Africa, Blog, Food, South Africa, Travel

The Reef Hotel – a 4 Star Hotel in the Heart of Johannesburg

With only one night in Johannesburg as a layover to Phinda Game Reserve, we were grateful for the opportunity to stay at The Reef Hotel, a four star. The Reef Hotel is in the heart of Johannesburg – the central business district. It is the perfect location to do some sightseeing and a great hotel to spend one night or a full weekend in Johannesburg.

Full disclaimer: This was a sponsored stay from Joburg Tourism, but our opinions are our own.

The Reef Hotel first opened in 1990, but was remodeled in 2010 to host the World Cup! As soccer players and fans of the game, we thought it was pretty cool to stay in a World Cup hosted hotel. Before it was a hotel, it was an office building – which means that being amongst the skyscrapers in the central business district, the hotel is tall with 15 floors. Each floor has its own purpose:

  • The ground floor has the bell desk/concierge, art gallery and Homestead restaurant
  • The third floor has the front desk, bar and lounge, Grill Room restaurant and the sun deck
  • The fourth floor has conference facilities and meeting rooms
  • The remaining floors have the rooms
  • The top floor, also known as the balcony, has Elevate Rooftop



Reef Hotel has 120 suite rooms with two options, a standard or deluxe room. Guests cannot go wrong with either room as they are both fully equipped with a modern design. They both have the option of a double or twin bed, city views, air conditioning, a desk, complimentary Wi-Fi, plasma TV with cable, shower, hairdryer, coffee machine and an electronic safe. In addition to these room amenities, the deluxe room also offers a full sized bath and complimentary breakfast. Check out our video below to see the room in full detail!


Each room offers a beautiful floor to ceiling backdrop of a black and white picture that represents Johannesburg’s culture and history. Our standard room had a picture of one of Johannesburg’s mine shafts used to find gold. It was a very fitting room for us as we were excited to learn about Johannesburg’s history.

We found the room to be very spacious and had everything we needed for a comfortable stay, including a fresh bottle of water and toiletries. The bed and pillow (the most important part of a room), felt like we were sleeping on clouds, which was exactly what we needed after a long 18 hour flight.



Features and Amenities

The Reef Hotel offers plenty of features and amenities that are helpful to their guests.

  • Complimentary transportation within 3 miles of the hotel
  • Airport shuttle for R450 ZAR each way (1 -3passengers), must be booked ahead of time
  • Free indoor parking
  • A relaxing jacuzzi on the sun deck (must reserve two hours before)
  • Conference facilities and meeting rooms for up to 200 people
  • Art gallery
  • Sun deck
  • Disabled access rooms
  • Non-smoking rooms
  • Laundry services, charges apply
  • 24 hour room service
  • On-site restaurants
  • Bar/lounge


Food and Beverage

The Reef Hotel offers guests dining options from two different restaurants. Their on-site restaurant on the third floor, the Grill Room and the Homestead restaurant connected to The Reef Hotel on the ground level. Every meal we had during our stay at The Reef Hotel was delicious.



We dined at Homestead for dinner right after we checked in, therefore it was our very first South african meal and it was delectable. Homestead focuses on South African food using the freshest and local ingredients. Their speciality is called “bowl’d food” where guests pick their starch, meat, vegetables, sauce and salad – essentially all of the components are served in bowls and placed on a wooden tray. One of their starch options is pap, also known as mieliepap, which is a traditional South African corn porridge, similar to polenta, but prepared differently. Being the foodies that we are, we tried the pap and recommend guests to enjoy it with a meat stew served on top. We both also enjoyed their flame-grilled chuck blade steak, which was amazing! It was perfectly seasoned and tender – one of the best steaks we have ever had.


The Grill Room

The Grill Room was not open when we stayed at The Reef Hotel, but rest assured it is opening near the end of this month! Guests should be excited to dine at their new restaurant as their menu offers an array of beautiful cuts of meats that pair perfectly with any of their seven sauces. From the classic T-bone and ribeye steak to the beautiful tomahawk steak, the Grill Room has it all for any meat lover. In addition to their steaks, the Grill Room also has composed entrees of oxtail, osso bucco, kingklip fillet and chicken breast. The best part, quality food for a great price! The highest priced steak is listed at R210 ZAR, converted to U.S. dollars that is $16 (Oct 2017), that is a steal! We wish we could have dined here because we have no doubt the Grill Room serves fantastic food.



