Arriving in South Africa for the first time, or any new country for that matter, can be daunting. With only 2 and a half weeks to get from Cape Town to Durban, we were anxious to find the most convenient, cost effective way to travel. Many people recommend driving. This is a great option for groups of travellers but for us, 2 female travellers with little driving experience abroad, we were eager to hand over our transport to someone else! That’s where the Baz Bus came in. “South Africa’s Convenient, Hop-On Hop-Off, Door to Door Backpacker Bus Service” sounded like just what we were after.
How does the Baz Bus work?
We booked our tickets online about a month before our trip. It’s worth keeping an eye out for sales and offers. We got ours during their off-season sale and saved a considerable amount by doing this. Once you book your ticket, print your confirmation email and you’re ready to go!
You will only need your confirmation email for your first trip. After this you will be issued with your real ticket. Choose a hostel in your first destination from their list of selected hostels. When you want to leave, book your seat on the bus by text or phone. We got our hostel to ring them for us in most cases. You can also book by Skype which came in useful a couple of times when we ran out of phone credit. The Baz Bus says to book 72 hours in advance. We travelled in low season and found it fine to book a day in advance (and once even an hour in advance!)
The Baz Bus will then collect you at your hostel at the time specified on the timetable (note: this is usually a half an hour window but can run even earlier than this. Best to be organised as early as possible!) The bus will drop you at your next destination.
You must book your hostel in advance. We saw a group of 4 guys stuck in Storms River as they did not book ahead and all the hostels were full. They ended up arranging their own private transport- not ideal as it was getting dark and they could easily have ended up in the same situation further on. That being said, we travelled in low season and booked some of our hostels as little as a day in advance in most cases.
The Baz Bus is ideal if:
You are new to backpacking or travelling in Africa.
All your transport is arranged for you with the added safety of being collected and dropped at your hostel. No waiting at deserted bus stations at night!
You have lots of luggage.
The Baz Bus has no luggage limits that I know of. You can bring instruments and surfboards. They will either be stored on seats on the bus or, if busier, in a trailer on the back.
You are a solo or small group of travellers.
While many people liked to read or listen to music on the bus, it was always nice to arrive at a hostel with other people. “Weren’t you on the Baz Bus earlier?” was a handy opener while waiting at reception. During our 12 hour journey from Hogsback to Durban, I’m pretty sure we would have gone insane if it wasn’t for the other Baz Bus passengers!
You are visiting lots of destinations.
It is a hop-on, hop-off bus so it’s best to use it this way. We found we just about got our money’s worth by moving every second day or so. We stopped in 7 places over roughly 2.5 weeks. If we had been only visiting 2 or 3 places we would have been better getting the Greyhound or similar.
The Baz Bus might not be the best option if:
You want complete spontaneity.
The Baz Bus does not run every day. The only time this was a problem for us was when we arrived in Mossel Bay for whale watching, to find it was cancelled due to bad weather. The next Baz Bus was in 2 days time. What followed was 2 days of reading, cooking and going to the spa. Not the worst 2 days of my life, but not what I wanted to be doing with my time!
You are travelling in a big group.
The Baz Bus were perfect for 2 people together but it might be more difficult to coordinate for a larger group, especially in high season. If I was travelling in a group of 4 or more I think I’d prefer to rent a car.
You are travelling to only a few destinations or just to big cities.
The biggest perk of the Baz Bus is that it stops at a good variety of hostels. However, if you are travelling with one place in mind this can be tiresome. It stands to reason that it’s going to take longer to visit every hostel in Cape Town than to leave straight from a bus station.
You want to travel inland.
The Baz Bus mainly covers the coast and inland as far as Pretoria. It travels in Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal. If you want to visit some of the interior provinces you will have to arrange other transport. We managed to get inland as far as Hogsback by shuttle arranged through the hostel. However, this is only possible from some specified drop off locations and does cost extra.
Ultimately, the Baz Bus was the perfect fit for us. I would recommend it to anyone heading to South Africa for the first time and looking for that little bit of a safety net. We stayed in some really cool hostels and met fun, interesting people. I’ve already picked out some places we skipped over that I want to return to (Coffee Bay and Wilderness to name two.)
South Africa was a beautiful place to backpack. Has anyone else experienced something similar to the Baz Bus?