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Flying vs Driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town – Which is cheaper

It is cheaper for a single person to fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town than it is to drive, according to research done by TopAuto.

The price of fuel has skyrocketed over the past year, with far-reaching implications for the cost of goods, services, and transportation.

As of May 2023, the price of petrol 95 is sitting at R23.01 per litre – the highest it’s been so far this year –  while diesel 0.05% is still resting 15 cents above the R20 mark.

While prices are currently expected to drop in June, motorists will still be paying a substantial sum with every trip to the pump.

For longer journeys, this raises the question of whether or not it is actually cheaper to fly to your destination than to drive to it.


The trip from Joburg to Cape Town is a journey that is approximately 1,413km long and expected to take around 15 hours.

Using Sandton as our starting point with Cape Town’s city centre as the destination, the route follows the N1 highway for almost the entire duration.

The car used for this expedition is the new Toyota Urban Cruiser, which represents a typical small family car and has an average fuel consumption of 6.1l/100km.

According to this, the drive to the Mother City should use roughly 86.2 litres of petrol, translating to a cost of R1,983.46 at the current fuel price.

There are also four toll gates on the route, which add up to a combined R219.50.

This means that an individual will need to spend a total of R2,202.96 to head to Cape Town, or R4,405,92 for a return trip.


To calculate the cost of flights, we looked at what was available from each of South Africa’s major domestic airlines, with a departure date set on a Saturday the 10th of June – just over two weeks from the time of writing.

The following flight costs are for both a one-way and return trip for a single adult booked in economy class:

Airline One-way flight Return trip
Airlink R1,339 R2,188
CemAir R1,139 R1,988
FlySafair R929 R1,778
Lift R949 R1,798
South African Airways R849 R1,698

The flight alone is not the whole story, however, as we also need to factor in the cost of transport to and from the airport.

Assuming the individual uses a transport service to get to the airport, rather than leave their car in the long-term parking, an Uber X from Sandton to O.R. Tambo should cost around R406.

Likewise, an Uber X from Cape Town International Airport to the city centre comes to R211, meaning that the two Ubers should add up to R617.

Combined with the cheapest flights available, you’ll be looking at a total cost of R1,466 one-way, or R2,932 for a round trip.

This does mean it is more affordable for one person to fly to Cape Town than to drive, though the margin is closer than you might expect, and this is before you consider the possibility of needing additional Ubers to get around, or even renting a car – issues that are circumvented if you drive your own car all the way to your destination.

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