Rail Journeys in South Africa

If you say to middle-class South Africans that you want travel by train in South Africa they think that you a completely crazy. Trains are not always safe, the delay could be of hours or days, and very few Europeans try the standard trains in South Africa. Sometimes western people takes the luxuriant trains. I am going to take the normal train in tourist class: the Shosholoza Meyl long-distance passenger train.

There are several completely different train services:

Shosholoza Meyl long-distance passenger trains

Comfortable & amazingly cheap. Shosholoza Meyl long-distance passenger trains link Johannesburg with Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth & East London.  The Cape Town to Johannesburg train passes the same wonderful scenery as the megabucks Blue Train, but costs only 690 Rand ( I paid for the Johannesburg – Cape Town in 36 hours, €60  including a  2-berth just for me).  Durban to Johannesburg is even cheaper.  Shosholoza Meyl’s Tourist Class trains have sleeping-cars and a restaurant car, a great alternative to flying and missing everything, or being stuck in a bus seat for whole days & nights.

Premier Classe trains

Premier Classe trains link Cape Town & Johannesburg weekly for R3,120 (€200) including use of a cosy private sleeper and all meals & afternoon tea in the elegant restaurant car as you pass the South African scenery.  There’s a spacious lounge-bar car too.   There’s no also a Jo’burg to Durban Premier Classe train.  See train times, fares, photos & how to buy tickets.

The Blue Train, Cape Town to Pretoria

A world-famous luxury train from Cape Town to Pretoria once or twice a week.  It costs from 10,120 Rand (€1100) one-way including meals, wine and even cigars.  Worth it if if you are a bore billionaire.

Gautrain linking Jo’burg, Pretoria & Jo’burg airport

Gautrain is the brand-new safe and modern electric suburban train service around Johannesburg.  The Airport Line links Jo’burg’s O.R. Tambo international airport with Sandton.  The North-South Line links Park Station in central Johannesburg (used by Shosholoza Meyl and Premier Classe long distance trains) with Sandton and Pretoria.

Metro suburban trains

Suburban (Metro) trains around Johannesburg & Pretoria are not safe, but those around Cape Town maybe  can be used if you’re reasonably careful to travel from Cape Town to Stellenbosch, Paarl & Simon’s Town.

Cruise trains (Rovos Rail, Shongololo)

There are several luxury cruise trains in South Africa, run by companies like Rovos Rail or Shongololo, aimed a tourists with western-style prices.

JB Train Tours

Train tours, mostly from jo’burg to locations including Cape Town, Kruger national park, the garden route, Namakwa and Mozambique.

Umgeni Steam Railway

Steam-train trips in KwaZulu-Natal.

Atlantic Rail

Steam-train excursions from Cape Town to Simon’s Town and the Winelands

International travel to & from South Africa by train, bus & sea

Unfortunately, there are now no international trains (other than occasional tourist cruise trains) from South Africa to Namibia, Botswana or Zimbabwe.

Freight ships with limited passenger places plus an occasional cruise liner link the UK with Cape Town.  Start with your search with www.strandtravelltd.co.uk and www.cruisepeople.co.uk, two UK agencies which book both cruise liners and freighters.  Cunard have occasional sailings from Southampton to Cape Town, see www.cunard.com.  The St Helena steamship also have very occasional sailings from the UK to Cape Town, see http://rms-st-helena.com/.