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Can I Fly Straight to Africa From The US?

Can you fly straight to Africa from the USA? This is one of the most frequently asked questions we get from travelers. With 54 diverse countries making up the continent, visiting African countries can seem daunting for US travelers to plan.

Failing to research flights and visa requirements can risk complicating your travels, wasting time and money, or being denied entry. As a travel advisor for more than a decade, I've flown travelers from different parts of the world to Africa. I'm here to help you understand the travel route from America to Africa.

Can You Fly Straight to Africa From the USA?

You can fly non-stop from the United States to certain major cities in Africa, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Nairobi, Casablanca, and Addis Ababa. Airlines like United, Delta, American Airlines, Royal Air, Ethiopian, and Kenya Airways operate direct flights from the US to African airports. The fastest route takes at least eight hours, while the longest can last 15 hours.

People lining up at check in counters at an airport

While I can't change the air transport length or eliminate jet lag, I can help you prepare and make the most of your safari journey. At Find Your Africa Travel, my team specializes in creating unforgettable experiences on African safaris, and I'm here to guide you every step of the way.

Flight Time and Duration to Africa

Typically, it takes a whole day to reach Africa, with flight times ranging from eight to 15 hours. However, the duration of your flight to any African country from the United States will depend on your starting location and preferred airline.

  • A non-stop flight from Atlanta or New York to Johannesburg takes approximately 15 hours.

  • Alternatively, you can get the next flight to Europe with an 11-hour flight from L.A.X. to Europe, followed by another 10- to 11-hour flight to Johannesburg.

Flying From the United States to South Africa

Traveling from the US to South Africa requires lengthy air travel over the Atlantic, often with at least one layover in Europe. While the journey can make your African safari trip quite expensive, it's worthwhile to experience South Africa's spectacular landscapes, exotic wildlife, and cultural diversity.

South Africa Travel

Getting to Africa may seem daunting, yet visiting South Africa is more accessible than expected. Johannesburg serves as the international hub of South Africa, offering convenient connections to other popular destinations within the country. If you prefer a direct flight from the US to South Africa, there are three main options:

  • South African Airways: New York City (J.F.K.) to Johannesburg (J.N.B.)

  • South African Airways: Washington, D.C. (IAD) to Johannesburg (J.N.B.)

  • Delta Air Lines: Atlanta (ATL) to Johannesburg (J.N.B.)

Several indirect flight options are available if you want to save money or are okay with a stopover. Dubai and Doha serve as safe and vibrant cities for stopovers in the Middle East, with approximately five to six hours of travel time from these destinations to Johannesburg.

Man sitting at a viewing deck of his SUV that is parked on an African Safari

Alternatively, you can take a break in Europe, with common stopover cities including London and Amsterdam. From Europe, you can book the next flight to any part of Africa.

  • Emirates Airlines: Indirect flights with stopovers in Dubai and other Middle Eastern countries.

  • Qatar Airways: Indirect flights with stopovers in Doha and other Middle Eastern countries.

  • Lufthansa: Indirect flights with stopovers in Germany and Amsterdam.

  • Swiss: Indirect flights with stopovers in Switzerland and Germany.

  • British Airways: Indirect flights with stopovers in London.

  • Turkish Airlines: Indirect flights with stopovers in Istanbul.

Non-stop Flights From the USA to Africa

Flying from the United States to the African continent has become more accessible in the past few years. When choosing an African safari, it helps to compare non-stop routes from the USA to Africa to achieve a safe yet convenient journey.

  • United Airlines 1122: United Airlines launched the historic UA 1122 flight in December 2019. This was the first non-stop route from North America to Cape Town. The ticket price averages $687, providing at least 15 hours and 40 minutes of travel time.

  • Kenya Airways KQ 3: As one of Africa's top airlines, the KQ3 flight from New York sends you straight to Nairobi, the central hub for East African safaris. It's pricier compared to United Airlines, costing at least $700. However, this limits the flight time to 13 hours and 55 minutes.

  • Delta DL 200: This direct travel from Atlanta to the regional hub of Johannesburg is a great way to start your safari trip in the South African region. The flight may last for 15 hours and 30 minutes.

  • Ethiopian Airlines ET 575: Instead of making a stopover in Europe, you can fly directly from Chicago to Addis Ababa, Nairobi, in just over 17 hours.

  • Royal Air AT205: This direct route from Miami to Casablanca, Morocco, lasts only eight hours and 15 minutes.

  • EgyptAir MS 986: With an average flight time of 10 hours, the EgyptAir MS 986 is the fastest way to get from New York to Cairo, Egypt.

Flight From America to Africa With Layovers

I also recommend breaking up the journey with a layover in Europe before embarking on your African safari tour. This allows you to maximize your time by exploring fascinating cities like Paris or indulging in the luxurious amenities of business-class lounges.

Man feeding a giraffe through his palm

It's important to allocate at least seven to 10 days in Africa to fully immerse yourself in the safari experience. At Find Your Africa Travel, I specialize in curating personalized itineraries that cater to your preferences, ensuring you make the most of your time on this remarkable continent.

  • Qatar: The airline offers connecting routes to Rwanda and Uganda from Doha. This is a great way to stay in Middle Eastern countries for a few days before entering Central African countries.

  • Emirates: Originating from DXB Airport, Emirates Airlines can also give you the next flight from Arab countries to African countries, including the Seychelles, Kenya, and South Africa.

Gateway Airports of African Countries

Africa is home to several international airports. However, these are the major ones that offer non-stop air travel from America to African nations.

