Two major international airports are the gateways to South Africa. Once here, you can choose one of the domestic flights, trains, buses or rent a car. Within the cities, don’t relay too much on the public transportation. Instead, you can walk, rent a car or a scooter.
Arriving and Departing
As an international traveler, you have two major airports at your disposal: OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) and Cape Town International Airport.
From Airport to the City
In a country where the local transport is not friendly or safe, the only option is to rent a car directly at the airport. It’s also a good idea to ask for a shuttle service from the airport to the hotel (most hotels offer that).
From One City to Another
Many domestic flights link the main cities. Since you’ll be arriving either in Cape Town or Johannesburg, make sure to check in advance the schedules for the domestic flights. The major South African airlines include: South African Airways, Nationwide and British Airways (Comair). Several low-cost airlines operate in South Africa as well.
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There is also the possibility to travel by train from one city to another. However, due to the big distances (i.e. from Cape Town to Durban the journey takes 36.5 hours) it’s obviously recommended to take a domestic flight.
The majority of roads around the big cities are in good condition, which makes traveling by car a real pleasure. However, please note that it’s quite dangerous to drive because of the hijackers, especially at night. Make sure to ask at the hotel/hostel when it’s safe to travel in the area you are visiting.
Another option is taking a bus. All major cities are connected to Cape Town. Unfortunately things aren’t quite organized and finding your bus might give you some headaches. Make sure to ask around to figure out where you should take the bus from.
Renting a Car or a Scooter
A car is probably the best deal when visiting South Africa. You can travel from one city to another, visit the national parks at your pace and have the needed freedom when you stay in a city. Within the cities you can also use scooters or small motorbikes.
» read more on South Africa Car Rentals
Walking in the Cities
Walking is not particularly a good idea as the cities are vast. Unless you need to go from the hotel to the beach or you live right near the attractions, you should better rent a car.
Unless you love to dodge traffic while cycling, it’s not quite a good idea to use cycling as transportation within the cities. However, you can cycle in designated areas.
Unfortunately the public system in South Africa is not exactly reliable, efficient or user friendly. Also, it can be quite dangerous.
The public train system in Cape Town is extensive but the comfort can’t even be compared to that of the European trains. Also, security is an issue. If you have to use the public transport, don’t let anything expensive in sight. Hide the camera, don’t wear ear rings, necklaces or other visible jewelry as those can be ripped quite easily (and painfully for you!).
Public transport in Johannesburg is very limited. While in Pretoria, you can use the public bus service but you should be really careful with your valuables.