South Africa, which is the least painful route?

Nov 2nd, 2009, 02:56 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 6,994
South Africa, which is the least painful route?

We are thinking of taking a trip to S. Africa, one of the few places we have not seen. But the agony of the 15 hours on a plane has us a bit stymied...What is the best route to plan from Seattle, anyone. Maybe over the Pole to London, lay over a day to rest, then fly on? Which airline? need some advice.
Also, what are the not to be missed sights in Cape Town? we might stay a few extra days to see them?
clarasong is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 04:00 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1,422
Welcome to the Africa forum Clara. Glad to have you. You'll get lots of good advice here.
You need to think about what you want to see...animals, culture, scenery, etc.
And having a budget in mind will help narrow things down too.
Have fun planning.
And believe me, the flight is worth it!
Lillipets is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 04:04 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 99
There are many ways to go to South Africa, and if you dislike the idea of a very long flight, by all means stop in Europe for a day or so. Most flights connect in London or Frankfurt and often you have 8 hours or so anyway, but a few days can be spent easily. I think just an overnight is a waste of time and i would rather get to Africa, but that's just my opinion. I have used Virgin from San Francisco to London and then to SA. Used United to Frankfurt (or Munich) and stayed overnight each time. In Frankfurt we found a place on the Rhine in a castle for an overnight. One trip we stayed a few days in Prague. In Munich we drove to Salzburg for a night. Lots to see in Cape Town, as well. The wine country around Franschoek is gorgeous, well worth a few days of exploring.
patiricia is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 04:13 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 7,391
I've gone North, East and West to get to Africa and I think overnighting in London would be best for you Clara. I always did it on the way back as I wanted to get there as soon as possible. The usual 10 hour layover is a killer so my preferred route now is through JFK. I've been on British Air, South African Air, Emirates and Virgin, all about the same if you are in economy seats. If you are splurging I probably would choose Virgin.
You really should do a safari in the Sabi Sands (easily reached through Johannesburg) and then head down to Capetown for as long as you can. I haven't been to CT but there are a lot of things to see and do.
Can't wait to read your trip report Clara!
matnikstym is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 05:27 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,286
We've done both a stopover in Europe to get used to the time change and no stopover, but I think in the future we will just go and do the jet lag in S Africa next time (yes- you will want to go again). The major cities in Europe are pretty pricey, so I'd rather do the layover in CT which is a lovely city, and a bit less expensive. We pay for the flight to Europe in coach (on the East Coast, so not too bad a ride) and use FF miles in business for the longer leg to/from S Africa.

Loved CT - we were there for 4 nights, and it was perfect. Got a driver to go to Cape of Good Hope, the penguins and township (friends of the driver), and a second day for winelands. Spent a day doing the hop-on hop-off bus and Robben Island (don't miss - and my favorite tip is to go so that you return at sunset to watch the sunset over table mountain), and another for Kirstenbosch Garden/golf (for the boys) and Table Mountain.

If you think this might be your only time in S Africa, and I don't think it will be, don't miss Sabi Sand as mentioned earlier, Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta in Botswana if you have the time and money to do it all. Avoid S Africa next June/July due to World Cup. Our summer/their winter is the best time for wildlife, but not the best for Vic Falls and CT. You'll love it no matter when or where you go.
christabir is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 05:53 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 5,215
Ahh yes, the rigors of traveling to Africa.
Well, I start sort of like you, from USA, CA, LAX airport.
The six times I've flown to Africa, typically JNB, I've just ploughed ahead and got it over with ASAP. Yes, takes me around 32 hours from home door to JNB hotel door. I can't say I have tried staying overnight London, Madrid, Frankfurt, etc. To me having to leave the airport for many hours, return etc. just prolongs the agony (and cost). I would however certainly fly business class - if they would give it to me. Actually next time I'm going to try to find an airline that offers better seating than the usual cattle car economy class. Another two inches of seat width, and another 4 inches of "pitch". That simply would help a lot for comfort on the legs and knees. Would be worth another $500 round trip. Anybody have any suggestions?

Then when we get to JNB we always spend the first night at a close by hotel, Sun International, Metcourt Laurel, etc. And the next couple days may be semi-relaxing by going to Kruger or the surrounding country to un-wind, adjust to time change (9 hrs like you) before heading off to safari camp. But you are going to Cape Town, so you could also plan the first couple days as slow and easy.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 05:59 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 44
This year I took the Air France Seattle to JBERG flight which connected in CDG with a 2 hour layover and the anticipation will get you there. Going back you may wish to spend a day in Paris. Ive always pushed the flights with as little connection time as possible. You will sleep well when there is nothing but boredom to compete with. I say push it----start on your vacation safari as soon as possible. You won't regret it. Good luck with your planning!
MONYLINE is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 06:35 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 6,994
Thanks everyone. Here's an idea: fly BA over the pole to London (I love London); take the tube into town for about 3 days...then on to SA (we have extended family there who might take us around a bit), then board the Regent Navigator (I think that's the one) to sail back, landing at last in Ft. Lauderdale...I am seriously considering this...I only got one rule, I really can't stand to be away from my home and family for more than 5 weeks max...I get nutsy and strange.