Breakfast is complimentary for guests staying in a deluxe room and R171 ZAR ($12 Oct 2017) for guests staying in a standard room. The Reef Hotel does a wonderful job with their breakfast. Guests have plenty of options to choose from including, fresh eggs cooked any way you want it, bacon, sausage, beans, braised vegetables, hash browns, cold meats, cheese, fresh fruit, yogurt, danishes and more.  After a great breakfast like this one, we were ready to tackle our day in Johannesburg!



The bar/lounge is located behind the front desk on the third floor. The 360° bar is centered and serves the best South African wines and beers, as well as spirits and house-made cocktails. Not only does the bar serve alcohol, but they also serve coffee and make a great cup of latte.


Elevate Rooftop

The Elevate Rooftop is a luxury venue opened to both in-house and outside guests. It is only open on Fridays and Saturdays from 3pm to 10pm, so unfortunately we did not get to experience the fun ourselves, but the staff did let us check it out and it seems like the place everyone wants to be. Elevate Rooftop is an indoor and outdoor venue with 360° views of the City of Gold. These views can be accessed by the rooftop surrounding the inside glassed-in venue which features beautiful lounge spaces, a DJ booth and a bar presented by Skyy Vodka. Check out their website here to get all the details on upcoming events hosted at Elevate Rooftop.



We received a warm welcome when we arrived at The Reef Hotel. The bellman immediately helped us with our bags and the front desk agents were very friendly. In the evening, the front desk serve complimentary apple juice, which was refreshing after our long flight. In the morning, they serve fresh orange juice. The front desk agents were always helpful in providing us with information to make our stay relaxing. Everyone we encountered at The Reef Hotel always greeted us with a friendly smile and excellent customer service. From the bellman, to the front desk and servers – we enjoyed every interaction with the staff.

In our rooms we received a welcome card from our housekeeper, Irene, and a welcome letter from the general manager with details of our visit and information to help with any questions we may have had. We appreciated both these small touches of customer service.


Three Notable Highlights

We enjoyed everything about The Reef Hotel, from our comfortable room, to the customer service and food – we loved it all, but there were three things we truly loved that really made The Reef Hotel stand out to us.


Hospitality/Culinary Program

Being in both the hospitality and culinary industry ourselves, we really appreciated The Reef Hotel’s initiative to hire students from a hospitality or culinary school. The students are not full time employees, but in-training to gain first hand experience. We know that is an important role to grow in this career and it was refreshing to see so many students working here. Bravo to the students and The Reef Hotel.



Another huge initiative on The Reef Hotel’s part is their eco-friendliness. Not only are they supporting their community, but they are also supporting the Earth. We found The Reef Hotel to be very eco-friendly with their electricity. The lights in the hallways were motioned censored, it was almost pitch dark when we exited the elevator to our room floor and as we walked down the hallway closer to our room, a light would turn on. This continued until we were at our door. Inside our room the electricity was controlled with our room key – we had to place our room key in a key holder (the power saver) and then all the electricity would turn on including air conditioning, lights and power outlets. When we took the key card out of the power saver, everything would turn off 30-45 seconds later to allow us time to exit. This is also a great way for guests to not lose their key card!



Humor to Make You Smile

One thing that is hard to find in hotels is humor and character. Hotels are always trying to provide excellent customer service, state of the art technology, delicious food and luxurious rooms, but rarely do we ever stay in a hotel where there is character that really makes us laugh and feel more at home. Every hotel room has their own “do not disturb” sign and notepad and they are usually a simple, cookie cutter design. The Reef Hotel takes this basic feature and owns it with humor to connect with their guests by bringing a smile to their faces. We always enjoy staying in a hotel where they go above and beyond or think outside the box and The Reef Hotel does exactly that! Just take a look at the pictures and we guarantee you will smile too.



