You’ve booked your flight, reserved a hotel and now it’s time to figure out how to get around during your trip to South Africa! Luckily, there are plenty of options to choose from in Jo’burg and Cape Town, and most won’t break your budget. Here are a few tips from my trip to help you navigate both the major attractions and the local treasures these great cities have to offer.
So what had happened was, you caught that Etihad fare glitch and got a ticket to Johannesburg for the low low. But the way your bank account is set up, there isn’t much wiggle room for costly shenanigans while you’re there. No worries! If you’re disciplined enough to plan ahead, you can spend next to nothing getting around.
BOOK A TUK-TUK
A tuk-tuk is hands down your cheapest option for getting around Johannesburg and Cape Town. I took a ride with a guy named Bonga in Jo’burg and was in utter disbelief when he told me how much I owed him for my 15 min ride from Maboneng to Braamfontein – 15R ($1.25). And it was so much fun! We rode through the streets and he was able to give me the real deal on where to eat, hang out, and see some street art I was looking for. Tuk tuks can only move but so fast, so give him time to get to you if he’s not nearby. Email me if you’d like his number, and if he’s not available you can book with Shesha Tuks or E Tuk Tuk in Johannesburg or Monarch Tuksi in Cape Town.
RENT A BIKE
In today’s edition of Johannesburg Is Just Like Brooklyn, we have a dope bike crew called Fixin Diaries that hosts weekly social rides on Johannesburg and Soweto. They recently launched #BrunchAndRide, where you can get lessons, have brunch and tour Soweto all in the same day! They even dress all cute, so be Instagram-ready ladies! I’m DEVASTATED I found out about them after I left, but hope to meet up with this eclectic crew next time I’m there. Limited bikes are available to rent for 50R, so contact them early if you’re interested in joining a ride.
HOP ON/HOP OFF
If you live in any major city, you’re probably familiar with those massive double-decker buses full of awkward-looking tourists. Oh look, now you’re an awkward tourist! Grab your fanny pack and your ginormous camera, and head to one of these buses to hit all the major spots for one great price. You’ll start at a central location, and can hop off at select attractions along the way. As a slightly snobbish New Yorker I had long ago written these buses off as a tourist trip, but locals in both Jozi and Cape Town suggested the bus as a way to see everything. A single-day ticket in either city runs about R150 ($12 USD) online, and if you add a Soweto tour in Johannesburg, it’s R370 ($31 USD). Click here to book with an online discount.
CATCH THE TRAIN
In Johannesburg there’s a commuter train system called the Gautrain, and a local one called the Metrorail. I did not take either. If you’re traveling with a crew, or even a significant other, then the train is another way to save money. However I’ve heard it isn’t the smartest option after dark, so use your discretion with this one.
You’ve carefully saved up for months to make this trip happen, and while you’re not hard up for money, you want to get the most bang for your hard-earned bucks. Welcome to your 30s.
CALL AN UBER
Yes, Uber. It’s everywhere. After I called an Uber in Jaipur, India, where you share the road with cows and camels, I knew Uber had taken over the universe. You can probably call one in Heaven. For spontaneous plans in Johannesburg or Cape Town, UberX is your best bet. As long as you’re in a populated area, there’s probably one nearby, and unlike New York, the fares are significantly cheaper than most taxis!
Tip: If you’re a woman and ever need to hop in a cab solo, I recommend Uber largely because it keeps the driver’s name, phone number, and the license plate number of the car all in the app. For extra coverage you can send a link to friends that tracks your trip in real time and shares your ETA. Also, Uber charges your credit card so you don’t have to fumble with foreign currency, trying to carry the one and recalculate how much cash you just handed the driver. It’s a win all around.
RENT A CAR
If you’re the independent type that likes to have their own transportation at all times, then you’re in luck – you can totally rent a car from both airports. But here’s the thing. South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road, pass on the right, the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, and you shift gears with your left hand.
Good luck with that.
Tip: Unless you have T-Mobile’s epic international plan, the GPS navigation on your phone will drain your precious data insanely fast (So will Uber. I learned that the hard way. Thanks AT&T). Pay for the Garmin with your rental car. Your phone bill will thank you.
I see you over there. You got that good Wall Street bonus in December and decided to surprise the boo with a fabulous safari getaway in South Africa! Or maybe that tax refund came through and you don’t know how to act like the rest of us. Either way, you may only visit South Africa once in a lifetime, so why not live it up!
RIDE IN STYLE
For as little as $49, a chauffeur from Blacklane’s limousine service will greet you inside the Johannesburg airport holding one of those little VIP name signs, and whisk you off in a Mercedes E-Class looking like Obama’s cousins ‘nem. If you really wanna light a good fire to your wallet, book an S-class for a full 8-hour day for $472. They do pick ups at both Cape Town (CPT) and Johannesburg (JNB) airports, and just like the everything else, there’s an app for that.
HIRE A TAXI
While taxis and private drivers aren’t outrageously expensive compared to American prices, non-metered drivers will definitely see dollar signs in those aviators you’re wearing. So be prepared to pay an American “premium.” Once you leave the airport, most taxis are metered, but you’ll still be paying more than an Uber.
If you need a driver that will wait for you, try Unicab’s 24 hour car service. Similar to Uber, you can call a cab using their app, but they also have hourly waiting rates that are handy if you want to make stops on your way to or from the airport and have luggage. On my last day in Cape Town I reserved a driver from Unicab named B.K. who was super friendly and took me to Table Mountain before heading to the airport. Email me if you want his number and tell him Tracey sent you. Just kidding. He’ll have no idea who I am, but call him anyway if you are looking for a trustworthy driver for the day!
Have you used any of these methods to get around while visiting South Africa? What was your experience? Feel free to share additional options, drivers and contacts for others to use in the comments below!