Here you’ll find some handy information and tips for cycling in South Africa. The information is based on my personal experience during about 3 months in South Africa from November 2011. You’ll find information about roads, accommodation.
To read my blog for this part of the trip, it startsHERE
To see the photos click HERE
Visa : Most nationalities receive a 90 day tourist visa on arrival (you may need to show a return ticket). For a south Africa tourist visa extension (at least a month before your visa runs out) you need to show sufficient funds (bank statement) for your trip, a return flight ticket or pay a R6000 deposit which is refundable in your own country. A border run to Lesotho no longer works, they just use your existing end date when you return
Currency : South African Rand (R) At the time of writing €1 = R10
Food and Water : Most major towns have large supermarkets where you can spend too much money on nice food. In smaller towns and villages the choice is a lot more limited. Tap water is generally drinkable, but you should ask first in remote areas as it is usually filtered river, rain or bore water.
Accommodation : As you might expect there’s plenty of accommodation options, ranging from expensive hotels to backpackers or camping. Here’s a rough indication of the prices.
Hotels, B+B : R400+ per room, less in remote areas.
Backpackers double room : R250-400 per room excluding meals.
Backpackers dorm room : R100-120 per person
Backpackers camping : R60-70 per person
Campsites : R100 (more at national parks)
I also often camped at “guest farms” that actually had no camping facilities only B+B but they allowed me to camp for R50-100 with use of a bathroom from one of the rooms (only possible if not fully booked of course).I’ve also heard of other cyclists who just roll up to any farm and ask to camp which usually works out ok, but this isn’t my style.
Wild camping is possible in remote areas but not advisable everywhere, especially not on private property, the farmers are very paranoid and maybe pretty angry to find you camping without permission.
Prices : Bottle/can of beer R12, Bottle/can of coke R8-10, Loaf of bread R9. 100g of chocolate R10. 1.5 Liter of juice R15-20. 2 Liters of milk R10. Red meat is very cheap compared to Europe. Fruit and veg are fairly expensive and not always great quality outside of the big cities.
Beer : For info on the South African beers I tried check out my beer page HERE.
SA pre-paid Sim card : A Sim card for a local provider is very cheap so worth buying if you plan to be around for a while. The only quirky thing is that you need to register it and they’ll ask for proof of address, it took me a while to find out that tourists can just register with their passport.
Internet: Internet in SA is quite expensive as they pay per Mb. Internet at backpackers is often R1 per minute, if you can find an internet cafe in bigger cities then its only R20 per hour or less. I used internet on my phone for social media and reading emails because it proved to be a lot cheaper most of the time.
Roads : Here are a selection of the roads I encountered in South Africa
Main roads : Can be tar/asphalt with or without shoulder. Watch out because the drivers generally don’t give cyclists any room and drive past very fast. A mirror is essential on these roads so you can dive into the grass if necessary. Even if the road has a wide shoulder this means nothing, alot of trucks and buses drive on the shoulder to give other people chance to overtake them.
Major grit/dirt road : These are fairly wide and well maintained dirt roads. I found these the best roads to cycle on, fairly quiet and fairly easy to cycle.
Minor dirt roads: Good old fashion corrugated dirt roads with potholes. Hard work to cycle on and often dusty, but with almost no traffic it can be nice. These roads also often bring you to places not possible on other roads.
4×4 Roads : Some are ok but some are real 4×4 routes and not your average Sunday Landrover club 4×4 routes, closer to singletrack than a road and very difficult when cycling with baggage.
Other transport : There are many “Interliner” type bus routes between main cities. Most of these companies require you to box your bike. Bazbus is a hop on hop off style minibus service than runs along the Coast from Cape Town to Durban stopping at most of the backpacker areas. I was able to take my bike on Bazbus unboxed though its hit and miss if they have a trailer with them. If you plan to use the Bazbus phone to get a quote, this proved to be R100 cheaper than the price I was quoted on their website.
Dangers and annoyances : The biggest danger and annoyance in SA is the traffic, drivers have no idea what to do with a cyclist so will usually only give a minimum of space when passing at 100km/h. I strongly recommend you do not plan to cycle on the N2 between Port Elizabeth and Durban, I almost got hit several times in the first 150km, so got the Bazbus. I often felt very scared when cycling on main roads, that’s why I generally stuck to minor roads and dirt roads.
Another thing to think about is that South Africans like their booze, and have no problems with drink driving, I’ve often seen them drinking at 7am in the morning too, so keep in the back of your mind that drink drivers are around any time of the day especially in the weekend.
Contra to what just about every white South African expected, I had no problems with the “Blacks”. Most smiled at me, many waved and most who I interacted with where interested and intrigued by my bike and journey. You may get asked for money from time to time though but it isn’t a problem.
Route : My route was fairly random and I made it up as I went along, sticking mainly to smaller roads. Click here to see you route . Highlights where Bainskloof pass, Seweeksepoort, Zwarteberg pas, Baviaanskloof(cycling is not allowed in the Baviaanskloof). I especially like the scenery in the Drakensberg area. I also cycled Sani pass buts it’s not for the faint hearted.
For those that want a little more of an off road challenge may want to follow some of the Freedom challenge route. Its a yearly endurance race, but all the route info is available on their site (bear in mind you may not be able to cross the damn near Prince Albert though).
South Africa is a huge and beautiful country with lots to see and do, there’s something for everyone!