Transportation in South Africa
When traveling South Africa by car, bus, train or air, keep the following notes in mind to ensure a pleasant journey wherever you go in South Africa.
South African Road Travel:
Make sure you carry your Driver’s License in English with you at all times.
Otherwise be sure to get your International Driver’s License before entering the country. Remember that in South Africa you will be traveling on the left hand side of the road in a right wheel drive. There are plenty of car rentals agencies that you can contact at all of the airports in South Africa upon your arrival. These will offer affordable and easy car, mini bus, passenger van, and luxury 4×4 hire. The main agencies include Avis Rent a Car, Budget Car Rental, Imperial Car Rental, Hertz Car Rental, and National Car Rental.
There are plenty of well structured, tarred and well sign posted roads in South Africa along with highways and byways. Some remote and hilly areas might pose some bumpy, sandy roads to navigate.
The national roads and main city highways have a speed limit of 120 kilometers per hour (75mph), 100 km/h (60mph) on rural or secondary roads and in built up, suburban areas it is 60 km/h or 35 mph. This is policed by traffic officers and the metro police with random speed traps, and there are also cameras placed in strategic areas throughout the country’s major roads and intersections.
Public and Private Transport in South Africa:
In South Africa taxis form a major part of the public transport system along with trains and buses. The local taxis are mainly used by the poorer communities and in the past various wars have broken out between the different taxi companies regarding their areas of operation. These taxis are usually mini vans and noted for their bright colors, stickers and loud music. Legalization of the taxis was recently put in place to ensure the safety of the public and you can tell if a taxi is legal by the white and blue label on the back of it. Along with the legalization, the Taxi Association has introduced the Mercedes Sprinter for a better and safer mode of transportation.
A more comfortable alternative is to contact a private taxi company. These chauffeur driven cars will collect you from your hotel and take you wherever you want to go within a certain radius. They will collect you from venues and some will offer airport transfers. The price varies from company to company, but most work on a price per kilometer driven.
The train service in South Africa is run by a company called Metrorail. They are characterized by the yellow and grey trains that run in the major areas of the cities and linking all the provinces. There is also a Metrorail train in Cape Town that run from Cape Town Station to Simon’s Town Station and has a special car called Bigsey’s which is a restaurant and great for a different tour of the peninsula.
You will find that many of the business commuters will use this train. There is also the luxury Blue Train which travels from Cape Town to Pretoria and offers guests everything that you could want from a five start hotel. Another luxury hotel train is the Premier Classe which runs between Cape Town and Johannesburg twice a week. For a pleasant traveling experience to various part of the country along with great accommodation options, the Shosholoza Meyl is the perfect train to try. This purple, yellow and teal train travels between Cape Town and Johannesburg via Durban and Port Elizabeth and offers snacks, a four sleeper coach, and air conditioned dining car. These tourist luxury trains are quite safe to travel on, although the suburban Metro trains have had some problems and are not recommended if you are traveling alone or with children. When you arrive at the stations, some care will also have to be taken. Cape Town Station is quite safe with plenty of security and walking through the streets of Cape Town is not usually a problem. While Johannesburg (Park) Station has good security, the streets around it are not too safe, so it is advisable to take a private taxi or other form of transportation from the station.
Buses in South Africa are used for the poorer communities as it is cheap and usually safer than the public taxis. They run on specific routes in the cities and suburbs and are helpful when traveling a short distance. When you decide to travel between provinces there are some great luxury tourist buses that offer comfortable seating, air conditioning and a safe journey through the countryside. The main buses to look out for that you can book with inside most Shopright Checkers supermarkets or online include Greyhound, Intercape, Springbok Atlas and the BazBus for backpackers. Most of these coaches will travel across the border into Southern African countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana.