Getting to South Africa from California


Oct 23rd, 2013, 03:48 PM
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Getting to South Africa from California

Hello All,

We're travelling round southern Africa in January, starting from Johannesburg. Flights from San Francisco (our home) seem to be around 25 to 35 hours. Any tips? Right now thinking of breaking it up by flying to New York, over nighting, then taking direct So African Airlines to Johannesburg (15 hr).

All other options seem to go through Munich, Amersterdam, Frankfurt, etc.

Any tips my friends?

SassTraveler is offline  
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Oct 23rd, 2013, 04:22 PM
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Different strokes/folks. Some like to do it all in one, others prefer stopping over in Europe for a day or two - basically the same time zone as SA.

I'd say a lot has to do with (a) your plans on arriving, (b) how much time you have altogether, and (c) what class are you flying (coach, business etc.)

Recognize too that you'll be flying from midwinter to midsummer, and possibly arriving in very warm, maybe hot, weather.

If your plans are to jump in a rental car and drive somewhere (maybe up to Kruger?) then the time change on top of jetlag is a serious issue.

We travel from the west coast (Seattle) to Africa fairly often, and our preferred route if time is not constrained is to fly on day one to New York, then take a morning departure to London, arriving that night. Book a Priceline hotel at Heathrow (we've never paid more than $100 for a 4-star) and sleep in a bed. It really helps whack jetlag.

Then fly to Africa the next day or evening. If your layover in the UK is less than 24 hours, you won't pay the (extortionate) UK departure tax.

This usually puts us in South Africa with a lot more energy than going straight through, but at the expense of an additional day's travel.

But people are different; if you can handle the long overnight flights, go for it.

Oh, one other note. Coming back, the flights are all a lot longer, owing to prevailing winds (tailwinds eastbound, headwinds returning.) Stopping over someplace en route on the return is a very good idea.
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Oct 23rd, 2013, 04:39 PM
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Fly to Europe and then hang a right...that'll get you there.

I am a fellow Californian and, in the past, before having a baby in tow, I'd mix it up for my South Africa trips. Sometimes, I'd fly Delta from Atlanta direct to South Africa while other times I'd go through Europe, sometimes stopping for a few days, other times just a connecting flight and one of my favorite trips had me fly the opposite direction and stop in Sydney, Australia for a few days.

For my next visit, I'm just connecting in London with about a 4 hour layover. Mostly, I just went with the best airfare as I found a great price for Virgin Atlantic. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been opposed to flying Delta and skipping Europe, entirely, as that saved my hide on my last visit when there were volcanoes going on in Iceland that shut down transatlantic flights for a few days.
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Oct 24th, 2013, 10:32 AM
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There is no right answer for everyone.
I depart for wherever out of JFK/NYC, but always check the seasons from where I leave and where heading.

For departure SFO in Jan, lovely weather; if arriving JFK, might be lovely or snow... and if heading onto Europe, may also be snow, for or rain. Arriving JNB, it will be summer.

Guess the reason I avoid winter travel most anywhere or definitely allow an extra day or two for weather issues.

When we did South Africa it was end-Nov, so weather was fine and it was non-stop to JNB, connecting 2/hrs later to CPT and sound asleep 10pm their time. Straight thru was great and luggage arrived with us. No jetlag immediately though... mine hit 5=6/days later when in Botswana; my BF had no jetlag at all, but he sleeps better inflight that I do.

Unless there is a blizzard in NYC and the runways can't be cleaned fast enough, I do know that 'outbound' flights, have priority as many contain paxs with connecting flights somewhere - Europe, Asia, South America. Inbound flights though might be delayed and land at other airports before eventually getting to JFK.

Final decision, of course, has to be yours but if you have the time for a day between West/East Coasts, or West Coast/Eaurope... before onto to JNB, I'd strongly suggest doing so.
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Oct 24th, 2013, 11:09 AM
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...while other times I'd go through Europe, sometimes stopping for a few days, other times just a connecting flight and one of my favorite trips had me fly the opposite direction and stop in Sydney, Australia for a few days.

This raises a possibility that might be useful to you, or completely off-the-wall.

For the time being, South Africa is among the cheapest places in the world from which you can start/finish round-the-world airline tickets. For example, a Oneworld Explorer ticket good for 16 flights over the course of a year, in which you touch four continents, costs $2150 plus taxes and fees if bought and begun in SA, versus $5299 if bought and begun in the US. That's for economy class; business class is $5991 plus taxes and fees if bought in South Africa, vs. $10,799 if bought in the US.

I raise this because maybe you're like us and have a "bucket list" of places you want to visit, or maybe you aren't opposed to doing some "strategic" travel planning, looking at a year's or even two years' plans or wishes. What if, for example, you want to visit southern Africa in January, but would like to visit Australia (like Roccco) or New Zealand, at some point in the near future, too? Or maybe Southeast Asia, or Easter Island?

