Travel

Flights to Africa are expensive. Tips on saving money?

  • Last Updated:
  • Aug 12th, 2017 7:28 pm
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Flights to Africa are expensive. Tips on saving money?

Thanks to some inspiration from Talamasca Smiling Face With Open Mouth, we are seriously considering booking a safari for next year. We are looking at late August, into early/mid September 2018. We are looking at a safari that starts in Maun, Botswana and ends in Livingstone, Zambia. We'd also like to visit Cape Town.

I can't search for flight prices for our proposed travel dates yet, because it's too far out. The best I can do is compare dates for August/September 2017, but since those dates are about a month away, I'm sure that affects flights prices. In playing around with various dates and cities, I can see that flights between Toronto and Cape Town or Jo'burg aren't TOO pricey, but if I use Maun or Livingstone as a destination, the price goes up a lot (less demand, fewer flights I guess).

I'm thinking that we will have to take at least one regional flight ie Livingstone to Cape Town. So we could fly YYZ to Maun, then regional flight Livistone to Cape Town, and then Cape Town to YYZ. But with Maun, the flights are so expensive (ie $2500 pp). Any advice on how far out to book to get a decent price? I think I've read 3-6 months out is best (so I'll have to wait until next year to book, which is fine, but I want to make sure this trip will be within budget before we commit to a safari).

Has anyone flown from YYZ to Maun and gotten a flight for less than $2K? Any other advice on booking affordable flights to Southern Africa?

Thanks.
34 replies
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Apr 26, 2004
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Sign up for KLM's email list. Through them and their partner Kenya Airlines, they seem to be the airline most likely to have cheaper flights to Africa. I got my flight from Toronto to Livingstone for about $1300. Good luck!
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Talamasca wrote:
Jul 30th, 2017 8:59 pm
Sign up for KLM's email list. Through them and their partner Kenya Airlines, they seem to be the airline most likely to have cheaper flights to Africa. I got my flight from Toronto to Livingstone for about $1300. Good luck!
Good tip, thanks :)
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Another tip for your safari itinerary: If you are having trouble finding an itinerary from Maun to Livingstone, consider one from Maun to Kasane instead and have the safari operator arrange a transfer from Kasane to Livingstone, which should be fairly simple. In Africa, I've found the tour operators to be friendly with their fellow operators, and everyone always knows someone else who is useful. You end up getting passed along from person to person like living cargo, but it always works out.
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Feb 9, 2012
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Ottawa
I can't comment on your locations of interest, other than Cape Town. Something to perhaps consider is flying into Johannesburg and using that as your base flight. Johannesburg is quite a decent hub with direct flights from London, New York and Doha.

We flew Ottawa to Johannesburg via Boston and Doha for $1200 on Qatar. My girlfriends family go quite frequently (they're from SA) - 1000-1400$ CAD range with 1 or 2 layover is the norm. Our flight Johannesburg to Cape Town round trip was around 140$CAD round trip if I recall. Was cheaper than doing a multi-city back to North America. Might get decent flights to Botswana and area from Johannesburg. Highly recommend Safari in SA Kruger park too =)
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Feb 9, 2012
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...Forgot to mention, absolutely visit Cape Town if you can make it fit!
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We ended up flying Toronto to Montreal to London to Johannesburg because it was the cheapest routing we could find. We actually saved a few hundred dollars flying through Montreal (which added up since we were buying flights for four). We flew home from Cape Town. Managed that routing for $1100 each in June a few years ago. We booked the October before.

We also looked into flying in Livingston but wanted our own vehicle and decided instead to rent a truck/camper in SA and drive up there through Botswana and then back down to SA through Namibia. We had a lot of time though and we didn't do an organized tour.
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Talamasca wrote:
Jul 30th, 2017 11:01 pm
Another tip for your safari itinerary: If you are having trouble finding an itinerary from Maun to Livingstone, consider one from Maun to Kasane instead and have the safari operator arrange a transfer from Kasane to Livingstone, which should be fairly simple. In Africa, I've found the tour operators to be friendly with their fellow operators, and everyone always knows someone else who is useful. You end up getting passed along from person to person like living cargo, but it always works out.
So far the safaris I'm leaning towards start in Maun and end in Livingstone. But I did notice that it seems relatively hassle free to arrange for transfers, if we need them.
andr3w282 wrote:
Jul 31st, 2017 2:10 am
I can't comment on your locations of interest, other than Cape Town. Something to perhaps consider is flying into Johannesburg and using that as your base flight. Johannesburg is quite a decent hub with direct flights from London, New York and Doha.

We flew Ottawa to Johannesburg via Boston and Doha for $1200 on Qatar. My girlfriends family go quite frequently (they're from SA) - 1000-1400$ CAD range with 1 or 2 layover is the norm. Our flight Johannesburg to Cape Town round trip was around 140$CAD round trip if I recall. Was cheaper than doing a multi-city back to North America. Might get decent flights to Botswana and area from Johannesburg. Highly recommend Safari in SA Kruger park too =)
Johannesburg is fine for one end of the trip but we want to visit Cape Town too, so it makes most sense to fly back to Canada from Cape Town. The $140 round trip between Johannesburg and CT...do you remember which airline that was with? Because that's a decent price for a return transfer and if that makes for a cheaper option vs a multi city back to Canada, that would be great.

