This a four part series covering our Business class trip from La Paz, Bolivia to Cape Town, South Africa.
- La Paz- The Lounge VIP
- Avianca Business Class to Lima and Sumaq VIP Lounge
- Avianca Business Class to Sao Paolo and Star Alliance Lounge
- South African Business Class to Johannesburg and SA Premium Lounge
After three months in South America, we were very excited to begin the next phase of our journey traveling on to explore Southern Africa. We were entering through Cape Town, South Africa where we planned to rent a car and take a driving tour of the region.
Bolivia was not originally on our list for South America but because it’s classified as a different region than Peru by United, it meant we could save 25,000 miles per ticket when booking business class seats. What we failed to account for at the time was the additional cost of Bolivian visas ($160 US per person) and the Bolivian airport exit tax ($45.10 US per person). So though we saved 50,000 miles, we essentially traded it for $400 in higher travel costs. As it turned out, we really enjoyed our time in Bolivia – visiting the salt flats was one of the highlights of our time in South America – and so the extra cost seemed very worthwhile to us in the end.
The other disadvantage of flying Bolivia to South Africa was that for a Star Alliance award ticket the journey is broken up into a pair of overnight flights, one across South America (Lima to Sao Paolo) and one across the Atlantic (Sao Paolo to Johannesberg). This meant at least two full days of travel (one for each overnight flight). We had to add another full day because the only award availability from La Paz to Lima was first thing in the morning, even though our Lima to Sao Paolo flight wasn’t until 10p.
Essentially, this left us an early start on day one and two 12 hour plus layovers in airports on days 2 and 3 (Lima then Sao Paolo). This flight schedule was in place regardless of what class of tickets we booked, but with over 24 hours of just sitting around in airports we were clear we wanted lounge access on our journey. Thankfully, Business Saver awards are easy to find on this route even with short notice.
Using United miles earned primarily from our Mileage Plus personal and business credit cards, we booked business class tickets from La Paz to Cape Town. For details on how we earned those miles check out the post here.
Four business class segments - including two overnight flights - cost us 45,000 miles and $81.60 each and included lounge access at each of the four airports we would pass through.
The total cost of these flights retail can be over $8,000.
Our first flight was an 8a flight from La Paz to Lima. Though the La Paz airport is of medium size, the international terminal is quite small with only a few departure gates and one common waiting area for all passengers.
There is only one lounge at the La Paz airport and it is shared by all premium passengers. Due to the early hour and the general paucity of international travelers, there were only a few other people in the lounge.
Compared to larger airports in wealthier cities (like the one we would visit in Sao Paolo just a day later) the lounge was very small and the available food and services not of high quality. What most full time business travelers would likely turn their noses up at felt luxurious to Jess and I. Just the availability of free average speed wi-fi was something we hadn’t experienced in weeks.
The lounge had instant coffee, soft drinks, beer and water available.
There was also some basic breakfast foods including toast, fruit and juice, cerael and some bar snacks.
We both opted for a nostalgic American breakfast that I last ate when I was 12: Cocoa Puffs and added a cup of South America’s omnipresent Nescafe instant coffee.
Soaring now on caffeine and a raging sugar rush, we checked email and the news while international CNN carried on about Donald Trump.
An Avianca representative came by the lounge 45 minutes before departure to collect our boarding passes and check us in and then we were off to our first business class flight!
Continue reading: Avianca Business Class to Lima and Sumaq VIP Lounge