Subject: Re: Travel to Africa
Well Harold # the silence is deafening. Not sure how much I can help # but can give a few pointers gleaned from my attempt to find cheap(er) flights to Mali. And this could take some time (but time is money). I think it's easier to give a real example # you can adapt this to your destination.

1. General rule is to start with the easiest route # check online with a couple of general flight search engines to get a `base price to beat'.

2. I generally start with Travelocity as it has an option where you can search for cheapest flights between two points without specifying a date (that comes later), and I allow multiple connections. My second choice is Mobissimo (which requires dates) as it searches some non-North American sites. Many others require a US credit card to book # and I'm not in US so I avoid these.

3. Out of that I note the possible airports that connect to the final destination (for Mali I could connect through Guinea, Casablanca, Paris, London, Senegal and Ghana (and possibly others # in a perfect world I'd have an international flight schedule, but can't find a gratis one on the web; however, Star Alliance has a free download of all their member partners complete schedule and I used that last year to plan a trip where the last leg was to Hanoi, using every connecting point to Hanoi)). 4. Again using Travelocity I check flights from the connecting point to and from [Mali # substitute your destination] to see whether they are convenient. Here some discretion is applied # for example I eliminated Guinea as the chances of a good connection there were also slim. Ghana was horrendously expensive at all times, and few flights (again eliminated). Senegal had excellent connections to several places in Europe, BUT all the flights to Mali were early morning, and European flights arrived in Senegal in the evening. This meant overnight and hotel costs (both ways # it didn't work in reverse either) # so more expense and more time wasted (and I've already been there so no desire to revisit). 5. I then checked (using same search engines) Home [Toronto] to [Casablanca;Paris;London] return and, separately, [Casablanca;Paris;London] to Mali return. And immediately saved around $700 off the original price in 1. above. 6. Now you're into a game of `beat the airlines'. Travelocity allows you to specify `Destinations to watch' and I watched Paris- Mali; Casablanca #Mali; and Toronto-Casablanca # they send emails when the price drops by a specified amount. 7. Eventually, Paris-Mali dropped by about $600 so I went back in and checked for my desired dates. I could indeed get that fare (via Casablanca) # but would have to arrive a day earlier than required and leave 2 days later. But other companies had also dropped their fares, and I managed to get my preferred dates on a direct flight for about $200 above the lowest fare (i.e. saved another $400 on this leg). 8. Now I still have to book Toronto-Paris return # and I'm still holding off, hoping for a cheaper fare "shortly".

So this is a mixture of art & science # and you need to know when to "buy" (it's like playing the stock market # don't try to hang on for the absolute lowest price # just a `fair' one). International airfares are a mystery. I can get to Casablanca via London for slightly more than Toronto-Paris. But Casablanca-Mali is more expensive than Paris-Mali, which connects via Casablanca! (While I was poising the cheap flight on that leg sold out).

Good hunting # and have a great trip.

Alan Gardner