For travelers coming from outside South Africa, a lot of times we have heard that they never want to travel within Johannesburg because of safety reasons. We can confidently say that we never felt unsafe and really enjoyed The Reef Hotel’s location. Located within the central business district, The Reef Hotel is truly in the heart of Johannesburg, providing easy access to explore the City Centre or travel to surrounding suburbs of Johannesburg for some sightseeing. The City Centre district, which has several bars, restaurants, a stadium and a casino to enjoy, is only a ten minute walk away. The historical Constitutional Hill (a must visit) is only 8 minutes away by car and from there travelers can use a hop on-hop off bus to travel to more sights within the city. Soweto, another location we recommend travelers to visit, is only around 20-25 minutes away by car. Lastly, it is an easy 20 minute drive away from the airport.



We really enjoyed our stay with The Reef Hotel. The staff was friendly and helpful, the food was delicious, the rooms were spacious and comfortable and we enjoyed the location. If you are visiting Johannesburg for more than one day to explore the city, then we highly recommend you stay at The Reef Hotel – it has everything you need to make your visit to Johannesburg enjoyable!


Book Your Stay at The Reef Hotel

For the standard room rate the prices vary around $70 for two people and around $100 for a deluxe room, which includes breakfast for two people. Again, if you are visiting Johannesburg for more than one day to explore its rich culture and history, we recommend The Reef Hotel.

If you think this hotel is a good fit for you, please book it using our Booking affiliate search box! It does not cost you more, but we would receive a small commission for your booking. We would be very appreciative if you do book with us!




The Reef Hotel
58 Anderson St, Marshalltown
Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
+27 11 689 1000


Christina + Adam


Africa, Blog, Food, South Africa, Travel

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace – The Best Luxury Layover

Like us, most international travelers flying into Johannesburg’s O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), are there for a quick layover to continue onto their final destination – a game reserve for safaris. Though we highly recommend travelers to explore Johannesburg, sometimes there is not enough time to sightsee or jet lag travelers just want to relax before they continue onto another flight the next day. This leaves travelers with a few hotel options that are close to the airport, but none compare to the award winning, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace.

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is a five star luxury hotel just five minutes away from O. R. Tambo International Airport. You might be thinking that you will hear planes fly over often and it will be loud, we only heard one plane and it was early in the evening – no planes ever disrupted our sleep.

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is one of four hotels in Peermont’s Emperor’s Palace complex. The complex or Emperor’s Palace is Johannesburg’s Las Vegas – it has a lot of hotels in a small space with plenty of dining options, live entertainment and fun chances of winning big at the casino. Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace has also been awarded by International Hotel Awards in 2014 for Convention Hotel South Africa, Airport Hotel South Africa, Best Airport Hotel Africa and Best International Airport Hotel. So, as you can already gather, this truly is the best hotel near O. R. Tambo International Airport to relax, eat and play.


Lovely Aesthetics

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace blew us away with their luxury touches throughout the resort. From the moment we entered the lobby till we walked into our room, it truly was an Emperor’s Palace. Even the exterior of the hotel is beautiful with its palace-esque architecture and green roof – it is even more beautiful lit up at night. Any woman staying at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace overnight will feel like a princess or a queen.

As soon as guests walk through the revolving doors, an open lobby with high painted ceilings welcomes everyone. Guests are immediately transported from the outside world of Johannesburg, to an entirely different world inside Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. The theme throughout the resort has an Ancient Roman and Italian Renaissance era ambience.

The front desk compliments the lobby with a simple wooden desk and marble table top, two beautiful picture frames and a welcoming Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace sign. The lobby and front desk are the first things the guests see and sets the tone of the positive experiences guests will receive during their stay.

Through the lobby is a grand piano in the middle of the foyer or cocktail lounge, right before Aurelia’s Restaurant continuing with the luxurious atmosphere of the resort. Aurelia’s Cocktail Bar is positioned at the corner of the lounge with a wonderful glass display of spirits.

In addition to the front desk and reception area, there is also a guest relations and concierge desk for guests to use at their disposal. There are only five floors, but they have long and extravagant hallways. The vibrant gold, maroon and blue floral carpet play well with the lightly gold tinted wallpaper. It is a very inviting hallway to your room, which is even more spectacular.

Luxurious Rooms

There are 182 luxurious rooms at the Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. Within the 182 rooms are 16 different types of rooms and suites. Regardless if guests are staying in the Classic or Deluxe Room or if they are staying in a Suite, every room is spacious and magnificent. Every guest staying in a room at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace also receives complimentary breakfast at Aurelia’s Restaurant.

