South Africa enjoys a superb black top road network, and is connected through the main cities and international transit routes by a freeway toll road system called TRAC, or Trans Africa Concessions (Pvt) Ltd.
This an acknowledgment of two factors: firstly that South Africa is a barely reformed capitalist system that until very recently was probably the most unadulterated of its kind in the world: secondly that state institutions in Africa are incapable of effective infrastructural management.
Besides this, and because the system is private, it is not cheap, but it is highly efficient and extremely functional.
South Africa has an excellent inter-city coach network
Thanks to this fact public road transport in South Africa is highly developed, intensely competitive and of an extremely high quality. Countless individual bus and coach lines operate in the country, but the three principal operators are InterCape, TransLux and Greyhound.
All three companies utilize luxury coaches, and all three maintain a very high operational standard. Services between all the main cities are reliable and regular. The system is also affordable with a standard intercity one way fare between Johannesburg and Cape Town costing usually under US$100.
All three of these companies also run scheduled services to all the neighboring countries as far north as Malawi and Zambia. These also are comprehensive and very reliable.
>>Additional services will be available during the Fifa World Cup Soccer Tournament 2010, and all the venues hosting matches will be served. It would be advisable for those arriving in South Africa for 2010 to book well in advance since activity is likely to be very brisk.
Most cities and airports have more localized bus lines that operate services between airports, city centers and local areas of interest.
These are particularly numerous along the South Coast of KNZ and the Cape Coast, and can usually be booked from your hotel.
>>A huge variety of local and more regional coach, bus and truck tour options are available for more directed travel in South Africa
Baz Bus, the backpackers option
Services with a more direct alignment to the needs of budget travelers and overlanders are led by the ubiquitous Baz Bus, which is a jump-off-jump-on service that essentially links all the backpackers lodges and budget accommodation options country wide, and is once again a very safe, reliable and regular service.
In recent years Baz Bus has grown to assume some characteristics of a tour service, with shorter trips on offer in areas of particular interest.
Baz Bus is really an extension of the superb backpackers lodge network that proliferates all over South Africa, and is one of the richest pleasures of free range travel in this country. It is an excellent way to get around, and a great way to stay in the loop and connected to what is hot and current on the backpackers circuit.
>>7, 14 and 21 day passes are on offer at between US$200 and US500 which is excellent economy
Local bus taxis are fun but risky
The seat-of-the-pants travel option in South Africa is the local and inter-city minibus taxis, which can be a bit unpredictable, not always safe, but always colorful and always rich with local ambiance.
If you need comprehensive background information on how this, or any other informal-sector transport in Africa works, then you are probably too much of a novice to give it serious consideration. This is an option for the travelers traveler and not the first timer.
>>Local mini-bus taxi travel definitely has a risk element. South Africa is a high crime region so unless you are comfortable on this level of travel, avoid it.
>>Good advice for anyone traveling in South Africa is to inquire from your hospitality establishment what the best options for overland travel are. Every lodge or backpackers lodge worth its salt will have either a travel shop or a staff member who knows the ropes. This is the best and safest way to travel on the hoof.