Cape Town - If there is one thing any serious travel enthusiast loves more than a good stay or flights bargain - it's ease of access when it comes to visiting a particular destination.
We have to admit the African Union's move to create an AU passport has us salivating at the thought of being able to travel the length and breadth of the African continent without any visa hassles - admittedly there are many challenges, secure capturing of biometrics being one of them - but we certainly live in hope.
More visa-free destinations on the horizon
While the South African passport recently received a serious snub from the likes of New Zealand - who has rescinded visa-free access for Saffas since November 2016 - our green mamba as it is affectionately known, is not the worst passport in the world to have.
SEE: New Zealand visa requirements 101: What Saffas and Kiwis need to know
From April 2017, for example, locals will be able to enjoy visa on arrival reciprocity with Russia, with places like St Petersburg seen more and more as an affordable eastern European destination for locals.
SEE: Russia to scrap visas for SA travellers from April
Added to this, our Department of Home Affairs has also officially submitted a formal proposal for the European Union to consider Visa-Free travel for South Africans.
The proposal is now under consideration, according to the DHA, after Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced in September last year that talks were held with the European Union Ambassador Marcus Cornaro regarding the relaxation or elimination of its visa requirements for South African passport holders.
DHA spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete says the department is now awaiting feedback on the proposal.
SEE: EU Visa-free travel: US loss of access to be SA's gain?
The power of the Green Mamba
Until all these plans come to fruition, however, South Africans can still enjoy a total of 92 destinations without needing to go through the hassle of a vise - these are either a visa-on-arrival or visa free destinations.
Destinations like Thailand, Argentina and the Republic of Ireland all fall under this list of diverse countries, along with our neighbouring countries - ever popular destinations for border-crossing Saffas. See the full list of visa-free and visa-on-arrival destinations for South Africans here.
On the other hand, a total of 74 countries are welcome into SA without a visa. See the full list here.
This is according to the latest updated information from Passport Index, a real-time ranking tool of the world's passports.
Globally, the ranking places our Green Mamba in the number 46 position, with Germany claiming the Top Spot as the world's most powerful passport.
Where to go?
Now that you know where all you can go without a visa, here are the Top 10 most popular visa-free destinations for South Africans according to CheapFlights.co.za -
The famed UNESCO World Heritage Site, Machu Picchu and Choquequirao are perfect places to visit. These remote Inca ruins are located in the Andes. Another option is to explore the Amazon Rainforest that stretches across nine countries, with Peru covering the largest part after Brazil (FYI: Brazil is also visa-free).
Despite being Che Guevara’s homeland, Argentina is known for far more than this famed revolutionary. From tango in La Boca to gauchos in the pampas, Argentina has plenty to offer – even in terms of extreme climate change. Those looking for a skiing holiday can book a cabin in Bariloche, while those after a beach trip can sun themselves in Mar del Plata. Another bonus? Uruguay is just a boat trip away, and it is also visa-free.
Besides the obvious attractions like cocktails on the beach and visiting the Bob Marley Mausoleum, there’s river rafting down the Rio Grande and historical tours through Rose Hall in Montego Bay. Marley is not the only celebrity to have resided on the island. Theatre lovers can visit Noël Coward’s old home, called Look Out, which has stunning views over Port Maria.
4. The Bahamas
Being another island destination, chilling on the beach in The Bahamas goes without saying. Despite all the relaxing between baking in the sun and cooling off in the clear blue waters, it’s also full of adventure. Visitors love the Pirates of Nassau museum for example. Want something more extreme than yelling ‘ahoy’? Take to the waters by diving, snorkelling, exploring shipwrecks, kayaking, parasailing, kite-boarding, or jet skiing.
SEE: Here are your SA visa-free destinations: Coming soon, Europe?
5. South Korea
Foodies will find much to tingle their taste buds, and those with a sweet tooth must get a taste of Patbingsoo, a dessert made of shaved ice, condensed milk, ice cream, rice cakes, and sweetened red beans. It’s also a great place to leap from old to new; go from sleeping on the floor in a traditional Korean house in Gyeongju to partying in Noise Basement in Gangman – the very area that inspired Psy’s catchy song.
ALSO SEE: When the travel bug really bites
Also a favourite amongst South Africans is Thailand, offering cheap food and accommodation, and demanding no visas of course. There are plenty of temples to explore – such as Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho and The Golden Buddha in Wat Traimit; and don’t forget about the pulsating nightlife! With Go-Go bars, markets, bazaars, clubs, and theatres, Bangkok is swarming with light and activity at night.
READ: Thailand: Budget-friendly escapes for South Africans
Zambia is naturally the option of going on safari. But there is also the unparalleled experience of the Victoria Falls. Vantage points such as Knife-Edge Bridge, Devil’s Pool and Lookout Tree, offer awe-inspiring views of the rushing Zambezi river on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe (also visa-free) – as well as gorges, forests and of course the falls themselves. Dubbed “The Smoke that Thunders” by the Kololo tribe in the 19th century, it is one of the largest waterfalls in the world.
For those wanting to experience a safari, Botswana is a fantastic option. Neighbouring South Africa, the country is teeming with wildlife in its numerous parks and reserves, including the Big 5. River safaris, Africa’s biggest elephant population and the Okavango Delta are just some of the country’s unique wonders. There’s also no problem with overcrowding; Botswana’s low impact tourist policy makes this destination a must.
READ: 45 Practical tips for South Africans planning their first 4x4 Botswana trip
No longer just a stopover destination, Singapore has proved itself to be a worthy city break in its own right. Dazzlingly modern and not without its green spaces, the city’s combination of tradition, nature and modernity can be seen most clearly at the famous Gardens by the Bay. On top of that, it is an incredible foodie city and a shopper’s paradise.
10. Republic of Ireland
Travelling to the Republic of Ireland does not require a visa. However, Northern Ireland is part of the UK, and as such requires a UK Visa; so stick to the south. There are castles and cathedrals to explore, museums and art galleries to discover, and Viking adventures to be had. Literature lovers will leap at the chance to learn more about Dublin-born writers Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. Turn the trip into a bonafide literary experience by adding the James Joyce Centre and Samuel Beckett’s Irish Gastro Pub to the itinerary.