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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 the long distances between major cities.


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 classe”.  Tourist class trains have two-berth coupes, four-berth compartments with bunk beds, a communal toilet and 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 classe”, 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 traveling 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 are 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 (AUD1,244) to R34,925 (AUD2,995).

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