Durban

Travel Guide Africa South Africa KwaZulu-Natal Durban

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Introduction

Durban

Durban

© Nat and Ev

Durban is a busy city with 3.3 million inhabitants, situated along the east coast of South Africa in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It enjoys a warm, subtropical climate and has some of the country's most popular beaches for swimming, surfing and diving. In 2010, it will be one of the cities to host the World Cup 2010 in South Africa. Durban was founded as Port Natal by British settlers. Indian workers were brought in to work the sugar cane plantations, making this one of the largest population centres of Indians in the world. Zulu and English are the most common languages in Durban.

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Neighbourhoods

  • Durban North

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Sights and Activities

City Centre

Francis Farewell Square is a historic square in the heart of the city, overlooked by the grand City Hall building, the Art Deco Cenotaph and the Workshop Mall (the centre's main shopping hub).

Kwa Muhle Museum

Also called the Apartheid Museum, the Kwa Muhle Museum is worth a visit if you are interesed in the formation of modern South Africa. It was originally built in 1928 for the purpose of controlling the local population under the Orwellian name of the 'Native Administration Department'.

Beachfront

The 6-kilometre-long section from Umgeni River to the Point has lost it's favour among middle-class South African's of late due to increasing crime. A big pulling point still worth visiting however is the uShaka Marine World, a lavish aquatic theme park, with uShaka Sea World providing underwater views of many of the oceans creatures, including sharks, turtles and dolphins.

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Events and Festivals

World Cup 2010

The big upcoming international event on the South African horizon is the FIFA World Cup beginning on the 11th of June 2010. One of the most prestigious and popular world sporting events, the World Cup 2010 promises to bring throngs of passionate supporters from around the globe. Held once every four years, it's a football tournament (called soccer in South Africa) where 32 world nations vie for the famous golden trophy. Durban will be hosting some of the World Cup matches at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 70,000.

Mr Price Pro

Formerly the Gunston 500, the Mr Price Pro is one of the worlds longest-running professional surfing competitions. Anyone keen on doing their own bit of surfing while in town could do worse than head to North Beach.

Comrades Marathon

Held in June, the Comrades Marathon runs for 80 kilometres between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, and is run downhill towards the coast on odd years and uphill to Pietermaritzburg on even years.

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Weather

Durban is a favorite beach destinations and temperatures are accordingly. Mostly (sub)tropical conditions apply with summers averaging around 27 °C, winters (June to September) still being a pleasant 22 °C. Nights are around 20 °C and 13 °C respectively. Although rain is possible in every month, the summers are much wetter with 100 to 150 mm of rain a month. Winters only have a few rainy days a month.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max27.8 °C28 °C27.7 °C26.1 °C24.5 °C23 °C22.6 °C22.8 °C23.3 °C24 °C25.2 °C26.9 °C
Avg Min21.1 °C21.1 °C20.2 °C17.4 °C13.8 °C10.6 °C10.5 °C12.5 °C15.3 °C16.8 °C18.3 °C20 °C
Rainfall134 mm113 mm120 mm73 mm59 mm28 mm39 mm62 mm73 mm98 mm108 mm102 mm
Rain Days15.212.912.69.26.84.54.97.11115.11615

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Getting There

By Plane

King Shaka International Airport (DUR) is 35 kilometres north of the city centre of Durban, South Africa, and replaced the former Durban International Airport on May 1, 2010, just before the World Soccer Championships. International flights arrive from Dubai, Maputo and Mauritius. There are domestic flights from eight South African airports, including Cape Town and Johannesburg.

To/from the airport

  • Car: The airport is accessible from both the N2 freeway and the alternative R102 road. There are about 6,500 short-term- and long-term parking places available and metered taxis travel to and from the city centre.
  • Public transport: regular buses connect the airport to Durban centre. A direct link will be in operation in the near future.

By Train

Shosholoza Meyl offers a number of trains:

  • Cape Town - Durban via Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Kroonstad and Ladysmith, 36 hours, tourist and economy class both once weekly
  • Johannesburg - Durban via Ladysmith and Pietermaritzburg, 13,5 hours, premier class twice a week, tourist once a week and economy daily except Tuesday.

