Best ways to get to Africa using miles

From the markets of Marrakesh to the quintessential South African safari, the African continent holds many wonders to behold. Whether you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of penguins in Cape Town or The Great Migration across the Serengeti or you’re just hoping to explore one of the other fiftysomething countries on the continent, there are a number of good options for booking award travel to Africa. This post includes some of your best options in terms of value along with the key details you need to know about how to book and where to get the miles.

If you want to use airline miles, it’s great to have transferable points.  Transferable point programs let you transfer your points to any of a number of airline programs.  This is great because it gives you the freedom to book many different flights through many different methods, some of which are strikingly cheaper than others.  If you’re not familiar with transferable points programs, please check out our guides:

Best Mile Deals to Africa

The deals below are sorted alphabetically. Remember that the lowest price isn’t the entire picture: be sure to consider which airlines levy fuel surcharges and the ease of amassing the miles for your chosen award. See each description for where to search, how to book, and which partners you can use to transfer. It is always best to confirm availability before transferring miles to be sure that the award you seek can be booked with the miles you intend.

Air Canada Aeroplan

  • The short story: Aeroplan offers better pricing on Star Alliance business class awards to Africa than United does, though they definitely aren’t the cheapest way to fly business class to Africa. They also offer stopovers on round trip awards, which can present particular value. Lap infants are charged incredibly reasonable fees in either cash or miles and the price is the same whether booking one way or round trip.
  • Miles required: 75K miles each way in business class to East, West, and South Africa or 82.5K each way in business class to North Africa (and the Middle East). Fuel surcharges are passed on, so choose carriers with low / no fuel surcharges.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Aeroplan.com (you’ll need to create a free Aeroplan frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Aeroplan.com. Can also book via phone. Lap infants must be added to your reservation over the phone.
  • Key warnings: There are high fuel surcharges on Lufthansa, but the relative savings in terms of miles used for first class might mitigate the fees.
  • No fuel surcharges on: Aegean, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, COPA, Croatia Airlines, EVA Airlines, Egypt Air, Ethiopian, GOL, Juneao Airlines, SAS, SWISS, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines
  • Low fuel surcharges on: Cathay Pacific / Cathay Dragon, LOT Polish, Thai Airways
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards points, Marriott Bonvoy

Alaska Mileage Plan

  • The short story: Alaska Mileage Plan charges amazing rates for Cathay Pacific business or first class between the US and Africa and also allows a stopover even on a one-way award.
  • Miles required: 62.5K each way in business or 70K each way in first class, including a stopover in Hong Kong for as long as you like.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at BritishAirways.com (you’ll need to create a free Executive Club frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book over the phone with Alaska Mileage Plan.
  • Key warnings: Alaska may have access to one fewer seat than what you see at the British Airways site.
  • Transfer from: Marriott Bonvoy

American Airlines AAdvantage

  • The short story: American charges just 75K each way in business class and allows a routing exception so you can fly on either Qatar or Etihad to get to Africa. If you can find Qatar QSuites space, that may be a particularly comfortable business class experience.
  • Miles required: 75K miles each way in business class.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at AA.com. Alternatively, use the British Airways site to find space on Qatar and Etihad's site to search for "Saver Guest" space on Etihad. Note that to find space from the US to Abu Dhabi, you may need to run a round trip search starting in Abu Dhabi.
  • How to book awards: Book online at AA.com or over the phone. Note that Etihad awards must be booked over the phone and many US-based agents have trouble finding the award space. Try calling the Australia call center.
  • Key warnings: Finding space can be tough, but if you can find it this can be an excellent use of American Airlines miles.
  • Transfer from: Marriott Bonvoy

ANA Mileage Club

  • The short story: ANA charges 105K between North America and Africa for Star Alliance business class itineraries.
  • Miles required: 105K round trip in business class. Fuel surcharges are passed on, but can be avoided with the right partners. Find partners that do not add fuel surcharges in this post: How To Find Business Class Awards To Europe For 88,000 Miles Or Points.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at ANA’s website. (you’ll need to create a free ANA Mileage Club account and log in to search for space)
  • How to book awards: Book online at ANA’s website.
  • Key warnings: You must book round trip. High fuel surcharges are assessed by some carriers, others have none or low fuel surcharges. The ANA website interface is not particularly user-friendly or modern-looking, so it may take some time to get used to the search features.
  • No fuel surcharges on: Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Copa Airlines, United
  • Low fuel surcharges on: ANA, Asiana, LOT Polish, Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy

Avianca LifeMiles

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: Officially, 78K each way in business or 105K each way in first class with no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles). In short, it is possible to pair the long-haul flights in business with connecting segments in economy class to pay fewer total miles.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, Capital One miles, Marriott Bonvoy

Etihad Guest

While the Royal Air Maroc sweet spot has soured a bit, Etihad still offers a competitive rate to Casablanca.

