20 Incredible Visa-Free Countries South Africans Need to Visit in 2020

visa free countries for south africans

Soul destroying. Annoying. Tree Killer.

These are some of the colourful words to describe the pain of acquiring a visa as a South African.

If you’d like to leave that trauma in 2019, I’ve rounded up 20 incredible VISA-FREE destinations to visit in 2020.

Yup.

All you need to do is purchase a return ticket, book your hotel, rock up to the airport and get a stamp in your passport.

So baie maklik

Whether you’re looking for the ultimate beach escape with mai thai’s on tap, or hair-raising adventures with volcanoes and giant underwater sinkholes – ya gurl has you covered.

My the force of visa-free travel for South Africans be with you in 2020 and inspire you to boldly go where no Capago appointment can stop you.

Best Visa-Free Countries in Africa

girl on mokoro safari in the okavango delta

An early morning mokoro safari through the Okavango Delta!

Botswana: An Incredible Safari Destination

Best Time to Visit: May to September for unforgettable safaris and November to April for birds and baby animals.

Perfect For: Wildlife, Road Trips, Outdoors, Luxury

Can’t Miss Spots: Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Nxai Pan National Park

Unleash your wildest Lion King fantasies in Botswana!

You can get up close and personal with a mob of meerkats, watch millions of flamingos migrate to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans or hop into a mokoro and sail through the Okavango Delta while cruising past zebra, wild dogs, elephants and lions.

On a tight budget?

While there are some luxe accommodation options, Botswana is an affordable destination for South Africans. There are Rand-friendly lodges like Planet Baobab which offer quality lodging and activities that won’t put you into debt.

Read More: The Perfect Self-Drive Botswana Itinerary for an Epic Safari Trip

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mumbo island chalets

My beautiful chalet on Mumbo Island

Malawi: Stay on an Uninhabited Island

Best Time to Visit: May to October

Perfect For: Digital Detox, Scuba Diving, Eco Travel, Beach

Can’t Miss Spots: Mumbo Island

I don’t know about you, but I spent many a Math class day-dreaming about owning a private island. While I haven’t hoarded such a large sum of money (yet), I got first-hand experience in May 2019.

After stumbling across Mumbo Island in Lake Malawi National Park on a routine Google search of top luxury eco-hotels, I discovered the destination offers special all-inclusive prices for South Africans.

For R20,000 I got:

• Return tickets to and from Johannesburg
• All overland and airport transport
• Three meals a day
• Unlimited use of kayaking and snorkelling equipment and a sunset cruise around the island
• Seven nights accommodation

Plus, there I pretty much had the entire island to myself (minus one couple who spent the whole day at the beach).

If you do want the place to yourself, simply convince 14 of your closest friends to join you on a trip to Malawi.

*cries in introvert*

Read More: What It’s Like Staying on Mumbo Island in Malawi


reunion-island-beach

Picture-perfect beach days in Reunion Island!

Reunion Island: Welcome to Adventure Island

Best Time to Visit: June – August (escape the South African winter)

Perfect For: Outdoors, Natural Attractions, Adventure, Beach, Hiking

Can’t Miss Spots: Le Hermitage Les Bains, Piton de la Fournaise, Grand Galet

Ah, Reunion Island.

There is a je ne sais quoi to this slice of heaven in the Indian Ocean.

It’s 207 km circumference is home to a bubbling volcano (I took a heli flip over the lava!), beautiful beaches, hidden waterfalls, delicious creole food, glass-bottom kayaks, crystal clear water and so much more.

Reunion Island is the perfect island getaway for South Africans who would rather go on an adrenaline-inducing adventure than sip on Mai Thai’s by the pool in Mauritius.

Read More: Reunion Island Itinerary: How to See the Best of Reunion Island in One Week


Namibia coast

Sandwich Harbour in Namibia

Namibia: The Ultimate Desert Road Trip

Best Time to Visit: May to September

Perfect For: Wildlife, Safari, Outdoors, Road Trips, Camping

Can’t Miss Spots: Etosha National Park, Sossuvlei, Fish River Canyon, Dead Vlei

When I ever I see a picture of Namibia my heart skips a beat, my palms get sweaty, and the wanderlust in me whispers: “I must go there“.

While my passport is lacking a stamp from Namibia, it’s on my to-do list for 2020, and it should be on yours as well.