By Car

Coming from Johannesburg take the N3 all the way to Durban, whereas if you're coming from Swaziland and the north, take the N2. The N2 continues south down the Wild Coast, but turns inland on its way down to East London and Port Elizabeth.
Distances from Durban are:

  • Johannesburg - 557 kilometres
  • Bloemfontein - 634 kilometres
  • Kimberley - 811 kilometres
  • Cape Town - 1753 kilometres
  • East London - 674 kilometres
  • Port Elizabeth - 984 kilometres
  • Pretoria - 636 kilometres

By Bus

Greyhound South Africa, Intercape and Translux all serve Durban from places like Johannesburg (8 hours), Cape Town (22-27 hours), Port Elizabeth (15 hours). There are also international connections to for example Gaborone (15 hours) and Maputo (15 hours), both via Johannesburg.

The Baz Bus is a bus where you can hop on and of and is mostly used by backpackers travelling on a budget. They are dropped off at hostels. There are three routes. One is running between Cape Town and Durban and there are two routes between Durban and Pretoria via Johannesburg: one via the Drakensberg (Drakens Mountains) and one via Swaziland. Keep in ming that the Baz Bus used primarily for foreign visitors, and is much more expensive than the alternatives.

By Boat

The Port of Durban is the busiest ports in South Africa. From time to time, cruise ships call at Durban.

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Getting Around

By Car

The best way to get around Durban and its surrounding areas is by hiring a car. Avis, Budget, Hertz, Europcar and First Car Rental provide car hire in Durban.

By Tax

Registered taxis are common, generally safe and relatively inexpensive. Taxis do not rove and hence need to be called so that one can be fetched from your pick up point. A lot of these will conduct point to point transfers, airport shuttles, and corporate transfers.

There are also group taxis, referred to as "combi taxis" (or "minibus taxis"), that are impossible to miss as (in Durban) they're brightly decorated and always have music pumping. There is always someone hanging out of a window making the hand gestures that indicate whether there are seats available and where the combi is going. Minibus taxis are very common and less expensive than metered taxis. Strictly speaking, they are minibuses that take people to and from work, they stick to set routes and they are generally not suitable for tourists unfamiliar with the area they are going to; when in doubt stick to metered taxis or buses. There are minibus taxis plying same routes as Mynah buses, they are more frequent and faster than buses.

By Public Transport

Durban People Mover buses feature CCTV cameras and wheelchair-friendly ramps. They run from 6:00am until 11:00pm every 15 minutes. These buses stop in the CBD, the Victoria Street Market, the Workshop, Suncoast Casino, Ushaka Marine World and along the beach route. (R4 per trip, valid for 1 hour on a hop-on, hop-off basis; R10 for a full day pass on a hop-on, hop-off basis).

To travel between the Berea suburbs and the city its cheaper to travel by Mynah buses, R5 off-peak (8AM-3:30PM), peak R6. The Mynah buses depart from the Workshop Terminus (Pine Street Terminus) every 30 minutes to Musgrave, The Ridge, Kensington, Mitchell Park/Florida road, Tollgate (cnr Aliwal/Smith streets), to South Beach/Ushaka, North Beach/Suncoast (in Pixley ka Seme [West] Street, opposite the City Hall).

The Aqualine buses to the suburbs (depart from the Pine Street Terminus) are usually within 5 minutes of the schedule every hour. Peak cash fare can be quite steep. A weekly coupon can save you up to 35% of the cash fare. Fare, bus route & time table enquiries (+27 31 309-5942/3). However, due to the ongoing dispute, some routes have be suspended.

To Bluff (route 330/338/411/418 )
To Queensburgh catch either one of these four buses, Malvern (route 112), Montgomery road (route 113), Shalcross/Hillview (route 140), Pinetown/Westmead (*route 840/842/843/849). Service suspended.
To Glenwood catch either one of these four buses, Berea Beach (route 022/023), Umbilo (route 007),Glenmore (route 086), Manor Gardens (route 084).
To Umhlanga Rocks/Gateway Mall catch the Aqualine bus (route 716/705) outside Nando's in Pixley ka Seme (West) street, departs every hour.
To UKZN catch the Howard College bus (route 070)/Westville campus (route 075). Service suspended
To Pinetown/Westville central/Westwood mall, catch Aqualine Pinetown/Westmead bus (route 855,857,858,870,871,873,877,886).Service suspended
To The Pavilion mall catch the Aqualine bus (route 853/860) route 853 departs from the Workshop terminus and route 860 departs from North Beach near Blue Waters hotel/Suncoast casino. Service suspended

