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With the number of South Africans living there, London is like the 10th province of South Africa. So, it's not terribly surprising that there are direct flights to London from both Johannesburg and Cape Town. Flying via the middle-east with the likes of Emirates is often cheaper. The bullet-proof method of booking the cheapest flight to London from South Africa is by typing your flight details into the flight price comparison tool on the left & reserving the cheapest flight. If you need to apply for a UK visa then navigate to this page.
30 March 2016: British Airways will launch direct flights between Cape Town and London Gatwick on the 24th of November 2016. The flighs will depart London on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
29 April 2015: Construction has started on an independent lounge at Heathrow Airport that will open in the next couple of months. The lounge will be available to anyone travelling through Terminal 5, regardless of the passenger’s class of travel. The lounge will be located near Heathrow’s Gate 18.
(see our flights to UK page for a full discussion of flight routes into the UK)
There are now only direct flights from Cape Town to London with British Airways. Virgin ended this route in April 2015. SAA had already quit this route in 2012. Thomas Cook will operate direct flights from Cape Town to London, Gatwick, seasonally from the end of 2016.
31 July 2015. Since British Airways now has a monopoly on the direct Cape Town - London route, we've noticed prices steadily increasing. The difference between flying from Cape Town to departing from Johanensburg could you cost you up to R4000 on the same airline. This is significantly more than it was when both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways operated the route.
20 April 2014. If you're tired of slumming it with the hoi polloi on an airline, then your problem is half solved. From the 15th May 2014 Qatar Airways is operating flights in Airbus A319s from Doha to LHR which only have a business class section. This solves half the problem for you - you'll still need to share the plane with economy class passengers on the way from South Africa to Doha. This means Qatar Airways will be flying a whopping 6 daily flights from Doha to London Heathrow Airport.
24 December 2013. London Heathrow Airport has warned of delays & cancellations, and trains aren't running on time for once. Flooding has resulted in the power being cut at Gatwick Airport's North Terminal, and there are long flight delays.
3 October 2013. The Civil Aviation Authority in the UK has proposed that London Heathrow Airport not be allowed to raise its charges by more than UK retail price inflation (Heathrow Airport had requested that an annual increase in landing taxes of inflation plus 4.6% for the 5 years from April 2014, whilst airlines had requested a 9.8% per annum cut in charges). London Gatwick Airport has been allowed to have its airport charges increase by retail price inflation plus 0.5%.
30 March 2013. Emirates commences A380 flights to London Gatwick, becoming the first airline in the world to do so. There are no direct flight links between Gatwick Airport and South Africa.
24 Feb 2013: Mkuseli Apleni, the director-general of the Department of Home Affairs, says that the SA government has approached the UK to reinstate visa-free travel. "We now have one of the world’s safest passports that cannot be forged. The process of issuing passports is more credible and has stringent checks and balances to ensure that applicants are genuinely South Africans...We make sure we know who is landing in South Africa, from where and using what mode of transport. We also cross-check during the arrival that names and passports correspond so that we are sure of visitors, the purpose of their visit and citizens."
"This has also affected our neighbouring states even though we have visa-free status, except for Madagascans and Angolans, since South Africa now requires a transit visa if (a traveller’s) destination is not South Africa." said Apleni
12 Feb 2013: Flights to London may become more expensive, as London's Heathrow Airport has applied to increase passenger charges. Their proposal is that passenger charges increase from £19.33 per passenger now to £21.96 in 2014, and £27.30 from April 2018.
You can fly 1-stop from Johannesburg to London with Qatar Airways, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad, Egyptair, Turkish Airlines, Kenya Airways, Swiss, Jet Airways (codeshare), Air France or KLM.
You can fly 1-stop from Cape Town to London with Emirates, South African Airways, Condor, Turkish Airlines, KLM, Air France or Lufthansa.
You can fly 1-stop from Durban to London with Emirates, SAA, BA or Virgin Atlantic (codeshare).
Don't believe Londoners self-deprecating jokes about a 2-day summer - there are quite a few warm days, and you'll be surprised at how hot it can get, in particular in July & August.
Winters in London are fairly cold and damp, and we prefer going in June/JulyAugust when the weather is warmer and there's less rain, which provides an opportunity to light up a braai with friends from the (large) South African community.
However, summer is also when the city is at its busiest, as hordes of toursts descend on it. If you like hanging with Japanese tourists, visit London during April/May - Japan's traditional holiday months.
Whilst London is a year-round tourist destination, the winter months are quieter, with the exception being December. Snow is rare, so don't count on that white Christmas. January is the quietest month, and often when you can get the best deals for flights and accommodation.
Of course if you have seaon-related activities you want to watch, like cricket or rugby/football (don't you dare call it soccer!), that will decide for you when to go.
Be sure to take out travel insurance which covers medical emergencies, as visitors to the UK do not enjoy free National Health Insurance coverage.
999 is the emergency numbers to call, but if you phone 112 or 911 on a cellphone, you'll still get through. Emergency phone calls are free.