We had the luxury of being upgraded to an Deluxe Suite Room and it was spectacular! When we entered our suite we felt like we had just won the jackpot. Every piece of furniture looked like it belonged in a real queen or king’s palace. The Deluxe Suite Room comes with a half bath, a grand living room, a bedroom with a full desk, a king sized bed and a huge bathroom with double sinks, a bathtub, fancy toilet and an overhead shower. Though the suite was impressive, we were surprised to find a bottle of chilled champagne with two champagne glasses waiting for us, as well as a romantic gesture of rose petals laid across our bed and bathtub, (we were celebrating our two year wedding anniversary). We could have lived like royalty in this suite forever – we absolutely loved this suite and is by far one of our favorite hotel rooms we have ever stayed in.

The living room area had the most beautiful furniture! It consisted of a seating area and dining area. There was a sofa, two chairs, a love seat, and dining room chairs, all with a tone of a luscious red. Every seat felt as comfortable as it looked and the chandelier was the final touch of luxury. In the dining area there was an espresso machine with my favorite espresso brand, Lavazza.

The bedroom was gorgeous with the silver plush backboard and royal-esuqe golden wallpaper. There were also more chairs in the bedroom with a silver touch of color and a desk that had a business panel equipped with a HDMI, USB, audio, PC, video and universal outlet. It had everything you could need for your computer and/or technology equipment.

The bathroom was one of the key elements of making this suite amazing. It was fully decorated in a beautiful gray marble and had a golden framed mirror and beautiful black and white pictures. It is not often when a hotel rooms has a double marble sink and it made getting ready for the day and night much easier. Of course the bathtub was wonderful, but the overhead shower was even better. We mentioned that this suite had a fancy toilet, it is true, this toilet was warm every time you sat on it! In addition to the warm seat, it also served as a bidet – a little too fancy for our taste, but a nice feature for those who want it.

Enjoy a full tour of our suite in this video!


Wonderful Service

Every staff member we encountered was friendly and happy to assist us. This included the front desk agent, hostess at Aurelia’s Restaurant, our server for dinner at Aurelia’s Restaurant and the concierge team.

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace offers complimentary airport shuttles to and from the hotel. They have a set schedule in the lobby that is presented to guests, so they know when to be ready. We arrived two minutes before departure time, but found that the shuttle left early. Though we were disappointed the shuttle left early, the concierge team were very quick to react and solve our situation. Within minutes we were escorted to a car that took us to the shuttle and we made it safely to the airport. Sometimes mistakes happen at the best of places, but it is how people react to them that make the difference. We were very pleased with the way the concierge team handled our situation.

As we mentioned, we were celebrating our two year wedding anniversary for this entire trip to Africa. We booked this hotel through our travel agent, so we were blown away by our surprises waiting for us in our suite. These little touches ended up being a grand gesture and it meant a lot to us.

An Elegant Dining Experience at Aurelia’s Restaurant

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and breakfast at Aurelia’s Restaurant. Aurelia’s Restaurant has a contemporary design that is beautiful both day and night. The dining room is shaped in a semi-circle with an island in the front of the room and glass windows on the facade of the restaurant, which gives guests an open view of the outdoor pool and gardens. The island is used as a dessert station at night and an array of breakfast selections in the morning.


The ambience of Aurelia’s Restaurant during the night is romantic with its dim lighting, candles and fresh flowers on the table. Their dinner menu is quite extensive, it was literally a book full of pages that showcases the chef’s creative molecular gastronomy appetizers, entrees and desserts. The dishes had a little Mediterranean flare with their South African cuisine that can please any palate.

Our evening started with some freshly baked rolls and soft butter. For appetizers we had their Escargot au Riesling and Ostrich Bobotie Ravioli – both were outstanding. The escargot were delicious in their garlic butter, cheese, riesling sauce – it was so good we cleaned the dish with the bread to get every drop of the sauce. The ostrich ravioli was outstanding – the ravioli was the biggest one we have ever had and it tasted perfect!

