Contributors to this thread:
South Africa Airport Concierge Services
For those of you that have traveled to South Africa (Tambo Airport) a few times, if you have used a concierge/meet and assist service to get you past the customs line on arrival, can you recommend which service you use (assuming you're happy with their services)? I suppose it might also be helpful if you have warnings to stay away from a certain company as well!
Stay at Afton Safari Lodge and they can provide you with requested services.
If JNB is where the outfitter is meeting you then I’d recommend going without any assistance; if staying overnight would also highly recommend Afton House; if making a same day connection recommend you have a sufficient layover (recommend 3 1/2 hours or so) just in case there is a hiccup or lines are long. The most challenging parts of connecting flights out of JNB are the firearms check upon arrival, changing to the domestic terminal and having to recheck, and also rechecking the gun case at the domestic SAPS station. If you need to make a same day connection and are at all worried about it I’m certain your safari company can recommend someone to help you transit as well.
None of it is terribly complicated but certainly a bit awkward the first time through.
I used a service, can not remember it’s name. Met me and my friend as we exited plane. Got our guns and bows and got us through customs very fast. One time we stayed at the airport before flying to Zimbabwe next day. Other two times, after customs, we hooked up with Afton house, and they took us to their place. After a 14-15 hour flight, I thought it was worth it to avoid any hassle at Tambo.
The only time I’ve been over there, we dealt with Afton House as well. It went seamlessly with them. Also had the best ribeye steak I have ever eaten with them as well.
T-roy, good point re the Afton house steak. It was great.
Another vote for the Afton house. They were amazing, greeted us right off the plane and got us through the airport fast and easy...and their food was amazing!
I have stayed at the Afton house in the past, but I don't recall them providing the service I'm asking about. I don't travel with guns, so I don't need anything to do with the transport of firearms. I am also not connecting to any other flight, as Tambo is my final destination. As I recall, the Afton house just stood in the main terminal with a sign, just like safari companies do. But, you have already gone through customs by the time you get to that point. Neither safari companies, nor do I remember the Afton House escorting me around the customs line coming into South Africa (and saving the better part of an hour)? I also don't need to spend the night anywhere on this trip, since I will be arriving early in the day. I have been to Tambo a number of times. On my last trip, the safari company hired a service that allowed me to go to the front of the customs line. That's the service I'm looking for.
Afton has a VIP meet and greet. Worth it. Bring you right to the front of the lines
My PH, Reon, met us after we collected our luggage and you headed out to camp. Took maybe 45 minutes to grab my bow case and get through customs. We spent 4 days at the end on the trip at the Crowne Plaza in Jburg. It was very safe and reasonable.
The most important thing is to know that you DON'T want to go wandering Jburg by yourself. When I was there I stayed at Afton House, a great place, I went over a day early to try to get use to the time difference. They took me to a mall and told me "DO NOT leave the Mall!" In the mall all the doors were electronically controlled to let those in the store decide who could come in and go out.
All of the houses in the neighborhood of Afton house have concertina wire on top of the walls that surround the houses. Private police patrol the areas. It is not a place to be wandering around. Think the South Side of Chicago and you'll start to get the picture. Have a fun trip, just be careful. Once you get to your outfitter everything will be great.
The Afton Safari Lodge (formerly the Afton House) does indeed provide the VIP meet & greet that you are looking for... They will meet you at the boarding gate and sometimes at the door of the aircraft and accompany you through the VIP immigration line. We also work closely with the Africa Sky Guest House who offers this VIP meet & greet as well. Both offer excellent reliable service that I can highly recommend.
This is only a peripheral comment but meant to be comforting. I have been through Tambo on 4 occasions. The first 2 times I was met by the outfitter, the 3rd time I had a connecting flight to Namibia same day, and the 4th time again met by the outfitter who then drove to Botswana. I have also therefore had to hang out in the airport for a lot of hours. I have only had a bow and never guns. Travel has ranged from 1995 to 2018. I have had ZERO problems. It is now a very modern and clean airport. I had ZERO issues getting my luggage or moving around in the airport. Of course this has no relationship to traveling with firearms or the safety of being in the city. The recommendations above are solid and my note is only to "take it down a notch" if you are anxious about being there. I was treated as well (courtesy/ professional) there as I could have asked for and certainly no less well than at JFK.
I have had to layover in Joburg going to Windhoek. One of the employees, "Mr. T" took us from Afton House to airport and personally walked us through the "red tape" of getting bows checked, etc for the next flight of our trip. Bottomline- Afton House cuts to the "political chase" at the Joburg airport. Well worth the cost and tip.
Airline reservations done with Traveling With Guns (TWG.com). Riflepermits.com. Also, Henry Durrheim is fantastic to work with at Rifle Permits. Meets you when you get off the plane and walks you to the front of the line and away you go. I take a bow along too.
I second the recommendation for Henry with Riflepermits.com. which I forgot to mention in my earlier post.... They offer a host of guests services in addition to rifle import assistance. You can use their VIP airport meet & greet services even if you are not importing a rifle.