Well, South Africa is officially in its first technical recession since 2009. Agriculture, transport and trade, manufacturing, it’s all a mess. Right now it certainly seems as if every part of our country is either broken or limping along. Nothing works.
But, at least your passport is still good for something.
According to the second-quarter Passport Index released by immigration consultants, Henley & Partners, SA ranks 50th in the world in terms of most access granted to other countries without need of a visa.
At the time, Japan ranked number one, offering citizens visa-free access to a total of 189 destinations. South Africa, on the other hand, offers visa-free and visa-on-arrival access to 102 countries, which still isn’t too bad at all – considering what an expensive headache it is to apply for a regular visa.
We put together a list of some of our favourite countries on the list. But first…
Visa-free, or no visa required, means that you can get on a plane, arrive at your destination, get off the plane and proceed directly to immigration. You won’t need to pay anything, and it generally means that you’re free to enter the country from any legal border crossing, by any reasonable means.
Here is a list of the destinations that South African passport holders can access, visa-free:
Visa-on-arrival, or visa-upon-entry, means that once you land in your destination, you'll commonly have to report to the visa counter, apply and pay for the visa (which is pasted into your passport right away) and then make your way to immigration.
Visa-on-arrival also limits travellers to dedicated entry points, such as international airports or major border crossings. Travellers will have to do thorough research into the country they intend to visit. Know the border crossing requirements and know what you need to ensure that you'll get that visa.
Here is a list of the destinations that South African passport holders can access with visa-on-arrival:
So, whether you're looking to explore idyllic beaches, breath-taking mountain ranges or lush tropical forests, your SA passport can help you out. Here are some of the most popular destinations.
Current Exchange Rate: R1 / 2.17 Thai Baht
Known as the Jewel of Southeast Asia, Thailand is one of the most popular and most affordable destinations for South Africans. Famous for its vibrant culture, delicious street food, over 400 beautiful Buddhist temples, exotic jungles and pristine beaches, Thailand offers a little bit of everything for the tourist on a moderate budget. And for the more adventurous, there’s always Bangkok.
Some of the most popular attractions include the Oriental Express, Phang Nga Bay in Phuket, Railay Beach in Krabi, Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Khao Yai National Park and the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
The Land of Smiles also borders Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia – the latter of which also grants visa-free entry to South Africans.
A bit of island hopping is definitely in order.
Current Exchange Rate: R1 / 74.16 Won
South Korea is globally famous for its K-Pop groups, but we won’t hold that against them. The Land of the Morning Calm is one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world, from the cherry blossoms to the snow-capped mountains, but it’s also incredibly advanced. For the best in modern technology, you need look no further than the capital city, Seoul, where futuristic high-rises rub shoulders with ancient tradition.
The country is naturally isolated – often referred to as a museum without walls – and because of this, much of it has stayed exactly the same over the last couple of decades. For tourists, there are countless UNESCO World Heritage Site temples, palaces and royal tombs to appreciate, as well as numerous festivals held throughout the year.
Top attractions include the Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul and the Halla-san National Park in Jeju. Jeju Island is one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, so it’s certainly not to be skipped.
Current Exchange Rate: R1 / 0.50 Guatemalan Quetzal
There’s a lot to love about Guatemala. Mayan ruins, enormous volcanoes, lush jungle landscapes – the Land of Eternal Spring offers something for everybody. Of course, the best parts of the country are far off the beaten track, and it’s better to avoid the cities – unless you’re a fan of assault, violent demonstrations and robbery.
The locals take tradition, respect and culture incredibly seriously, so you’ll have to brush up on a bit of the background before you go. Never disrespect the ruins or take photos of anybody – especially women or children – without their permission.
Of course, the above goes for any country you visit, and if you enter the land with respect and a sharp eye, you’ll get to enjoy everything great about it.
For lovers of rich history and culture, the ancient Mayan ruins should form the centrepiece of your Central American experience. For the adventurous, don a pair of your best hiking boots for a trek up the active volcanoes, or venture deep into the heart of the cloud forests.
The country’s beautiful former capital, Antigua, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the perfect city to visit if you’re looking to experience the best of Guatemalan culture. San Pedro and San Marcos are also popular attractions
Current Exchange Rate: R1 / 9.03 Jamaican Dollar
Sultry rhythms, lush rainforests and a treasure trove of white-sand beaches and coral reefs – of course Jamaica is on our list! The birth-place of reggae is a laid-back tropical paradise, steeped in mysticism and culture.
This Caribbean island almost offers too much to enjoy, whether you’re into dancing, relaxing, exploring or feasting. The streets are constantly alive with bristling culture – dancing, drinking rum, gorging on lobster and jerk chicken – but for the more daring, you’ll find a ton of activities to enjoy as well. The island boasts some of the world’s best snorkelling and scuba diving spots for tourists to explore the vast underwater kingdoms.
Some of the top attractions include Negril Beach, the glowing lagoon of Glistening Waters, the Martha Brae River in Montego Bay, chasing fireflies up into the Blue Mountains and the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston.
Wherever you find yourself, music is sure to follow.
Current Exchange Rate: R1 / 6.66 Kenyan Shilling
Kenya is a melting pot of culture, from the famous Masai people to the smallest tribe in the world, El Molo.
Of course, one can’t mention Kenya without thinking of the iconic wildlife. This East African treasure is home to one of the most diverse bird populations in the world, including gigantic flocks of flamingos. Visit Lake Nakuru – part of the Great Rift Valley – for a real treat.
From the world’s most iconic wild safari parks to magnificent coasts, Kenya offers some of the best opportunities to get back in touch with nature.
One of the top attractions includes witnessing the annual Great Migration of the wildebeest in the Maasai Mara between mid-August and October.
Another is the opportunity to hike Africa’s second tallest peak – Mount Kenya – which boasts three different summits at carrying degrees of difficulty. If this isn’t a big enough challenge for you – Tanzania, another visa-free destination – is right across the border and home to the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro.
Take in the vast lands, savannahs teeming with wildlife. Visit the Bomas of Langata, Nairobi. Seek out Fort Jesus in Mombasa and explore the Kurura Forest in Malindi. There’s a lot to do, and you will find contentment.
Other amazing visa-free destinations include Georgia, Ireland, Brazil, Fiji, Indonesia and Senegal, among many others. Of course, as mentioned above, it’s incredibly important to do your research before you go. Brush up on your general knowledge. Other countries, such as Brazil or Ireland, are known for various dangers. Keep an eye on the social, economic and political conditions of any country before you get on that plane.