Want to travel the country but don’t trust your own set of wheels to do the job? We’ve put together a list of 3 alternative ways to explore South Africa!
There a number of bus companies that offer long-distance bus rides throughout South Africa, including Greyhound, Intercape and Translux. Buses leave every few hours, and there’s generally seats available if you don’t leave your booking too late. Bring snacks since the buses don’t stop too often in order to stay on schedule. For shorter trips, try the Baz Bus: geared towards backpackers, they offer a 21-day, hop-on-hop-off pass which is great for exploring places you wouldn’t usually visit.
Biggest Pro: The Cost
At around R600 a ticket, bus rides can be cheaper than flights, and they stop at many of the smaller towns that are harder to reach if you fly.
Biggest Con: The Time
A flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town takes around 2 hours. A bus ride, on the other hand, takes up to 20 hours, depending on the company – that’s 3 seasons of Game of Thrones in one trip. Since most of the buses are air-conditioned and don’t have windows that open, if something happens inside the bus there isn’t anywhere to go (one of the worst trips of my life involved a vomiting baby and a bakkie filled with old chicken…).
Biggest Pro: The Convenience
Even a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town only takes 2 hours, which is nothing compared to a bus trip on the same route. In Joburg, the construction of the Gautrain in 2010 has made travelling to and from the airport easy and hassle-free. Those who desire the highest degree of convenience and luxury usually opt for charter planes (see Jettly for more information), which can make the trip in the shortest amount of time without requiring any intermediate stops along the way. Also, for a destination wedding, a private aircraft might be the best option for taking guests and family members together.
Biggest Con: The Cost
While certain tickets with airlines like FlySafair can cost as little R600 or even R500, these tend to sell out quickly. Flight prices are determined by demand (the fewer the seats, the higher the price) so if you don’t book well in advance, you could be paying as much as R1500 or even R2000 for a flight with one of the bigger airlines. Flying on the weekends and public holidays can be really expensive, but by picking a less popular flight time you might be able to find a cheaper ticket.
The Shosholoza Meyl is a long-distance, sleeper train that travels between Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London. They offer economy-, deluxe- and luxury-class tickets, as well as a car transport option.
Biggest Pro: The Views
The train offers the best opportunity to see the South African countryside, except maybe for taking your own car. You’re able to bring your own snacks and drinks, and watch South Africa’s hillsides, mountains and grasslands roll by outside your window. You can also spread out (not too much in economy, but enough) and kill time in your own compartment – if you’re with a friend. If you’re a single traveller, you’ll be placed in a compartment with three other passengers which can make for a nice way of meeting someone new or a very awkward +20 hours. Which brings us to the con…
Biggest Con: the time
Taking a bus may take quite a while to get from city to city, but taking the train takes long. Trips take a full, 24-hour day, and are often plagued by stoppages and breakdowns, so this probably isn’t the right choice if you’ve got a plane to catch on the other side.
Don’t let your tired, old car prevent you from exploring all the natural beauty our country has to offer! You can get a free valuation for your used car at CarZar.co.za – if you like the quote, all you have to do is book an inspection and we’ll make a cash offer for your second-hand car, which you can put towards your next bushwhacking adventure!