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Getting there & away
Getting there Africa
Air fares to Africa can be very expensive, but there are ways to save. The best way to get great airfare to the continent is fly directly to an African country from its former colonial rulers. For example, it can easily cost hundreds of euros/dollars more to fly from London to a former French colony, or conversely from Paris to a former British colony. About the only exceptions are Egypt, which has plentiful, cheap connections with the Middle East & Europe and a handful of West African destinations (e.g. Cape Verde, Morocco) popular with British tourists and accessible with cheap holiday flights.
Airline consolidators can also be used for discounted air fares. If you have additional travel time, check to see how your total fare quote to Africa compares with a round-the-world fare. Don't forget to add in the extra costs of additional visas, departure taxes, ground transportation, etc. for all those places outside of Africa.
See your destination's article for more specific information on flights. Bear in mind that many African countries only offer a few international flights each day, or in some cases, each week. While it isn't hard to reach South Africa or Egypt, getting to Malawi or Togo can be quite a challenge.
There are more flights to Africa from Europe than from any other continent. Popular holiday destinations such as Egypt, Morocco, Cape Verde, & South Africa are well-served from Europe's major cities, even with discount and charter airlines. Royal Air Maroc, Afriqyah Airlines, Jet4you & EgyptAir have a good selection of European destinations and Ethiopian, Kenyan, South African, & Arik Air serve a couple of major cities (London, Paris, etc.). The cheapest flights to African cities are often through the African country's former colonial power. Cities with large immigrant populations such as London, Marseilles, & Paris have a good number of flights to Africa.
Chief among European airlines flying to Africa are:
- Air France is the best (although not cheapest) carrier serving French-speaking Africa, with service to most major cities of West, Central, & North Africa along with service to Johannesburg, Cairo, Tripoli, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, & Djibouti.
- British Airways is the best (although not particularly cheap) way to fly to former British colonies, they have service to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, & Egypt along with Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritius, & Angola.
- Brussels Airlines flies from Brussels to most francophone countries in West and Central Africa along with Entebbe (Uganda), Nairobi, & Luanda.
- Lufthansa flies to major cities in North Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ethiopia, & Eritrea.
- TAP Portugal flies to former Portuguese colonies (Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome & Principe, Mozambique, Angola) and South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, & Senegal.
Many European discount airlines serve major tourist destination in Africa (especially Morocco, Cape Verde, Tunisia, Egypt, & the Gambia), including Jetairfly, EasyJet, & Corsairfly.
From the Americas
The only countries with direct flights to Africa are the United States, Canada, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, & Venezuela.
From the United States, these are routes operated as of January 2012:
- New York-JFK: Delta Air Lines to Abuja, Accra,& Dakar; South African Airways to Johannesburg; EgyptAir to Cairo; Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca; & Arik Air to Lagos.
- Washington-Dulles: South African Airlines to Johannesburg (via Dakar); Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa (via Rome); & United Airlines to Accra
- Atlanta: Delta Air Lines to Johannesburg, Accra, & Lagos
- Houston: United Airlines to Lagos; charter flights for oil workers to Nigeria and Angola
Outside the peak travel times to Europe (eg summer) you might be able to get a good deal to London or Paris and book a fare from there to Africa separately on a European travel website. But don't book the United States to Europe portion until you get confirmed on the Europe to Africa portion first. Through fares to Africa from the United States can be quite expensive, so avoiding peak travel times to Europe can sometimes save a lot. However, since new non-stop flights to Africa have recently been added, and Europe is much more expensive than it used to be, try getting a direct quote first, then see if you can do better. Another growing option is flying through the Middle East on Emirates or Qatar, which both serve a reasonable selection of African & American cities.
In Canada, Montreal is connected to Casablanca by Royal Air Maroc and Algiers by Air Algerie. Toronto is connected to Addis Ababa by Ethiopian Airlines, and service to Cairo resumes in 2013 with EgyptAir. TAAG Angolan Airlines offers weekly service to Havana—the last of the heavily-subsidized communist friends routes Cuba has to Africa (former routes include Tripoli, Maputo, & Conakry).
Connections from South America are:
- São Paulo: South African Airways to Johannesburg; TAAG Angolan Airlines to Luanda; Ethiopian to Addis Ababa and Lomé.
- Rio de Janeiro: TAAG Angolan Airlines to Luanda
- Caracas: Santa Barbara Airlines to Tenerife-North (seasonal)
From Asia & the Middle East
If you're flying to a small African country, Africa's major airlines all have extensive coverage in Africa and fly to a handful of Asian destinations:
- Ethiopian Airlines: Bahrain, Bangkok, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Beirut, Kuwait, Jeddah, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Aden, Sana'a
- Kenyan Airways: Bangkok, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Beijing, Mumbai, Dubai
- South African Airways: Mumbai, Hong Kong
Nearly all North African countries along with Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, & Somalia have extensive connections with the Middle East. And similarly, countries with large Muslim populations are likely to have a connection to Jedda/Mecca either year-round or seasonal (e.g. during hajj). North African destinations aside, connections with the Middle East include:
- Emirates flies from Dubai to: Abidjan, Accra, Addis Ababa, Cape Town, Dar Es Salaam, Durban, Entebbe, Johannesburg, Khartoum, Lagos, Luanda, Mauritius, Nairobi, & Mahe.
