The Green Mamba is a large, tree-dwelling, highly venomous snake. It’s also the nickname for the green South African passport. And it turns out the Green Mamba isn’t as bad to have as you may think: the South African passport is ranked the third most powerful in Africa, and 46th most powerful in the world. (Hey, fam, it could be worse: an Afghanistan passport is rated 96th out of 96 countries.) This is all according to the Passport Index report for 2017.
While it might sometimes feel like you’re doomed to spend the rest of your life filling out visa application forms, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are actually 90 countries (90!!) around the globe that will let you in visa-free. You can view the full list here.
We’ve put together a list of 10 of the best places South Africans can visit without a visa
1. Réunion Island
For French flair and loads of activities
Réunion is a French department in the Indian Ocean (next to Mauritius). It’s a volcanic island, with inland rainforests, stunning beaches and coral reefs protecting its turquoise lagoon. The Piton de la Fournaise is the island’s active volcano that erupts several times a year. It’s the perfect place for travellers who can’t sit still, with hiking trails, beaches, waterfalls and unique interior towns to discover. The flight from Jo’burg is only four hours and you can pick up a ticket for around R5 500 return.
For music and massively diverse landscapes
Argentina is a massive South American country – in fact, it’s the eighth-largest country in the world! Famous for tango dancing and lively music, the capital city of Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan (see what we did there?) metropolis. With a country this big, there is a lot to discover, including a vibrant food scene, buzzing wine culture and incredible landscapes.
3. Hong Kong
For an urban shopping heaven
Hong Kong is an autonomous territory, and a former British colony, in southeastern China. It’s a vibrant, densely populated city with a show-stopping skyline made up of skyscrapers towering into the clouds. Hong Kong is also a major shopping destination – so make sure to take your credit card! Oh, and the food scene is pretty orgasmic, too. English is everywhere, so it’s easy to get around using public transport like high-speed trains or busses.
For beautiful views and friendly people
Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic, separate from Great Britain. Expect vibrant cities, loads of incredible scenery, rugged landscapes, local music and beer. Travellers always comment on the warmth and friendliness of locals, so you’ll probably end up with a new BFF before you leave. Renting a car and driving around the island is a good way to see the stunning landscapes and stop off to explore small towns along the way.
For ancient ruins and loads of culture
Peru is a country in South America that’s home to the Amazon rainforest and Machu Picchu, the world-famous ancient Incan city high in the Andes mountains. From the Inca Trail to the capital of Lima, this country is rich in historic and archaeological sites. If you’re into hiking, you will definitely want to conquer one of the many trails in Peru. You’ll also find festivals preserving ancient sites and cultural landmarks and incredible food – they made ceviche famous.
6. The Bahamas
For a dreamy beach break
The Bahamas is a coral-based archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean made up of over 700 islands and known to have the clearest waters on earth. Grand Bahama and Paradise Island are the most well-known islands and where most tourists tend to go. If you’re into scuba diving or snorkelling, you’ll want to spend most of your trip exploring the Andros Barrier Reef, Thunderball Grotto and the black coral gardens off Bimini. At Acklinds and Crooked Island, you can escape from civilisation, while in The Abacos you’ll find the boating capital of the world.
For snorkelling, diving and Zen
Indonesia is a south-east Asian nation made up of thousands of volcanic islands. It’s known for beautiful beaches, volcanoes, Komodo dragons, elephants, orangutans and tigers. Bali is already a firm favourite for many South African travellers. Here you’ll find epic waves, beaches, yoga retreats and beautiful rice paddies. It’s well worth exploring other islands off Bali, like Nusa Dua and the three Gili Islands – Gili Air, Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno.
For an African escape
Malawi is a landlocked African country known for breathtaking mountain peaks and the massive Lake Malawi, which has a surface area of almost 30 000km2. Little known to South African travellers, its crystal-clear waters are perfect for diving and snorkelling. Cape Maclear is known for its beach resorts, while its national parks are home to big game. You can fly direct from Cape Town for about R8 000 return, which isn’t bad considering you don’t have any visa costs.
For a bush break
Tanzania is an East African country known for the Serengeti National Park, which is home to the big five: elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino. Adventure seekers will know it as being home to Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro. With more than 120 different tribes living in the country, there’s plenty to learn about the culture. Tanzanian people are known for being welcoming, so ditch your car and spend some time in a local village, learning a new language and culture.
For clear waters and reggae music
Jamaica is a Caribbean island nation famous for reef-lined beaches and blessing the world with reggae music. Tourists flock to Montego Bay’s resorts and spend their time diving and snorkelling, but there’s a lot to be said for the less-touristy town of Kingston. Jamaica has been voted as one of the top 10 islands in the world but don’t spend all your time on the beach – there are waterfalls, mineral baths, loads of delicious food and historical sites to discover.