Road tripping across South Africa with Baz Bus

So it’s your first time travelling to South Africa, you want to see a bit of the country, but you aren’t quite sure how to get around… What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?!

That was my predicament as I planned a 3 week backpacking trip across the country.

Travelling by coach seemed like a bit of a hassle (I’d be dropped off at a bus terminal and then still have to take a taxi to get to my hostel), renting a car sounded like a manageable option so long as I remembered to drive on the left, and then there was Baz Bus which calls itself “South Africa’s Convenient Hop-On Hop-Off Door-to-Door Backpacker Bus Service”. Quite the mouthful, but it fit the bill!

Travelling in South Africa with Baz Bus

Since it was my first time travelling in the country I decided to save the car rental for my next visit and I opted for Baz Bus instead. Over the course of my 3 weeks in the country I used them to travel the full length from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

There were a lot of things I liked about their service, so this post will look at some of the benefits of travelling with Baz Bus as well as a few things to consider:

Door to door pick-up and drop-off.

This is one of things that won me over. Had I been travelling by train or coach bus I would have arrived at a bus terminal or train station in the middle of the city, and I then would’ve had to find my own way over to the hostel. However, Baz Bus offers pick-ups and drop-offs at a number of hostels and lodges across the country, which makes it safer and more convenient for travellers to get around. And if you happen to be staying at a hostel that isn’t affiliated with Baz Bus (I stayed in 2 hostels that weren’t), the owners are usually more than willing to arrange transportation for you.

Path in the forest

No limit on how many times you can hop on or off the Baz Bus.

With the Hop-On Hop-Off ticket, you buy one ticket to your final destination and you can then hop on and off as often as you like along the route. This is great if you’re travelling in one direction. Alternatively, you can get a travel pass, which allows you to travel in any direction you want and as often as you like within the time period (7 day / 14 day / 21 days).

The flexibility to spontaneously change your travel plans.

Technically, you are supposed to reserve your seat at least 72 hours in advance to ensure there are enough seats, but also so that the driver knows where to pick you up and drop you off. However, this didn’t stop travellers from getting off the bus earlier if they thought a destination looked interesting; I also saw this work in reverse where travellers chose to skip over a destination because they thought it looked a little too remote for their taste once they arrived.

Lubanzi, Wild Coast, South Africa

Fun and personable drivers.

Whether it was Sammy trying to teach us his real name which involves clicking one’s tongue (I couldn’t manage to pronounce it right), or Johnny cracking jokes and imparting his wisdom on things to do in Durban, we had really fun drivers who were chatty and happy to share their insights on South Africa.

You get to see quite a bit of the country.

In a way, Baz Bus is a really great way to scout your next trip to South Africa. Since travellers get off at stops all over the route, you get to see quite a few towns and cities that you many not have previously considered. Over the course of my 3 weeks travelling with Baz Bus, I got off at a total of 7 stops and I also spotted a few places I’d like to go back and visit – Swellendam, I’m looking at you!

Landscapes of Drakensberg

There are lots of breaks along the way.

The Baz Bus drivers made a point to stop off every 1.5-2 hours so that we could stretch our legs, pick up some snacks, and have a bathroom break. Sure, there were days when we covered long distances, but we certainly weren’t cooped up in the car for 10 hours straight.

You get to meet other travellers.

Baz Bus allows you to connect with a community of backpackers who are slowly working their way across the country, and even though you may not all be getting off at the same stops along the way, you still get to know each other and swap stories and travel tips. For example, while on safari in Kruger I ended up meeting a group of German girls and a Brit – I never thought I’d see them again but then I ended up running into them twice on the Baz Bus down to Cape Town. I also noticed that some travellers who were backpacking South Africa solo ended up joining other travellers from Baz Bus for a stretch of the journey, so it’s a great way to meet other backpackers.

Wild Coast

Things to keep in mind:

This is a budget friendly way to travel across South Africa.

What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t come expecting plush headrests, reclining seats, and movies playing with surround sound. The bus is comfortable enough and it’ll get you where you need to go, but that’s it.

Baz Bus doesn’t run every day.

At the moment, the only daily route is the one that runs from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. The other two routes run 5 days a week. This means that you need to put some thought into planning your itinerary and booking your hostels. If you don’t plan this carefully you could end up stuck in a destination for an additional night…which isn’t always a bad thing considering how beautiful South Africa is!

