The journey to Africa can seem overwhelming; perhaps that’s why many people want to visit South Africa “someday.” But getting to South Africa is easier than you think! Find answers on flying to South Africa and the best ways to get around the country.
Did you know Africa Endeavours can book all your flights to and within South Africa? Give us a call to start planning!
Flying from the United States to South Africa
Johannesburg is the international hub of South Africa. From O.R. Tambo International Airport, you can fly onward to Cape Town or fly to several safari destinations in South Africa and beyond.
If you want a direct flight from the US to South Africa, there are only 3 options; all land in Johannesburg.
- South African Airways: New York City (JFK) to Johannesburg (JNB)
Flight time: 15 hours
- South African Airways: Washington, D.C. (IAD) to Johannesburg (JNB)
Flight time: 17 hours
- Delta Air Lines: Atlanta (ATL) to Johannesburg (JNB)
Flight time: 15 hours
If you want to save money or don’t mind a stopover, there are several options for indirect flights. Dubai, U.A.E., and Doha, Qatar, are both safe, lively cities that make great stopover destinations in the Middle East; from there, it’s around 5-6 hours to Johannesburg. Or, you can choose to take a break in Europe; London and Amsterdam are common stopovers. From there, you can fly to Johannesburg or direct to Cape Town.
What Airlines Fly to South Africa?
Here are some of our favorite airlines that fly to South Africa.
- South African Airways: Direct flights from New York or Washington, D.C.; easy connections to other destinations in South Africa
- Emirates: Indirect flights with stopovers in Dubai and other Middle East locations; exceptional inflight service
- Qatar Airways: Indirect flights with stopovers in Doha and other Middle East locations; can use American Airlines points
- Lufthansa: Indirect flights with stopovers in Germany and Amsterdam
- Swiss: Indirect flights with stopovers in Switzerland and Germany
- British Airways: Indirect flights with stopovers in London
- Turkish Airlines: Indirect flights with stopovers in Istanbul
How Much Do Flights to South Africa Cost?
In our experience, you can expect to spend around $1,200-1,500 USD per person for a return-trip, economy class ticket to South Africa on a reputable airline. Keep in mind, this is only for international airfare; flights within the US and within South Africa are additional.
There are deals to be found and you may come across cheaper airfare, but there are a few pitfalls to look out for with budget flights.
- How long is the layover? Cheaper flights often have layovers of 10 hours or more, so you may need to factor in the cost of a hotel.
- Is the airline safe and comfortable? When flying to South Africa, you will be in the air for at least 10 hours. Make sure the airline you’re using has a strong safety record, and consider upgrading your seat for a more comfortable flight.
- What time of year are the flights? Airfare is always cheaper in the off season, but the weather may not be ideal for your trip. Safari travel is extremely seasonal, and it’s certainly worthwhile to visit at peak wildlife viewing times.
- Are you booking through a third party? From our experience, we do not recommend booking flights through third-party sites. If any of your flights are cancelled or delayed, the company you booked through likely won’t do much to help.
Want to book flights to Africa? Africa Endeavours is a one-stop shop for African luxury travel. Contact our luxury travel designers for a quote on airfare and South Africa touring!
How to Get Around South Africa
South Africa is well developed for tourism, and there are several ways to get around the country. Our luxury travel designers can advise you of the best options based on your timeframe and budget.
- Commercial Flights
Commercial flights will bring you between major cities (i.e. Johannesburg to Cape Town) or from the city to several airports around the country, from which you can transfer to your safari lodge.
For a safari in Kruger National Park, you can fly to Kruger/Mpumalanga International Airport, Skukuza, or Hoedspruit, and take a road transfer from there to your safari lodge.
- “Lodge Hop” Flights
Many safari lodges have private airstrips that you can fly into via light aircraft. It’s important to note that these small planes have strict weight limits.
A soft-sided bag without a frame is a must, and a weight limit of 15-20 kg for all of your luggage (including cameras and handheld bags) is strictly enforced. If you exceed the limit, you may have to pay for an extra seat on the flight or make other arrangements for your baggage; either way, it’s best to follow the weight limit and avoid the additional expense!
- Private Transfers
Private car transfers are an excellent option for short distances, such as traveling from Cape Town to the Winelands. Private transfers are also an option from Johannesburg to safari game reserves such as Madikwe, Thanda, Marataba, Phinda, Pilanesberg, and more.
Keep in mind, a road transfer to your safari lodge is not the most comfortable option. The locals call it an “African massage” due to the bumpy, unpaved roads. However, road transfers are considerably cheaper than lodge hop flights.
If you’re comfortable driving on the left side of the road, self-driving can be a great option to get around. Car rentals are affordable in South Africa, and the roads in tourist areas such as Cape Town, the Winelands, and the Garden Route are well paved and easy to navigate. (We typically don’t recommend self-driving outside of these areas.)
- Uber or Taxi
In major South African cities, you can easily get around town using Ubers or taxis. As a bonus, the rides are much cheaper in South Africa than you’re probably used to back home!
If you aren’t in a rush and want to indulge in the classic African luxury experience, consider a trip on one of South Africa’s luxury rails, like the Rovos Rail or the Blue Train. The onboard experience hearkens back to a romantic bygone era, though the spacious cars have been updated with modern comforts. You can journey within South Africa or embark on a multi-country expedition.