  • Tambo Airport: As Africa's premier airway hub, Tambo International Airport is the gateway to many of the continent's safari destinations. Just in August 2023 alone, about 138,000 travelers passed by the airport.

  • Jomo Kenyatta Airport: As Kenya's capital city, Nairobi is home to East Africa's unrivaled airport. This will be your first stop if you plan to get regional travel connections.

  • Julius Nyerere Airport: Located in Dar es Salaam, this airport is Tanzania's main airport. You'll need to go here if you need transfers to reach Mount Kilimanjaro and Tanzania's northern safaris.

  • Cape Town Airport: The buzzing international airport in Cape Town is another entryway when you fly straight to African countries from the USA. Additionally, this airport provides the best access to the Garden Route and the Eastern Cape.

Flight Costs and Considerations

As a general guideline, I advise my clients to prepare to spend around $1,200 to $1,500 per person for a return trip in economy class with a reputable airline. However, the cost of air travel tickets from the US to South Africa can vary.

Note that this cost covers only international airfare. You may still need to factor in additional transport fees within the US and South Africa. While there are occasional deals and cheaper airfares available, it's crucial to consider a few factors before booking:

  • Layover duration: Cheaper tickets often have longer layovers, which may require the cost of a hotel stay. The number of layovers can also give you jet lag.

  • Safety and comfort: Choose airlines with solid safety records, especially since you'll have an extended flight duration. Keep in mind that a direct flight from America to African nations will make you sit for hours. Consider upgrading your seat for a more comfortable journey.

  • Seasonal fares: Airfare is typically cheaper during the off-season. However, assessing if the weather aligns with your desired travel experience is essential. Wildlife viewing on safaris can be highly seasonal, so planning your visit during peak wildlife viewing times can be worthwhile.

  • Direct booking: I recommend booking seats directly with the airline rather than through third-party sites to get the best rates and avoid complications. This also ensures better support in case of cancellations or delays. Purchasing a changeable ticket is a great way to book your ticket early while getting flexible dates.

  • Travel insurance: Purchasing travel insurance for international routes and safari trips is highly recommended and sometimes compulsory. With the constantly changing travel landscape, travel insurance will protect you from unexpected costs and support lost luggage, cancellations, and medical emergencies, ensuring a smoother and stress-free experience.

Options in Getting Around Africa After Flying Directly From the USA

Discovering stunning landscapes and dynamic South African countries is a breeze with Find Your Africa's exceptional tour services. My expert drivers and guides guarantee top-notch tours, whether you're embarking on a thrilling African safari adventure or exploring the lively streets of the continent.

Airplane taking off from a tarmac

Commercial Flights

A study shows that as ICT and infrastructure increase, tourist arrivals in Africa also increase. For example, South Africa's well-developed tourism infrastructure means that commercial flights are an efficient way to travel between cities.

These are also available from cities to various airports around the country, allowing for easy transfers to your desired safari lodge. Air transfers to Kruger-Mpumalanga, Skukuza, or Hoedspruit are available for those planning a safari in Kruger National Park.

From there, you can take a road transfer to your chosen safari lodge, immersing yourself in the wonders of the African wilderness. While a luxury African safari costs more, my team will take care of your domestic or in-country transportation needs, including charter flights and transfers.

Lodge Hopper Flights

With seamless travel to private airstrips, many safari lodges in South Africa have private airstrips that you can access via light aircraft. These air transfers offer a convenient and scenic way to reach your destination. It's vital to note that these small planes have strict weight limits.

  • To ensure a smooth and safe journey to a luxury African safari, pack a soft-sided bag without a frame.

  • Adhere to the weight limit of 33 to 44 pounds for your luggage, including cameras and handheld bags.

  • Invest in soft-sided duffel bags, as hardcase bags may not fit in some smaller aircraft.

Exceeding the weight limit may result in additional charges or the need for alternative baggage arrangements. With that said, I can help you plan what to wear on an African safari to save you the trouble.

Private Transfers

There are many things to do in Africa aside from safaris. Private car transfers are an excellent option for side trips, such as traveling to the Winelands or Victoria Falls. I also provide a comfortable mode of transportation from Johannesburg to safari game reserves like Madikwe, Waterberg, Thanda, Marataba, Phinda, and Pilanesberg.

Gazelles running through a field while an SUV drives by

While road transfers to safari lodges may be bumpy due to unpaved roads, they are considerably cheaper than lodge hop flights. Factor in travel times when planning an African safari trip. Road transfers take significantly longer than charter or hopper flights.

Related Questions

What Is the Easiest Way to Get to Africa From the USA?

The easiest way to reach Africa from the USA is to take a non-stop flight from a major US airline hub to a main African air travel hub like Johannesburg or Addis Ababa, then get the next flight to your final destination. This avoids lengthy layovers in Europe or other continents.

Who Flies Non-stop From America to South Africa?

Delta, United, and American Airlines fly non-stop from America to South Africa. United Airlines flies direct from New York to Johannesburg and Cape Town, while Delta offers non-stop flights to Johannesburg from Atlanta. American Airlines also operates direct routes to South Africa from New York during certain seasons.

Can American Citizens Travel Straight from the USA to Africa Without a Visa?

US citizens can travel to African countries visa-free if they are staying in the country for 90 days or less. Rwanda, Ghana, Kenya, and Ethiopia allow American citizens to obtain visas when landing at major airports, streamlining travel.

Final Thoughts

Despite limited non-stop flights, major airlines offer direct routes to certain African hubs from several American cities. At Find Your Africa, I can curate bespoke journeys that cater to your preferences, ensuring an unforgettable adventure through this captivating country. Let my team make your South African exploration and luxury safari tour truly remarkable.

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