A good network of buses, of varying reliability and comfort, links the major cities.
Classes There are no class tiers on the bus lines, although major companies generally offer a ‘luxury’ service, with features such as air-con, a toilet and films.
Discounts The major bus lines offer student, frequent-traveller and senior-citizen discounts, as well as specials – check their websites for details.
Fares Roughly calculated by distance, though short runs are disproportionately expensive. Your fare may also be based on the bus's whole journey (so travelling from Jo'burg to Bloemfontein costs the same as travelling from Pretoria). Prices rise during school holidays.
Safety Lines are generally safe. Note, however, that many long-distance services run through the night. On overnight journeys, travellers should take care of their valuables and may feel more comfortable sitting near the front of the bus.
Ticket purchase For the main lines, purchase tickets at least 24 hours in advance, and as far in advance as possible for travel during peak periods. Tickets can be bought through bus offices, Computicket Travel and Shoprite/Checkers supermarkets. Computicket is particularly useful and functional, offering the major carriers in one booking engine and generally accepting foreign credit cards and mobile-phone numbers. Just note that, unless you're travelling out of a large city, you must usually pick up your physical ticket at a Shoprite or Checkers before catching your bus.
City to City In partnership with Translux, it operates the routes that once carried people between the homelands and the cities under apartheid. The no-frills service is less expensive than other lines and serves many off-the-beaten-track places, including townships and mining towns. Destinations include Mthatha (for the Wild Coast), Nelspruit (for Kruger National Park), Zeerust (for Botswana), Cape Town and Durban.
Greyhound An extensive nationwide network of comfortable buses, including Jo’burg to Durban via Richards Bay. Also operates other lines, including the cheaper Citiliner buses.
Intercape An extensive network stretching from Cape Town to Limpopo and beyond. For longer hauls (including Cape Town to Windhoek, Namibia, and Mossel Bay to Jo’burg), it’s worth paying extra for a reclining seat on an overnight Sleepliner bus.
Translux The main long-distance operator, serving destinations including Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, East London, Mthatha, Nelspruit and the Garden Route.
A convenient alternative to standard bus lines, the Baz Bus caters almost exclusively to backpackers and travellers. It offers hop-on, hop-off fares and door-to-door services between Cape Town and Jo’burg via the Garden Route, Port Elizabeth, Mthatha, Durban and the Northern Drakensberg.
Baz Bus drops off and picks up at hostels, and it has transfer arrangements with those off its route in areas such as the Wild Coast. You can book directly with Baz Bus online, by email, phone or SMS, or at hostels.
Point-to-point fares are more expensive than on the major bus lines, but it can work out economically if you take advantage of the hop-on, hop-off feature. Sample one-way hop-on, hop-off fares from Cape Town are Jo’burg R5400, Durban R4470 and Port Elizabeth R2300. One-/two-/three-week travel passes cost R2600/R4100/5100.
New challenger Mzansi Experience offers a similar service to Baz Bus and is fast gaining popularity among travellers. Prices are lower: a hop-on, hop-off ticket from Cape Town to Jo'burg costs R4400; and three-day/one-/two-/three-week travel passes are R1500/2500/3800/5000.