From the desolate Skelton Coast sprinkled with shipwrecks to the towering Sossuvlei dunes and the incredible wildlife sightings, you could easily spend an entire month here and only scratch the surface.


avenue of baobabs in madagascar

Avenue of Baobabs in Madagascar

Madagascar: Off-The-Beaten Track Adventure

Best Time to Visit: April to December

Perfect For: Wildlife, Hiking, Scuba Diving

Can’t Miss Stops: Nosy Be Island, Avenue of Baobabs, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

Madagascar is often described as the eighth continent of the world. With its isolated flora and fauna, there is no place on Earth like Madagascar and that alone is worth the R6000.00 return flight.

It’s the home of King Julian (everyone’s favourite party-loving lemur), the towering Avenue of Baobabs and kilometres of unspoilt beaches.

But due to its lack of infrastructure, Madagascar isn’t the best choice for first-time travellers. It’s ideal for seasoned travellers who are looking for visa-free countries for South Africans which are unusual and off the beaten track.


zanzibar

Zanzibar: Affordable Island Getaway

Best Time to Visit: June to October or December to February

Perfect For: Scuba Diving, Luxury Travel, Beach, Culture

Can’t Miss Stops: Stone Town, Pemba Island, Spice Tour, Sunset Dhow Cruise

Daydreaming about spending your holiday relaxing on white sandy beaches, cooling off in crystal clear water and snorkelling past schools of tropical fish?

Book a trip to Zanzibar, honey. You deserve it.

Flights from South Africa to Zanzibar start as little as R3500 return, and you can find some excellent flight + accommodation combos from Flight Centre.

Plus, soaking up some sun here is a hella lot cheaper than Seychelles (and the views are just as gorgeous).


kazbeghi in georgia

Trinity Gergeti Church in Kazbegi, Georgia

Best Visa-Free Countries in Europe

Georgia: One of the Most Underrated Destinations

Best Time to Visit: May, June or September

Perfect for: Wine Lovers, Hikers, History

Can’t Miss: Tbilisi, Kazbegi, Vardzia, Kakheti

I knew nothing about Georgia when I landed in Tbilisi at midnight in 2016. What started as a three-week trip, turned into a two-month adventure.

Georgia is the birthplace of wine and a vodka drink that has the power to make you dizzy in minutes. It’s home to the breathtaking Caucasus mountain range and incredible multi-day hikes.

Then there’s the capital city’s irresistible charm. Wander past sulfur baths with their meticulously detailed mosaics, the largest Ordathox cathedral in Georgia, an ancient fortress and the former palace of Queen Darejan.

Bonus: South Africans get a one year visa on arrival!

Read More: 7 Experiences You Absolutely Must Have in Georgia


Saint Basil’s Cathedral in russia

Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow

Russia: For History Buffs With Insatiable Wanderlust

Best Time to Visit: May to September

Perfect for: History, Disney Geeks, Architecture, Nature

Can’t Miss: Moscow, St. Petersberg, Lake Baikal, Peterhof

Ever since I watched Disney’s Anastasia, I’ve been obsessed with all things Russia.

When I found out Lithuanians adopted my grandfather, I thought there was a highly probable chance I was related to the missing princess.

While my dreams of inheriting the Russian throne have faded, my love for the country’s incredible architecture and history has not.

I can’t wait to visit St. Petersberg and dance around the Hermitage Museum singing “Once Upon a December” at the top of my lungs.

Will I get kicked out? Probably.

Will it be worth it? 100%.


Best Visa-Free Countries in Asia

Thailand: An Island and Culture Escape

Best Time to Visit: November to April

Perfect For: Culture, Beach, Adventure Travel, Food

Can’t Miss Stops: Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Koh Tao, Khao Yai National Park

Thailand is one of the few destinations I keep visiting. My love affair with the country started when I went over to teach English for six months in 2016.

After my tastebuds experienced authentic Pad Thai, there was no looking back.

With Thailand being the cheapest entry point to South East Asia for South Africans, no visa fees, and incredible natural attractions – you’re almost guaranteed to have an incredible trip.

If you’re after beach parties and island hopping, stay on Koh Tai, Koh Samui and Ko Pha Ngan.

For those who would rather avoid the drunk Australians, head to the north.

Places like Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pai offer a quieter experience and a chance for you to learn about the intricacies of Thai culture.

Read More: The Best of Bangkok: The Perfect 3-day Bangkok Itinerary


waterfall in bali

Kroya waterfall in Bali

Indonesia: Best Budget Destination for South Africans

Best Time to Visit: May to September

Perfect For: Adventure Travel, Culture, Beach, Luxury, Scuba Diving

Can’t Miss Spots: Uluwatu Temple, Borodubar Temple, Komodo National Park, Gili Islands, Mount Bromo

Indonesia is one of the most affordable visa-free countries for South Africans.

