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This is a page to acknowledge that it IS possible for a foreign visitor to travel across South Africa using public transport. It is accurate as of December 2009.
The major bus/coach operators in South Africa include:
For the first two, tickets may be purchased online through Computicket and collected at a Computicket kiosk in Cape Town (please note that you may experience a sudden increase in spam emails after registering for Computicket). It is necessary to present the credit card which was used to purchase the tickets when you are collecting them. They may also be collected at the departure station, or at several different shops.
For Intercape, you may purchase the tickets directly from their website. As with Computicket it is necessary to collect the tickets in person at the Intercape office, which requires presentation of your passport and again, the credit card which was used to purchase the tickets. These tickets needed to be collected at least 24 hours prior to the journey.
In general, the buses are of a decent standard (the Greyhound was in fact very nice!). During my trip, the Translux service had a TV featuring Christian programming. Some services had tea & coffee. Some services may NOT have a toilet.
In mid-December, most of the other passengers were black South Africans travelling home for Christmas holidays. People were generally friendly although it seemed pretty unusual to see a (white) foreigner on the public buses, but in fact this meant that a few passengers were interested to meet me and find out my impressions of their country.
It is a good idea in most towns to arrange for a shuttle or taxi to your accommodation. The buses are notorious for not running to schedule so you may have to call the hotel or taxi to confirm your actual planned arrival time, as you are approaching your destination. Many of the bus stations I stopped at were in the outskirts of the town and, although they all had a security presence, this was often young men who didn't look all that helpful or protective!
If you are stopping in George, please note that most (but not all!) of the buses stop at the old train station on the outskirts of town, NOT at the bus station. Check with your bus operator to ensure you are at the correct stop.
Finally, the usual travel recommendations apply - don't wear expensive jewellery, or flash your cash & valuables. The bus is a very cheap way to travel in South Africa and consequently, your fellow passengers are likely to be poor. In some cases, small items of luggage maybe stowed at your seat but in most cases they will be placed in the luggage space/trailer under or behind the bus. At the larger city stations, you will find plenty of enterprising people who may try to insist on carrying your luggage in order to earn a tip!