Let's say you'd like to visit Australia, and you could get away for a few weeks later next year.

While you're in South Africa (I'll come back to how you get there in the first place in a minute) you buy a 4-continent RTW ticket. (You can actually buy it before you leave home, but will actually start the ticket in SA.)

Fly to Europe on your way home, and spend a few days using the four allowed flights within Europe - maybe theater in London, or late winter in Seville, or look for the northern lights in Finland, whatever. Or head to Israel or Jordan or Dubai - the Middle East is also regarded as "Europe" for these tickets.

Then fly home. You have six flights within North America you can use as part of the ticket (NA includes Central America and the Caribbean) so... where? Alaska? Barbados? Costa Rica? A weekend in New York or Miami? Easy.

Then, later, sometime before 12 months have passed since you bought the ticket, fly to Sydney or Melbourne, or maybe Auckland or Ayer's Rock, or the Great Barrier Reef, or all of the above.

When you're done with Oz/NZ, jump on Qantas' flight to Joburg, and you're done. Re-visit SA before you head home, or (as I do) just buy another RTW ticket and plan the next year's travels. South America? China?

If you opt for the business class ticket, you'll earn so many frequent flyer miles (and attain elite FF status, so no more luggage fees or lousy seats) that you can easily "pay" for your "access" trips to/from South Africa. In fact (and I've done this several times) a well-crafted RTW itinerary can generate enough miles to fly around the world (in business class) again, maybe something simple like San Francisco - Hong Kong - Paris - New York - San Francisco. Six grand for, what? 20 business- or first-class flights over two years? That's around $300 each, not bad for a Cathay Pacific bed from SF to Hong Kong, or a Qantas bed from LA to Sydney.

If this has appeal, then all you need to do is figure out how to get cheaply to South Africa in the first place. So, for example, go to American's website this month and buy 30,000 frequent flyer miles for around $800, and get 8000 as a bonus. Turn around and redeem 37,500 of them for a one-way ticket to Joburg or Cape Town; there is quite a lot of availabiity in January via London. Then start your RTW ticket there.

Of course there are a lot of rules - routing restrictions, etc. - that apply to RTW tickets, but nothing terrible, and they're actually easier and cheaper to change (route, dates, carriers) than conventional tickets.

I started doing this around eight years ago and have never looked back. If you have the travel bug and are also a good money manager, they're gold.
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Nov 7th, 2013, 04:07 AM
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hi, its better to plan your trip in the middle of December. come to california and explore it. if you haven't planned your tour its better to hire transportation services most of the tourist goes to there favorite place by hiring a taxi or rent a SUV . its very cheap on high seasons and they are the real experts they knows all the important landmarks of the city and on the other side its also better rent a van also ...

best of luck for your trip
aina is offline  
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Nov 7th, 2013, 08:10 AM
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Gardyloo: What a fantastic idea..many thanks.

Do you happen to know if other alliances offer similar? For example: Skyteam/Flying Blue?
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Nov 7th, 2013, 08:43 AM
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You could fly to Atlanta (Delta) in about 4 hours - either spend the night there or press on. Delta non-stop to JBurg is 15 hrs.
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Nov 7th, 2013, 09:31 AM
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Do you happen to know if other alliances offer similar? For example: Skyteam/Flying Blue?

All the alliances offer RTW fares - see for example.

Except for the Oneworld Explorer RTW product, all the other tickets (Skyteam, Star Alliance) are limited as to how many miles you can fly, with tiers that cost more as you fly more, generally from 26,000 miles (the shortest) to around 39,000 or 40,000 miles, the longest. The Oneworld Explorer's tiers are based on the number of continents touched, 3 to 6.

All of them are limited to no more than 16 segments, including surface segments (this limitation is imposed by e-ticketing software) so you have to plan your route especially carefully if you're using a mileage-based product - zigzags and double-backs are deadly on the mileage front.

Skyteam's and Star's products, like Oneworld's, have very different prices depending on where you start and end, and they're not similar in the same countries. I don't know off the top of my head where the "cheapest" places are for Skyteam RTWs, but most often they're in Africa, the Middle East, or sometimes north Asia (Japan, Korea etc.). Subscribe to Expert Flyer - - and you can pull fares. The alliance websites no longer list fares because internet pricing has to include all taxes and fees, and since these vary all over the map depending on where you land, transit, etc., they just don't bother listing them unless you actually make a detailed booking.
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Jan 10th, 2014, 01:35 AM
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Thank you all for your great ideas. You gave us a great deal to think about. We ended up with splitting the difference. We'll fly Virgin Atlantic from SFO to Heathrow, then in/out of Cape Town and Johannesburg. Get a break about halfway and take a real rest in a hotel bed.

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