#1 7-9-2017 4:31 AM

girlsome
Couch Potato
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Travelling around in South Africa

We are heading to South Africa in just over a week and just wanted to know what the transport is like throughout the country.  A rough plan that we have is as follows - into Cape Town, probably visit a few vineyards, then up the garden route to Port Elizabeth.  Possibly from there up to Swaziland, maybe via Durban and then possibly into Mozambique.  What will be the best way to get around, have heard of the baz bus - is this ok.  Any advice greatly appreciated - on this topic or anything to do with SA, Swaziland or Mozambique.

Thanks RD

 

#2 7-9-2017 5:20 AM

shavy
Belinda
Belgium
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Re: Travelling around in South Africa

At first we were considering to take the bus, but we decided to rent a car after all. I think is one of best thing to get around. I heard is doable to take public buses, but I don't know how reliable they are. Best check the reviews

http://www.bazbus.com/

http://www.intercape.co.za/

http://www.coasttocoast.co.za/

 

#3 7-9-2017 7:26 AM

harbinger
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Re: Travelling around in South Africa

Happy to provide some guidance, but it would be easier to provide a relevant answer to your question if you provided a little more information about how long you're going for, and what your travel style is - I am assuming from your mention of Bazbus that you are closer to the backpacker end of the spectrum, but this may not be correct.
As a general comment, South African public transport is not particularly good, although there are exceptions (such as the world class Gautrain high speed train between OR Tambo airport, Johannesburg and Pretoria).  The distances are also large, and the road safety record of the long distance buses is not great by first world standards (although probably in line with the rest of the developing world).  They also operate from bus stations that are not always located in the most salubrious parts of town, which may be OK if you're a savvy traveller and departing/arriving in the middle of the day, but would be inadvisable late at night.
If you're travelling between the big cities (Johannesburg/Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London), then the favoured option is to fly.  There are a couple of low cost carriers such as Kulula and Mango who ensure that good competition on these routes keeps prices down and - unlike European low cost carriers, for example - you will still get a 20kg luggage allowance included in the price.
Self drive is a very viable - and affordable - option, provided that you are confident to drive on the left hand side of the road.  The South African road system is pretty good (although the maintenance has been let go in certain areas) and you can get very reasonable hire rates - I usually find that novacarhire will give you the most competitive rate (acting as an agency for the big name car rental companies).  If you are planning to do the Garden Route, then this is definitely the best option.  Just bear in mind that driving at night outside the urban areas is not advisable, because of the risk of hitting livestock and wildlife on the roads, and that it gets dark fairly early at this time of year (by about 1900).
Bazbus is highly recommended by backpackers as being reliable and offering a 'hop on, hop off' travel style and an itinerary that features stops of greatest interest to tourists.  Just bear in mind that it sticks to an almost exclusively coastal route (as many of the major tourist attractions are along the coast) and isn't necessarily cheap.  If there are a couple of you travelling together, you may find that renting a car is the same price (or cheaper), and will give you greater flexibility.

 

#4 7-9-2017 7:48 AM

harbinger
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Re: Travelling around in South Africa

