How far your visa fees would get you in countries South Africa just scrapped visas for
There’s no person a South African passport holder loathes more than a friend or colleague who has an ancestral visa.
“Urgh,” is often my response to someone who says, “Ah, luckily I don’t have to go through that visa admin, I have a British passport."
Well. Good. For. You.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be British. Being South African is the business. But the business of visa applications is a constant thorn in my jetsetting bum.
Over the years, South African passport holders have even resorted to 'punishing' countries who require that they get a visa - opting to visit Thailand or Colombia instead of European destinations, reasoning that it’s less schlep and that, ultimately, they feel more welcome there as a tourist.
Three reasons why we hate getting visas
Firstly, it’s costly. South African passport holders pay between R 1000 - R 2000 on average for visas. A UK transit visa will set you back over R 1300, whereas a UK tourist visa is around R 1900. That's like a quarter of my month's rent!
Secondly, it’s admin intensive. Running back and forth to the Absa is not what I'd call 'lunch plans'. Nor do I appreciate taking yet another Schengen visa regulation photo that makes me look like a Soviet War criminal. That harsh lighting is enough to put me off going to Europe for life!
Thirdly, it’s rude. Technically, yes, passport fraud and unsecured borders are very real and ongoing issues. But what about cultivating a hospitable environment to grow the so-called 'trusted traveller'? Or seeing travellers in an autonomous light and allowing those with good track-records to be able to experience effortless movement from drop-off to boarding gate?
We feel personally attacked every time we must BEG to spend our hard-earned rands in a visa-requiring country. Attacked I tell you!
South Africa has just eased visa access for seven countries - including New Zealand, which had a controversial tit-for-tat visa imposed on its back in 2016. Yes, we used to be able to travel here visa-free.
The Minister of Home Affairs (DHA) Aaron Motsoaledi, announced the new list of visa-free countries at the Budget Vote 2019, on 11 July 2019. The new list is as follows - with roll-out under way and full implementation set for November 2019. The new visa programme is no longer subjected to a reciprocal policy usually required by Department of International Relations (DIRCO), says Motsoaledi, as this is in the best interest of travel and tourism to SA:
• United Arab Emirates
• New Zealand
• Saudi Arabia
• Sao Tome and Principe
Now, let’s play a game of 'Imagine-Imagine we had visa-free access for New Zealand, Cuba, the UAE and Ghana'
So, to nudge the Kiwis into showing us some reciprocal love, here’s how far your visa fees for New Zealand, Cuba, Ghana and the UAE would get you in the countries SA just granted free access to:
New Zealand – visa cost = R 1320, apply at VFS
Instead of swiping your R 1.3 K into the ether, you could instead be doing this: A 7-hour 90 Mile Beach Tour with a Maori guide which includes sandboarding down this epic dune for roughly the same amount.
Cuba - visa cost = R 767, apply online
For R 727 you can smoke cigars with a Cuban cigar expert from Airbnb Experiences! Luis will teach you all there is to know about the world-famous Cuban cigar, while chilling in a Havana bar.
United Arab Emirates – visa cost = R 1475, apply at VFS
This money could literally get you there faster. Screw layovers in Jo’burg and cut your 12 and a half hours commute down to 9 and a quarter hours flight with your visa fees.
Ghana - visa cost = R 2091, visa on arrival
For that exorbitant amount of money, you could go to an Accra textile market, buy the country’s best known signature woven fabric, Kente, have this outfit made...
...and still have enough money for a Ghanaian palm-wine based cocktail! Now that is value for money.