Each of Africa’s 54 countries has different visa rules for visitors. Whether you're traveling to North Africa to relax in hammams and shop in the souks, going to Eastern Africa on safari, enjoying South African beaches, or just staying in the big cities for a vacation or for business, the continent has much to offer visitors. Be sure you know the entry requirements for each of the countries on your itinerary before departure. Note that most countries operate on a reciprocity basis regarding passport and visa applications, requiring of usa citizens what the United States requires of that country’s citizens.
The U.S. Department of State provides travel information for U.S. passport holders for every country in the world. The Passports and International Travel section of the department's website provides detailed information on what travel documents you need to enter and exit each country, the maximum length of stay, health and security information, as well as facts about local laws and customs. Even when you travel with an American passport, it can be helpful to check the gov travel advice of the Canadian, British and Australian governments to see if their health and safety advice matches that of the State Department.
Remember that each country can change its entry and exit requirements without notice. Do not rely on secondhand information, even from the Department of Home Affairs. Always consult the website of the country you plan to visit, ideally before purchasing a flight and then again a few weeks before you leave. Keep in mind that in some countries entry and exit rules are different for U.S. passport holders who were born in that country, who are married to a citizen of that country or are children whose parent(s) are from that country.
Entry and exit rules differ not only by country, but by the nature of the visit. For example, rules are different for visitors traveling for tourism than for those on business, and if more than one entry is required during a certain period of time. The majority of African countries require that visitors have passports valid at least six months past the planned date of departure, as well as space in the passport for the required stamps. Some require one or two blank pages so that the visas can be affixed to the passport. This is required to enter South Africa at any port of entry.
It is getting easier to secure visas in many African countries, though some still require application in advance, including sending passports to that country’s embassy in Washington. Some countries provide an online application process, many needing to be completed at least a week or two before arrival. Other countries issue visas upon arrival at the airport. A few countries don’t require tourist visas at all.
Most countries charge a fee for a visa. Online applications can usually be paid for via credit card. The fees for visas on arrival are often payable in U.S. dollars, though some countries won’t accept bills that are old, dirty or ripped. Bringing exact change is helpful. It is wise to bring two passport-sized photos for each required visa, though many countries are switching to electronic photos taken at the airport.
Rules for Frequently Traveled Countries
These requirements are up to date as of 2017, but visa requirements can change without notice. Always consult the website of the country you plan to visit in case you need additional documentation.
- Kenya: Visitors are encouraged to apply online (Kenya is eliminating the availability of visas on arrival at airports). Visa processing takes two business days. A single entry visa costs $51 usd in visa fees and a transit visa costs $21 (there is no transit charge if the visitor stays within the airport). Passports must be valid for six months and need two blank pages. Bring a printed copy of your type of visa to show officials upon arrival. An East Africa Tourist Visa is also available, which allows multiple entries to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda for 90 days.
- Tanzania: Visas on arrival are available at some airports, but visitors are encouraged to obtain visas in advance. The Tanzanian embassy has forms on its website. Visas cost $100 for U.S. citizens and passport holders. Passports must be valid for six months beyond the date the visa was issued and/or date of entry, and one page must be blank. Applicants need two recent passport-sized photos and must show proof of onward travel and demonstrate that they have sufficient funds for the length of their stay. Volunteering and voluntourism are prohibited on a tourist visa.
- South Africa: Tourist visas are not required for visits of less than 90 days. Passports must be valid for 30 days beyond departure, and two consecutive pages must be blank.
- Morocco: Tourist visas are not required for visits of less than 90 days. Passports must be valid at the time of entry, and one page must be blank.
- Egypt: Tourist visas cost $25 for a single-entry 30-day stay, and are available upon arrival at the airport. Tourists entering from Israel and others with special circumstances should apply for a visa prior to arrival, whether it be a visitor visa or work visa. Passports must be valid for six months, and one page must be blank.
Vaccinations are not only wise to have for any type of travel, but some are mandatory for travel to Africa and are checked by officials at the airport before visitors are granted entry into the country. For example, many African countries require that all visitors show a valid yellow fever certificate showing you got your yellow fever vaccination.
Consult your doctor or a travel medicine clinic for recommendations about the countries you plan to visit. Malaria is common in many parts of Africa and can be prevented with antimalarial drugs, which you must begin prior to arrival in the malarial zone. Immunizations for hepatitis A and B and for typhoid are recommended for travel in most parts of the world.