Sunrise at O.R. Tambo, one of Joburg's two major airports

Joburg Airports: O.R. Tambo vs. Lanseria

Travelstart asked me to write a blog post about the cheap domestic flights it offers in South Africa. Of course I agreed — blogging assignments are easy when the thing you’re asked to blog about is actually useful. And every traveler in South Africa knows Travelstart is the best place to book domestic travel.

The last time I booked a domestic flight — a round trip from Joburg to Cape Town — I used Travelstart. The process was seamless and the fare was, as promised, cheap.

I just made one mistake: forgetting to pay attention to which airport I was flying from. I normally fly out of O.R. Tambo, Joburg’s main international airport. But I accidentally booked this flight out of Lanseria.

travelstart screenshotOn Travelstart, flights from Lanseria are clearly marked “HLA” and flights from O.R. Tambo are “JNB”. Somehow I missed this.

I noticed my error a day or two before the trip and cursed my stupidity. It was a 6:30 a.m. flight and now I would have to drive myself all the way out to Lanseria at 4:30 in the morning. I didn’t even consider Ubering because I figured it would be too expensive.

Because Lanseria is so far, I thought. Woe is me.

I climbed wearily into my car before the crack of dawn and drove to Lanseria. When I got there, I looked at the clock. It took the same amount of time it normally takes me to get to O.R. Tambo. And I checked in much faster, of course, because Lanseria is a much smaller airport.

So now I know: Flying out of Lanseria is easy. Travelstart, I have you to thank for this epiphany. You’ve motivated me to write a Jozi airport comparison post that I probably should have written five years ago.

Sunrise at O.R. Tambo, one of Joburg's two major airportsAn early morning flight from O.R. Tambo.

Comparing the Airports

Here’s a quick comparison of O.R. Tambo vs. Lanseria using the factors I find most important when flying.

1) Distance

I live in Melville, a centrally located Jozi suburb. O.R. Tambo is 34.6 kilometers and 35 minutes from my house by car, without traffic. Lanseria is 33.3 kilometers — actually closer! — and 39 minutes away without traffic. There are no major highways between here and Lanseria, hence the slightly longer driving time. But I personally find the drive more pleasant, trundling up Beyers Naudé with interesting things to look at along the way.

Uber fare from here to O.R. Tambo (at a non-peak time) is R285 ($23). Uber fare to Lanseria is R292 (also about $23).

O.R. Tambo is northeast of central Joburg; Lanseria is almost due north. So O.R. Tambo is definitely more convenient for those living in Joburg’s eastern suburbs and the East Rand. Lanseria is the clear choice for those in the Randburg and Fourways areas. For me, it’s basically a tie.

2) Transport and Parking

O.R. Tambo beats Lanseria when it comes to public transport: You can catch the Gautrain to O.R. Tambo — a huge advantage because traffic between Joburg and the East Rand is horrific at rush hour. (Plus riding on the Gautrain is fun.) Lanseria has no public transport options, although traffic out that way isn’t quite so terrible (but still bad).

It’s easy to park at Lanseria: The long-term parking area is close (there is also a new parkade under construction), and the airport provides a free golf cart service to ferry passengers between the parking areas and the terminal. I found the long-term parking expensive — R452 ($36) for four days. If I’d known how affordable it is to Uber to Lanseria I would have done that instead.

I’ve never used the long-term parking at O.R. Tambo, because I’ve never been able to figure out where it is. (Also it’s just easier to take a taxi or the Gautrain). But according to the O.R. Tambo website, long-term parking costs only R205 ($16.50) for four days. This is a great price if you succeed in finding the parking lot.

I give the edge to O.R. Tambo in this category.

3) Ease of Use

Lanseria is a small airport with only domestic and regional flights. Thus Lanseria is a much less stressful place than O.R. Tambo, which is huge and overwhelming. That said, as far as huge, overwhelming airports go, I’ve always considered O.R. Tambo to be a relatively nice one.

Lanseria has a couple of restaurants, a Vida e Caffe (essential for morning flights), and a SLOW Lounge. O.R. Tambo obviously has all these things and more. But I choose Lanseria’s small size and easy navigation over O.R. Tambo’s more extensive dining options.

Bottom line: O.R. Tambo and Lanseria each have their pros and cons, but overall I give them equal scores. From now on, I will simply book whichever airport is cheapest. And I’ll do my comparisons on Travelstart.

