Mauritius or Mars – where are you itching to travel?11th Feb 2021
You’re probably eager to escape the year that most of us probably want to forget. But, really, it’s best to stay home and stay safe. However, we can dream – and, obviously, many of us have been fantasising about exotic trips, as evidenced in Google’s Year in Search Report for 2020. Here’s a list of the ten most frequently searched travel destinations by South African internet users. Dream on …
Unsurprisingly, the Indian Ocean island came out on top for South Africans. Being only a four-hour plane journey from Johannesburg, it is just a hop, skip and jump to this little piece of paradise. Aside from being a sought-after holiday destination, the government has been busy introducing a raft of new immigration policies in the last few months, aimed at making it easier for South Africans to live, work, retire and invest on the island. It’s sparked renewed interest, especially since Mauritius has opened her borders to long-stay visitors, although there are strict conditions in place, including a 14-day quarantine.
While Cape Town and Johannesburg remain attractive destinations for international visitors, South Africa’s third largest city, on the other hand, has positioned itself as the country’s ultimate playground. Pre-pandemic, Durbanites used to welcome about a million South Africans to their eight-kilometre strip of beachfront every summer. If you decide to succumb to temptation this year, be careful and stay safe.
Tropical beaches, opulent royal palaces, ancient ruins and ornate temples make Thailand one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. In fact, last year alone, the capital Bangkok was the most visited city in the world, with 38 million tourists traipsing through it. Thai borders were opened in October 2020.
Visa-free for South Africans staying for less than 30 days, Mozambique is undoubtedly one of the easiest places to travel to outside of our borders. The Mozambican government recently reopened the country for leisure travel but has revealed new travel requirements for visitors, including their neighbours in South Africa. If you want to cross over the border, you will need to produce a negative COVID-19 test result at least 72 hours before your trip and adhere to all social distancing measures while in the country.
The eight islands that make up Hawaii boast some of the most pristine beaches and waterfalls in the world, plus there is year-round sunshine. Sadly though, this one will have to remain a dream for later in 2021, or even beyond, as the majority of America is still not open to South African travellers.
We were surprised to see the planet Mars on the list too, but given the strange times we are living in and the unprecedented year we have had, a trip to another planet might just be what we all need. We suspect that this one made the list following Elon Musk’s attempt to launch his Starship spaceship into orbit earlier this year. The serial entrepreneur has expressed his plans to use his vehicle to send people to the Moon and Mars by 2024. But the crash-and-burn test launch this month may put off some potential passengers.
Although the exchange rate is a bit steep for South Africans, Singapore still remains popular. The country’s small and open economy is significantly tourism-dependent, and the COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge losses across the board. In a bid to revive things, authorities have created a so-called travel lane that will allow business, official and high-nett-value travellers to enter without quarantine for short-term stays, as long as they say in a dedicated bubble facility near the airport.
Applications for the new travel lane opened at the end of December 2020 and people from any country can apply, provided that they adhere to strict protocols, including undergoing testing upon arrival and on days three, five, seven and 11 of their stay.
This tropical island paradise is another popular destination for South Africans, mainly because it’s one of the most affordable destinations in Asia. The island usually welcomes an average of 10 million tourists each year, and 60% of its regional revenue comes from tourism. Sadly though, Bali borders remain closed to international travellers until at least the start of 2021.
Famed as the birthplace of reggae music, this Caribbean island nation is the epitome of a tropical, relaxed holiday vibe. Jamaica reopened its borders to tourists in June, and the good – or possibly scary – news is that South Africans do not need to take a COVID-19 test at either departure or arrival. You will, however, need to apply for a travel authorisation document for check-in and boarding purposes. You can apply for this online at least five days before you travel, and you must remain within the boundaries of the resilient corridors once you arrive. These corridors, which span approximately 294 kilometres, have been deemed safe for guests to stay in.
Another tropical paradise less than a four-hour flight from Johannesburg is Zanzibar, and luckily it’s open for tourism. All hotels, restaurants and bars are open, and you won’t even need to quarantine on arrival. However, you will be screened, and anyone displaying COVID-19 symptoms will be transferred to an isolation centre. You must also have valid health insurance and adhere to the country’s social distancing guidelines.