Have been to Kenya many years ago..loved the animals and the fine people, but I don't have any great urge to gothere I am going to lie awake thinking about this.
clarasong is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 08:33 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 5,215
Hey, now that's the ticket!!!

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 09:25 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,521
(Typical long-winded answer follows.)

We go to from Seattle to SA about twice a year. The routing that most agrees with us is the morning AA flight from Seattle to JFK, and spend the night in a hotel near the airport (our son and DIL live in greater NYC, so dinner at some ethnic restaurant in Queens is normal.)

Next morning we take the morning AA flight (there's also a BA flight) that leaves JFK at 8:30 AM and gets into London at 8 PM. Another hotel near Heathrow, obtained on Priceline. We've never paid more than US$70 for a 4-star hotel (usually Sheraton, Marriott or Crowne Plaza) at Heathrow.

Next day, hang out around London. If you want to go into town the night you arrive, fine; however we like to save money with a hotel at Heathrow and visit Windsor, or take the tube into the West End for a day - your pick.

Then if possible we take a morning departure to SA, usually BA. These don't happen throughout the year, but when they do they're great. If we're going to Joburg we stay at a fave hotel at the airport, the Southern Sun OR Tambo, then the next morning we pick up a car and blast off, usually toward Kruger/Sabi Sand, or sometimes off to Madikwe.

If we're going to Cape Town, then we take a taxi to a couple of B & Bs we know, or else to a hotel in the waterfront area.

Our method in all this is to try not to "sleep" on airplanes if at all possible. SA and western Europe are in the same time zone (plus or minus an hour depending on daylight savings time, reversed) so once you're accustomed to UK time you're good for SA, and vice versa.

We find the day flights eastbound over the Atlantic really reduce jetlag big time - you sleep in beds, not airplane seats, and you can keep the Ambien safe in the jar. It takes more time on the clock because you're not flying overnight, but we find the result is more productive days and less groggy touring. YMMV as they say.

Are you thinking about the Regent Navigator this month or next December (2010?) If this month, better get moving.

One other thing I was going to throw out... if the cruise doesn't work for you, I'm a big advocate of round-the-world air tickets. For considerably less than the cost of the Regent Navigator, you could buy a business-class RTW ticket that you could use to get to SA via Asia or Australia, then back via Europe, or vice-versa. Turns one vacation into two or three...
Gardyloo is online now  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 09:43 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 5,215
GL - you fly Seattle to SA -twice- a year. You're made of tougher stuff than I am

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 09:45 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 624
"Actually next time I'm going to try to find an airline that offers better seating than the usual cattle car economy class. Another two inches of seat width, and another 4 inches of "pitch". That simply would help a lot for comfort on the legs and knees. Would be worth another $500 round trip. Anybody have any suggestions?"
Tom, have you looked at the premium economy offerings? You get quite a bit more pitch and wider seats. I know BA have the product, as do Qantas on their J'Burg route (not all flights), don't think SAA have premium economy. More and more airlines are putting in this class so may pay to keep an eye open for availability.
twaffle is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 10:14 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 5,215
Thanks twaffle. No, I haven't looked into possibility of "premium economy". I will for next time.

Started looking now!!! Came across this site and link -
They also have seating sizes for standard economy by airline.

Standard seats are 32 pitch and 17-18 inches width. Virgin Atlantic premium economy is 38 and 21 inches, nice. They also say that premium economy can cost 85% more than standard economy. Ouch, thats another perhaps $1,500 onto the fare. That would get me another 3 days in safari camp!!!

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2009, 11:02 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 624
Tom, shop around as deals come up and also you could think about just paying the upgrade for the longest leg. It is hard to weigh up a bit of extra comfort versus extra safari nights I know. I just wish airlines would be more reasonable with their economy seats. I fly Qatar Airways and they give you 34in, but also the seats are thinner than some of the older planes and so it feels quite a bit more roomier. As well, I just got an almost half price return fare Australia - Nairobi in one of their promotions. I'm pleased!
twaffle is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2009, 08:09 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 6,994
all good help, especially Gardyloo. Have taken BA many times to London from Seattle, and it is relatively painless, as we get on late afternoon, have tea, then drinks and dinner, a short snooze and we are there.!! it's the segment to SA that I worry about. We flew home from Sydney last year to LA, then on to Seattle, and I was a rag by the time we got to our own beds....I was crazed for days. I don't fear flying, but do get a very 'cooped' up feeling if it goes on and on and on.
clarasong is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2009, 09:04 AM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 294
I fly SFO-LHR-JNB and do it one go, though I have to admit its harder now than it was a few years ago!

