country guide South Africa

South Africa, or the “Rainbow Country”, is a very diverse country with eleven official languages, stunning landscapes and booming cities, like Johannesburg in the North and Cape Town in the South. After the end of the political and economical isolation because of the racist, white Apartheid regime, the new democratic and free South Africa was born in 1994 as Nelson Mandela became president of the country.
South Africa extremes include snow in the Drakensberg Mountains, subtropical beaches along the Zululand coast in KwaZulu Natal, the arid semidesert of the Karoo and the Mediterranean climate in the Western Cape around Cape Town.
For backpackers and individual tourists South Africa is close to paradise. Buses, trains and planes are connecting almost all places of interest at reasonable rates. Hostels, Bed & Breakfasts, hotels and camp sites can be found all over the country. The cost of living is also pretty reasonable for most travellers, so pack your bags and visit South Africa!

How to get around in South Africa?

By Car - by far the easiest way of getting around in South Africa. Rental cars are available throughout the country at moderate prices. If you’re in a group, renting a car is also often the most economical way of exploring the country. Most major roads are in excellent condition. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road.

By Baz Bus - A good alternative is the Baz Bus, which mainly caters for backpackers and other travellers. It offers hop-on, hop-off fares and door-to-door service between Cape Town and Johannesburg via the Northern Drakensberg, Durban and the Garden Route.

By Bus - The main long-distance bus operators Intercape, Translux and Greyhound have services connecting most of the major cities. Note that many long-distance services run through the night. Booking for the buses should be made a minimun of 24hrs prior to departure (72 hours in advance for Intercape , and as much in advance as possible for travel during peak periods, such as school hols!). It’s sometimes possible to get a seat at the last minute, but this shouldn’t be counted on.

By Train - Shosholoza Meyl passenger trains offer regular services connecting major cities. These are a good and safe, but slow, way to get around. On overnight journeys, 1st- and 2nd-class fares include a sleeping berth. (additional charge for bedding hire). Alternatively, you can hire a private compartment (which sleeps 4 in 1st class and 6 in 2nd class) or a coupe (which sleeps 2 in 1st class and 3 in 2nd class) – these are a good way of travelling more securely. Meals are also available.
Tickets must be booked at least 24 hours in advance (you can book up to three months in advance). Bookings can be done at any individual station, or through the Shosholoza Meyl Reservations Centre. Also see our blog for recent updates on travelling by train in South Africa.

By Air - travelling by plane became quite affordable over the years. It is no big deal to find cheap flights connecting Cape Town with Durban or Johannesburg. Regular flights at pretty good rates are connecting the three major cities in South Africa, as well as Port Elizabeth. Flights to Nelspruit (Kruger National Park), Bloemfontein or to airports along the Garden Route are also available, but more expensive.

Airport Transfers - you can either take a metered (!) taxi, or book an airport shuttle!

South Africa at a glance


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© Sebastian Hermanns - All Rights Reserved - last modified 2021-01-07 3:42 PM

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