To state the obvious, it's winter in South Africa, so this should be taken into consideration when planning your itinerary.  In the Cape, the winter means cool, wet weather, so prepare for rain (they're in the midst of a severe drought, so will be praying for every last drop).  This shouldn't limit you too much, provided that you select activities that are weather-independent: happily, Cape Town has some good indoor attractions (such as the Two Oceans Aquarium, South African Museum and National Gallery, Slave Lodge, and the hugely underrated Heart of Cape Town museum, which tells the poignant story of the first heart transplant) as well as any number of good shopping malls to retreat to (of which, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is the best known). 
It's whale season at present, and it's easy to spot the southern right whales as they come into calf - False Bay is the best location (from little towns such as Kalkbaai and Simonstown), which don't require that you take a boat trip.  Also don't miss the wonderful penguin colony at Boulders Beach, just outside Simonstown (a naval base which also boasts some stunning Victorian colonial architecture).
The Cape Town CBD is - by and large - a disappointingly soulless 60s concrete monstrosity, but don't miss the adjacent Muslim suburb of Bo Kaap, which comprises tiny little boxlike houses painted in ice cream colours which cling to the flanks of Table Mountain.  And of course, a ride in the cablecar to the top of Table Mountain is non-negotiable: my recommendation is to build your itinerary around this, and to head up the mountain whenever the (very changeable) weather is good, as there's no point in going up when the 'tablecloth' of cloud has set in.  Robben Island is also an obvious attraction if the weather is good, but my experience (and that of other friends) is that the quality of guides - who are ex inmates - is highly variable and the ferry can be erratic, so check ahead of time if it's running.
Inland, the vineyards are wonderful, both in terms of wine and food.  The majority of tourists head for Stellenbosch or Paarl, but my personal favourite is the tiny town of Franschhoek, which is nestled into the head of a valley with a backdrop of stunning mountains, and some really amazing Cape Dutch architecture (as well as the Hugenot museum to the Protestant refugees from Europe who settled the area).
It's worth noting that there are two 'hop on, hop off' bus routes in Cape Town, which I'd highly recommend over using a hire car in and around the city (where parking is scarce and driving is erratic).  If so, then select your accommodation close to one of the routes.  If you have your own car, then use it to do one of the iconic coastal drives around the Cape Peninsula.  The best known is the drive along Chapmans Peak - a precipitous section of the Atlantic Coast between Hout Bay and Noordhoek (note that this is a toll road), but if you have at least half a day and the weather is good, take the circular drive around the peninsula, which will take you over the scenic Ou Kaapseweg Pass to beautiful Cape Point, and also includes charming little stops like Kommetjie, Simonstown, Kalkbaai and Fish Hoek.  This can also be customised to include the often overlooked Boyes Drive, which gives you an elevated view out over False Bay.

Last edited by harbinger (7-9-2017 8:24 AM)

 

#5 7-9-2017 8:03 AM

harbinger
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Re: Travelling around in South Africa

The Garden Route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth is beautiful and won't be very crowded at this time of year, but be prepared for rain and (although it seems contradictory) severe water restrictions as a result of the current drought.  I really like sleepy little Pringle Bay (and the adjacent town of Betty's Bay, which also has a penguin colony), and Hermanus is reputedly the best land location in the world from which to see whales - having seen a female and her calf get within 50m of the shore, I'm a believer!
Further along, Knysna and Storms River Mouth are ridiculous scenic, and if you tire of the ocean, also offers you the opportunity to duck inland to explore the gorgeous old growth forest of the Outeniqua Mountains. 
If you have time, I would also strongly recommend a scenic detour inland to Oudtshoorn via beautiful mountain passes - this is the ostrich capital of the world, and the gateway to the nearby Cango Caves (and also a good wet weather refuge, as often the rain fronts don't make it over the mountains).
Another brilliant option is the Route 62 inland route which crosses the extremely arid Klein Karoo, and gives you a taste of a South African road trip that even many locals don't get to experience: I love the remoteness of tiny villages like Prince Albert and the best kept secret of the region is funky Nieu Bethesda, with its iconic Owl House and tiny museum of mammal-like reptiles (of which South Africa has the most complete fossil record).

