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Transportation in South Africa

When it comes to transportation in a different country, I can easily find a common denominator if I look back at all my travels experiences. Unless I had a friend who lived in the country I was visiting, I never rented a car and turned my backpacking trip into a road trip. I normally relied on planes, buses, trains or ferries to take me from point a to b. But given that I was in Africa last year and I’m going back again in less than a month, I wanted something different. After some research on transportation in South Africa, it was obvious that a car hire was a good idea.

Although internal flights are cheap, most of them fly between major cities.  If you’re in a smaller town like Umtata in the wild cost and trying to get to the garden route, you’ll be able to find a flight, but it flies only once per week. The same situation rose when I was looking to travel to Central Drakensberg from Johannesburg. I thought hopping on a bus would have been the easiest option but the accommodations are so spread out in that area that one would have to hitch hike to their hostel, b&b or hotel. After a few instances like this, I began to look into renting a car for the trip. I was skeptical at first, you know, with the driving in South Africa fear but after reading a few forums, many people recommended it. So why not?

For internal flights between major towns and cities consider: Kulula,  1time,  Velvert sky, Mango

For bus carriers you can consider: Intercape, Greyhound, Translux, SA Roadlink

And so I went on Expedia and started looking at prices. One can easily find an economy or mid size car for about 200$ per week, and this, with unlimited mileage. It was great! After all this research on transportation options, we finally decided to rent a car and experience a 3-week road trip. There was a minor hiccup in our original plan because we land in Johannesburg at 10pm and we felt uncomfortable driving mot only at night, but on the left side of the road. The last thing I want to happen is get lost in a shady neighborhood in Jo’burg at midnight. This being said, we finally agreed to take a cab to pur friends house when we arrive and then pick up the car when we’re ready to drive to Drakensberg.

Another option that can be interesting to backpackers in South Africa is Baz Bus. It’s basically a shuttle service between popular towns and cities. The interesting part is that you can buy a pass based on travel days and hop on and off the bus as much as you want during that period. You can also choose to pay as you go. We considered this option but the timetables didn’t always correspond with our schedule and given our somewhat short vacation, we agreed on the car option.

Given the multiple transportation options in South Africa, no backpacker must really worry about it. The transportation method you choose will depend on the places you will visit. Good luck!

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