Travelling around South Africa is relatively easy by air, road and rail as South Africa has the most advanced public transport system, economy and infrastructure on the African continent. When planning to get around South Africa, as with most developed countries in the world you have a range of transportation options to choose from.
Most tourists fly in to South Africa via one of 3 major air hubs; Oliver Thambo International Airport situated just outside of Johannesburg, Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka Durban International Airport outside of Durban.
SAA and British Airways (operated by Comair) cover South Africa’s major air routes, and Kulula and Mango serve as budget airline options. Smaller centres in Africa are connected by South African Express and Airlink.
Ten major airports are located in South Africa’s main cities. Operated by the Airport Company of South Africa (ACSA), these airports form a network for smooth travel around the country. A number of regional airports connect smaller centres, such as the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Nelspruit and the Skukuza Airport near the Kruger National Park.
Domestic flights are numerous and connect most of the major towns and cities.
An extensive tarred road system makes travelling in South Africa by car, bus or motor cycle easy and convenient. Being a largely rural country you will find gravel roads in most rural areas though.
When driving in South Africa it is important to note:
- A valid international driver’s licence is required.
- We drive on the left hand side of the road.
- Wearing seat belts is compulsory and cellphones can only be used ‘hands free’.
- Speed limits are generally set at 120km on freeways, 100km on secondary roads and 60km in urban areas.
- Toll fees apply on most national roads.
- Petrol stations are widespread.
- Most global car hire firms have branches in South Africa.
- The Automobile Association (AA) supplies road maps as do most book shops and gas stations in large cities.
Buses in South Africa aren’t as effective as they are in many European countries. However, together with the minibus taxis, they’re the main form of public transport, with a reliable and reasonably comfortable network linking all major cities. Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and several other urban areas have city bus transport systems. Transport fares are cheap, and routes, which are signposted, are extensive. However, services usually stop running early in the evening or are infrequent and do not adhere to schedules, and there aren’t many buses on weekends.
A number of bus transport options are also available for travel within the country. Standard bus routes are serviced by the main bus operators Translux, Greyhound, Intercape Mainliner and SA Roadlink whilst Baz Bus caters to more casual travellers such as backpackers.
South Africa with its vast distances and majestic scenery is ideal for driving, and as you will notice once you arrive in South Africa a car is more a necessity than a luxury. Apart from the main bus and train routes, as well as black taxi’s having your own wheels is the best way to get around. Most major roads are in excellent condition, and off the main routes there are interesting back roads to explore. The roads are good, gas stations have gas and there are plenty of hotels and lodges to stay at along the way.
In South Africa we drive on the left-hand side of the road, similarly to the UK, Japan and Australia.
The South African rail system predominantly relies on the long-haul, inexpensive Shosholoza Meyl Metrorail trains for rail passenger transport. On the other side of the scale you will find the Blue Train,the ultimate in luxury train travel offering routes between Pretoria and Cape Town, the Trans-Oranje between Cape Town and Durban via Kimberley and Bloemfontein (each week) and the Trans-Natal Express between Durban and Johannesburg.
Rail options are more limited, but include the Trans-Karoo Express (daily service between Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria), Rovos Rail’s luxury safaris (Pretoria to Cape Town) and the Transnet Museum’s steam safaris (around South Africa and Zimbabwe).
Sleeping compartments are available on all long distance trains (included in your ticket), and most trains have restaurant cars. Advance booking is advisable, particularly for major routes and overnight trips. Cape Town and Pretoria/Johannesburg urban areas are serviced by a network of local trains, all with 1st and 2nd class fares. Children under two years old may travel for free. Children between the ages of two and eleven pay half the usual ticket price.
Then there is the Gauteng’s high-speed rapid rail link, the Gautrain, between Sandton and OR Thambo International Airport and Pretoria.
South Africa can be reached by train from a number of adjacent or nearby countries. The touristy Shongololo Express is probably the most reliable, travelling between South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
For more information about hiring or renting a car please see the subsequent pages.
Should you require more information on immigrating to South Africa or the South African transport system, feel free to contact us.