  • The short story: Etihad Guest offers a good value for flying on Royal Air Maroc between the US and Casablanca.
  • Miles required: 44K miles each way in business class between North America and Casablanca.
  • How to find awards: Search for award space at RoyalAirMaroc.com. You’ll need to create a free Royal Air Maroc Safar Flyer account to search.
  • How to book awards: Call Etihad Guest at 1-877-690-0767.
  • Key warnings: Etihad phone agents have historically had trouble booking partner awards, though the new call center in Serbia appears to be quite competent. If your agent appears to be having trouble, you might want to HUCA (hang up, call again). A stopover in Casablanca be possible, but note that it will increase taxes. Note also that Etihad Guest does add fuel surcharges. The best way to find the total in taxes & fuel surcharges is to check ITA Matrix.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points.

United Mileage Plus

  • The short story: United offers a benefit called the “Excursionist Perk”, which gives you a free one-way within a single region when your travel begins and ends in the same region. See: Leveraging the United Excursionist Perk to save miles for some ideas and Maximizing (and understanding) United Excursionist perks. United partners with Egypt Air, South African, and Ethiopian, as well as a number of European partners that serve Africa, which should give you ample opportunity to take advantage of the Excursionist perk.
  • Miles required: 80K miles each way in business class.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at United.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at United.com
  • Key warnings: United has eliminated its award chart, but partner flights have thus far mostly remained at previous levels. One exception is that flights within 21 days of departure now cost 3K extra miles for a total of 83K each way in business class in this case.
  • Transfer from: Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy

Turkish Miles & Smiles

  • The short story: Turkish offers excellent pricing to North Africa on Star Alliance carriers and decent award pricing to Central and Southern Africa.
  • Miles required: 60K miles each way in business class to North Africa, 72.5K miles each way in business class to Central Africa, and 85K each way in business class to Southern Africa
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at united.com and call Turkish to book or go to turkishairlines.com, log in to your account, go to "Miles transactions" to find the Star Alliance booking tool and click "book now" to go to that search tool (not the tool on the home page at turkishairlines.com). Note that there may be bookable options that do not appear on the site (hence checking United and calling when necessary).
  • How to book awards: Book online at turkishairlines.com using the instructions above or over the phone at 1-800-874-8875 or via email
  • Key warnings: Turkish is sometimes unable to see Star Alliance availability for no explicable reason. However, Turkish allows a hold for long enough for points to transfer from Citi. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you get your desired itinerary on hold via phone or email before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Citi ThankYou points, Marriott Bonvoy

How to get the miles

The following chart shows the available transferable points programs for each of the above airline frequent flyer programs:

Rewards ProgramAmex Transfer RatioChase Transfer RatioCiti Transfer RatioMarriott Transfer RatioCapital One Transfer Ratio
Air Canada Aeroplan1 to 160K to 25K1000 to 750
Alaska MileagePlan60K to 25K
American AAdvantage60K to 25K
ANA Mileage Club1 to 160K to 25K
Avianca LifeMiles1 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Etihad Guest1 to 11 to 1
(~1 week)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles1 to 1
(~2 days)
60K to 25K
United MileagePlus1 to 1
(instant)
60K to 27.5K

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

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T A
Guest
T A

The Washington to Dakar flight was discontinued in September.

