Airport Guide: O. R. Tambo International Airport
O. R. Tambo International Airport is the biggest airport in South Africa and the main airport of the booming metropolis Johannesburg. Due to its location, O. R. Tambo International Airport also serves as the airport for the capital of South Africa, Pretoria. While serving as a hub for South African Airways, O. R. Tambo International Airport is also the destination of most international flights to South Africa.
O. R. Tambo International Airport has a somewhat troubled past when it comes to name changes. Originally known as Jan Smuts International Airport, it was renamed as Johannesburg International Airport in 1994. Since 2006, O. R. Tambo International Airport holds the name it has till today.
As one of the biggest airports in the Southern hemisphere, O. R. Tambo International Airport is a focus city for many international carriers including Lufthansa, Delta and Cathay Pacific. Johannesburg also serves as a hub for British Airways (operated by Comair) and South African Airways.
Most important carriers at O. R. Tambo International Airport:
- South African Airways: Dozens of domestic and international destinations
- British Airways (operated by Comair): Several domestic and regional destinations
- Airlink: Several domestic and regional destinations
Shops and restaurants at O. R. Tambo International
O. R. Tambo International Airport is separated into a domestic and an international terminal. Both have a decent infrastructure with several shops and restaurants. In the main hall, there are also several shops including pharmacies, book stores and supermarkets.
Behind security check, passengers departing from O. R. Tambo International Airport can find several kiosks and shops. The latter are focused on premium brands and are relatively expensive compared to the average shop in South Africa. Restaurants are also focusing on high quality and though are rather expensive.
Sleeping at O. R. Tambo International Airport
There are several hotels at O. R. Tambo International Airport, making it easy to spend a night at the airport for a layover. You may also sleep in the terminal hall. However, there are no dedicated sleeping areas and safety is a small issue. Shops and restaurants are closed during the night. When it comes to hotels, the best choice definitely is the InterContinental Johannesburg Airport which is a well-rated five star hotel with direct access to the terminal.
However, the prices are according to the quality. Other choices a little further away from the terminal building include several three and four star hotels for a way lower price. If you don’t mid, you may also sleep in nearby Sandton with its many business hotels and comparably cheap prices.
Lounges at O. R. Tambo International Airport
There are several different lounges at O. R. Tambo International Airport. South African Airways operates three different lounges, two for business class passengers (domestic and international) and one for first class passengers (international).
Moreover, several other airlines including Air France, British Airways, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic Airways also operate own lounges at O. R. Tambo International Airport. If you don’t have access due to a frequent traveler card or a ticket in business or first class, you may buy access at one of the independent lounges or use Priority Pass.
Lounges at O. R. Tambo International Airport:
- Air France Lounge (ST FC, ST BC, ST Elite)
- BA Galleries Lounge (OW E, OW S, OW FC, OW BC)
- BA Galleries First Lounge (OW E, OW FC)
- Bidvest Lounges (PP, $)
- Emirates Lounge (EK FC, EK BC, EK P, EK G)
- Mashozna Lounge (PP, $)
- Ses’fikile Lounge (PP, $)
- Shongolo Lounge (CX FC, CX BC, ET BC, PP, $)
- SLOW Lounge (OW E, OW S, OW BC)
- South African Airways Lounges (different access criteria)
- Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse (LX FC, LX BC, VS UC, VC G)
Transportation at O. R. Tambo International Airport
Even though transportation in South Africa in general and in Johannesburg in particular tends to be problematic, O. R. Tambo International Airport is well connected to both, Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The Gautrain which was completed in 2010 is a high-speed rail network connecting the airport with the two biggest cities in the area. It also stops in the business district Sandton. Other means of transportation at the airport include taxis and buses. Yet, it definitely is recommendable for tourists to either use a rental car or the Gautrain.
- The Gautrain operates 90 frequencies a day
- Prices are depending on your destination and the time of the day
- Taxis are more expensive and not as fast as Gautrain