We’ve recently seen a resurgence in interest in African safaris from those who wish to travel this year. And that means we’re frequently asked about testing requirements to enter this or that country, PCR test result turnaround times in different places, and so on.
We use this blog post to discuss the restrictions, requirements and logistics pertaining to travel to the handful of countries offering the best African safaris. But as always, we invite you to contact us if you’d like to chat. 🙂
Please note that we’ve gathered together this information from the various government and airline sources to make life easier for you and get you started with your planning. But it’s always up to you as the traveller to take charge of such matters and ensure you’re complying with all regulations.
A safari is a great adventure at the moment as you’re in the fresh air of the open outdoors much of the time.
Which are the best countries for an African safari?
As we discuss in The Big Five, the very best African safari destinations are those where you can find the Big Five animals (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo). They’re also the locations where there’s a great abundance of wildlife, thereby offering varied and exciting game-spotting. And finally, they’re places that are safe for visitors.
With these three criteria in mind, we believe the following nations offer the best African safari experiences:
We discuss the travel requirements and protocols for travelling to the above countries during the coronavirus pandemic. As you’ll see, some countries are far amenable to international travel at the moment than others.
Please note that the guidelines for each country below do not take into consideration any of the Covid-19 vaccines. This is because airlines and governments are waiting for the efficacy of the various vaccines to become established before they amend their restrictions and rules.
As of the beginning of 2021, the instances of Covid-19 in Botswana are very high. Consequently, the Government of Botswana has enacted a state of public emergency, effective till at least 21 March 2021. That said, visitors can still travel to the country should they wish.
As is the case in many African nations at present, you’re required to produce a printed medical certificate showing that you tested negative for Covid-19 no more than 72 hours before your departure. Note that you must also submit to a temperature screening upon landing. Those with a high temperature will be required to submit to a PCR test.
Please be sure to also check for any virus-related requirements on the part of your airline and country of departure.
If, when landing in Botswana, you fail to produce evidence of a recent negative Covid-19 test, test positive for the virus upon arrival, or show symptoms of the virus, you’ll be ordered to quarantine for 14 days at your own expense. It’s therefore advisable in our opinion to take out traveller’s insurance before visiting Botswana to ensure you’re covered for this eventuality.
Personal health updates
Please note that travellers within Botswana (i.e. those not under quarantine) are required to contact the local health authority every day for the first two weeks of their trip to report on their health and any possible virus-related symptoms.
Botswana’s travel zones
To help curb the spread of the virus within its own borders, the Government of Botswana has divided the country into travel zones. Journeying between zones requires a permit (this applies to locals and visitors alike), so this is something to consider if you’re wishing to cross zone lines during your stay in the country. You may also be required to acquire a negative PCR test to cross from a high-risk zone into another.
At present one must obtain a travel permit to move between Botswana’s different administrative zones.
As is the case in many nations, it’s compulsory to wear a face mask in Botswana’s public spaces. You can be denied service if not wearing a suitable covering.
PCR testing within Botswana
You can undertake a PCR test at Maun or Kasane Airport the day before you depart from Botswana, as there’s a 24-hour turnaround time for results.
Alternatively, you can book a ‘fly in’ test if you’re on safari in the Okavango Delta region. This is where a nurse is flown into the area and visits your lodge to administer the test. He or she then flies back to Maun to process you test result for you.
In keeping with the country’s targeted tourism initiative, Namibia is now open to international travellers. Great news for anyone in the mood for a Namibian safari adventure!
That said, tourists must jump through various Covid-19 related hoops to make their trip possible, so please read on for these details …
Submission of travel plans
Any foreigners wishing to travel to Namibia must make their plans a little in advance. We say this because you’re required to submit your travel plans to the Namibian diplomatic representative in your country of departure at least two weeks prior to travelling there. You’ll also be required to take out traveller’s insurance to cover any tests and quarantining that may be required of you once you’re in Namibia.
Proof of a negative PCR test
To travel to Namibia, you must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test that was conducted no more than seven days prior to your arrival.
Upon arrival at the airport in Namibia, you’ll be required to complete a surveillance form and health survey as well as provide a copy of your itinerary to allow for contact tracing.
Note that if you arrive in Namibia with an outdated negative Covid-19 test (in other words, one older than seven days), you’ll be required to undertake a new test and enter quarantine, all at your own expense. So make sure that test of yours ain’t old!!
Very important: those arriving in Namibia with a PCR test older than seven days are required to quarantine for a fortnight.
