to and from the airport—masks to be worn at all times by all passengers, including the driver.
  • In communal areas, even if partially or fully open to the outdoors, masks to be worn and social distancing protocols adhered to.
  • Safari vehicles—will be cleaned prior to each drive and hand sanitizers will be provided. Masks are required, especially for group safaris.

Southern rock agama, Boulders Beach
Southern rock agama, Boulders Beach

Returning to the United States from Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town also requires a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. The test was easy to book and was done at a hospital to ensure a quick turnaround on results. Joe’s results were ready within 24 hours, and the cost was around 850 Rand, which currently is about $60 US.

Prior to landing in the United States, passengers were required to fill out a form with their tracking info, which asked for details such as address, age, countries visited prior while outside of US. After returning home, Joe received follow up calls asking him to self-isolate for 14 days. The calls ceased once the two weeks had passed.

As of April 2021, a valid PCR COVID test is still required for all international arrivals into South Africa and the United States, even if you’re fully vaccinated.

Sources and credits

Your African Safari

Interview with Joe Garcia

About the author

Has been on: 10 safaris

I would say I'm an amalgam of luxury and back-to-basics. My most memorable lodging experience was in a basic tent in the Serengeti. Absolutely thrilling. My dream is to see a pangolin.

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