Most buses depart on the hour every hour, check the bus schedule. Please note that sometimes to get to your destination, you might have to catch a couple to three buses. When not sure about bus route number, ask the locals or the bus driver (tell him the nearest landmark to your destination). Mynah buses do not have route numbers, only the destination will be displayed on the electronic display in front of the bus. You must flag the bus down to stop at the bus stop. It is advisable to have the exact change before you board the bus and get a receipt!

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Eat

As Durban has one of the largest Indian populations outside of India, a Durban curry is a popular dish and can range from mild to very hot. There is also the Bunny Chow which is unique to the city, a quarter loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with a curry of your choice. Check out the Workshop restaurants for some of the best bunny chow in the city. Or head over to the Indian neighborhood near Victoria Market for more authentic Durban Indian food.

Good Indian dining is at Vintage Restaurant next to Bean Bag Bohemia - Windemere Road

Try the Roma Revolving Restaurant at the top of John Ross House on the Esplanade for Italian food and the best view of Durban.

Wilson's Wharf is a long pier built into the harbour. It hosts a wide selection of international restaurants and watch the busiest harbor in Africa's activity. Take in a show afterwards at the upstairs Catalina theater.

Try Morningside restaurants, along Florida Road, for trendy cafe sidewalk eateries including one Italian style, Spiga d'Oro, frequented so often by South Africa's notorious businessman, Schabir Shaik, that a dish is named in his honor 'Pasta a la Shaik'. Bill Clinton and Bill Gates ate at "Spice" set off the busy street in a quiet upstairs courtyard. And nearby, be nearly guaranteed to rub shoulders with the up-and-coming in-crowd at the Bean Bag Bohemia, Windermere Road, a restaurant that makes great dining an artistic event.

Definitely try some 'biltong' when you're in South Africa. It's South African-style jerky available in a whole range of flavors and textures.

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Drink

Zacks, at Wilson's Wharf on Victoria's Embankment, is a popular place to get thirst-quenching drinks and relax and enjoy the view of the harbour.
Joe Kool's, on the beachfront, is also well known as the best place for a "sundowner" after a long day on the beach. Check out their roof-top deck for the best views.
The BAT Centre, at the port, is also a good place for a quick meal or drink. There's free jazz most nights and other concerts, hip-hop and the occasional poetry slam.
The Firkin is a micro-brewery on the top floor of the Pavilion shopping centre in Westville. It has some great ales and beers and good snacks at reasonable prices.
Tilted house is a trendy place in the city centre in an old Victorian house. It has a VIP section, and it is open to the beautiful and the important.
Cool Runnings is a reggeaton place with cheap beer and a relaxed atmosphere.
Burn is a good concert scene for Metal and Rock music with club evenings every weekend.
Florida Road 275, ☏ +27 31 312-3355. Definitely the happening street in Durban. Restaurants, bars, cafes, boutique shopping, in the happy friendly Durban hang-out. Durban's most interesting book shop, Book Base is at the top of Florida Road (275) and is open every day. Lots of interesting material of historical interest to be seen.
The Origin, Glenwood. Club with focus on electronic dance music.
The Winston Pub, Glenwood. Regular rock concerts and monthly drum & bass party
Freedom Café, 34 St Marys Ave, Morningside. This hidden café offers great coffee, breakfast and lunch.