Head to Bali, and you can rent out an entire villa with your friends for the same price as a hotel room, meals at the local warung restaurants start at R20.00 and hiring a scooter costs as little as R50.00 per day.

But if you have time your itinerary, explore the other islands.

Raja Ampat is an incredible liveaboard destination and Komodo Island is home to incredible hikes and the most terrifying largest lizard on Earth the Komodo Dragon.

Read More: How to Travel Bali on a Budget as a Frugal South African


street in seoul south korea

South Korea: Cherry Blossoms, K-Pop & Ancient History

Best Time to Visit: March to May & September to November

Perfect For: Culture, Nature, History, Food

Can’t Miss Stops: Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul, Busan, Jeonju, Seoraksan National Park

Flights to South Korea from South Africa aren’t dirt cheap, but if you’re looking for a unique destination with something for everyone – it will deliver.

City slickers can wander around Seoul past towering skyscrapers, eat out at Instagrammable cafes, and explore ancient villages and palaces.

History buffs can venture to one of the most unique attractions in the world, the DMZ. It’s the no man’s land border between North and South Korea.

If you’re all about nature, time your trip to South Korea for the cherry blossoms, hike Bukhansan National Park and visit the ancient Jingwansa temple complex.

Read More: How To Book Cheap Flights From South Africa To Your Dream Destination


el nido in the philippines

El Nido in the Philippines

The Philippines: Whale Sharks and Desserted Islands

Best Time to Visit: November to April

Perfect For: Scuba Diving, Beach, Budget Travel, Nature

Can’t Miss Stops: Boracay, Bohol, Puerto Princesa, Panglao Island, El Nido

Is Thailand too mainstream for you? Hop on over one of the 7,000 islands in the Philippines.

The tropical paradise is giving Thailand a run for its money as the top destination in South East Asia, and it’s cheaper.

You can spend $20 (R280.00) per day here as a backpacker. Street food costs as little as $1-2 (R14-28.00) and diving with whale sharks will only set you back $25 (R356.00).


Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Torres del Paine National Park in Chile

Best Visa-Free Countries in South America

Chile: A Mecca for Nature Lovers and Adventure Seekers

Can’t Miss Stops: Torres Del Paine National Park, Valle de la Luna, Easter Island, Santiago

As the winner of best adventure travel destination in South America for three years in a row, if Chile is on your travel radar, chances are you spend a lot of your time outside hiking in untouched wildernesses.

Or you obsessed with exploring one of the most isolated destinations on Earth: Easter Island.

While the 18+ hour flight time to Chile is brutal, at least you can escape the 8th circle of hell reserved for Schengen Visas.

Replace the hours spent at the Capago offices with the tall peaks of the Andes, trekking past ancient volcanoes and the dramatic coastline of Cape Horn.


peru

Peru: A Wonder of the World

Best Time to Visit: May – September

Perfect For: Hiking, Outdoors, Culture, History

Can’t Miss Spots: Macchu Pichu, Cusco, Inca Trail, Nazca Lines, The Sacred Valley, Huacachina

If Peru was a person, it would be like Barney Stinton. A person incapable of taking a bad picture.

The country is home to  Macchu Pichu, the mysterious Nazca lines, an oasis in the middle of the desert and otherworldly UNESCO World Heritage Site cities.

Its sheer diversity of landscape and experiences make it one of the most popular destinations in South America.

While it sounds like you need a small trust fund to explore Peru, it’s one of the easiest South American countries to explore on a budget.

And you don’t need to skip Macchu Pichu to make that happen.


Parque Nacional Iguazú, Misiones, Argentina

Parque Nacional Iguazú in Argentina

Argentina: Antarctica Expeditions & Wine Country

Best Time to Visit: October – December & April to June

Perfect for: Adventure, Food, Wine, Culture

Can’t Miss Spots: Iguazú Falls, Córdoba Cathedral, Mendoza, Ushuaia, Patagonia

Argentina should be on your visa-free bucket list for two reasons:

1. The Mendoza wine region
2. Ushuaia: The end of the world

At the tip of Argentina is world’s southernmost city and it’s where expeditions to Antarctica set sail. You can book cruises in Ushuaia to the South Pole which will last anywhere between two weeks to a month.

Sounds like your dream trip, but the hefty price tag of $4,700-$20,000 is putting you off?

If you have flexibility in your travel plans, you can get a major discount to Antarctica.

All you need to do is travel to Ushuaia and book a last-minute spot. The only catch is that you can’t control that dates of your ticket. It could be anywhere from the next day to the following week.