Reflections in Northern Drakensberg
The route doesn’t cover the interior of the country.

Baz Bus has 3 major routes: Johannesburg to Durban, Durban to Port Elizabeth, and Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. (These same routes are also done in reverse.) These routes will allow you to travel through Gauteng, Kwazulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape, mainly focusing on destinations along the coast. It won’t get you to Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Free State, North-West Province or Northern Cape. Nor will it get you to Lesotho or Swaziland. I’m kind of hoping they expand in the future!

Lastly, on a note completely unrelated to Baz Bus – the Eastern Cape has some stretches of seriously curvy roads so if you get motion sick easily I suggest you stock up on Gravol. I opted for window seat and popped a pill to zonk me out for the journey.

For more info on travel in South Africa visit Baz Bus and Travel Now Now.

Have you travelled around South Africa?
What do you think is the best way to get around?

38 Comments

  • Chad says:

    Have never been but would love to go to South Africa! Would you say it’s your favorite country to visit in Africa?
    Chad recently posted..Best Digital Luggage Scale for 2015My Profile

    • Audrey says:

      Well, it’s the only country I have visited in Africa so far, but it made a very good first impression! I’d love to revisit, but also explore more of the continent.

  • vonny says:

    Thanks for sharing this kind of post. I wish that one day I can travel to South Africa.
    I’m your new reader from Indonesia 🙂

    http://vonnyvonnyvonny.blogspot.com
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    • Audrey says:

      Hi Vonny, glad to have a new reader from Indonesia! I hope you enjoy all the South Africa posts that will be coming out in the next few weeks. 🙂

  • We have been on a journey through South Africa and we mostly traveled with a car. The scenery is so beautiful that you should definitely stop on your way to take photos. Nice article, keep up the good work.
    Tina & Adriano recently posted..Grand Hyatt Doha ReviewMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      Sounds like you guys had a good time! I have to agree with you – the scenery was fantastic! I have a feeling that I would have kept pulling over to snap pictures had I been driving a car instead.

  • Kasha says:

    I’m so glad you had an incredible trip, Audrey! I’m originally from South Africa (do go to Swellendam – it’s such a special spot!) and I’m so happy to hear that there’s a service like this now. I’d love to go back and experience my home country as a tourist, and this transport option sounds like the best way to do just that!

    Best,
    Kasha.
    Kasha recently posted..Embracing the alternative with Camden Street Art ToursMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      That’s so cool to hear, Kasha! South Africa was beautiful. I thought 3 weeks sounded like a long time when we were first planning the trip, but I now wish we had had more time. Having met other backpackers along the way, there are so many other places that I now want to visit. I hope you also get to go back and revisit your country! 🙂

  • Ashley says:

    I’m not keen on renting cars when I travel solo, so I will definitely keep Baz Bus in mind if I ever have the chance to revisit South Africa -I’d love to see more of the country!
    Ashley recently posted..Expat in Edinburgh: Finding a Job and Getting SettledMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      It’s a super convenient option for the solo traveller – especially with their door-to-door pick up and drop off system.

      • Lioneland annie says:

        we are an older couple- do you think using Baz will be fine for us or is it reserved to the 18-30 single crowd ? (chuckle)

        • Audrey says:

          I don’t think they have an age limit with Baz Bus. We had a handful of mature travellers on some of the legs, but it might be worth contacting Baz Bus directly to be certain.

  • Smritilekha C says:

    Wow! Sounds anazing. Super fun & super cheap.

  • Vikki says:

    Ooh that sounds awesome, it’s great to know that this bus exists! Hopefully I’ll get there one day! 🙂
    Vikki recently posted..Vietnam Highlights!My Profile

    • Audrey says:

      Yup, it’s a really easy way to get around South Africa. I would highly recommend it if you make it here.

  • Karisa @ Flirting with the Globe says:

    Sounds like you’re having a great trip! We took a regional flight from Joburg to Cape Town, but to get to Kruger and drive along the cape, we rented a car and it worked out great!
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  • noel says:

    great information, I would love to travel around the country and this is a great option to do a road trip with someone else driving!
    noel recently posted..food tour in ParisMy Profile

  • I’ve travelled a tiny bit of South Africa.
    I had a house on the Cape Town beach with maid, at my disposal and three weeks to play around with. We spent a considerable time in Cape Town itself ‘cos of the live DJ clubs and parties you know (Ho! Ho!) and we went on safari, saw the penguin colony, and went to a couple of artistic villages and markets. We went by car, but travelling by bus equally sounds like a lot of fun!
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    • Audrey says:

      Sounds like you had a fun time in Cape Town! I didn’t get to see too much of the city – my 3 days flew by – but I’d love to go back.

