Whether your plans call for exploring Cape Town, the "Mother City," or tracking the "Big Five" across the wilds of Krugerpark, South Africa's passenger trains will get you there safely, comfortably, and affordably. From Shosholoza Meyl day-runs bound for far-flung frontier outposts to the luxury of Premier Classe, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) links the rugged Great Karoo and tropical Bushveld with the bustling Gauteng and the coastal cities. Train times, ticket prices, and travel booking are available online.
At a glance
Shosholoza Meyl Tourist (sleeper) and Economy (sitter) Class services link Johannesburg with Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London. Day trains, offering only Economy Class travel, include Bloemfontein – Kimberley and Cape Town – Queenstown; as well as Johannesburg trains to Komatipoort (detrain at Nelspruit for Kruger National Park) and Messina, on the Mozambique frontier. Premier Classe luxury sleeper trains link Johannesburg with Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Durban. PRASA also operates Metrorail commuter services in major urban areas. Among them, Cape Town's seaside trains to Simon's Town and Winelands trains to Paarl and Stellenbosch are popular with tourists.
Cross-border rail service is currently limited to private rail tours however, fast frequent Gautrain service links OR Tambo International Airport with train stations in Pretoria and Jo'burg; and MyCiti Bus Rapid Transit links Cape Town International Airport with the city's Civic Centre terminal, a couple of blocks from Cape Town's train station. Connections between Shosholoza Meyl and the rail lines of neighboring countries can be made by bus: Intercape buses travel between stations in Kimberley, SA and Keetmanshoop, Namibia (train to Windhock). Local mini-buses link stations in Komatipoort, SA and Ressano Garcia, Mozambique (train connections to Maputo and Zimbabwe). Citiliner buses connect train stations at Messina, SA and Beit Bridge RSA, Zimbabwe (train connections to Harare, Victoria Falls, Zambia, Tanzania, and Francistown, Botswana).
Neither the Shosholoza Meyl or Premier Classe websites offer online booking. Tickets are sold only at train stations and by phone (086 000 8888 (overseas callers + 27 11 7744 555). Tickets booked by phone may be picked up and paid for at the station on the day of travel. Tickets are bookable up to 90 days in advance. Travel can be booked via several third party websites including African Sun Travel. Children are eligible for free travel (under age 5) or half-fare travel (under age 10 ) when accompanied by a full-fare paying adult. Off-peak discounts are available for travelers over age 60.
Full fare-paying passengers are allowed up to two medium-size suitcases or carry-ons. Car transport is available from Johannesburg to/from Durban and Cape Town. Contact Shosholoza Meyl to inquire regarding wheelchair access, bicycle transport, and special diet requests for your specific train.