Finally, as with any airline travel, be sure to check with your airline and departure country as to their specific coronavirus-related requirements. Also be sure to check if your country allows re-entry to those coming from Namibia.
It’s compulsory to wear face masks in public in Namibia. You could get in trouble with law enforcement if you don’t comply with this rule.
At present alcohol is only available for purchase from 9 am to 8 pm, Mondays to Saturdays. You cannot buy alcohol on Sundays and public holidays.
PCR testing within Namibia
Please be sure to check with your airline and onward destination as to any testing and other requirements placed on your before leaving Namibia. Testing is available in more towns and cities, including Swakopmund and Windhoek.
Kenya is currently open to tourism, so those wanting to go on a Kenyan safari can do so! You can expect to be screened for the virus upon arrival.
Please note that you must present evidence of a negative Covid-19 test to visit Kenya. The test must have been undertaken no more than 96 hours prior to your departure.
Please also take careful note that anyone who tests positive for the virus upon landing in Kenya must quarantine in their hotel for 14 days. Passengers seated within two rows of the infected individual will then be contacted and also required to undertake a two-week quarantine.
Kenya’s Covid-19 rules are fairly strict, and passengers may be required to quarantine in their hotel for two weeks if exposed to the virus.
Traveller’s Health Surveillance Form
Kenya’s Ministry of Health has a Traveller’s Health Surveillance Form that must be filled in by passengers and handed over to health staff at the airport upon landing.
Face masks are mandatory in all public places in Kenya. You can be denied service if not wearing a mask.
Until at least 12 March 2021, there’s a nationwide 11 pm to 4 am curfew in place in Kenya. The Government of Kenya advises anyone arriving late into the country to retain their boarding pass when travelling to their accommodation. This is so you can show it to any officials who might question your breaking of the curfew.
Keep your boarding pass with you after arriving in Kenya; you may need to present it to explain why you’re travelling after curfew.
PCR testing in Kenya
PCR testing is available in many places throughout Kenya. The hospitals and laboratories of the major cities generally have a turnaround time of 72 hours. This can, however, extend to 96 hours, depending on the institution. It’s always best to check on the turnaround time with the specific provider before taking the test.
You can expect to pay US$100 for a PCR test at a private lab, and US$50 for a test at a government hospital.
Outside of the cities, be sure to check with the hospital or lab you use as to its turnaround time. The wait time may be longer, and you don’t want to jeopardise your travel plans because of a tardy test result!
Note that you need to present a negative PCR Covid-19 test to fly out of the country. Be sure to factor in the turnaround time for the test result in accordance with your flight date.
While travel to South Africa for a safari holiday is possible, we wouldn’t recommend it right now. For one thing, many countries currently won’t admit travellers coming from South Africa (or insist they undergo a strict quarantine upon arrival). This is because the country is a hotspot for the new Covid-19 variation that is even more contagious than the original.
We think you’ll likely agree with us that it’s risky (and full of hassle) to visit South Africa for a holiday at present. Rather save this particular adventure for a later date!
International tourists have been flowing back into Tanzania since the second half of 2020. Helping to ease that flow is the fact that Covid-19 tests are not required by the Government of Tanzania to enter or leave the country.
Tanzania is the easiest of the nations on our list to visit as it requires no Covid-19 tests from visitors wishing to enter or exit the country.
That said, the airline you’re using, as well as your destination country and any transit countries, might require you to have proof of a negative Covid-19 test. So it’s important that you find out what’s required from them. Also check with the airline and your destination country if any documentation like a declaration form is required.
Covid-19 screening at airport
Visitors to Tanzania may be required to receive Covid-19 screening or take a temperature test upon arrival in the country. Quarantining is not, however, mandatory should you test positive or show symptoms of the virus.
Visitors to Tanzania must also complete a traveller surveillance form on the plane and hand it in at the airport.
PCR testing is available in Tanzania, and costs around US$90. The turnaround time for test results is officially 72 hours. That said, most results actually come back to you within 48 hours.
To know more about PCR testing in Tanzania, please look at the country’s portal for PCR testing and booking.
At Follow Alice, we run safaris (and Kilimanjaro climbs) in northern Tanzania, so the three main medical facilities we use for PCR tests are:
Fame Medical Health Centre, Karatu
Open: Monday to Saturday, 8 am to 4 pm
Book appointment: https://pimacovid.moh.go.tz/
Mount Meru Regional Referral Hospital, Arusha
Open: Monday to Saturday, 8 am to 4 pm
Book appointment: https://pimacovid.moh.go.tz/
Mawenzi Regional Referral Hospital, Moshi
Open: Monday to Saturday, 8 am to 4 pm
Book appointment: https://pimacovid.moh.go.tz/
If you choose to go on a Tanzania safari with us, we’re happy to advise you on when and where to integrate a PCR test into your itinerary should you wish to have one. We’ll also take you to get the test and arrange to get your results for you. That said, please note that it’s up to you to request a test should you need one.
