Flying vs driving from Joburg to Cape Town or Durban this Easter – the cheapest option right now

 ·25 Mar 2024

With fuel prices elevated to almost R25 per litre in March, the cost of making a round trip from Joburg to Cape Town or Durban by the road still works out to be cheaper than the air ticket alternative.

This remains the truth whether you’re travelling solo or with your family of three, four, or five.

Currently, the inland price for 95 petrol for March stands at R24.45 – an increase of R1.21 per litre from February 2024.

According to PwC’s latest economic outlook for South Africa, petrol and diesel prices have increased by 22% and 41%, respectively, over the last two years.

The increase in fuel costs can be attributed to the weakening of South Africa’s currency during 2023/24 and the geopolitical tensions that have led to a rise in global oil prices.

However, the airline industry hasn’t caught a break either due to similar reasons.

FlySafair highlighted that the prices of jet fuel, the exchange rate between the rand and dollar, and a shortage of skilled maintenance workers are the major factors that directly impact ticket prices.

Over the past three years, the airline has stated that the cost of jet fuel has increased by 223% from October 2020 to October 2023, which is higher than the general inflation rate.

As fuel costs constitute around 50% of their operating expenses, this increase has put significant cost pressures on the industry, with prices remaining sticky and reluctant to come down.

Thus, South African travellers face high road and air travel costs.

Considering this, BusinessTech looked at the price of a round trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town and Durban – a distance of 1,400km and 570km, respectively – with the most popular cars per vehicle type.

The costs below include toll fees which are R233 across four tolls to Cape Town and R326.50 across five tollgates to Durban.

Johannesburg <-> Cape Town — driving

TypeCarConsumption per 100kmSingle tripReturn trip
CrossoverToyota Corolla Cross6.8LR2 557R5 114
SUVToyota Fortuner7.2L*R2 389R4 778
BakkieToyota Hilux7.1L*R2 487R4 974
HatchbackVW Polo Vivo5.9LR2 179R4 358
SedanToyota Corolla Quest6.5LR2 157R4 314
*Diesel engines

Johannesburg <-> Durban — driving

TypeCarConsumption per 100kmSingle tripReturn trip
CrossoverToyota Corolla Cross6.8LR1 273R2 546
SUVToyota Fortuner7.2L*R1 205R2 410
BakkieToyota Hilux7.1L*R1 245R2 490
HatchbackVW Polo Vivo5.9LR1 119R2 238
SedanToyota Corolla Quest6.5LR1 302R2 604
*Diesel engines

On average, it costs just under R4,708 to drive a return trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town, while it costs roughly R2,458 to drive a return trip from Johannesburg to Durban.

However, those travelling to Cape Town may choose to make a single trip over two days, stopping on the roughly 15-hour journey to rest, adding additional costs.

In contrast, the advantage of air travel is that it only takes a few hours and does not require a rest.

Below are the prices per airline for a round trip for a single person from Johannesburg to Cape Town or Durban over a weekend (26 to 28 January).

Johannesburg <-> Cape Town — flying

AirlineRound trip price
CemAirR6 273
FlySafairR4 910
LiftR4 449
AirlinkR6 592
South AfricanR6 229
*These prices reflect the cheapest luggage flight option.

Johannesburg <-> Durban — flying

AirlineRound trip price
CemAirR4 007
FlySafairR3 443
LiftR4 013
AirlinkR5 859
South AfricanR4 229
*These prices reflect the cheapest luggage flight option.

On average, despite the advantage of saving time, flights are much more expensive than driving to both Cape Town and Durban, with flights sitting at averages of R5,691 and R4,310, respectively.

This means driving is currently 17% cheaper when travelling to Cape Town and a whopping 43% cheaper if you’re travelling to Durban.

Despite the increase in oil prices and fluctuations in the value of the rand, air ticket prices have significantly reduced since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Due to capacity constraints, prices for return flights could go up to R7,000, depending on your location and chosen destination at the end of 2022.

However, if you travel with more than one person, then driving is substantially cheaper. Travelling by car for a family of four will carry a similar cost for road travel for one person.

Air travel also gets significantly more expensive when more than one passenger is considered.

Although the family of four may have to rest on both journeys, the total spent on accommodation would have to total roughly R17,000 and R12,000 to match the approximately R22,764 and R17,240 price of plane tickets for a family of four to Cape Town or Durban, respectively.

Ultimately, a larger group of travellers will save more money driving instead of flying, but air travel costs slightly less for an individual traveller.

*Prices were sourced from each airline’s website. Departing flights were for Friday, 28 March 2024, while return flights were for Monday, 1 April 2024. Air travel prices are prone to change, and not all airlines offer the same packages.

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