Tambo (think Johannesburg) Duty Free
O.R. Tambo airport, formerly known as Johannesburg International, is easily the busiest in all Africa. In fact South Africa’s main international gateway occupies a proud place at the forefront of the continent’s aviation history. It received the world’s first commercial jet flight, a de Havilland Comet flying in from London, in 1945. It was also a test airport for Concorde in the 1970s and became the first airport in Africa to host the Airbus A380 in 2006.
So Tambo certainly has its claims to fame, but by all accounts it is not the easiest of airports for planes to land and take off from. Situated a giddy 1,700 metres above sea level, aircraft struggle to take off fully laden because of the thin air and burn much more fuel than normal.Consequently, outbound long-haul flights from the airport tend to take considerably longer than inbound ones due to planes having to stop off en route to refuel.
The 2010 FIFA World Cup prompted a big expansion programme, and now tourist and visitors alike will find a brand new international pier, a new R2 billion (£180.7m) central terminal building (the airport already has two terminals), a new 5,200-space multi-storey car park and a shiny rail link to downtown Johannesburg.
Moreover, the already strong shopping and restaurant offer at Tambo has been considerably strengthened ahead of the expected influx of passengers. For example, in the expanded duty-free shopping mall of the international departures lounge (Terminal A) you will now find high-end standalone fashion boutiques from the likes of Lacoste, Hugo Boss, Hackett and Timberland. Accessorize is one of the few cheaper fashion shops to be making an appearance.
As at South Africa’s two other main international airports (Cape Town
and Durbans new King Shaka
), Big Five Duty Free runs Tambo’s duty-free concession. The company will open a much larger flagship store in Terminal A with an above average range of liquor, tobacco and beauty products. The store will also boast shop-in-shop corners from the likes of Montblanc and Salvatore Ferragamo, as well as a duty free new arrivals shop.
An experienced Dutch firm, Capi, runs three excellent electronics shops at the airport. They are located in both terminals A and B, as well as in the new central terminal building. They sell everything from digital cameras, mp3 players and camcorders, to mobile phones and laptops. Prices tend to be considerably better than downtown• current deals include an Apple iPod Nano 8GB at R1,499 (£135.45), a Blackberry 9700 at R5,999 (£542) and a Philips portable PET 741D DVD player for R999 (£90).
If you need a last-minute gift or souvenir of your stay in South Africa, you will find there are there are no fewer than three gift shops in Terminal A: Indaba Lifestyle, African Eco and Out of Africa. The latter sells some typical carved wooden masks, hand-woven and printed textiles and figurines from all over Africa. A definite plus if you decide to buy rather than just browse, Out of Africa boasts a Fairtrade agreement with the artisans it employs, ensuring they get paid a decent price for their work.
Indaba Lifestyle, part of a bigger chain of art and craft shops, is also recommended for those seeking gifts for family and friends. It sells a wide selection of handcrafted South African curios. Examples of popular wares sold here include tea towels with hand-painted animal prints, silver and elephant hair bangles, decorative ceramic bowls, beaded place mats and beautifully carved wooden serving spoons.
If you are a foodie in need of a last fix of South Africa’s excellent cuisine, head over to Taste of Africa (also located in Terminal A). Here you will discover plenty of examples of arguably the country’s most famous food export, biltong (strips of chewy, cured meat), as well as more unusual, but equally delicious finds such as double-baked biscuits, rooibos teas, spicy chutneys and organic coffee.
Should all that retail therapy leave you in need of a little pampering, may we recommend the Letsema Xpress Spa in Terminal A? It offers a full range of clothes-on massages, as well as manicures, pedicures, facials and even an oxygen bar. Conveniently, you can even book your treatment ahead of your journey by logging on to the company’s website, www.letsematherapy.com
One of the liveliest dining options in the domestic Terminal B is Keg & Aviator, an English-style pub, and a favourite hangout for locals catching a domestic flight home. It serves local Castle beer and offers filling, no-nonsense food such as bangers and mash, pies and fish and chips. If there is a World Cup game on, expect the place to be packed.
Alternatively, for lighter fare in Terminal B look for Kauai, which does healthy smoothies, freshly squeezed fruit juices, low-calorie wraps, salads and “safari burgers” made with low-fat ostrich meat. Ekaya is another good choice, serving spicy South African stews and curries as well as great local wines.
The catering offer in Terminal A is rather less exciting. Most international travellers will be familiar with the Portuguese restaurant chain Nando’s, whose signature dish is peri peri chicken. There is also a Café Ritazza and an Irish pub (McGinty’s), but our pick of the bunch is the exotically furnished Africa Lounge. Complete with inviting leather sofas, you can unwind with a glass of wine, enjoy various local dishes served in small portions, and even catch up on your email (wireless internet access is free).
Tax Free Travel Guide to:
O.R. Tambo International airport shopping site