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  • With airlines either out of commission or finding their feet, seats for domestic flights over the festive season aren't particularly cheap this year.
  • Especially if you are leaving from, and returning to, Johannesburg.
  • Flying a family of four to Durban over peak season comes in at around R12,000, and it is some R17,000 to fly that family to Cape Town.
  • Renting a car between late December and early January – and paying for petrol and road food, and in some cases overnight accommodation – can come in cheaper.
  • As long as you aren't travelling to East London.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.


Buying flights for a family visit within South Africa over the traditional Christmas break can be expensive in 2020 – despite the entry of a brand new airline, and the return to scheduled service of Kulula.com.

Especially if you are flying out of, and back to, Johannesburg during the peak season.

Flying a family of four to Cape Town will come in at around R17,000 for the return journey, a price comparison by Business Insider South Africa shows, and taking that family to Durban will cost not much under R12,000, not including airport transfers and setting the kids loose in the airport retail section.

For that kind of money you can literally rent a car – for more than 10 days – and drive to one of those cities while still saving money, across different airlines and different car-rental companies.

Our comparison is based on leaving Johannesburg late afternoon or early evening on Wednesday, 23 December, and returning on the afternoon of Sunday, 3 January. We assumed a family of four, all old enough to require their own seat on a plane or in a car but with two kids under 12 years old, and that nobody has any special luggage requirements such as a kayak or double bass.

Here is what you will pay to rent a car and drive, rather than fly, out of Johannesburg over Christmas for a family break.

Johannesburg to Cape Town: R16,568 to fly, or R13,700 to drive

Flying to Cape Town via new airline Lift will cost R16,568 for the whole family group, at R6,184 outbound, and R9,584 to return to Joburg, plus R800 for one piece of luggage for everyone. 

Renting a group C car, a Toyota Corolla Quest or similar, from Europcar comes in at just under R6,700, with the extra insurance. But that includes only 200km per day – which is going to leave you short for the return journey, never mind some driving in Cape Town itself. Add in an extra 800km and you'll pay another R2,300 on rental, for a total of R9,000.

We estimate that the round trip will cost you R3,900 in tolls and petrol (assuming you drive like a normal person, and fill up inland), and keeping everyone in coffee and snacks for the whole day's drive will be R800.

That takes the total to R13,700 – which means that if you can find a nice spot to stay the night for R700 per person or less, you can drive down over two days, still save a bit of money, and have a car available during your Cape Town stay.

Johannesburg to Durban: R11,528 to fly, or just over R9,000 to drive

Going to Durban via FlySafair comes in at R11,528, on the "standard" option, which includes a checked bag for each person, though that doesn't cover the one-hour round trip to get from King Shaka to the Durban beachfront.

At Hertz you will pay R7,403 for a Corolla Quest, with the extra insurance and unlimited mileage. We estimate petrol and tolls will set you back a little over R1,200, and that you can get away with spending R400 to keep everyone fed and watered, for a couple of rands over R9,000 in total costs.

You don't just save R2,500 over flying if you drive, of course. You also have a car for the duration of your stay, at the price of some three to four hours of extra travel time each way.

Johannesburg to East London: R7,427.84 to fly, at least R8,300 to drive

Flying via the newly returned Kulula.com, our theoretical family would pay R7,427.84, including a little extra for semi-flexible tickets on the way back because the less-flexible, cheaper tickets are already sold out for the preferred flight.

On a super-waiver package with Avis, renting a Corolla Quest for the duration of the trip would come in at R6,843.22. Add in an estimated R1,450 for petrol and tolls (you can avoid the N1 and its tolls, but that will cost you more in petrol anyway), and you are already fast approaching R8,300 in travel costs – even assuming you starve everyone during a ten-hour trip.

Then again, going with the road-trip option would mean you don't have to fly back out of East London again – leaving in an enclosed plane from a province with a coronavirus situation that is deeply worrying President Cyril Ramaphosa.

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