I traveled over to SA on my ‘long way home’ trip, after my Chinese Visa was declined (one day, when I’ve written all these blogs up I’ll put links in!) I had a good friend over there, and now I have a few more. It’s not exactly en-route between Hanoi and London, but I wanted to go, and I didn’t want to go home, which is how I ended up in Johannesburg at all.
The whole country is very good value, it’s cheap compared to Europe and North Africa, and it’s really cheap compared to Australia or NZ. I’d say it was about on par with most SE Asian countries. But the main difference is, it feels more like a western country. The mix of African and European roots is wonderful, with the cities feeling more civilized than it does in Asia. It’s all a bit better put together and much better organised.
it means that when I did adventures like the Bloukrans Bridge bungee, or the highest commercial abseil off Table Mountain I didn’t feel I was taking my life in my hands. The set up is secure and tested, accidents are incredibly rare, I felt as comfortable there as I did in NZ or Australia doing similar activities. The best bit is the price, I paid less than 1000R for my bungy with photos and video, that’s less than 100USD, while the Nevis bungy in Queenstown (the previous highest bungy I’d done) is 340NZD, almost three times as expensive and not as high!
Transport is still a bit of an issue, it’s fine if you have a car, but for lonely travelers rentals are expensive. The only other options are the greyhound, which can be very expensive, misses a lot of the tourist spots and is not very backpacker friendly and the BazBus. The Bazbus is the option I chose, and it’s good in many ways. It drives the full route between Cape Town – Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth – Durban and Durban – Johannesburg both directions about every other day. This includes plenty of stops along the way, allowing you to jump off stay a night or two and jump back on. Being aimed at Backpackers this is cheaper and much more friendly than the Greyhound. The most awkward thing about it is; making friends on board that aren’t going to the same stop. Plenty of times I met some cool folks on board only to wave goodbye minutes later. Also, a lot of the towns, and a lot of the attractions are in different places, leaving you with no way (other than taxis) to get from your hostel to the thing you actually came to see. Overall though it was a very enjoyable experience, and it is the best option for solo travelers.
So if you want the manufactured thrills of adrenalin sports, the natural thrills of stunning landscapes and an easy way to get to it all, while sticking to a budget too low for an Aus/NZ trip – South Africa is the place. Tourism is on the way up there, and I have a few ideas myself, so get in while it’s still cheap and relatively quiet and enjoy. I really think it will be the next hot destination once Thailand has been completely sucked dry.