The entrees are created to be enjoyed as they are described on the menu. Each entree is well thought out and designed with the perfect flavor and texture combinations. The main entrees have two pages with plenty of options to choose from, one page is full of seasonal entrees, while the second page has table side and signature entrees.  We went for two seasonal entrees, the Corn Fed Chicken Cordon Bleu and Red Wine Braised Karoo Lamb Shank. Oh my, the entrees were heavenly! The chicken cordon bleu had a more molecular gastronomy flare than the lamb shank, but both plates were beautifully plated. The chicken cordon bleu was vibrant in color and tasted amazing. The lamb shank was so tender and juicy it basically fell off the bone. The vegetables were the best we have ever had and we are not ones who typically eat their veggies, but we would eat those for every meal.

No meal is complete without dessert. Though we wanted to try every dessert, we only had room for one and went with the Chocolate Tore. A 70% Valrhona dark chocolate cake with pistachio mousse, fresh berries and raspberry ice cream. The dessert tasted as good as it looked! We loved the colors and playfulness of the dessert. The cake was rich, but paired well with the smooth pistachio mousse, fresh berries and tart raspberry ice cream.

The presentation of every plate from start to finish was a work of art and we were very pleased with our dinner.


As if dinner was not already fantastic, Aurelia’s Restaurant blew us away with their breakfast buffet! As we said before, every guest receives a complimentary breakfast at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. Though everything about Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace was outstanding, we would stay here again just for the breakfast buffet.

The buffet had everything a guest could ever imagine and more!  There were at least ten different stations offering different International cuisines, located throughout the restaurant! The island in the front of the restaurant offered a variety of breakfast selections. It had a large selection of danish, muffins and bread, 15 jars of fresh fruit, cold cuts of meat, sushi (yes, sushi), three yogurts, nine different types of cereals and grains, a mezze platter, fresh honey (guests literally took honey from a honeycomb) and much more. This is just the food on the island.

On the hot side were three types of bacon, five types of sausage, roasted potatoes and tomatoes, beans, vegetables, lamb, fish, chicken and an Aisan-stir fry station. There was also an egg station where a chef would prepare the eggs anyway you wanted it, scrambled, fried, omelet, etc. Lastly, they had a crepe and waffle station with a variety of toppings to choose from.

So now we have explained what food options were offered, now let us tell you what was offered to drink. They had six different juices to choose from a dispenser and if those juices were not fresh enough for you, a cook would use a machine to squeeze oranges right in front of you. We both had at least two glasses of this freshly squeezed orange juice – no orange juice has ever tasted so fresh! If juice is not your thing, they also had seven pitchers of flavored water and fresh fruit smoothies.

As you can see, a guests options at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace are endless! We really liked how they offered something for everyone with their different international cuisines.


Amazing Amenities

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace offers a variety of amenities to their guests. For guests who want to relax during their entire layover night or weekend holiday, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace has everything you need – we wish our layover was longer so we could have enjoyed them all.

  • Free WiFi
  • Octavia’s Day Spa
    • The perfect place to relax from your long flight with a massage, facial, mud bath, sauna, steam room and more.
  • Outdoor Pool
  • 24 Hour Gym
  • Secure Parking
  • Complimentary Airport Shuttle
  • Business Center
  • Executive Club Floor
  • Art Gallery

In addition to these amenities, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is connected to the casino, Theatre of Marcellus and their own shopping district called, The Emporium. The Emporium has a movie theatre, arcade room, dining options and more for guest to enjoy at their leisure. If you have been to Las Vegas, it resembles most casino resorts, especially the Venetian, Palazzo and Caesars Palace.



Casino – What Happens in Joburg, Stays in Joburg

Coming from two people who lived in Las Vegas and worked on the Strip for two years, we were excited to see Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace casino floor and found it to be Johannesburg’s little Vegas paradise.

The casino floor was front and center with a walkway surrounding it, which would lead to the Emporium, Theatre of Marcellus and more. Something that struck our curiosity was a glassed in-room in the center of the casino. It was a very tall and wide glassed room with table games inside. We learned that it was a smoking table game floor only – we found this feature to be a brilliant idea!

On a funny side note, we never gambled once for pleasure in Las Vegas the full two years we were there, yet at the casino at Emperor’s Palace we played Blackjack! Though we lost, we had a lot of fun playing alongside some locals. As we have said, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is the perfect place to relax and have fun in Johannesburg (and maybe lose some money along the way)!



