A top perk of many premium credit cards is complimentary Priority Pass Select Membership, which grants fee-free access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. But if you’re traveling through sub-Saharan Africa, don’t rejoice just yet.
The Priority Pass lounge network doesn’t have a huge presence in the region — a mere 70-odd lounges across the region’s 46 countries. And, of these, far too many fit the profile of a small, drab room with cracked leather couches, minimal (if any) working electrical outlets, patchy air conditioning (and even patchier Wi-Fi), sometimes with the saving grace of a small self-service bar (consume ice at your own risk).
But sub-Saharan Africa is home to a dozen or so solid Priority Pass lounges you’ll want to check out when traveling in the region. Here are our top 10.
Note: Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, some lounge benefits and/or hours of operation may be temporarily altered. Always check directly with the lounge or Priority Pass website for the most updated details on availability.
10. Amushe Lounge
Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH), Terminal 2, Namibia
This intimate and well-illuminated lounge doles out prime views over the runway at Namibia’s busiest airport (though busy is a relative term in Africa’s most sparsely populated country). It’s well-designed, with cute nooks for getting work done or reminiscing about your African adventure. A self-service bar with premium liquor and wines plus cold snacks rounds out the scene.
» Learn more: How to maximize your Priority Pass Select membership
9. Nthula Lounge
Kasane International Airport (BBK), 1st Floor, Botswana
Travelers on Botswana’s safari circuit may appreciate an indoor lounge with proper seating after days or weeks of flying on tiny Cessna aircraft and taking off from outdoor landing strips. This boutique lounge, strewn with lime green fabric chairs, provides plenty of comfort in between flights to the country’s wildlife-rich landscapes. Beer and wine are complimentary, as are light snacks and hot entrees that include cottage pie and lasagna on Fridays and Sundays between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Next door to the Nthula domestic lounge is another, almost identical lounge for international passengers.
8. Adinkra Lounge
Accra Kotoka International (ACC), Terminal 3, Ghana
West Africa’s economic boom is palpable throughout Ghana’s capital city, Accra, and this sleek lounge is no exception. It’s a highlight of the country’s $250-million-plus international Terminal 3, which debuted in September 2018. Look forward to lots of personality-driven zones with unique, contemporary furnishings, a small buffet and a self-service bar.
7. Top Kapi Lounge
Dakar Blaise Diagne International (DSS), Departure Level (near Gate 6), Senegal
Another testament to West Africa’s burgeoning economic growth is Dakar Blaise Diagne International airport, which opened in December 2017 at an estimated cost of about $650 million to $700 million. Within the pricey new airport lies this snazzy, design-forward lounge, which is the official first and business class lounge for Air France and other major airlines. There are individually decorated salons to choose from, plus a generous spread of sandwiches, crudite and dips. Note that this lounge is also referred to as the Infinite Lounge, and some airport signs may reflect that.
6. Salon Vallee De Mai
Mahe Island Seychelles International (SEZ), International Terminal, Seychelles
Colorful and cozy, the flagship lounge of Air Seychelles, accessible to Priority Pass holders, is an unexpected delight. Recharge with the lounge’s highly touted “rainforest” shower (which, in reality, is just a rain shower, but still great nevertheless) and snack on Seychellois-inspired canapes and imbibe on cocktails while overlooking the runway.
5. Shongololo Lounge
Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), International Terminal A, South Africa
This lounge, open to Priority Pass members and the official business class lounge for about two dozen airlines (including Qatar, Etihad and Qantas), is often cited as one of the best in Africa — and therein lies its downfall. A good reputation has led to issues of overcrowding and serious competition for the likes of sushi rolls, salad plates, and bistro-style and takeout sandwiches. The lounge’s hot food options are easier to come by, as are the libations.
» Learn more: Credit cards that offer airport lounge access
4. Turkish Airlines Star Alliance Lounge
Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta Intl (NBO), Terminal 1E, Kenya
Those who aren’t flying SkyTeam business class (and hence granted access to the snazzy Kenya Airways/KLM Pride Lounge) will want to make the trek to lounge in one of sub-Saharan Africa’s busiest airports and score that final cup of freshly roasted Kenyan coffee or last ice-cold Tusker beer. Though this Turkish Airlines lounge isn’t on the level of the carrier’s other lounges in Europe or the U.S., it’s far better than NBO’s other Priority Pass lounge for international passengers, Mara Lounge, and a solid quality option for sub-Saharan Africa with plenty of food and drink to be had plus good Wi-Fi.
3. Bidvest Premier Lounge
Johannesburg O.R. Tambo Intl (JNB), International Terminal A, South Africa
In the heart of Africa’s busiest airport, you’ll find this lounge, ideal for a refreshing shower and a great brunch after flying internationally and before continuing onward within the region. An eight month renovation from February to September 2019 included new furnishings that have helped brighten the dimly lit lounge. A full smorgasbord of hot and cold items is always available, including the decadent, freshly baked double-chocolate muffins. Multiple self-serve refrigerators house dozens of sodas, juices, beers and South African wines plus there’s a full self-service bar.
2. Amedee Maingard Lounge
Mauritius S.S.R. International (MRU), airside after security, Mauritius
Every year since 2014, the bilevel flagship lounge of national carrier Air Mauritius has been awarded the Indian Ocean Leading Airport Lounge at the World Travel Awards, and it’s easy to see why. Chic, plant-clad walls, minimalist wood furnishings and eclectic accents speak to a design theme rooted in nature and cultural diversity. The excellent food spread includes fresh fruits and dim sum complemented by a wide range of South African wines. Priority Pass members can access the lounge when flying through or from the island nation of Mauritius.
1. Bidvest Premier Lounge
Johannesburg O.R. Tambo Intl (JNB), Domestic Terminal B, South Africa
Of all the Priority Pass lounges in sub-Saharan Africa, this one scores the top spot thanks to its excellent food and beverage options and spacious interiors — its seating pods and dining tables were well-spaced even before social distancing was requisite. The lounge is accessible only to those flying domestically and adheres to a strict two-hour time limit, which helps prevent overcrowding. Look forward to an impressive multiple-table buffet of hot and cold dishes that may include piping hot chocolate muffins, scrambled eggs, salads (including a roasted vegetable salad with feta over spinach) and chocolate tarts. A great selection of South African wines are offered as are espresso-based drinks, beers, and dozens of soft drinks and juices.
The best of the rest
Makuwa Lounge, Victoria Falls International Airport (VFA), Zimbabwe.
Odyssee Lounge, Dakar Blaise Diagne International (DSS), Senegal.
Sanbra Priority Lounge, Accra Kotoka International (ACC), Terminal 3, Ghana.
The bottom line
Despite the general lackluster state of sub-Saharan Africa’s Priority Pass lounges, there are still some to get excited over. The majority of lounges on our list showcase excellence, even on a global scale. Look forward to memorable food spreads, great South African wines, premium Wi-Fi and personal space — all of which is sure to add to your African experience.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card