Last edited by harbinger (7-9-2017 8:25 AM)

 

#6 7-9-2017 8:14 AM

harbinger
Cathy
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Re: Travelling around in South Africa

Durban will still be pleasantly warm, with water in a 'swimmable range', but bar the lovely beaches, the city can be a bit of a disappointment.  The uShaka aquarium is worth a visit, but if you have to choose between this and the Two Oceans in Cape Town, the latter gets my vote.
Although I know it quite well, I'm afraid that I don't quite understand the allure of Swaziland, except if you're looking to tick off another country.  It's nice enough in a very low key manner, but offers very little of obvious attraction to the tourist, particularly in winter. 
Ditto Mozambique, which may be an issue for you, if you're planning to take a hire car across the border - you will need to declare this to the hire company, and many will decline permission (also remember that you'll also need a visa, which most nationalities can buy at the border).  From northern KwaZulu Natal, the road into Ponta do Ouro crosses a dune field that you'll need a 4WD to negotiate (unless you're a very skilled off road driver).  However, if you would like to spend a few days snorkelling with dolphins in the wild, then this is the place to do so - we did this with out kids 18 months ago, and it was utterly fabulous.  I would recommend Angie Gullan at Dolphin Encounters, who can arrange a pick up from the border outside Kosi Bay.

 

#7 7-9-2017 8:18 AM

harbinger
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Re: Travelling around in South Africa

But, for me, by far the best thing to do in South Africa in winter is to head to the gem that is St Lucia.  A few hours drive north of Durban, it offers quite literally everything you could want.  Pristine undeveloped beach with water whose temperature is comfortable year round.  Sleepy little town where hippos wander in to graze on the lawns at night.  Gateway to the stunning iSimangaliso wetland park (a World Heritage site with great wetland and grazing wildlife, and nice snorkelling off Cape Vidal) and only about an hour's drive from the spectacular Hluhluwe/uMfolozi game parks (which offer the Big 5, and are stuffed with wildlife, which are easier to see in winter, when the vegetation is sparser, and animals congregate around permanent water sources).  Base yourself here for a few days, and I promise you won't regret it.

 

#8 7-9-2017 3:01 PM

shavy
Belinda
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Re: Travelling around in South Africa

South Africa is very beautiful country, but we weren't feel very safe. Durban- there is nothing there, we drop our car and flying out the next morning to Port Elizabeth, when we were in Durban there was a fight and one is murder, we're just in the middle of driving searching our hotel, we saw it happen. It was a hell of experience

The Garden route is by far the most famous road and suitable for driving due to the good road network, safety and many different accommodation options along the route and the diversity of attractions. We spent three nights on this route : Knysna for example is one of my favourite, beautiful with its Sandstone cliffs for spectacular views

For wineries we drove to Stellenbosch, the village is located in a valley with the beautiful wineries against the hills. There are more than 50 wineries in Stellenbosch and the  old town street really can not be miss you'll find most impressive old buildings in numerous styles

If you want to travel further to Swaziland, is best to head down - Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary,  in this nature reserve you can also spot wildlife like hippos, kudo, wild boar and zebra

While in Swaziland visit the Mantenga village where you can see how the Swazi lived traditionally- we have a two night stay in Swaziland, people were very friendly

 

#9 7-11-2017 1:27 AM

MarioBG
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Re: Travelling around in South Africa

You didnt mention how long your trip is? For this trip that you have planned you will probably need a minimum of 3 weeks if you want to have a relaxed holiday. There are buses that travel from city to city, you can take a look at Greyhound. A bus ride from Cape Town to Durban will be about 18/20 hours. From Durban to Mozambique about 2/3 hours.
From what you have planned I would definitely spend most of my time in Cape Town. It is an amazing city with lots of activities.
If you head to Durban I do agree that visiting St Lucia as mentioned above is a great choice. Expect a lot of wild life there, hippos, monkeys, crocodiles, lizards etc. DO NOT wander off into the bush in the evenings as there currently is a problem with the hippos coming inland to eat at night. We have come across hippos pretty much in the centre of town on many occasions, if you take a drive at night you will most likely find them in the parks but there also have been cases with people spotting them in their back yards. One needs to be careful and understand that these are wild animals smile

For much of Mozambique you do need a 4x4 to get through all the beach sand roads.

Within cities the most affordable and efficient way to get around is Uber. Do not use meter taxis, they will rip you off!

Hope you have a great time!

Last edited by MarioBG (7-11-2017 1:34 AM)

 
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