We really enjoyed our night at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. We were blown away by the room aesthetics. We were pleased with the service of the staff. We ate some fantastic meals at Aurelia’s Restaurant. Lastly, we relaxed and had a great time! We cannot say enough good things about Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace and highly recommend you book your layover night in Johannesburg or your entire stay right here!


Book This Hotel!

For the lowest room rate the prices vary around $350, but we booked almost a year in advance and found much cheaper rates. Lower rates can be found at the other Peermont hotels at Emperor’s Palace, which are all fantastic and include breakfast too. Again, we cannot express how convenient this hotel is for a layover in Johannesburg. You get to have fun, eat well and relax.

If you think this hotel is a good fit for you, please book it using our Booking affiliate search box! It does not cost you more, but we would receive a small commission for your booking. We would be very appreciative if you do book with us! 


Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace
64 Jones Rd, O.R. Tambo
Johannesburg, 1620, South Africa
+27 11 928 1770



Africa, Blog, Guide, South Africa, Travel, Zambia

The Best Tips for Flying To and Within South Africa!

Traveling to Africa is no small feat. For international travelers flying into South Africa, it can take anywhere between ten to twenty hours or more! For most travelers, everyone flies to Africa to experience animals in their natural habitat, see the blue city of Morocco and experience the Arabian nights or to one of the Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls. The reason people want to visit Africa are endless, but the one thing in common is flying there.

We just got back home to Washington D.C. last week after spending ten of the most wonderful nights of our lives in Africa. In those ten nights we flew eight times!!! We flew to and from Johannesburg, South Africa, within South Africa and Zambia. Therefore, we encountered a lot of flight and traveling situations unlike any we have ever experienced in our traveling careers. This post is to help all the world travelers flying to South Africa and other countries to/in Africa. Our tips are from our own experience in South Africa (at several airports) and Zambia.

So, before you do your happy dance…

Check out these tips that can help you on your next trip to Africa!


Make Copies of Your Passport

Before you leave home, make copies of your passport. When you arrive to your hotel keep your passport copy in the safe and your original passport with you at all times. You never know when someone will ask to see it and if anything bad were to happen, you will always have a backup.



Always Keep the Small Boarding Pass

Every airline in every country is different. For the United States, when we hand the flight clerk at the counter our ticket, they scan it and either give our ticket back to us, or they may keep it. Then we walk to the plane and find our seat and wait for take off. This is not the case in Africa. When you hand your ticket to the flight clerk at the counter they will rip off the ticket by the divider and hand back the smaller portion. Keep this small ticket with you all the way until you finally take your seat because they ask for it when you arrive at the plane. Then a flight attendant verifies it by looking at it and directing you to where your seat is. In some cases it is helpful on the big planes that have two rows, but in most other cases the plane is small and we really do not know what the purpose is.


Always Have Your Passport Ready

The same thing from above applies here. You are constantly asked to show your passport from security checkpoint one (sometimes again at another checkpoint), to when you hand your ticket and lastly when you board the plane. It is easier to just always hold your passport securely in your hand until you sit in your seat rather than putting it away and retrieving it constantly.


A Small Travel Document Holder Will Be Your Lifesaver

If we did not have our American Express travel document holder, we would have been a hot mess! It can be a small bag, pouch or folder. By day 4 in Africa we had about 8 previous tickets and a lot of documents that we needed to keep with us at all times, such as, insurance, yellow fever card and more. Having the document bag is great because it keeps everything in one place and you can easily keep it safe in your backpack when you do not need it.


Airport Lounges Will Become Your Best Friend

Every airport and terminal we were in had a lounge that we were able to use, including small airports like Kruger International Airport. Having access to airport lounges is awesome for budget travelers because every lounge has free Wi-Fi, food, drinks and yes, alcohol! We highly recommend the Priority Pass (get it for free with Chase Sapphire Reserve – click here to read how to get your card), we were able to use our pass at every airport. We really cannot stress how much of a lifesaver this was to us. We never had to struggle to find a seat in the terminal and never had to fight over an outlet to charge a device.


Arrive to the Airport 2 Hours Beforehand, No Matter What!

