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South Africa | The Ultimate Travel Guide

Rich in unspoiled beauty and diverse in culture, South Africa is a land unparalleled.

Updated

Zebras in South Africa

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The nation's biggest draw card, no doubt, is its wildlife safari adventures, which allow you that up-close-and-personal experience with some of the country's most amazing beasts as they live in their natural habitat.

But South Africa is so much more than safari. Beyond its famous national parks, the country houses incredible mountains boasting hundreds of walking trails, pristine beaches frequented by adorable penguins and colourful cities filled with a history of struggle and freedom.

A trip to South Africa is like no other and while the flight may be long for Australians, it's well worth the journey.

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Getting around in South Africa

South Africa has one of the cheapest and best-connected public transport networks around. Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban are the three major cities of South Africa. Johannesburg and Durban are 570 kilometres apart, and Cape Town is 1400 kilometres from Johannesburg and 1640 kilometres from Durban.

Flights are a preferred means for inter-city travel while trains pass through scenic routes to provide a more immersive experience. Buses offer a similar experience at a lesser price.

Cities are well connected through extensive bus and train networks. Traffic is generally quite chaotic, so we wouldn't recommend cycling or driving in cities.

Here's an easy guide to help you travel safely and cheaply in South Africa.


Travelling between cities in South Africa

  • Internal flights: Travelling from one South African city to another via plane is a good option as there are agreements with the national airline, South African Airways, for cheap domestic flights. A return flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg costs around $150. Daily direct flights link Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, East London, Kimberley and Bloemfontein. South African Airways covers major routes while British Airways, Mango and Kulula also offer domestic routes.
  • Trains: There are numerous companies that operate trains in South Africa. Excluding the Blue Train, a fast luxury train that connects Pretoria with Johannesburg and Cape Town, train travel in South Africa is quite slow. Trains have bunkbed services and buffets, and are divided into first and second class carriages.It's advisable to book tickets in advance along popular routes and for overnight travel. Shosholoza Meyl tourist class fare (standard train fare) from Cape Town to Johannesburg is nearly $70 while a journey in the Blue Train will set you back by $1000.
  • Buses: South African buses are usually modern, air-conditioned and economical. They offer frequent services between cities. The most popular bus companies in South Africa are Translux and Greyhound. These also provide hop-on, hop-off passes on select routes.

Public transport in South Africa

  • Types of transport. There is an extensive and affordable bus network in South African cities. However, these buses can be unreliable and unless you are familiar with their routes, are not recommended for foreign travellers.Major South African cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban are serviced by commuter trains that connect the important parts of cities. Run by MetroRail, a state-owned enterprise, these trains are efficient and affordable but also pose safety concerns. Along with commuter trains, Johannesburg is serviced by a mass rapid transit railway system called Gautrain.Minibuses or shared taxis are the most common form of transport in South Africa. The minibuses travel practically everywhere – through the cities, to the outskirts and to neighbouring cities. They usually carry 14-16 people and leave only when full.
  • Paying for transport. Generally, buses and minibuses accept payments only in cash. All commuter train networks have their respective passes.
  • Getting to and from the airport. Usually, regular buses run between city centres and the airport. However, private transfers, airport shuttles or taxis are recommended for first-time travellers to get to the city.
  • Best apps for getting around. Although there is no official transport app of South Africa, GoMetroApp is a useful app that provides information about bus and train schedules, routes and fares.

South Africa car hire rental companies

Travellers hesitate to drive in South Africa due to chaotic traffic and safety concerns but if you plan to do so, you can hire a car from car rental services like Avis, Budget, Hertz, Sixt, Europcar, Dollar or Thrifty from major airports.

Taxis and rideshare

Taxi. You can't hail a taxi in South Africa on the street. You have to call one by phone or look for them at stops in hotels and shopping centres. Taxis in South Africa are metered. Make sure it reads zero when your commute starts.

Rideshare. Ride-sharing services Bolt and Uber are available in major South African cities.

Airport transfers in South Africa

Shared and private transfers from the airport to your accommodation allow you to travel easily between the city and airport in South Africa. Here are some examples of transfers you can book for major airports and cities.

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