Ways To Get Around South Africa

South African Transport: How not to get lost in SA

May 1, 2019

South Africa is an eclectic mix of culture, food, tradition, and a history full of different people coming together to form this wonderful country. Ever since the end of Apartheid, South Africa has fast become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa.

There are many different ways for tourists to discover everything this country has to offer, from walking, to the train and domestic flights that cover every major city and popular hotspot in the country.

Take a Bus

Even though there are a handful of bus companies operating within the country, using the bus is not the most popular form of transport. Many people use them to travel long distances or to work, but this is a small minority.

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There is a bus that can take you almost anywhere, and if you are a fan of enjoying the journey more than the destination, then the bus is for you. You can see every inch of the country for the comfort of your seat, stopping in some delightful towns along the way.

Exploring the city of Cape Town is a breeze with MyCiTi, a reliable scheduled bus service. The buses operate on a cashless system – Photo:wikipedia©

The more popular bus companies are MyCiti, Intercape, Greyhound, and Translux, which also all operate a budget fare system. Baz Bus is a more popular choice for backpackers as they have a very useful hop-on and hop-off policy.

Minibus Taxis (not for the faint-hearted)

Minibuses are by far the most popular form of transport in the country, carrying more than two thirds of the population every day. They operate everywhere, from major cities, to smaller towns and across the townships.

Minibus taxis in South Africa are the most available and most affordable forms of public transportation used by the majority of people in the country – Photo:wikipedia©

One of the major downsides of traveling on a minibus is the bus itself. Many of them are unroadworthy, operated by dangerous drivers and are the main targets for petty criminals and crime.

Taxi companies are also in a constant war for territory, and shootouts between drivers are common, so if you do want to travel this way, asking for some local advice will get you far in choosing the right taxi for you.

Train Rides

The train system in the country is often lacking maintenance and doesn’t always run properly. The lines operate between major hubs in all the major cities. Johannesburg has the Gautrain, which is more on the luxury side and leaves from O.R Tambo International.

A steam train making its way into the station at the Elgin Railway market, South Africa –
Photo by Tiaan van Zyl on Unsplash

There are also trains that are used for specific activities. The Blue Train, for instance, is a luxury train that travels between Pretoria and Cape Town. You can eat and sleep on the train while enjoying the vast and beautiful landscapes as you roll by.

Get behind the wheel

Obviously, driving is the most common form of transport, like with many other countries, and if you have a valid license and want to explore on your own terms, this is the best option. There are also many car hire companies to choose from.

Rent a beach buggy or jeep and cruise down the West Coast.
Photo by Alistair MacRobert on Unsplash

Many of these car rental companies have outlets at all the major airports, and you can hire a car right as you land and start your adventure immediately. The rules of the roads are also very accessible and as long as you follow them, you will have a carefree drive. Pack a weekend travel bag and hit the road.

Hop on a bicycle

Another unique way of exploring is on a bicycle. If you are a bit of a fitness fanatic, this is the best choice for you. Bicycle rental shops are sometimes hard to find, especially in the smaller towns, but you won’t have much trouble in the major hubs.

An affordable and eco-friendly way to see South Africa’s attractions
Photo by HUST WILSON on Unsplash

Cape Town, for example, have companies that allow you to rent out electric bicycles for set amounts of time, and you can use them to travel across the coast and beachfront suburbs, all the way to the famous V&A Waterfront, with Table Mountain as a backdrop.

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South Africa is packed full of amazing walks. You can comfortably move around the city centres on foot. Just remember to stay close to the attractions, and don’t walk alone. Most public spaces and busy streets are safe during the day. While it’s possible to see many of the sights by simply walking around Cape Town or Johannesburg, you will need to pair this with another form of transport for convenience. You can join a free walking tour or join other tourists for safety in numbers.

Domestic Flights

If you have the money, and looking to travel quickly, using one of the local airlines for quick trips across the country is the way to go. There are a few that also travel to popular spots such as the Kruger National Park.

Domestic, low-cost carriers can quickly transport you around the country –
Photo by Braam Matthee on Unsplash

The airlines are extremely efficient, and a few such as Kulula and FlySafair offer discounts quite regularly, allowing you to travel between cities cheaper than it would cost to drive. This is definitely the most popular way to travel far distances.

Travelling around South Africa can be a very simple task, and there are many different ways to do it depending on what experience you want and your budget. Just be wary of which one as you choose and your holiday or weekend of adventure will be a success.  

1 Comment

  • Reply
    May 16, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    I don’t think I’m brave enough to try a minibus taxi! I’d rather go between a train and a bike than get on the road.

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