  • cdnski12 says:

    Sounds like a great trip. I toured around SA in 1972. I stayed @ a beach side Hotel in Downtown Durban. I recall it was 18 ZAR per WEEK! That i/c full room & board. While the room was small & had a shared bathroom, the food was incredible. Breakfast, 10 Am Tea, Lunch, Aftn Tea, Dinner and a bedtime snack. Full waiter service. I stayed 3 weeks and ate myself stupid. I watched as Sport Fishermen hooked large sharks nearly every day, off the main harbour break water. I was swimming off the beach maybe 200m away. I loved SA. I always intended to return; but never have. I was stunned to find that the population of SA went from 25 Million in 1972 to 54 million today.

    • Audrey says:

      Whoaaa, that was cheap! I still found the country to be quite affordable, but the rates are definitely not what they used to be back in 70s. 😉 I hope you get to revisit – it would be interesting for you to see the changes firsthand.

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Sounds like the perfect way to explore South Africa, at least for a first trip.
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  • Katie says:

    I have heard the Baz Bus is great but am yet to use it myself as whenever I go to South Africa we usually hire a car or fly between destinations. I kinda hope they don’t explained to Lesotho, it is amazing there and how hard it is to get to is all part of the adventure
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  • What a great concept! Seems like more destinations should implement something like this.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..Back Where We Started: Our Next Amazing Adventure!My Profile

  • Aaron says:

    Great post, I did not know about Baz Bus before but looks like a really great way to travel.

  • My recent trip to SA was so short that I did not get to explore the country outside of Johannesburg and Cape Town, but the next time I go back (which will hopefully be much longer), I will look into Baz Bus 😀

  • Uptourist says:

    I love how the environment looks like. So beautiful. I am sure the trip is worth it.
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  • Baz Bus sounds like an wonderful option. I will certainly keep it in mind if I ever travel to South Africa. BTW, your photos are amazing.
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  • Paula says:

    I have always been skeptical of traveling to Africa, but this makes it all the more intriguing. Did you have a great selection of hotels to choose from? Or did you make other lodging arrangements?

  • Jodie says:

    Hi

    I a travelling on Baz Bus from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Any advice on places that are a must visit and ones to skip.

    I am not a drinker and am stuck whether to go to Stellenbosch or not

    Thanks
    Jodie

  • Lioneland annie says:

    Hello
    We are currently in the planning phase of our trip to SA…next winter (that is ;;; february…2017), and we’d like to know how we can get to Agulhas (off the BAZ route)?
    thank you

  • Greg says:

    Hi Audrey

    Fantastic blog, just catching up with some of your older posts. I am planning a trip to SA in November – December of this year. This will be my 3rd full circumnavigation of the globe, but my first time in Africa!

    I am getting on a little now….(early 30s – arrgghh), I would be interested to know what you felt the vibe was like on the Baz Bus and whether you think it is more a 20 somethings way of getting around.

    • Audrey Bergner says:

      Hi Greg, that sounds like an awesome trip! I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time in South Africa. To answer your question, Baz Bus isn’t just for the backpacker crowd. While the majority of the people on the bus were mid-20s to early-30s, there were also a handful of people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. Most people on the bus were foreign travellers, but we also had some locals get on who were commuting from one town to the next. It was a pretty chill crowd, but we were also travelling during low season. I hope that helps!

  • Amy says:

    Hi Audrey!
    I am currently looking at booking the baz bus 21 day pass and found this post really helpful thankyou! I’m just wondering if you would mind telling me if there are certain places on the route that you would advise getting off? I am trying to make a rough itinary for my three weeks and unsure where to stop/ how long for. Thanks again!

    • Audrey Bergner says:

      Hi Amy,
      Here’s a link to my 3-week South Africa itinerary. It includes all the stops I made along the way while travelling with Baz Bus. I also wish I’d added Swellendam because it looked beautiful when I passed through.
      Wishing you a great trip!

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