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All major highways lead to O.R. Tambo International Airport, what better place to lodge when visiting Johannesburg, Sandton or Pretoria? Aside from the many hotels and other accommodation facilities in and around O. R. Tambo Airport, the international and domestic halls are packed with eateries and stores offering anything from shoe repairs to high end fashion items.
In 2006, the Johannesburg airport was renamed to O.R. Tambo Airport. Oliver Reginald Tambo was a long time president of the African National Congress, the country’s current ruling party. He died in 1993.
Following a massive refurbishment exercise undertaken in 2009 – due to a boom in tourism and to prepare for the 2010 soccer world cup hosted by South Africa – the old airport was extended and completely modernised.
Uber and traditional taxis operate from the airport and the Gautrain is a rapid train system travelling between the airport and all major centres.
Being stationed at the airport gives one the freedom to travel anywhere, in any direction and in most forms of travel; whether by car, plane, taxi or train.
Top 10 reasons to visit O. R. Tambo Airport
1. The airport has 62 stores offering a variety of products and services, equivalent to a midsized mall in any city. Be sure to keep the cash slips to claim on duty free items.
2. North of the airport is the garden city of Pretoria, stacked with history, green parks and attractions such as the Wonderboom (wonder tree), the zoo, the natural history museum and the majestic Union Buildings.
3. Head south to the Vaal River where Gauteng residents spend their weekends on the water and enjoy a braai (barbeque) along the river banks.
4. Travel west into Sandton for endless shopping at the Sandton Shopping Centre or into Johannesburg for inspiration at the Newtown art hub and a trip to an authentic African muti (herbal medicines) market downtown.
5. The plentiful natural wonders in the Mpumalanga Province lie to the east of the airport. The trip is long but the scenery alone is worthwhile. Visit old mining towns, green canyons, attractive waterfalls and numerous Big 5 game parks.
6. The airport is close to the Benoni suburb which has a picturesque lake for waterside picnics and boat trips. The suburb has several large shopping malls.
7. A trip not to be missed is to Soweto to visit Vilakazi Street where 2 of South Africa’s Nobel Laureates once lived. While there, bungee jump from the Orlando Towers.
8. Why not take a short flight to Sun City? The flight takes a mere 35 minutes and there are 2 scheduled per week. All dazzle and sparkle, Sun City has a large casino, several hotels, 2 golf courses, adventure and water sports, an authentic beach with mechanised waves and a Big 5 nature reserve alongside.
9. Another flight worth considering is to the Kruger National Park, a short 50-minute flight to Nelspruit followed by a charter to the Skukuza base camp. Take a guided safari in an open top vehicle to see the thousands of animals, from the largest predator to the smallest creature resident in the park.
10. Johannesburg has a buzzing night life, Uber to several clubs in the Braamfontein area or chill at the pub and restaurant scene in the Sandton district. Ask your host to recommend a few places.
You’re practically at the airport, most accommodation facilities will either offer a shuttle service or provide personalised transport for the short trip to and from the arrival and departure lounges. The Gautrain offers non-stop train travel into Johannesburg and beyond (several stops are made before reaching Sandton and Pretoria). There are 10 car hire agencies located at the airport. For taxi services, connect to Uber via your mobile phone to arrange a ride or hop in a taxi outside the departure hall.
Did you know?
Over 50% of the country’s air traffic passes through O. R. Tambo airport. The airport is both a major transport hub for South Africa and the rest of the continent.
In 2016, O. R. Tambo Airport was ranked 30th best airport, ahead of major airports such as Gatwick and JFK Airport in New York.