Some airlines, like KLM, want an antigen test from flyers. The good news is that antigen testing is available at Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
Follow Alice coronavirus safety training
All of our Tanzania lead staff have undergone specialised Covid-19 prevention training, as discussed in Can I climb Kilimanjaro during the coronavirus pandemic? They also follow all of the new standard operating procedures set out by the Tanzanian authorities in terms of Covid-19 prevention.
Uganda is open for business, and there’s no mandatory self-isolation period in place for those arriving in the country. So if you want to go on a safari in Uganda, you can go ahead and make those plans!
Please note that a negative Covid-19 PCR test is required to enter Uganda. This must be done 120 hours before your flight’s departure.
At present you’re required to present a recently acquired negative Covid-19 test to enter the airport in Uganda. So you need to obtain one just before leaving. Many airlines and countries require one too, so it’s best to just plan to get one.
PCR testing in Uganda
Here’s the list of Government-approved labs for PCR testing in Uganda. Please check with your airline which of the Ugandan labs they approve. Not all airlines are specific in this regard, but Emirates, for example, has a list of the labs that it approves.
The turnaround time for PCR test results is different depending on the hospital or lab, but it’s often 24 or 48 hours. It’s always a good idea to follow up on your results, however, with a phone call. Don’t just wait for them to get back to you.
The test costs around US$90. Uganda is very much a cash-based economy, so we recommend having enough shillings on you for this. The current exchange rate means $90 equates to roughly USh330,500.
Travel with us and we’ll help you get your test
If you travel to Uganda with Follow Alice, we can organise the PCR test for you in accordance with your itinerary. In other words, we’ll arrange for you to take the test at an appropriate time and place that doesn’t require you to alter your itinerary. We’ll also get the results printed for you.
If you travel to Uganda with us, we’ll help you organise your PCR test and obtain your results. 🙂
The Uganda–Rwanda border is closed
Please note that the Rwanda–Uganda border is closed at the moment. This means no flying into Kigali and popping over the border into Uganda to go gorilla trekking in Bwindi Forest, as many like to do.
For now, the only option for going mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi Forest is to fly into Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport in the south of the country and do all of your Uganda travel from there. Fortunately, there’s so many exciting things to do en route from Entebbe to Bwindi Forest.
Uganda currently has a curfew in place: 9 pm to 6 am. The authorities and establishments aren’t particularly strict about enforcing this. But it’s best to plan to be chilling at your lodge or hotel from 9 pm onwards.
“Everything seems open at the moment apart from bars. We have curfew from 9 pm to 6 am but tourists can fly in anytime, even past midnight. They are exempted.” UganDan
Zambia’s borders are open to tourists, and there’s no mandatory self-isolation period upon arrival. This means a Zambian safari is a possibility for anyone who’s keen!
Note that all visitors to Zambia must provide proof of having tested negative for Covid-19 within seven days before arrival in the country. Those without this proof will be refused entry into the country.
Passengers are also given a traveller’s health questionnaire just before landing to fill in and present to health staff at the airport.
Upon landing, you’ll be required to undergo a temperature check. Those with a temperature of 38° C or above, as well as those showing any symptoms of the virus (like coughing and shortness of breath), will be subjected to a coronavirus test.
Visitors who suspect themselves of having contracted the virus are not obligated to self-isolate.
Testing in Zambia
If you need to take a PCR test while in Zambia to present at the check-in desk when leaving the country, be sure to check with your airline which laboratories are acceptable. Some airlines, such as Emirates and KLM, only accept test results coming from establishments included in their lists.
Also be sure to check for any testing and documentation requirements from your destination or transit countries. You also want to ensure you allow the necessary turnaround time for any test results you need to obtain while in Zambia.
A final note …
Please be sure, before making any solid travel plans, to check with your home country about any travel restrictions pertaining to your destination country. For instance, does your country require you to quarantine for a certain period after visiting the African nation under consideration? Such matters will affect your diary and wallet, so please do your due diligence. 🙂
Keen to go on an African safari in 2021?
If you’re keen to chat safari with someone, we’re here! We’re always happy to talk adventure trips with fellow travel-lovers. 😀