Taking the train is always the best option in pretty much any country in my (bias!) opinion and taking the train from Johannesburg to Cape Town is no different. You get a cosy 2 person coupe, great food and lovely views so what’s not to love? This is my guide on everything you need to know about the Jozi to Cape Town train journey.
Is it safe?
South Africa has a bad reputation when it comes to safety, and although this may be true, we found the train safe and never felt at unease.
Like any good traveler you should always be vigilant and try not stick out as a “rich westerner” but take all normal precautions as you would anywhere. We thought it was a safe and comfortable way to travel. The private cabins/berths are lockable via a chain inside making it very private and secure. It is a long train journey to Cape Town but we had not problem at all.
Insider tip: When leaving your cabin ask a staff member to lock your cabin door. There are plenty of staff members on the train and all of them will be more than happy to lock the door for you. You will then have to find them to unlock the door again but if you are leaving the cabin for a while this is a must.
How do I catch the train in Johannesburg?
The train leaves from Johannesburg Park Station and any taxi/uber will take you there. This a big station with a lot of people and it can get pretty unsafe. If you need to pick up your tickets then I would get to the station 45 minutes before departure and if you already have your tickets then no more than 30 minutes before departure. I would not spend time hanging around the station as people told us it is pretty dangerous so just get into Johannesburg Park station and head straight to the train.
Just follow the signs to long distance trains to Cape Town or the shosholoza meyl trains. It is pretty easy to find and if you can’t find it then any security guard will be happy to help.
What are the trains like?
The trains to Cape Town are fairly new and well maintained with working lights and water. There is a shower at the end of every carriage for use.
Insider Tip: Your ticket does not include bedding and it does get very very cold at night if travelling in winter. Bedding is 120 rand each and easily available. I cannot emphasize just how necessary this is in winter even if you feel it is warm when getting on, the night can get extremely cold!
Are the trains reliable?
No, expect many delays and do not plan flights/tours or any dependencies the day of arrival or even the next day. Our planned arrival time was 15:30 at Cape Town but we actually arrived at 21:00. Expect delays and more delays but it is all part of the experience and the staff are very friendly. Our delays were whilst we were on the train and due to power cuts – but an extra 5 and a half hours on a train is a plus as far as I am concerned (I did say I was biased).
Can you buy food and beverages on the train?
Yes. There is a dining carriage that serves very good food. It isn’t halal but it serves a great fish dish at very reasonable prices. There is also a snack bar that sells chocolates and crisps. However, it is a 27 hour train journey, at least, so it is also advisable to bring some food with you.
How much does it cost?
Train tickets costs 690 Rands one way for a first class sleeper from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
How do I buy tickets to Cape Town?
There are three main ways to buy tickets for the train:
- Buy the train ticket online on the train operators website. This can be booked up to three months in advance and was very easy to do. Buy online, print the receipt and exchange this for a ticket at the train station on the day of departure. You can book the tickets here https://www.shosholozameyl.co.za/
- At the train station- There is a ticket office at Johannesburg Park Train Station
- Through a South African agent- Many of these can easily be found on a google search.
If you have traveled on this train please leave feedback on the comments sections below – we would love to hear about your experience!
For train travel in Africa then visit our Zimbabwe post here.