Getting Around

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Getting Around South Africa

South Africa is surprisingly big, so it's really important that you put some serious thought into how you're going to get around. For example, it takes 19 hours to drive from Cape Town to Johannesburg - not a short journey by any stretch of the imagination! The infrastructure in South Africa is excellent, with good transport links across the country, whether that is by bus, car, plane or train.

The most popular option is to hire a car, though backpacker buses are becoming more and more popular. You can hire a car from a number of airports in South Africa and it's probably the cheapest and easiest way to see the country. However, if you're travelling on your own then bus or train is probably cheaper, and you will meet like-minded travellers.

You can drive to the surround countries of Lesotho and Swaziland without any trouble.

South Africa by bus

There seems to be one main backpacker bus company in South Africa - Baz Bus.

Baz Bus started in 1995 and has grown in popularity year after year. It's mainly catered towards backpackers looking to travel South Africa on the cheap, and offers a hop-on, hop-off service along the southern coast.

Baz Bus has a fleet of 19-seater semi-luxury buses, all with on-board TVs & videos, and trailers capable of carrying surfboards and bicycles. The bus drivers are friendly and keep passengers informed with basic route information. There is even a Cape Peninsula bicycle day tour you can go on!

There are a number of tickets you can get. The most popular is the hop-on, hop-off service, but Baz Bus also offers week passes and flexi passes. Often there are deals, so check in advanced to see if you can get a cheaper ticket (all prices quoted below are for the hop-on, hop-off service. For flexi passes and travel passes please check their website.)

  • Johannesburg/Pretoria to Cape Town (via Swaziland) - One way costs R 3,500 (£313); Return costs R 4,600 (£412)
  • Johannesburg/Pretoria to Cape Town (via Drakensberg Mountains) - One way costs R 2,900 (£260); Return costs R 4,600 (£412)
  • Durban to Cape Town - One way costs R 2,430 (£218); Return costs R 3,600 (£322)
  • Port Elizabeth to Cape Town - One way costs R 1,250 (£112); Return costs R 1,800 (£161)
  • Johannesburg/Pretoria to Durban (via Swaziland & via Drakensberg Mountains) - A 'loop ticket' costs R 1,540 (£138)

The other two bus companies in South Africa are Greyhound and Intercape. All the links are below:

Bas Bus
Greyhound
Intercape

There are a number of different types of bus passes, and if you don't want a one, then they do single trips too...

South Africa by car

A car gives you a huge amount of freedom to explore South Africa at your own pace. It also means you can visit a number of national parks without having to join a big tour group. You can pick it up at one place, and drop it off at another.

Renting a car in South Africa can range anywhere from R100 (£9) per day and upwards of R1,340 (£122) per day depending on the car group, location and availability. Hertz offered their cheapest car at R215 (£20) per day for three weeks.

The major rental agencies are Avis, Budget Car Hire, Europcar and Hertz. Their links are:

Avis
Budget
Europcar
Hertz

Any valid driver's licence is accepted in South Africa, provided it bears the photograph and signature of the holder and is printed in English. However, vehicle hire companies may also require an international driver's licence, which you can get from any Post Office. You should confirm everything and get it in writing.

South Africans drive on the left and they can be aggressive drivers! Beware!

The South African Automobile Association can be contacted on +27 (0)83 843 22 in an emergency.

South Africa by train

There are good rail links in South Africa and it is an alternative to driving.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is the national rail operator. There is only one main budget service - the Shosholoza Meyl.

The four main trains that are running are:

  • Cape Town to Johannesburg - 27 hours - R514 (£47)
  • Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth - 20 hours 25 minutes - R383 (£35)
  • Cape Town to Durban - 37 hours 20 minutes - R678 (£62)
  • Durban to Johannesburg - 10 hours 50 minutes - R262 (£24)

The Shosholoza Meyl also runs a premium class service - the Premier Classe. It is very nice indeed. For prices check out the links below:

Shosholoza-meyl
Premier Classe

There is one last train service - it is called the 'Blue Train' and it runs from Cape Town to Pretoria (and vice versa), taking 27 hours. It isn't exactly a backpacker option. Or even a flashpacker option. It is a luxury train that has been named the 'best luxury train in the world'... cheapest ticket per person is R 10,120 (£906). Whichever way you look at it, it's expensive... Oh, and it goes up to R 20,210 (£1,808). For a single train journey. One way. Wow... Anyway, if you're interested the link is:

Blue Train

South Africa by plane

There aren't any budget airlines that fly internally within South Africa.

However, if you want the best site for info on internal flights in South Africa then check out flight advice for South Africa.