Visa applications are ANNOYING.
The entire process checks off a bunch of my pet peeves:
- Stupid amounts of paperwork (why can’t we upload documents Capago?!)
- Standing in lines
- Paying for the privilege of enduring the above.
The good news is that the power of the green Mumba passport has improved over the last few years. We went from 90 to 102 visa-free countries in 2018!
But not all of those destinations are super affordable. While Fiji, the Bahamas and the Cook Islands are incredible places to explore, the flights alone make them expensive for the average South African.
Luckily, there are quite a few affordable visa-free countries for South Africans. Whether you’re looking for an idyllic island escape, something closer to home or you want to fly half-way around the world to South America – there’s something for every kind of traveller and budget.
Here are the cheapest visa-free destinations for South Africans!
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Bali is one of my all-time favourite destinations! It’s super vegan-friendly, there are tons of affordable adventurous activities to do, and it’s a dirt cheap visa-free destination for South Africans.
During my one month trip to the island in 2017, I spent as little as R 2,000 per week!
If you’re planning a group getaway, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Bali. For R 600 per night, you can rent out an entire villa!
Split that between a few friends, and your accommodation costs are the same as staying in a hostel dorm.
Back in 2015, I set out on my first backpacking adventure to Mozambique. For ten days, we travelled overland from Johannesburg to Tofo and spent less than R 6,000.00 in total!
That amount includes accommodation, food, transportation, and activities!
South Africa continues to have a stronger currency than our neighbours, making it an affordable option if you don’t want to venture too far away from home. If you’re on a tight budget, avoid travelling to Mozambique during the busy December holidays.
The border lines are super long, Tofo Beach is full of people, prices are higher, and you’ll have slim pickings when it comes to accommodation if you haven’t booked months in advance.
When I started planning my eight week trip to Southeast Asia in 2018, I stumbled across Borneo, Malaysia. I read a blog post talking about all the incredible wildlife (pygmy elephants, orangutans, the weird looking proboscis monkey) and I knew I had to go there.
I spent a week backpacking around the Sepilok region, and I think it’s one of the most affordable solo travel destinations for South Africans. You can do pretty much any activity without being part of a larger group, and you aren’t charged extra for being alone.
Borneo, Malaysia is also pretty easy to get to from Kuala Lumpur. There are two daily flights, and you can pick up a return for under R 2,000 if you book last minute.
Read More: How to Backpack Sepilok, Borneo on a Budget
Thailand is the cheapest point of entry into Southeast Asia from South Africa. It’s an excellent rand-friendly holiday destination for Saffas that want to stretch their Rands and have the option to country hop without breaking the bank.
If you’re backpacking around Thailand, you can spend as little as R 2,000 per week in Krabi.
But if you’re over dorm rooms and drunk 20-somethings, Thailand is still a cheap visa-free destination for South Africans that want to splurge. Keep an eye out for deals from Flight Center, where you can stay in 3-star hotels, with flights included for seven days for around R 8000.00!
Luang Prabang, Laos
Laos was the first Southeast Asia destination I travelled to while working for a volunteering organisation. Landlocked between Thailand, Vietnam, China, Myanmar, and Cambodia, travellers usually overlook it when planning a trip to the region.
But if you’re looking to explore a country that has yet to become overrun by the hordes in Thailand, you’ll fall hard for Laos!
Some of my favourite experiences were attending the daily Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang, cruising down the Mekong River, exploring ancient Buddhist caves, learning how to cook traditional Laos cuisine and shopping a bit too much at the night markets.
A meal at a local restaurant will cost less than R 40.00. I bought a painting from a local artist for R 70.00 and entry to Pak Ou Caves cost me R 32.00!
Brazil is one of the cheapest visa-free destinations in South America for South Africans. With LATAM Airlines and TAG Air often having airfare specials, you can pick up a return flight from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo or Rio De Janeiro for around R 6000.00!
If you do not want to stay in Brazil for your entire holiday, you can still hop around the continent. There are flights to other visa-free destinations like Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay for under R 3000.00!
Kenya may seem like an unlikely budget destination for South Africans. The safari packages for Masai Mara are notoriously expensive, and a lot of the tourist activities use the US dollar.
BUT if you’re okay with going to Kruger National Park in SA for R 80.00 and exploring other parts of Kenya, you’ll find it’s quite an affordable destination. With return flights from Johannesburg around R 4000.00 and an incredible coastline, Kenya deserves a spot as a top tropical destination.
