Pietermaritzburg

Travel Guide Africa South Africa KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg

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Introduction

The capital of Kwazulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg is also the second largest city in the province behind Durban. The city has many Victorian building (particularly the Parliament Buildings and the City Hall), tree-lined streets and decent museums. There's also a statue of Ghandi on Church Street who was expelled from a train here for not being white. This event has been claimed to have been the catalyst to his passive resistance movement.

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Sights and Activities

The City Hall, which is in the CBD, is the largest red brick building in the Southern Hemisphere. It contains a large organ, and occasionally hosts concerts.

The Natal Society Library is behind the City Hall, and has a large children's wing.

Further afield, Queen Elizabeth Park up on the hills above the city contains zebra, buck and the like. No leopards or dangerous creatures, so you can walk around and enjoy the park on foot. Make sure you don't get your food stolen by monkeys, though.

The KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Gardens in Mayor's Walk are spectacular and worth an extended visit. The gardens focus on indigenous flora and offer diverse walks through forests and open ground. A restaurant and coffee shop is located at the entrance. Weekend visitors will witness a stream of wedding parties going to the gardens to have their photos taken.

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Events and Festivals

Comrades Marathon

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

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Getting There

By Plane

Oribi Airport offers daily flights to Johannesburg. Service can be slightly erratic or heavily booked, so keep that in mind when booking important flights.

By Train

Pietermaritzburg is on the route between Johannesburg and Durban. Passenger trains are unfortunately few and far between, Shosholoza Meyl overnight trains in each direction every second day. Journey time from Johannesburg is just over 11 hours. It's possible to travel on long-distance trains from Durban too, journey time for this stretch is 2½ hours.

By Car

Access to Pietermaritzburg by road is easy, lying as it does on the major N3 freeway from Durban to Johannesburg. The R56 connects Pietermaritzburg with Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London to the south-west.

By Bus

Regular daily bus services connect Pietermaritzburg to major cities in South Africa. The bus station is located in Burger Street, opposite the McDonalds and it serves major bus companies. Grey Hound is the most reliable and it operates several round-trips from Durban to Johannesburg daily, where Pietermaritzburg is the last stop before Durban.

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Getting Around

The best way to get around Pietermaritzburg and the surrounding areas is by car. Car rental is strongly advised. Major car rental companies in Pietermaritzburg include Avis, Budget and First Car Rental.

Otherise, minibus-taxis are cheap but uncomfortable and occasionally unsafe. Some of the sights of Pietermaritzburg are within walking distance, if you don't mind trudging along for a few kilometres. Private taxis (cabs) can also be hired, but they are substantially more expensive than the minibus-taxis.

The central minibus-taxi rank is in Market Square, which is in the Central Business District near the Natal Society Library and the City Hall.

To get to the Central Business District from any of the suburbs by minibus-taxi, look for a taxi that is travelling to "eTuwen" or simply "Town". (There should be a guy leaning out the window announcing this loudly.)

You don't want to go to eThekwini, which is Durban. You want to go to "town". Ask the conductor if you're unsure.

Minibus-taxis have set routes, so there are a lot of places you can't get to using them.

The CBD isn't as safe as the suburbs. The area around the City Hall is pretty good, but I'd advise against long rambling walks into unfamiliar parts of it.

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Sleep

Imperial Hotel, 224 Jabu Ndlovu St, ☏ +27 33 342 6551. One of the few higher end hotels in downtown, this century-old hotel offers an historic ambiance.
Bancroft B&B, 247, Old Howick rd, Hilton (take the Cedera off-ramp from the N3 into th R103, travel over the freeway into Hilton, pass the traffic lights at Crossways, after 1.6 km down the hill (towards town) on the right hand side), ☏ +27 33 343-1957, +27 33 343-3885, ✉ info@bancroft.co.za. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Bancroft B&B is in the beautiful forested evergreen hills above Pietermaritzburg, is a Georgian style house, with a beautiful facade, offering 2 comfortable suites, with DSTV, Wireless Internet, a hospitality fridge, tea and coffee facilities, fans, heaters and a nice view into the gardens. R320 sharing & R430 single.
Yes Please B&B, 98 Alan Paton Drive, Scottsville (from N3 off-ramp on Alan Paton), ☏ +27 86 111-3002, +27 33 386-0162. Check-in: noon, check-out: 10AM. All rooms are fitted with air-conditioning & DSTV. Modest dining area offering breakfast, lunch or dinner. Transfers available to and from King Shaka International Airport and regionally. From R350.

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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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Contributors

as well as Kieran-M (4%), KKHSM (2%), Hien (1%)

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This is version 15. Last edited at 15:07 on May 29, 20 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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