The following article provides some information about the various modes of transport available in South Africa.
The international airports in South Africa are in Cape Town (CPT), Johannesburg (JNB), Port Elizabeth (PLZ) and Durban (DUR). All the airports are situated outside of the cities, and cab taxis are available to transport you to your place of accommodation. Some of the more prestigious hotels provide courtesy transport, so you should make enquiries before arriving. You may even decide to rent a car at the airport, if public transport isn’t to your liking.
The Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) operates the airports, so you should contact them if you have any queries about the airports specifically.
Within South Africa there are a number of low-cost domestic airlines, which carry passengers from city to city. If you are planning a journey in South Africa you should shop around for local airfares, and compare the airfare to the price of a bus or train ticket for the same journey. Keep in mind that you sooner you book, the cheaper the airfare will be. Booking at the last minute before a flight will be more expensive.
South Africa has an extensive rail network that covers the major urban centres and many towns between them. Traveling by rail can be slow, due to the long distances between cities in South Africa. As an example, traveling from Cape Town to Johannesburg can take as long as 24 hours by rail. If you do not have a lot of time, or if you do not want to be on a train for such a long time, you should rather fly. A railway ticket will cost you about half the airfare for the same journey, depending on how far in advance you book your plane ticket. You should also make sure about when the train is running, so that you can plan your trip, as some cities are not serviced on a daily basis.
South Africa’s system of roads can take you virtually anywhere in the country, and the roads tend to be in a passable condition. But you will probably spend a long time driving because cities are far apart in South Africa. Cape Town is about 1200km (800 miles) from Johannesburg. The price of petrol (gasoline) is around R10 per litre, so you probably won’t save money by driving. To drive in South Africa, you may need to have an international driver’s licence.
There are bus companies operating in South Africa. An important point is that bus stops are not necessarily formally demarcated. It is therefore important to contact the bus company and make sure about where the bus stops. Like the train, the bus will take a long time to make the journey, sometimes as long as 24 hours. But unlike the train, bus tickets are almost as expensive as plane tickets on some routes.
Public transport is common around areas of highest demand, so you need to research your route before you depart. You may have to rent a car if you want to travel into out-of-the-way places.
South Africa has a very long coast, and a number of international harbours. Cruise liners dock at Cape Town and Durban. But sea travel is extremely uncommon in South Africa and you should not try to make use of it. It could be very difficult to get a ticket, and the journey may take two days when it could have taken 20 hours by train or 2 hours by plane.
Public transport in South Africa is based on demand. Tourists usually need to rent a car and do their own driving. But if you are using a common route, public transport may be the solution. Buses, trains and planes run between the major cities and towns, and within the major cities there are metro rail services. Do not enter any area that you have not researched before the time. This is common sense, and applies to any country in the world.