Do you know how far out your girlfriend's family books their flights? I'm thinking that the prices I look up now could be high either because I'm looking at Sept 2017, which is kinda last minute or the farthest I can go is July 2018, which might be too far out.
wirebound wrote:
Jul 31st, 2017 7:52 am
We ended up flying Toronto to Montreal to London to Johannesburg because it was the cheapest routing we could find. We actually saved a few hundred dollars flying through Montreal (which added up since we were buying flights for four). We flew home from Cape Town. Managed that routing for $1100 each in June a few years ago. We booked the October before.

We also looked into flying in Livingston but wanted our own vehicle and decided instead to rent a truck/camper in SA and drive up there through Botswana and then back down to SA through Namibia. We had a lot of time though and we didn't do an organized tour.
Wow, that's a good price! So about 8 months out and a couple transfers got you that price. I'd rather just have one stop over but right now we are open to ideas.

Sounds like you had a great trip! I thought about perhaps doing Kruger via self drive, but I don't like driving much :(
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You cant compare prices for August/Sept 2017 because of how close we are to departure.

We were supposed to go to South Africa in a few weeks with a side trip to Zanzibar for our anniversary. Unfortunately, my FIL has some health issues we need to stick around for. We changed our trip to Christmas/ NYE.

I can tell you a few months ago we paid $3600 per person round trip in business class with Air France. We have a 15 hour layover on the way to SA but plan to spend the day in Paris (one of my favourite cities!). Air Canada had really good rates as well a few months ago. Don't know if you have CC points but your certainly have time to start collecting. We used Avion and ended up only paying $1600 out of pocket for our flights. For the safari / hotel accommodations we are using our First Class Infinite Visa.
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BrunetteGirl wrote:
Jul 31st, 2017 8:39 am
You cant compare prices for August/Sept 2017 because of how close we are to departure.

We were supposed to go to South Africa in a few weeks with a side trip to Zanzibar for our anniversary. Unfortunately, my FIL has some health issues we need to stick around for. We changed our trip to Christmas/ NYE.

I can tell you a few months ago we paid $3600 per person round trip in business class with Air France. We have a 15 hour layover on the way to SA but plan to spend the day in Paris (one of my favourite cities!). Air Canada had really good rates as well a few months ago. Don't know if you have CC points but your certainly have time to start collecting. We used Avion and ended up only paying $1600 out of pocket for our flights. For the safari / hotel accommodations we are using our First Class Infinite Visa.
Yeah, I realize that comparing Sept 2017 isn't going to be accurate, which is why it's hard for me to get idea of pricing for that time of year.

$3600 pp is way too pricey for us, we wouldn't go if flights costs that much. Based on previous posts, seems like we needn't pay close to that much if I time my flight purchase right.

We don't have a travel rewards CC :( I just use the PC World Elite CC.
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For the SA safari or the other ones that you guys mention, do you suggest joining a tour to go there or can we go there by ourselves like rental a car and drive to the safari instead.
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marktang wrote:
Jul 31st, 2017 9:05 am
For the SA safari or the other ones that you guys mention, do you suggest joining a tour to go there or can we go there by ourselves like rental a car and drive to the safari instead.
You can do a self drive in Kruger park, for sure, and in other national parks. You can book your own accommodation in the park on the sanparks.com website. We thought about that but then decided that we don't really want to spend so long driving ourselves around for our first visit to Southern Africa. I'm not sure if you are allowed to drive your own car around the private game reserves in South Africa. I would guess not. Depending on where you plan to go, a different type of vehicle may be necessary. For Kruger, a regular car is okay, but for other locations I suppose you'd need a more rugged vehicle. Seems like you can certainly do your own drive.
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amz155 wrote:
Jul 31st, 2017 9:25 am
You can do a self drive in Kruger park, for sure, and in other national parks. You can book your own accommodation in the park on the sanparks.com website. We thought about that but then decided that we don't really want to spend so long driving ourselves around for our first visit to Southern Africa. I'm not sure if you are allowed to drive your own car around the private game reserves in South Africa. I would guess not. Depending on where you plan to go, a different type of vehicle may be necessary. For Kruger, a regular car is okay, but for other locations I suppose you'd need a more rugged vehicle. Seems like you can certainly do your own drive.
We did our own drives into the parks in Botswana and Namibia - with a Toyota Hilux with roof top tents - and needed it in Botswana especially - as we spent a fair amount of time driving in deep sand. Also, you'll need to drive standard if you're driving this! We drove in SA but not in the parks so I'm not sure. We would have been fine with a smaller vehicle in Etosha in Namibia, the roads were better.

Ours looked like this:

Image
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Air Canada usually have a Business Class seat sale every year, around $3500 (used to be $2500 or so), which is not bad considering the price of Economy.
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McKinsey wrote:
Jul 31st, 2017 9:59 am
Air Canada usually have a Business Class seat sale every year, around $3500 (used to be $2500 or so), which is not bad considering the price of Economy.
We want to spend about half that pp. Economy is fine for us. I'm looking for ways to find flights for, say, $1200-1600 pp.

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