James
Guest
James

What about AA miles on Qatar through Doha to South Africa?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Isn’t someone starting a direct flt ORD or east coast to CPT ?? To many hrs for what it is.
CHEERs

AlexL
Guest
AlexL

United seasonal flight from Newark to cape town from 12/15/19 to 3/25/20.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

THANKS 106k one way in Cheap Class in Jan…I was going to book KLM 2 years ago but they devalued the points so that trip and this trip isn’t worth it for me.
Thank You
CHEERs

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

@CavedDweller DL offers NS from ATL to JNB from 50K for main (it may be DL longest flight) –

but Just under 16 hours is almost too long on a plane at least for me (perhaps if it was SQ/EK suites or similar – but still think I would get cabin fever).

losingtrader
Guest
losingtrader

Anecdotally, a friend said he flew this in economy and the guy in front of him went into diabetic shock while the lady two rows back was heaving and a few rows away someone developed DVT.
I’ll wait until I can do Emirates first/ business combo or LH first. I might be waiting a ong time for the latter

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Ur Both Right Sirs !!! I take low dose then take a full dose aspirin the day of the trip . Aspirin stays in ur body like 7 days . I’ve done 12 hrs then 3 hrs @ a P-lounge ($$$$) then 5 hrs . If I can save a nite or lots of time I may get Bus class . I never travel well going East and West is no big Deal .
Keep posting u Guys been around .
CHEERs

losingtrader
Guest
losingtrader

You must be young and in shape.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Nope 20lbs over just got back from Vegas and UGLY (Best Part ) too.
Take Care !!
CHEERs

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Since u’s travel a lot have u’s or do u’s need the Booster Measles shot like I got a year ago ?
CHEERs

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

@losingtrader
In last 18 months, my Dr has put me on 4 Rx’s for HBP, I got super dizzy and thought I was going to pass out on flight in 2018 to Hawaii (O2 sat dropped below 90, I do wonder if plane was pressurized down to 8K’) they gave me Oxygen, and I was OK after that but ATC still gave us priority to land at HNL. I’ve had no problems on longer flights since and I was on BP meds the time of that flight.

I’ve gained about 30# on the BP meds :(, I’ve bought compression socks as well, but I almost need to be flat to sleep, so long flights in coach 8-9+ hr flights can be miserable with exhaustion and jetlag.

Booked award tix ~44 hours in the air in lie flat seats RT – but broken up and max of 11hrs per flight – @losingtrader Not EK or LH – J on LX there and BA F back -we will be back home in time for NYE.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

What I do is ORD>LAX I pull my $60 insoles out of my $160 gym shoes (nuts) and every 15 mins MOVE FEET . On ORD>CDG I take my shoes off and just Black no rise shocks . What I think would be better Hospital Blue Covers so u can walk around and not mess with the shoes .I’ve been 10 hrs with not moving very Unwise ..Good thing walk around meet the locals too.
CHEERs

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

I pack a pair of hotel slippers for longer flights – I usually ask house keeping for a new pair to pack – even with an amenity kit with socks airplane floors & lavs to nasty to wear just socks.

But also on longer flights I’ll schmooze with FAs when things slow down between meals and when lights have been turned off and Joke “Excuse me BUT DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM….(smile)…cause I forgot and where was I sitting at again”. Then they usually bring up some of the funniest crowned up (elite or wannabe) flyer stories.

But even in F or J I get cabin fever and have to move around if I can’t sleep.

Mlagru
Guest
Mlagru

Good luck trying to book UA to CPT. Will cost a minimum of 300,000 miles each way and in coach. Total rip off

Richard Toscano
Guest
Richard Toscano

“Air Canada Aeroplan

Miles required: 75K miles each way in business class to East, West, and South Africa or 82.5K each way in business class to North Africa (and the Middle East). ”

So North Africa is more expensive than South Africa? Doesn’t seem logical. Or maybe the pendulum is swinging the other way. For many years the airline FFP’s grouped North Africa with Europe which resulted in incredibly cheap awards to North Africa. Now they are grouping it with the Middle East, which make it much more expensive.

Steve S
Guest
Steve S

Booked US to South Africa with 75k AA miles on etihad with 1 night in AUH, then SEZ to US with 80k United miles on Turkish with a full day in Istanbul. Super excited for the trip. The best part is that I’m going door to door without needing separate positioning flights. Big trip. Lots of points n miles used. So excited.

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

Turkish metal is nice so is Eithad.

PAG
Guest
PAG

Oof…some (a lot?) of this just needs to be researched a teensy bit more carefully. Someone’s gonna blame you that they couldn’t use Aeroplan to book YVR-HKG-JNB. And when did Marriott end their partnership with United?

Mahyar
Guest
Mahyar

I thought it was no longer possible to book Etihad with ANA miles?