Budget travellers can stay in a hostel for as little as R 150 per night!
If you’re looking to get off the beaten track, fly up to Watamu. Flights are super cheap from Nairobi and despite Watamu being slightly underdeveloped it all adds to its the charm.
Visa Information: Visa not required for 90 days.
Exchange Rate: 1 ZAR = 8.13 KES
Return Flights: R 4,400 +/-
Read More: How to Travel Kenya on a Budget
Is a tropical island getaway on your bucket list? Book a roundtrip to Zanzibar! Return flights are usually under R 5,000, or you can find seven-day holiday packages with flights included for R 12,000 to R 15,000 per person.
Zanzibar is an excellent visa-free destination for South Africans wanting to book an affordable honeymoon or escape the hustle of big cities for a few days of turquoise waters and sandy white beaches.
The Zanzibar Archipelago has excellent dive sites, healthy coral reefs, and an intriguing history. A trip to Stone Town is a must! It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts a church built almost entirely from coral stone.
When I booked my tickets to Georgia in 2017, I knew nothing about the country except that South African’s didn’t need a visa. That was enough to spark my wanderlust, and I’m dying to go back and explore more!
While I did spend most of my time in hostels, the hotels inside and outside of the capital city, Tbilisi are affordable!
If you’re cooking your own food, your Rands will stretch super far, and you’ll have more money for adventures like paragliding over the Caucasus mountains and day trips!
A fresh loaf of bread only cost me 0.50 Georgian Lari and a week’s worth of groceries around R 150. I recommend buying from the small local shops where the prices are lower and avoiding the international supermarket chains.
The meals at restaurants weren’t expensive, but I didn’t dine out much because Georgian cuisine isn’t vegan-friendly.
Read More: The Ultimate Tbilisi, Georgia Travel Guide
The Philippines is one of the hottest Southeast Asia destinations. It’s made up of over 7,000 islands and boasts an incredible range of landscapes from volcanoes to rainforests and miles of deserted beaches.
So how affordable is the Philippines for South Africans? A dinner at an inexpensive local restaurant will cost around R 40.00, a local beer R 12.00 and return flights to more remote islands like Puerto Princesa from Manila will only set you back R 850.00!
If you’re finding flights from South Africa to the Philippines a little out of price range, I have a little trick I use to find cheaper flights.
Instead of searching for my exact destination, I use Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” search function to find the cheapest entry point into a region. For Southeast Asia, it’s usually Thailand, and from there I check how much flights are to my final destination.
Sometimes, it works out cheaper to split your journey up like this if roundtrip airfare prices are too damn high.
Since scrapping it’s visa requirements for South Africans, Russia has seen a boom in tourism. While flights will be your biggest expense, it’s worth it when you can budget around R 3,000 for an eight-day trip around St. Petersburg and Moscow.
The only thing to keep in mind is that Russia isn’t a great destination for first-time travellers. There aren’t signs in English, and it’s a good idea to learn the Russian alphabet to make getting around easier.
But if you love history and don’t mind the language barrier – it’s one of the cheapest visa-free destinations for South Africans!
Mauritius or Reunion Island
Mauritius and Reunion Island are excellent budget destinations for South Africans that need a heavy dose of island life.
With tons of all-inclusive packages from resorts in Mauritius that cover your flights, meals, drinks, and entertainment, it’s super easy to know exactly how much your entire trip will cost.
For honeymooners and swooning couples, it’s an excellent deal but if you’re looking for something more family-friendly I’d recommend Reunion Island.
It’s right next door to Mauritius with flights costing about the same, but there are more activities you can do with kids. Accommodation is also slightly cheaper as the island caters more for self-catering cottages than hotel resorts.
Visa Information: No visa required for 90 days.
Return Flights: R 4,400 – R5200+ return
Which of these cheap visa-free destinations for South Africans are you planning on visiting?
Did I spark your wanderlust or do you have any budget tips for exploring these destinations? Let me know in the comments below!
Psst…want more visa-free travel inspiration? Check out my other posts:
- The Complete List of Visa-Free Destinations for South Africans
- 12 Best Visa-Free Countries for South Africans to Visit
- 20 Incredible Visa-Free Countries South Africans Need to Visit in 2020
- 14 Unique Visa-Free Countries for South Africans
- How to Get Your Visa on Arrival for Vietnam in 3 Easy Steps
- South Africans: How To Get Your Visa On Arrival For Iran
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