This post was written in collaboration with Travelstart. Opinions expressed are mine.

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16 Comments

  • Reply Expatorama January 11, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Shhh, Lanseria is a well kept secret, more like catching a bus than a plane.

    • Reply 2summers January 11, 2018 at 9:31 pm

      Hahahaaaa.

      • Reply Eva Melusine Thieme January 17, 2018 at 12:31 am

        agreed, best not tell anyone so that those living in Fourways can keep it to themselves:-)

        • Reply 2summers January 17, 2018 at 3:04 am

          Too late!

  • Reply Craig January 11, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    O.R. Tambo long term parking isn’t at the airport. You park and have to catch a shuttle that’s why it’s so much cheaper. Inconvenient if you ask me. The car ports are closer to what Lanseria has at R90 per day.

    Another plus I remember from Lanseria is the free coffee & tea in the departure hall. Fantastic for frequent travellers.

    Taxis from Lanseria to Fourways can often try rip one off by taking the long route there. Be cautious.

    • Reply 2summers January 11, 2018 at 9:33 pm

      Oh yes, I also noticed the free coffee at Lanseria. I didn’t try it though because I’m a coffee snob 😂 Will have to sample it next time.

      • Reply Eva Melusine Thieme January 17, 2018 at 12:33 am

        I also never used it in all those years we lived there since we always just hired my husband’s office driver to pick us up and take us there – with 6 people and baggage, we never could fit into one car when traveling. That’s something I’d recommend to anyone else as well, just getting a private driver to the airport. Nowadays with Uber I guess that’s much the same.

        • Reply 2summers January 17, 2018 at 3:03 am

          Uber is so life-changing. I don’t know how we all survived without it!

  • Reply autumnashbough January 12, 2018 at 12:54 am

    This is useful information for 2019! 🙂

    • Reply 2summers January 17, 2018 at 3:06 am

      Yeah!

  • Reply alex January 12, 2018 at 9:28 am

    You can park long term at OR Thambo for like R75 per day…which is almost equivalent to hourly parkade at OR Thambo 😛 have done so on numerous occasions, its shade netting and boomed off. The way I explain to my family is…when driving to airport, and as approaching airport (from Joburg) you follow the lane that says parking, after going under bridge and up the little hill -then keep in furthest right lane, and literally follow the right lane going around the corner -next to you is parking with a fence- this happens to be the parking i am referring to so as you go around corner continuing right, you will get to small entrance for long stay parking, (not straight as this takes to underground parking) sometimes it says Full but it never is, go in at boom whilst getting ticket, park and then take a little trek to airport terminals…there may be a shuttle I don’t know, it is further than walking from hourly parking, but still in Airport major parking space. There are luggage trolleys there and a guard. You will get fined heavily if you stay shorter than 24 hours…so strictly long term

  • Reply Helen January 18, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    Lanseria is an International Airport too

    • Reply 2summers January 18, 2018 at 2:03 pm

      Yeah, I know – just regional Southern African flights though I think.

  • Reply Joburg from A to Z - Joburg Expat February 6, 2018 at 8:29 am

    […] If you move to Johannesburg, you’ll see a lot of O.R. Tambo International Airport. That’s because you will hopefully take advantage of all the wonderful travel opportunities presenting themselves while you live there. Of all the airports I’ve seen over the years, it’s one of my favorite ones, second perhaps only to Singapore. It’s clean, it’s organized, and remarkably our entire family has never once had a lost bag in all our travel in and out of it. Read more… […]

  • Reply MapleAndMarula March 28, 2018 at 10:55 am

    I find OR Tambo to be incredibly chaotic compared to busier airports elsewhere. And if you fly SAA internationally, you need to go check in on the domestic side, then go back to the international side. And of course there weren’t any clear signs to help guide people…

    Re: parking- I’ve always found Mr Parking to be great! They grab your vehicle from you right at the terminal, then deliver it (washed and vacuumed) when you return. No waiting, no shuttles, no stress. And it’s cheap. For 16 days it was R700, and for 3 it was R160 (If I remember correctly). It was totally worth it. You just need to book online ahead of time and call them when you land.

    • Reply 2summers March 28, 2018 at 10:59 am

      Oh, that’s good to know! Thanks for the tip.

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