Mainliner bus services
These are usually air-conditioned “luxury buses” which have on-board toilets and a hostess who occasionally offers you a sugary drink or blanket. “Chicken (pack ‘em and stack ‘em) busses” are cheaper, less spacious, more crowded, more likely to be fun (if you have a sense of humour) and more likely to break down. In some areas they may be the only bus service and are unlikely to have a strict timetable.
The routes between major cities run daily
Cape Town to Johannesburg/Pretoria
About 19 hours with at least three bus companies to choose from.
Cape Town to Durban
You can travel along the Garden Route which takes longer (26 hours) and runs at night, or you can take the faster (22 hours) inland route via Bloemfontein.
Pretoria to Durban
There are around 8 busses a day (about a 9 hour trip).
The routes you need to know about though are the “odd” ones, the ones that don’t run every day…
From Jo’burg/Pretoria to Harare and to Bulawayo
The Greyhound runs every day. Translux does the Harare route on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday but goes to Bulawayo every day.
Victoria Falls overland
The bus takes about 15 hours to get to Bulawayo and then there’s a train from Bulawayo to Vic Falls every night, so it takes about 33 hours to get there. Bulawayo warrants more than a half day, but if you’re in a hurry, you’ll have to fly.
It costs almost the same to fly from Cape Town to Vic Falls as it costs to fly Cape Town to Europe. No kidding.
Jo’burg/Pretoria to Upington
The bus runs every day.
Cape Town to Upington
The bus runs on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday only.
From Jo’burg to Windhoek
You have to fly or go to Cape Town first.
Cape Town to Windhoek
The bus leaves on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Jo’burg to Lusaka (Zambia) - Tuesdays and Fridays. Jo’burg to Blantyre (Malawi) – Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Going to Mozambique? There are trips from Jo’burg to Maputo every day.
You have to - no exceptions - get a visa before going to Mozambique. They are easy and quick to obtain in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.
Off the beaten route
Swaziland and Lesotho? You can arrange shuttles with backpacker hostels or you can use minibus taxis and local busses. The same applies to Mozambique. These routes often require intrepid travelling and we like intrepid - so if you have any tales to tell of hell runs or chicken busses, please send them to us so that we can share the info…
Beware of school holidays…
These fall in December/January and June/July with shorter ones in April and in late September/beginning October. These are the most difficult times to book for busses and trains as they are often full.
These numbers are just here to point you in the right direction. But remember that a few phone calls will always find something cheaper and more suited to what you're looking for.
Pretoria: (012) 334 8000 Bloemfontein: (051) 408 4888 Cape Town: (021) 449 3333 Durban: (031) 308 8111 East London: (043) 700 1999 Johannesburg: (011) 774 3333 Knysna: (044) 382 Port Elizabeth: ( 041) 392 1333 Welkom: (057) 916 3252
24 hour customer care and reservations: 0839159000 Johannesburg Tel: 0839159000 Pretoria Tel: (012) 323 1154 Durban: (031) 334 9709 Cape Town: (021) 418 4326 Port Elizabeth: (041) 363 4555 Bloemfontein: (051) 447 1558 East London: (043) 743 9284 In Zimbabwe: Harare: (4) 47601463 Bulawayo: (9) 889 078 Website: www.greyhound.co.za
(randomly selected service providers from all regions)
The Oude Molen Eco Village provides an interesting alternative to regular city living.
Friendly and very relaxed backpackers in Nelspruit.
A four star Backpackers with easy access to Cape Town city centre, Waterfront and top beaches
(Green Point,Cape Town)
Within a yell (scream) of the Great White shark's playground…
The ultimate thrill for Backpackers. Mossel Bay offers the highest skydives in South Africa.
(Mossel Bay,Garden Route)
A true African paradise with Ivory coloured beaches framed by green hills
(Mthatha Eastern Cape,Wild Coast)
Rafting, caving, mountain biking, hiking, adventure and culture - just ask them.
This Backpackers' hostel is set in 3 hectares of forest near to the Vic Bay's famous surfing beach
(Victoria Bay,Garden Route)
This backpackers has recently been renovated. It's a snazzy spot with great communal spaces, welcoming surfers and holidaymakers alike.
(Jeffreys Bay,Sunshine Coast)
All roads lead to Rosebank or at least the important ones do...