- Qatar Airways flies from Doha to: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam, Mahe, & Lagos.
- Turkish Airlines flies from Istanbul to: Dakar, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Cape Town, & Johannesburg.
Other flights from East and South Asia include the following: Cathay Pacific flights to Hong Kong. Furthermore, due to increased Chinese investment many cities have service from Beijing, cities with direct flights to Beijing-Capital include Luanda, Algiers, Lagos, Khartoum, Addis Ababa, & Harare. Malaysian Airlines serves Johannesburg from Kuala Lumpor. Korean Air serves Cairo from Seoul. Air Austral flies to Bangkok seasonally from Reunion. Air Seychelles flies to Singapore and Male from Mahe. Air Madagascar flies from Antananarivo to Bangkok & Guangzhou.Air Mauritius flies from Mauritius to Bangalore, Chennai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, & Singapore.
The best option to fly from East or South Asia is likely on Emirates or Qatar, both of which have a decent selection of destinations in Asia & Africa, or via Europe on airlines such as British Airways, Air France, or Lufthansa which all offer an extensive number of destinations across Africa.
There are only a handful of connections to Australia:
- Qantas between Johannesburg & Sydney.
- South African Airways between Johannesburg and Perth
- Air Mauritius operates flights from Mauritius to Sydney, Melbourne, & Perth.
- Air Austral flies a triangle service to Sydney & Noumea, New Caledonia from Saint Denis, Reunion (ends in March 2012).
Qantas' flight is one of only two commercial routes that pass over sea ice near Antarctica (the other is Qantas between Buenos Aires [Santiago after March 2012]& Sydney). International aviation rules require polar gear that takes up several rows of seats to fly over Antarctica (specifically, south of 72 degrees), so there are no commercial routes over the continent. The 747 flies close on the westward journey, Sydney-Jo'burg, because there are very strong tailwinds near Antarctica (flight-time is 11.5 hours westward vs. 14 eastward). With a clear sky and a window seat—especially on the left—you should be able to see a vast expanse of sea ice and perhaps even continental Antarctica near the horizon! Other airlines fly further north because their 2-engine planes must remain closer to diversion airports in Western Australia/the Mascarene Islands, in case of engine failure. A New Zealand-South Africa flight would be only route where the Great Circle (shortest) route would pass over continental Antarctica, but no airline has ever flown this route.
The only land connection to another continent is the 163km-wide Isthmus of Suez, which is found in Egypt (although the Sinai peninsula is sometimes considered a part of Africa for geopolitical reasons). Thus the only way to drive into Africa is to drive through Egypt. Most people driving from the Middle East to Africa travel through Jordan and take a short car ferry to Egypt to avoid transiting Israel, since Egypt's two African neighbours (Sudan & Libya) deny entry for persons with Israeli stamps or Egyptian/Jordanian stamps indicating travel to Israel.
Despite there being just one, narrow land crossing into the continent, there are other ways to bring vehicles into Africa by short car ferries. The short crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco is crossed by several ferries daily and relatively inexpensive. Other car ferries include:
- Italy-Tunisia ferries are operated by a couple of different companies: However, you must pass through Algeria to Mauritania/Niger -or- Libya to Egypt, both very expensive and difficult to enter with a car.
- Spain/France to Algeria car ferries are run by Algerie Ferries. Their website is in French only.
- Yemen-Djibouti ferries may be running weekly or more frequently (information about this crossing is little and conflicting) to avoid Egypt (because of the extremely high import taxes) or Sudan (as the Ethiopian-Sudan border is prone to banditry). It is also possible to cross by dhow in motorcycles or small/light vehicles.
- Port Said, Sudan to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia car ferries are run daily and are a great way to avoid the very high tariffs to enter Egypt, although visas for SA are difficult to obtain.
Several overland trucks make journeys which cross between Europe or the Middle East and Africa, these companies are listed below under "Get around/Overland trucks".
Many Mediterranean cruises stop in North African countries such Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, the Canary Islands, & Cape Verde. Some ocean liners will stop in the Canary or Cape Verde Islands on trans-Atlantic crossings or in South Africa, Madagascar, Zanzibar, the Seychelles, or Mauritius on round-the-world trips.
Elsewhere is Africa, cruises are limited to luxury or 'boutique' cruise lines often aboard small vessels and quite expensive or "freighter cruises" which do not offer much to "passengers" but may spend a few days in a handful of ports. Grimaldi Freighter Cruises, has weekly departures to West Africa making the round-trip from Amsterdam in 38 days.
The Seychelles, Reunion, & Mauritius are popular destinations for yachts and private vessels, but piracy around the Horn of Africa has kept a lot of the European vessels away.
For a truly unique experience, take the RMS St Helena from the UK to Cape Town via St Helena-one of the world's most remote islands!