We were told one hour before is enough time, but we found ourselves always rushing and getting confused, ESPECIALLY at O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB). Even at Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingston, Zambia – a very small airport, we had to arrive two hours early. The airports themselves are not gigantic but the staff told us wrong directions several times at O.R. Tambo and nearly had us miss some flights. While at Harry Mwanga it took a long time to check in because the line was very long and they had very few staff members available. So, whether its a big or small airport, always arrive two hours beforehand – you never know what you can encounter.


When in Doubt, Trust Your Ticket

If your gate number changes before you arrive at your original gate, go to the original gate and ask the flight clerks if it really changed. We had two experiences when the TVs changed either our flight time or gate number, and both times the TV was wrong. We found ourselves running and sweating our way through airport terminals in utter panic that we would miss our boarding because our ticket said gate A14, but the TV said gate E20 – completely different directions. We also almost went back to our airport lounge when a TV displayed our flight was delayed, but after we asked a clerk, we learned that it was actually on time. Trust your ticket and then ask questions!


Turn Your Phone Off!

We are not sure what it is about flying in Africa, but nine times out of ten, we were asked to turn our phones completely off – airport mode was not acceptable. When the flight attendants announce to turn your phone off, DO IT! We experienced a traveler (sitting right behind us) and a flight attendant get into a riff because the traveler was not turning his phone off when asked. The flight attendant did not leave his sight and kept demanding he turn off his phone right there and then. It was really unnerving to see and hear it, so don’t make a scene, turn your phone off!


Disinfection Spray While Onboard

Do not be alarmed when the flight attendants go down the aisle spraying a disinfectant. They will warn you beforehand as they may go down the aisle more than once because they must spray an entire can. The disinfection spray is not a pleasant smell, so travelers are advised to cover their mouth. It is not harmful to humans, but strictly a protocol all airlines must abide by from the World Health Organization. “All International and Regional services operating in and out of the Republic of South Africa must be disinfected according to the “blocks away” method at the last point of call prior to leaving and entering South Africa (travelstart source).”


You Will Never Go Hungry!

With the exception of our flights to and from our lodge, we always received food! We are not talking about your small bag of pretzels or peanuts, we are talking about meals. Even on our flight from Johannesburg to Livingstone, which was only an 1 ½ hour flight, we were served a hot lunch meal. Christina is a picky eater and even she enjoyed the food (most of the time).



Drink Up!

ALL of our main flights offered complimentary wine! It was not cheap wine either, it was good South African wine. If you are not feeling like drinking wine, ask your flight attendant if they have mango-orange juice – it is so delicious!!!!


Goodbye Jetway, Hello Tarmac

For most of your flights, the plane will be parked on the tarmac. For the larger airports, after you hand your ticket to the flight clerk (remember to hold onto it), you will take a bus onto the tarmac and then walk up a flight of stairs to board the plane. After you land the same thing applies, walk down steps, board a bus and then you arrive at the airport terminal. For the smaller planes we sometimes walked out the doors and the plane was waiting just a few yards away from us on the tarmac. It was definitely a more unique way of boarding and departing a plane – it was a cool experience.


Expect Things to go Wrong

We either experienced a lot of bad luck, or this is normal when flying in Africa. Not including our flights to and from D.C. to Johannesburg, but four out of our six flights were always delayed because of various reasons. Christina has a co-worker from Liberia, Africa and she even said that everyone in Africa will always try and book direct flights because things always go wrong. Some things you cannot control, so just be aware that your flights may be delayed quite often.


Check With Your Smallest Aircraft For Their Luggage Protocol

As we stated early in this article, most travelers fly to Africa to enjoy safaris. With that being said, travelers often fly to main cities and then take smaller aircrafts to their respected airports near their safari game reserves. So, if you are flying within Africa, check with your airline’s baggage allowance, especially the smallest aircraft. We were only allowed one duffel bag each with no wheels and had to be smaller than 24 inches. Do not let your vacation be ruined because you cannot bring your suitcase full of your belongings on the plane!


Do Not Forget To Add Your Points!

We were able to receive points/miles for every flight we took. Every point and mile counts, so do not forget to add them to your account to go towards that free flight!


We hope these tips were helpful for you on your trip to Africa! We came across all of these without any prior information and wanted to help the next person to not have to go through any stressful situations we went through. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to comment below or reach out to us personally.

Safe travels,