A Rail Paradise

Cape Town from above, travelnoire.com.

South Africa is by far the best country in Africa to explore by train! It has an extensive network with frequent (upcoming) links to all bordering countries. It’s an absolute mindblowing country and probably also the most frequent visited country by tourists. There is so much to see in South Africa so I cannot describe every single highlight.. but wat’s better than planning your own journey? Nevertheless, your journey should, must and most likely will start in Cape Town. Most likely you have heard of the ‘Blue Train‘, one of the most luxurious trains on this planet (a 5-star safari hotel on wheels). You can expect personal service, a dedicated butler, unlimited fine-dining, a selection of excellent wines, private bedroom and bathroom, digital entertainment centre (although you probably would like to see the landscape) and much more. This comes with a price… which I’d rather not tell. Why not use the extensive network of regular trains? It’ll give you the same stunning views and experiences, although.. traveling on the ‘Blue Train’ might be one of the most unique experiences you’ll ever get.

Cape Town is the second-largest city in South Africa and closely located to Cape of Good Hope, known as the ‘Mother City’. One of the best things you can experience in Cape Town is ‘Table Mountain‘, a National Park. You can do an extensive hike to the top of the mountain and get rewarded with the most stunning views of Cape Town. By the way, there’s also a cableway going to the top. When you look beyond Cape Town you can spot Cape Peninsula, which is accessible by car of (tourist) busses. Here you can take a swim, experience the stunning roads along the coast and look for penguins at Boalders Beach. Cape Town itself is also absolutely stunning, and in fact it is the oldest city in South Africa. Here you can visit some absolute stunning experiences such as the world-renowned Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Lion’s Head, and unlimited shopping possibilities. From here you can pretty much travel through whole South Africa by train, with frequent possibilities towards e.g. Johannesburg, Nelspruit (Kruger National Park), Kimberley and Durban.

Johannesburg, the capital, is the most important and economical booming city in South Africa. Here the rich and poor live side by side with extreme living standards differences. Traveling around Johannesburg can by done with the ‘Gautrain’, a rapid-rail system which is an alternative for the locals compared to road travel (Johannesburg has fairly limited public transport option). It is recommended to be on the streets only during daylight, that even counts for the local residents (as well as for Cape Town). Near Johannesburg you can find Kgaswane Mountain Reserve, a place of outstanding beauty perfect for a day trip! Kgaswane offers quite some hiking trails, flora and bird life and different kinds of animals. Rather going underground? Along the way you will stumble upon ‘Sterkfontein’, a fossil hot-spot. From Johannesburg you can go down to the South-African coast at Durban. Some absolute gems are located around this area: iSimangaliso Wetland Park (a photographers dream), St Lucia (famous for turtles (and their eggs)), Umhlanga (resort town) and Wild Coast / Pondoland. I recommend renting a car and enjoy the travelers life (no railways along the coast, but bus transport might also do well).

There are a few other gems in South Africa you might want to consider when traveling towards/from Namibia. In Northern South Africa namaqualand is located. You will not believe what you see when you google this place! During spring this place turns into one big flower paradise. It contains the highest concentration of succulent plants and more than 1000 flora species can only be found here! Near the border with Namibia you can take a relaxing dive into the famous hotsprings of Riemvasmaak. Just follow the locals! Here you will also find Augrabies National Park containing the Augrabies Waterfalls. Oh, last but not least… Kruger National Park! One of the biggest game reserves in Africa and easily accessible from Nelspruit, along the railway between Johannesburg and Maputo (Mozambique). Probably the most known Safari park to spot the ‘Big 5’, as many tourists will know. Explore the park by hot-air balloon, 4×4 car, or simply walk around. The northern part of Kruger National Park is equally pretty, with less tourists but also with a less density of game. When traveling to neighbouring countries you also have excellent possibilities for spotting the big 5.

– The fare between Maputo and Ressano Garcia in “3th class” (seat) is 1 euro.
– The fare between Johannesburg and Komatipoort in “2nd class” (sleeper) is 15 euro.
– The fare between Johannesburg and Komatipoort in “2nd class” (seat) is 10 euro.
– The fare between Johannesburg and Cape Town in “tourist class” (sleeper) is 40 euro.
– The fare between Johannesburg and Cape Town in “economy class” (seat) is 15 euro.
– The fare between Karasburg and Kimberley in “2nd class” (seat) is 20 euro.
– The fare between Windhoek and Karasburg in “1st class” (seat) is 15 euro.
– The fare between Windhoek and Karasburg in “2nd class” (seat) is 10 euro.
– The fare between Windhoek and Walvis Bay in “1st class” (seat) is 15 euro.
– The fare between Windhoek and Walvis Bay in “2nd class” (seat) is 10 euro.

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Maputo dep/arr 07:45 15:11
Ressano Garcia (Mozambique) dep/arr 10:20 12:05
Komatipoort (South Africa) dep/arr 18:00 06:38
Nelspruit dep 20:25 04:02
Witbank dep 22:05 02:15
Johannesburg dep/arr 12:30 12:15 06:20 18:10
Kimberley dep/arr 10:05 14:45 21:20 03:46
Matjiesfontein dep 09:43 15:36
Cape Town dep/arr 15:30 10:00
Upington (South Africa) dep 19:30 08:00
Karasburg (Namibia) dep/arr 11:20 14:30 00:05 00:10
Keetmanshoop dep 18:50 08:50
Windhoek arr 07:00 07:00
Windhoek dep 19:55 19:40
Swakopmund dep 05:30 20:45
Walvis Bay dep/arr 07:15 19:00

Entering South Africa is extremely convenient for travelers from commonwealth countries. A 90-day visitors permit can be obtained for free upon arrival, 2 blank pages in your passport must be available.

It is highly advised to read all details at lonelyplanet.

Spot ‘The Big 5’ at Kruger National Park, andbeyond.com.


iSimangaliso Wetland Park, isimangaliso.com.


Namaqualand… absolutely picture-perfect, audleytravel.com.


The Wild Coast in South Africa, southafrica.net.