So much of the excitement in planning your African safari understandably focuses on your experiences in Africa. But equally importantly, your planning needs to address how you will get to Africa from the United States.
Bushtracks, like other tour operators, doesn’t make international air arrangements for our guests, instead, one of our top African safari tips is to refer travelers to our partners at Airtreks to help them seamlessly connect their trip from their closest U.S. airport to their desired destination in Africa.
Managing a long flight: smart planning and recovery days
First-time travelers to Africa are always surprised at how long it takes to get there from the U.S. It can add easily four days to your overall vacation, so it’s really important to think about your layovers. If you are not flying direct to Johannesburg from JFK, Atlanta or Washington, D.C., you may enjoy an overnight or two at one of our main connecting airports (London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Dubai). It helps you acclimate to the time zone before arriving in Africa, and get a little extra sight-seeing in, too. But, some travelers like to take the journey without breaking it up with an overnight midway, and instead add an extra day in Johannesburg, for example, to unwind before embarking on their safari activities.
Main hall, O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa
U.S. GATEWAY CITIES TO AFRICA
JFK, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. all offer direct flights to Johannesburg, which take about 15 hours on the outbound flight (over 17 hours for D.C.), and a little longer on the return. From the west coast San Francisco offers flights to London and Frankfurt with good connections on to African gateway cities. Routing through Europe may allow you to arrive directly to where your safari begins (e.g. Cape Town, Kilimanjaro, Entebbe or Kigali) instead of flying into a major hub, like Johannesburg, and then connecting on to your final destination. But rather than focusing on one of these gateway departing cities, our friends at Airtreks recommend you plan your flights from your closest U.S. airport, and book everything together. If there are changes or delays it’s better to have your routing all together, particularly in the event of changes and delays, the airline(s) will be responsible for getting you to your end destination.
CHOOSING YOUR AIRLINE
The most commonly used international carriers are: South African Airways, Delta, British Airways, KLM, Air France, Swiss, Lufthansa, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic (for Southern Africa), and sometimes Turkish Airlines. Which airline you choose will ultimately come down to your schedule preferences, layover durations, mileage/loyalty plans, availability of economy and extra legroom seats, and, for business class travelers, whether flat beds are available (and in most cases they are).
WHY WE RECOMMEND AIRTREKS
There are a lot of factors to consider, and it is a very long trip. This is why many of our travelers opt to work with Airtreks to make their international flight arrangements. Airtreks has contracted rates with airlines, often offering discount fares, particularly in business class. They are also familiar with the most reliable connections, and can help you balance these decisions with cost and convenience considerations. They will interface with the airlines and help you manage scheduled and voluntary changes, and also work with your Bushtracks program coordinator to make sure everything fits together.
Getting your flights to and from Africa right goes a long way in your overall travel experience. While your Bushtracks travel planner won’t book your international flights for you, we are always happy to help you get started sorting your options to help you determine the total cost and duration of your trip, details you will need, for example, to purchase trip insurance, something we recommend to all of our guests. With a solid international air routing plan in place, we can get back to the very exciting business of planning your trip of a lifetime.