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Sleep

African Sunrise Backpackers & Lodge (Valley of 1000 Hills), ✉ africansunrise123@gmail.com. Artery Rock Cottages outside Durban. Dorm bed:.
Ansteys Beach Backpackers International, 477 marine Drive, Bluff. Run by Palmbloom family. Great atmosphere. Surf lessons, pool table, table tennis, dartboard, paintball, swimming pool, DVDs, beach horse rides, dive courses, braai, golf, kite/windsurfing, dolphin/whale watching. Dorm bed: R 140 pp.
Banana Backpackers, Pine Street and Prince Alfred Road, ☏ +27 31 368-4062. Close to the beach, the ICC, the mall and the city center. Pool, bar, internet, DSTV, laundry. Shuttle service. Tour booking. dorm beds. R120 per person.
Black Mamba Backpackers Lodge (Valley of 1000 Hills, close to Tala Game Reserve and Phezulu Crocodile Farm), ☏ +27 31 765-4063. Jacuzzi under the stars, shower in the open air, snuggle around the bonfire. Free airport and shopping centre pick ups/drop offs, free internet, kitchen, bar.
Gibela Backpackers Lodge, ☏ +27 31 303-6291, ✉ gibela@gibela.co.za. A 4-star graded property by the South African Tourism Grading Council and the 2008 winner in the South African Tourism Welcome Awards - Backpacking. It is also offers a totally smoke-free environment, including the garden. From R 150 pps,.
Happy Hippo, 222 Point Rd (Mahatma Gandhi Road), Waterfront, ☏ +27 31 718-1196. 500 m from the beach, but not the safest area. Rooftop bar, wi-fi, kitchen, nice rooms. Dorm bed: R155; Doubles: R270; Ensuite doubles R390.
Nomads Backpackers, 70 Essenwood Rd, ☏ +27 31 202-9709. Since 1995. Log beds. Fans. Bambooza bar & restaurant. Dorm bed: R150; doubles/twins: R280; triple: R300.
On The Beach. Luxurious en suite rooms with sea view. Air-conditioned dorms. Walking distance to La Lucia Mall. Dorm bed: R260.
Shelbourne Lodge Bed 'n Breakfast, La Lucia, ☏ +27 31 562-1282. R350 pps.
Smiths Cottage. Cozy and tranquil, with pool and tropical garden. Shuttle service. Dorm bed: R170; doubles: R275; cottage: R600.
Tekweni Backpackers, 169 9th Avenue, ☏ +27 31 303-1433, ✉ info@tekwenibackpackers.co.za. The most fun place to stay in Durban. Offers local tours, barbeques, walking distance to Durban Station. Dorm bed: R135.
Crooked Tree Cottage, Corner of Hiken Dr & Pearl Drive, Umhlanga, ☏ +27 31 561-5759, ✉ info@crookedtreecottage.co.za. From R400pps.
Dolphin Sands B&B, North Beach Rd, Westbrook, ☏ +27 32 943-1023. From R300pps.
Northway Lodge, 28 Northway Dr, Durban North, ☏ +27 31 563-9687, ✉ northwaylodge@iafrica.com. From R350pps.
Nunuburd Lodge, 74 Clair Avenue, Manor Ridge. Doubles/twins: R190pp; triples: R170pp, quads: R160pp.
Umdloti Letting & Sales (Umdloti Beach), fax: +27 86 547-0695, ✉ ula@eastcoast.co.za. 2-bed apartment: R542pn, 3-bed apartment: R642pn.
The Grange Guest House, 1 Monteith Place, ☏ +27 31 563-6826, ✉ agrange@iafrica.com. Upper Durban North, quiet, prestigious area, centrally located leafy suburban setting. Most rooms have sea views, huge family rooms and a wheelchair friendly room, R400-500 per person.
Lazy Lizard Guesthouse, Umhlanga Rocks, Kwa-Zulu Natal. Nestled in the heart of prestigious Umhlanga Rocks, the Lazy Lizard Guesthouse offers private, up market accommodation.
Hampshire Hotel Ballito, Lot 4048 Moffatt Drive, Ballito, ☏ +27 32 586-6000. Hampshire Hotel Ballito, a South Africa luxury hotel near Durban, offers access to the beach, conference and meeting venues and special deals for family holidays, weekend getaways & business travel.
Royal Palm - Gateway, 08 Palm Boulevard, Umhlanga, ☏ +27 31 581-8000. From R970pps.
The Royal Hotel, 267 Anton Lembede St, ☏ +27 31 333-6000. From R1,330pps.
The Riverside Hotel & Spa, 10 Kenneth Kaunda Rd, ☏ +27 31 563-0600, ✉ reserve@riversidehotel.co.za.
The Quays On Timeball, 40 Signal Rd (Timeball Square, Waterfront), ☏ +27 31 310-6900, ✉ reservations@quays.co.za. From R2,220 per suite.
Quarters Hotel, 101 Florida Road, Morningside, ☏ +27 31 303-5246, ✉ reservations@quarters.co.za. From 860pps.
Durban Self Catering Accommodation. An exclusive private beach house, With sea views spanning from Ballito in the north, to the Durban Point and lighthouse in the south. The part of the beach it is on is usually very quiet. From R950.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Safety