La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica

La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica

Best Visa-Free Countries in Central America

Costa Rica: Volcanoes, Cloud Forests & Jaguars

Best Time to Visit: December to April

Perfect For: Nature, Wildlife, Surfing, Hiking, Spiritual

Can’t Miss Stops: Tortuguero National Park, Irazu Volcano National Park, Arenal Volcano, Manuel Antonio National Park

Costa Rica first popped onto my radar way back in 2014. I had started working at a global volunteering organisation who ran wildlife conservation projects in Tortuguero National Park.

It didn’t take me long to fall hook, line and sinker for the country’s black sand beaches, incredible wildlife (raise your hand if it’s your life goal to see a wild jaguar), and ziplines gliding through dense forests and past waterfalls.

Besides, its world-class surf spots and unique accommodation options (picture remote treehouses and jacuzzi baths in the middle of the forest!), Costa Rica is a popular destination for spirituality and those who believe in the healing powers of the local ayahuasca ceremonies


stingray in belize

Belize: Underwater Paradise

Best Time to Visit: December to March

Perfect For: Scuba Diving, Adventure, Nature, Eco Travel

Can’t Miss Stops: Great Blue Hole, Shark Ray Alley, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Caye Caulker

Calling all nature junkies!

Book your flights to Belize and prepare to get lost in one of Central America’s most fascinating countries.

Inside its dense forests, you can spot jaguars and howler monkeys and catch a tan on palm-fringed beaches. Cool off in the second largest barrier reef in the world and go for a once-in-a-lifetime diving adventure at the UNESCO Great Blue Hole.

The best part?

It’s one of the cheaper Central America countries and has a well-trodden backpacker route as well as options for mid-range and luxury travellers.


jamacia

Jamaica: Bob Marley & Luxury Travel

Best Time to Visit: November to December

Perfect For: Eco Travel, History, Beach, Nature, Luxury

Can’t Miss Spots: Seven Mile Beach, Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, Bob Marley Museum, Rose Hall Great House

Want to spoil yourself with a luxurious holiday to the Caribbean? Jamaica is calling your name.

It’s a visa-free country for South Africans, and it’s where you’ll find some of the top all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean.

When you’re not sipping on cocktails by the beach, you can visit Bob Marley’s home, learn about the island’s slave trade and visit UNESCO national parks.


Panama

Panama: Off The Grid Adventure

Best Time to Visit: December to March

Perfect For: History, Nature, Adventure, Surfing, Digital Detox, Bocas Del Toro

Can’t Miss Stops: San Blas Islands, Panama City, Santa Catalina

Panama is a small country in Central America, but it packs a punch. Once underwater, it’s now a land bridge connecting North and South America.

Used by the Spanish to transport gold between Peru and Spain, it’s Old Town in Panama City is full of historic ruins and colonial buildings.

Get off the grid and visit the beautiful San Blas Islands. The only way to get to this part of Panama is to buy a package with the indigenous Guna people. It includes transport, three meals a day and accommodation.

There is no Wi-Fi signal here — only postcard-perfect beaches, lush jungles and crystal clear water.


oman

Best Visa-Free Countries in the Middle East

Oman

Best Time to Visit: October to May

Perfect For: Outdoors, Nature, Culture, Road Trips

Can’t Miss Stops: Wahiba Sands, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Nizwa Fort, Wadi Bani Khalid

Oman is one of those countries not a lot of South Africans consider visiting.

If you want to go against the status quo, you’ll find it has a lot to offer. Explore its vast desert, visit ancient forts, mosques and souqs and cool down from the heat in gorgeous wadis.

Plus, it’s one of the safest countries in the Middle East!


Which of these visa-free countries for South Africans will you visit in 2020? Hit me up in the comments below and let’s discuss!


Psst…Want more visa-free travel inspiration? Check out my other posts:

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Ditch the annoying visa appointments in 2020. Here are 20 incredible visa-free countries for South Africans to inspire your travels!

Ditch the annoying visa appointments in 2020. Here are 20 incredible visa-free countries for South Africans to inspire your travels! Travel to far-flung destinations like Russia and Georgia or explore some of Africa\'s top destinations such as Reunion Island, Namibia, Botswana and stay on an uninhabited island in the middle of Lake Malawi. #2020 #travel #visa-free #travelinspiration
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2 Comments

  1. Karl Inge
    January 15, 2020 / 3:55 pm

    I think it`s great that you recommend places that are not too far away from South Africa. Most travel blogs targeting Americans are like: “Oh, China and Portugal are great!!”.

    Not only do people have to bother to travel FAR, but the environmental footprint of such a holiday is also HUGE. Putting Botswana as #1 = respect.

    • lauren
      Author
      January 16, 2020 / 11:18 am

      Thank you!

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