Zaibii
Guest
Zaibii

There is a way to only pay 55K aeroplan miles in business class to visit Africa

mahyar
Guest
mahyar

???

Goops
Guest
Goops

You forgot about redeeming for Delta using Virgin Atlantic miles. 60k + $5 in tax for the ATL-JNB nonstop in a Delta One suite….my wife and I are flying it roundtrip next month. Total Cost: 240k Virgin points + $20 (only 186k Amex MR during a 30% transfer bonus)……I’d say with the frequent transfer bonuses to Virgin Alantic, that this tops the ANA redemption =)

mahyar
Guest
mahyar

How did you find availability on that route? seems impossible

Goops
Guest
Goops

Dunno…I had no problem finding 4 seats (2+2) around my bday…..when I was looking, I recalled seeing about 6-10 other dates available around Jan/Feb for two people…..I also remember sometime last year, someone posting on the Award Travel 101 FB group that it was open season on availability for this route, but the seats went fast! Its definitely not impossible….

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

Nice! i
t is DL longest flight almost 16 hours each way. Flying out in a few days (not DL)

FWIW I did check DL some Main seats form 50k-60K next summer not many tho.

usernamechuck
Guest
usernamechuck

Umm – and economy?

Benjamin D Hunt
Guest
Benjamin D Hunt

I second that.

lorena
Guest
lorena

Not everyone goes in J class. Would be nice if you expanded your audience and give us Y numbers.

DaveS
Guest
DaveS

Agreed. The “best” ways are always premium cabin if you’re comparing to cash price, but “best” for some people (like me) is usually lowest outlay of miles. I’ve got two trips to Africa set for the next year in economy. I’d rather do that than one trip in business.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

usernamechuck & lorena
The folks do a great job here look @ my posts . Alexl ..Toad me United goes there so I LOOKED . I downgraded it but to many points to go ..That’s all I do is Look @ what the Bus. or First class people do and adjust it to my budget .. Just booked my Santorini ocean view balcony hotel last nite for Sept. with my Hotel.com GC (15% off) then 10% off @ 10 booking .Lots of work but no BC worker has every traveled as much as Me’s.
CHEERS

Grant
Guest
Grant

@Nick, good round up 🙂 I recently booked a business class ticket using 78K Avianca LifeMile on Ethiopian from YYZ (Toronto) – ADD (Addis Adaba) – VFA (Victoria Falls). Then on the way back, booked a business class ticket with 75K Air Canada Aeroplan miles on Ethiopian from TNR (Madagascar) – ADD (Addis Adaba) – fueling up in DUB (Dublin) – ORD (Chicago).

Some routes were not searchable with LifeMiles but Aeroplan was able to search and book awards easily.

Are you heading to Africa sometime soon?

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

Booked this last April for me and DW, we will be in CPT next week – I did use Juicymiles to speed up the search and eliminate undesirable airlines or mixed cabins.

PDX-SFO-ZRH-JNB , J, LX, 80K UR +$43.20 x 2 ~10.6cpp Hoping to give the Swiss Throne seat a spin

JNB-CPT-JNB BA USB AR annual travel credit

JNB-LHR-SEA-PDX F, BA, 80K AS + $577.53 x 2 ~9.6ccp (A380/777)

I even was able to book a Concorde room Cabana with private shower at LHR four 4 hours and emailed for BAs elemsis spa facial for DW – I’ve heard that BAs First class is the nicest Biz seats in the air LOL, but BAs soft product can be hit or miss.

44 hours in the air in lie flat seats RT – but broken up and max of 11hrs per flight

I’ve noticed that the Airlines you can find Award space on – changes one week you’ll only see SAA or Ethiopian airline seats then the next week LX (Swiss) seats.

You can use AS miles to book from west coast to HKG -JNB on CX – but they have cut flights and changed planes so – if the unrest keeps up in HKG and your booked 4-6 months out your flight could be changed.

CX only flies 767 HKG to JNB/TLV or did and the plane only has J not F cabin – So YVR-HKG might be F but you’ll pay F miles for J seats from HKG.

Lauren
Guest
Lauren

i find it interesting that, like the TPG and OMaaT, most blogs have now followed suit and publish business class and first class prices. Please keep in mind that not all readers are flush with miles, or can afford paying business class. I thank you for writing the article and putting the resource together, but it’s probably not as useful to the majority of readers to see business class prices listed. After all 90%+ of seats on a plane are economy seats.

