How to do Long Distance Rail Travel in South Africa

Long Distance Rail Travel in South Africa

As a fairly large country, South Africa can benefit from a selection of long-distance trains. It deserves to have a range of trains that provides rail travel for the wealthy as well as the less wealthy who cannot afford to fly long distances between major cities.

Long Distance Rail Travel in South Africa is a great way to see the country and experience its diverse landscapes and cultures.

Long Distance Rail Travel in South Africa


The Shosholoza Meyl is now the main contender on the lines between Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London and Pretoria. Still referred to as the Trans Karoo of bygone days, the Shosholoza offers a tourist class and a “premier class”.  

Tourist class trains have two-berth coupes, four-berth compartments with bunk beds, a communal toilet and a shower at the end of each coach. Couples travel in two-berth coupes and families in four-berth compartments. Solo travellers share a four-berth with fellow travellers of the same gender. Bedding is extra at R60 (AUD5) a person and there is a cash restaurant. In the “premier class bedding, amenities, breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the fare.

Premier Classe trains offer air-conditioned sleeper coaches with single-berth coupes, two-berth coupes, family compartments, communal toilets and showers. A nice benefit of the Shosholoza is that you can put your car on the same train that you’re travelling in.

Rovos went shopping

The Shongololo Express began operations in 1995. Shongololo is the Zulu word for the large brown millipede. Recently purchased by Rovos rail, the train has been repainted in green and cream. An additional dining car plus an observation car have been added. Rovos wants to promote it as a high-quality 3-star rail travel experience.

The train carries a fleet of air-conditioned Mercedes-Benz touring vehicles with a professional driver/guide on board who is ready to take guests on inclusive scheduled tours to experience the unique sights of an area. Tour guides are English, German, Dutch or French speaking, as well as Afrikaans.

For the more adventurous traveller, there are tour add-ons such as hot air ballooning, elephant riding, scuba diving and shark cage diving at different destinations.

Blue stalwart

A train that has truly stood the test of time is the Blue Train, which started operating in 1946. The epitome of luxury, guests can expect personal and attentive service, a dedicated butler, sumptuous accommodation, sublime fine dining and exquisite wines.

The Blue Train offers scheduled and chartered services and the most popular scheduled route is between Pretoria and Cape Town. The train only has one class and fares range from R14,500 to R34,925.

The number of options available for train travellers in South Africa has increased over the years. The choice is what it’s all about.


Long Distance Rail Travel in South Africa can be a convenient and scenic way to explore the country. The main rail operator in South Africa is the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), which operates several long-distance and commuter trains.

It’s worth noting that train travelling in South Africa can be unpredictable and services are known to be often delayed or cancelled. It is important to check the availability and schedule before planning your trip.


About the author

Anton Venter