The beach strip is frequently patrolled by policemen, there are CCTV cameras and many lights at night. As everywhere else, there are several basic safety rules to follow. Avoid dark, deserted areas, and do not go out alone in the early hours of the morning. The promenade along the beach is safe to walk, but do not venture to the side and back roads of the hotels.

Avoid the Point Road (aka Mahatma Gandhi Road) area at all times.

At night, it is still a good idea to stick to the main streets and not go out at night unless you are very familiar with a particular area. Avoid the usually busy central business district, which is empty after dark. Above all, use common sense.

Remember, you're a tourist, not a celebrity. Dress down to blend in with the people in the CBD (keep the fancy stuff to a minimum).

The harbour area is quite safe, as are the shopping malls and higher residential areas.

The Point, the area between downtown and the port, is known for prostitution and cheap hotels has higher crime rate (although parts are undergoing a massive redevelopment). Avoid walking here alone or at night and take cars or metered taxis if you need to go to this area.

Street children can be a problem, and its best to keep clear of them. Many sniff glue, carry knives, and act quite unpredictably.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Big cities and most of the popular places in the country usually have an internet café though they are not as abundant as in, for example, Asia or South America. It's also relatively expensive, usually 20-30 rand an hour, sometimes even more. Many of the accommodation options have internet access available, either wireless with your own laptop or by their own computer(s). Wireless access is also available throughout the country in more and more cafes and eateries, sometimes free and sometimes for a small fee. Note that you usually have to login anyway and agree with the terms and conditions. It is cheapest to buy a prepaid cell phone starter pack (less than R10) and access the Internet with GPRS or 3G. Generally R2 per MB for out of bundle data from most providers (50c for Virgin Mobile), but it becomes a lot cheaper if you buy a data bundle. In general coverage is good except the more rural parts of the northern and northwestern parts of the country (especially Northern Cape).

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

South Africa's country code is 27. Telephone numbers in South Africa are 10 digits, including the local area code. There are also some prefixes like 0800 (toll free), 0860 (charged as local call) and 0861 (flat-rate calls). The general emergency number is 10111, ambulance is 10177 and police is 1011.

South Africa has very good phone facilities, which are also becoming more and more competitively priced, now that more operators are active on the market. The main ones are Neotel and Telkom South Africa. Local phone calls are cheap (about one Rand an hour), domestic long-distance calls are about twice as expensive. International calls start at around 6 Rand an hour but can be (much) higher to less usual countries. Note that public phones are about twice as cheap as new private phone centres. Phone calls tend to be the cheapest during the weekend and during business hours (8:00am to 5:00pm) on weekdays and more expensive during the evening and nights at weekdays.

There are also good mobile-phone facilities, with GSM and 3G networks. There are five cell phone providers in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C, Virgin Mobile and 8ta. SIM card prepaid starter kits are available from R10. You will need a passport and a proof of residential address and it has to be registered before you can call or receive calls. You can buy credit for prepaid phones just about everywhere, remembering you will usually need cash to do so from service stations.

Post

The SAPO (South African Post Office) is the nation's postal service. They have a track & trace system for parcels as well. Post offices are open from 8:30am to 4:30pm from Monday to Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Domestic and international deliveries are reliable but can sometimes take up to several weeks. If you want to send something oversees of any value, try using one of the private mail services, like Postnet. Also international courier companies like TNT, UPS and DHL tend to be fast, very reliable and competitively priced.

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Quick Facts

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Population
3,468,086
Time ZOne
UTC +2
Area Code
031
Coordinates
  • Latitude: -29.853
  • Longitude: 31.0164

Accommodation in Durban

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This is version 45. Last edited at 8:00 on May 26, 20 by Utrecht. 33 articles link to this page.

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