DaveS
Guest
DaveS

Yes, I made a similar observation when Nick published a guide to “Best ways” to get to Europe not long ago, and did not even once mention economy. He offered a thoughtful reply to my comment then, which I appreciated, but it’s the same thing here. It would be good at least to acknowledge the economy seat pricing in passing, and many times there are more dates and flights available for economy, so that apart from saving miles, it can be the “best” option for securing seats at all in many cases if you are not super flexible. I am sure the bloggers do market research, and it seems clear there are not be many of us blog readers who think this way.

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

@Lauren ans @Dave –
~I’m not flush with miles either – I don’t MS we meet most MSR from organic spend – Only in the game since late summer 2017. Made lots of mistakes – Wasted 280K UR for a CSR @1.5ccp redemption for two P/E seats on BA to EU/TLV – Today I could have almost booked two RT J lay flat to TLV using transfer to FF esp with a 6 month window to work with.

That said the difference in miles between a coach vs a lay flat premium cabin is much smaller than cash price, even more so for domestic flights but using mile even Int’l doesn’t always makes sense. Delta F seats PDX-SEA for 7K Skymiles is one of the few domestic redemption of miles we’ve made, but some people use them for domestic flights alot on close in expensive flights.

That said the cash prices for premium cabins are more to show the miles value if you had booked for cash i.e. 10 cpp – while many could pay for the flight they wouldn’t. I trip above I shared above your post, using the exact flights last April on Google flights when I booked the award seats the cash price was $32K~ RT for two people. It would be hard to get the same value from domestic flight redemption’s (any cabin).

The travel experience, an actually being able to sleep for some people than need to be horizontal to sleep or have health issues that impact travel i.e. circulation issues (HBP/diabetes/etc) it makes flying halfway around the world possible.

That said I can’t compete mile wise with MS’r or bloggers, nor take as much time to travel each year as others can DW after 15 years OTJ only gets seven weeks PTO.

As well I might spend an extra 20-35 hours of time searching and cobbling together a together a long distance RT trip, I think that this is a point that is overlooked – is that it takes effort and flexibility and there is a decent learning curve. US to EU is super easy because you have many, many options including cheap Biz class cash deals. Getting to Argentina, South Africa, Australasia the options are far more limited to remote destinations.

I just booked a trip mostly with miles and mostly in J to FIJI/NZ/AU – From SEAto/ thru Shanghai on Delta. Its 40K AA to Fiji in Business or 30K AA in coach for same 10hr flight HKG-NAN – Well worth the extra 10K AA to us.

Since we wanted to stop over in Fiji for a few day and have Hilton Aspire resort credit and points We will likely pay cash for ticket’s but using miles doesn’t make a good redemption.

The 3~hr flight Fiji -Auckland is only $250-$300 pp. IIRC it would have been 20K AA miles plus $100~ X 2 for Coach seats for same flight, this is closer to using domestically except for taxes are almost 1/3rd of cash price.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Yes u have to LOOK I went from Crete to TLV it was 25k+$100 so I paid cash $320 total . I’m going SYD> Wellington 11k(old points)+$100 ..I have connections on other websites they TOAD not worth the hassle to pay in points from Crete BUT watch the total cost ..
CHEERs

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

@CD
Part of this trip is a small aspirational bucket list flying EK First suites and a shower on the A380 – Christchurch to SYD – could have booked with AmEx MR transfer bonus for 52K MR + $54 pp (but tickets are only $750~ plus your earn AS mile at 450% or more and I can get much better value out of 52K MR).

Since USB AR has no FF transfer partners but you can book at 1.5cpp we are using the SUB points on a pair of Emirates suites, and realistically have no real future plans to fly EK on an A380 route as well the miles you need for most routes nowadays…..

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Make sure ur shots for Fiji are in order I looked @ that a couple of years ago .
Remember u never need to respond to me .
CHEERs

trackback

[…] Best ways to get to Africa using miles. […]

Jerry Mandel
Guest
Jerry Mandel

Why not Iberia using AA miles?

Kim
Guest
Kim

Is there a post like this but for Asia?

AlexL
Guest
AlexL

Not yet, but Nick posted similar posts for Australia, then Europe, now Africa. So I assume the next one should be for Asia.

Greg
Guest
Greg

Then Antarctica.