It must have been about seven o’clock in the morning when we flew in over the city. A night spent bursting with excitement and not much sleep had left us eagerly anticipating our arrival. I strained to see past my two boys, as I pointed to the rows of semi-detached cottages woven together forming unfamiliar patterns. A moment that can only be captured once in a lifetime, the wonder of seeing our boys flying in over a foreign country for the first time. Despite fatigue and an arduous hour getting through customs, we had finally arrived as we stepped out into the bustle of Heathrow airport. Public transport would be a new experience for our South African children as we steered the boys onto the London Express which would take us directly to Paddington Station. Wide eyed and somewhat overwhelmed, I sadly realised that this was the boys first train ride ever. With the comfort of a padded seat and a great view of the ever so green countryside, it was a spectacular taste of what England could behold. Excitement mounted as we drew closer and found ourselves in darkness below the pulsating depths of the city. We made our exit and found our way upward to stand at the entrance of Paddington Station. There was a vibrancy of sound as we viewed the activity of city life living around us. The boys begged to ride in one of the many London Taxi’s that saw parked nearby. Exhausted, we piled into the backseat of one of them; this was after all a day to capture many first time experiences. Gill.
The first thing to do when in London is get your bearings - gain a birds eye-view of the city by going up the London Eye. And nothing says you were there quite like a shot of yourself with London in the background. Other ways of getting your bearings is obtaining a map and walking around - you'll be surprised how much close everything is together and realise that you don't always have to take the tube.
Do the tourist traps like Madame Tussauds, the Towers of London and the London Dungeon. Spend time on Trafalgar Square and check whether the guards really do blink at Buckingham Palace. Go relax in the parks - it's relatively safe compared to South Africa, although pickpocketers are a real nuisance. The National Gallery is a real treasure, but it's huge and there are many quality works. Also on your list should be the British Museum, Tate Modern, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.
The time difference between South Africa and the UK varies from being 1 hour ahead in the South African winter (when the UK has daylight saving) to 2 hours and in the South African summer.
GMT + 1 during UK summer
GMT + 2
Mandatory to listen to, before your visit to London.
If you're feeling homesick in London, you may want to try the following restaurants for some South African cuisine:
8 High Timber Street, London
28 Osborn Street, London
Southside Shopping Centre, Wandsworth, London
47 Farringdon Street, Holborn, London
So, what's it like to travel to London - here's an account:
Here's a little extract from the book "Genius for the Defence" recounting how the famous Johannesburg advocate Harry Morris, travelled to London:
"In 1927 Morris considered it time for a respite from the avalanche of briefs and tooks his wife and sons on a trip abroad. Their progress from Johannesburg was marked by an unsettling succession of thirteens. The railway coach numbers totalled 13. The dock porter's number was 13. They sailed on Friday, May 13, and their cabin numbers, 24 and 25, added up to 13. But none of these coincidences proved of ill omen and thereafter any superstition the Morris family might have harboured about the figure 13, was banished.
On board the cruise, Morris was a great favourite. He was always in demand for deck games, concerts and daily activities and he assisted gaily in the duckings at the crossing-the-line ceremony.
In England Morris put his sons in a boarding school and set off with his wife on a Continental tour. His visits to the great European galleries gave him a wider knowledge and appreciation of art. And on his return to the Cape a fortuitous south-easter was instrumental in putting this knowledge and appreciation to some practical use. The mailship, Windsor Castle, was blown across Table Bay by a gale force wind and docked several hours late. The Johannesburg train left without the ship's passengers and Morris spent the afternoon with Morris Green, a shipper and financier, nostalgically roaming Cape Town and examining art dealers' collections. In one shop they bought 52 paintings."
Most international flights from South Africa land at London Heathrow International Airport. Navigate to London Heathrow flight information to check whether flights are on schedule.
The phone number at London Heathrow Airport is 0844 335 1801.
Every 15 minutes a Heathrow Express non-stop train leaves Heathrow for Paddington station.
Heathrow Connect goes along the same route as the Heathrow Express, but also has some stops along the way (and is a bit cheaper).
The London Underground (The Tube) is the cheapest train and has the most stops.
Slightly cheaper even than the London Underground are National Express coaches.
There are bus services from London Heathrow, but you may find you have to change several times to get to London (the exception being the night service to Aldwych).
Yes, you can take a taxi, but expect to pay a lot for black cab.
If you're keen on staying really near the airport, we recommend trying the Premier Inn Heathrow Airport or the YOTEL at London Heathrow Airport. There's also the Sheraton Skyline Hotel London Heathrow, the Ibis London Heathrow Airport, the Holiday Inn London - Heathrow Ariel, the London Heathrow Marriott and the Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow Hotel.
Carefully consider whether you really want to hire a car from Heathrow Airport, as it's often easier to just take the tubes in London. Car rental agencies operating from London Heathrow include Europcar, Avis, Budget, Enterprise Rent a Car and Hertz.
There are far fewer flights from South Africa when end up in Gatwick Airport than Heathrow. Navigate to Gatwick flight information to check whether your flight is on schedule.
The phone number at London Heathrow Airport is +44 844 892 0322.
There are National Express coaches from Gatwick to Stansted, Heathrow Airport, as well as London Victoria.
It's just over an hour with easyBus to Earl's Court.
Yes, you can take a taxi, but expect to pay a lot for black cab.
Car rental agencies operating from Gatwick Airport include Avis, Europcar, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hertz, Budget and Abbey Self Drive.
Thank you for reading to the bottom of this article, and hopefully you now have sufficient info to book your flight to London. If not, please pop us a message below - in fact leave a message anyway, we love hearing from our clients :) Wishing you only blue skies and tailwinds on your trip to London. This is the reaction we got when we shared one of our London airfares on twitter :)