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Driving vs Flying from Johannesburg to Cape Town – At R23 per litre

With fuel prices in South Africa recently soaring to above R23 per litre at inland rates, it is cheaper to fly the 1,400km from Johannesburg to Cape Town than it is to drive.

However, it is only more affordable to take a plane car if you’re travelling alone. In groups of two or more, a set of wheels remains the cheaper choice.

Hitching a ride

The trip from Sandton City in Johannesburg to Cape Town CBD stretches over 1,409km and will take approximately 15 hours to complete, traffic permitting.

For this hypothetical journey, we will use the Toyota Corolla Cross as this is currently the best-selling SUV in the country and an accurate representation of a typical family vehicle.

The 1.8-litre Cross boasts an average fuel consumption of 6.8l/100km, therefore, it will burn through at least 95.81 litres of fuel over the entire Joburg-to-Cape Town route.

At R23.24 per litre of Petrol 95 at inland costs, this will run up a bill of R2,227 for a one-way trip and R4,454 when driving both ways.

Of course, the cost of toll gates is another thing to consider.

Between the two cities, you will pass through four gantries with their individual prices as follows:

  • Grasmere – R24.00
  • Huguenot – R47.50
  • Vaal – R79.50
  • Verkeerdevlei – R68.50

The combined value for tolls on a one-way trip is R219.50, doubling to R439 on your return.

Catching a plane

For an accurate indication of flight prices, we looked at what was available from five major airlines with a departure date set at least two weeks away to avoid the inflated costs associated with a short-notice ticket purchase.

To see how your chosen travel date affects prices, we reviewed the costs on two different dates, one during the week and one on the weekend.

The following tickets were the lowest-priced available on the given days – Tuesday 27 February and Saturday 2 March – for a one-way and a return trip a week later for a single adult booked in economy class:

Airline One-way flight (Tuesday/Saturday) Return flight (Tuesday/Saturday)
Airlink R1,203 / R1,203 R1,203 / R1,203
CemAir R1,579 / R1,751 R1,751 / R1,579
FlySafair R1,054 / R1,253 R1,457 / R1,353
Lift R1,225 / R1,375 R1,375 / R1,375
South African Airways R1,053 / R1,851 R1,851 / R1,851

This shows that you will pay anywhere from R2,406 to R3,702 to fly from the City of Gold to the Mother City and back.

The flight isn’t the only expense that adds to your final travelling purse, however, as you will also have to shell out for parking at the airport, or an Uber to and from your home.

“Long Stay” parking at OR Tambo International for seven days will run up a bill of R450, whereas taking an Uber from Sandton City will cost approximately R240, equating to a total cost of R480 on your return, depending on demand and the chosen ride option.

The cheaper option

Between driving and flying, the cheaper option in February 2024 seems to be flying, but only if you are travelling by yourself.

Including fuel and tolls, driving the 1,400km from Gauteng to the Western Cape and back in a Corolla Cross will cost in the realm of R4,893.

Taking into account the price of a return ticket and parking fees at OR Tambo (which are cheaper than an Uber), flying will cost a minimum of R2,856 – depending, of course, on the chosen airline, when you choose to fly, and the size of your group.

If you are alone, you stand to save in excess of R2,000 by taking a plane instead of a car from Joburg to Cape Town.

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