My preferred set up is VS Upper from SFO-LHR, leaves around 4:30pm, arrives London 11am, then LHR-JNB leaves at 6. This used to leave time to meet family for a quick lunch near Woking or in summer we could visit Wisley.

Last January miles meant we had to fly UA (first - only seats available!) that flight departed 12:30pm and arrived 6:30am. That meant a very long layover, which we spent at my sister's house in Hampstead and had lunch out. Frankly that was a pain, it's hard staying awake that long when you're hanging out at someone's house. In the past we have stayed a night in London, but found that we slept great the first night, due to exhaustion, then were awake all night on the flight to JNB.

Our next trip is the best we've had so far. UA have changed their flight time, and now depart at 7pm with a 1:30pm landing at LHR. That gives us plenty of time in the Virgin Clubhouse to shower, enjoy a massage, eat and drink lots, then go to sleep pretty quickly once on board. Given that Upper Class has a flat bed, I usually get a good nights sleep. We then have about a 4 hour layover in JNB, so we'll pay to use the lounge in the Sun; shower, change of clothes, breakfast, then check into Mala Mala flight. Arrive there at 12:30pm and be eating lunch on the terrace at 1:30pm. Perfect.

So in January it'll be about 36 hours do to door.


Premium Economy is a good way to go. Right now Virgin have a fare sale from UK to South Africa.
napamatt_2 is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2009, 09:24 AM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 4,215
I think you are speaking of the Regent Voyager which travels Cape Town-Ft. Lauderdale.
If you are that desperate to fly comfortably and spend a relative fortune for a 4 week cruise you might consider business class from the States to SA. Won't break the bank - well, anymore ;-)

Happy planing!

spassvogel is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2009, 11:13 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,087
If you have done a big flight already, then getting to SA is similar, take from your pas experience and break the journey. The service into J/berg is pretty efficient from virtually all the major cities of Europe, perhaps spending 48 hours in a city that you haven't seen on the way in would be sufficient a break in the journey to make the continuation on to SA more palatable? I prefer to get there as quickly as possible and use over the counter sleeping tabs to knock myself out for the journey.

Cape Town.
I am surprised that no-one answered your question on what to experience while there. Having been raised on the slopes of table mountain, surfed the breaks from Noordhoek to still baai and dived for crayfish and abelone everywhere else I feel there are many places overlooked by the average tourist: Here are my gems.

West coast. Particularly the towns of Mamre & Darling. the coastal landscape of the West Coast national park with its villages of Stofbergsfontein, churchaven & Kreefdebaai. On the otherside of the lagoon: langebaan around to paternoster and if time allows an adventure up to Elandsbaai (particularly if you are a birder).

If you fancy a drive a little further afield I suggest getting up into the cederburg mountains from Clanwilliam to Cederburg to Prince Albert hamlet ceres and wellington.

Heading to the south and east of Cape Town the Swellendam to Struisbaai around the coast to gansbaai and onward to Cape Town is simply stunning. Plenty places to stop en-route to absorb the culture, cuisine and hospitality. Along the way taking trips to dive for great white sharks and search the bays for southern right whales and penguins and seals and dolphins.....

In and sround the city itself, a hike over table mountain, Cape Town across the top and down into Kirstenbosch..A drive around chapmans peak for a brunch at Noordhoek. Buying fish from the pedllers at Kalk bay harbour and eating slap chips and calamari at snoekies in the harbour. Walking the beach at Olifantsbos in the Cape Point Reserve.

Then there are the cultural monuments in the city, the gardens, various museums, robben island (I believe an overated experience, however a must do to appreciate the character of Mandela). Aslo what has become a popular tourist spot is the penguin colony at Simonstown and a seal island trip out of hout bay. Did I mention Stellenbosch?

Many more to enjoy, but I think those highlights might tie up your diary for a while.
mkhonzo is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2009, 01:54 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
Welcome clarasong... If you have family in London, then do the stopover and continue a few days later.

On my flight JFK/JNB/CPT, was fine on arrival after 16/hrs in the air. Did fine during 4/days in CPT, then onto VFA and still open eyed. Not till we arrived in Botswana, about 7/days on, I was a out of it! Slept thru one afternoon and dinner till breakfast next day. One never knows. But I sure don't plan my flights on whether it will or won't cause jetlag... I'm on holiday!

Seems whether flying east or west, with the exception of my Southeast Asia jaunt - JFK/NRT/BKK... onto Cambodia next morning for 3/days, it was then on return to BKK, I slept almost 12/hrs. no big deal "going to." For sure though I find the homebound flights regardless from where that do me in, but where I can sleep dreaming of "where to next?"

Just go with or without the stop... and enjoy.
sandi is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2009, 02:47 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 6,994
spassvogel: we just got a flyer from Regent; they are offering 2 for one fares...and then we could maybe hike up to Business at least...mkhonzo: great help..I am cutting and pasting and sending to DH for him to peruse...he has to 'bless' everything. WHat is the best season to see SA?
clarasong is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:47 PM.