I struggled to find decent information/feedback on the Baz Bus when I was researching my trip last year and; the only place you can post reviews is on their Cape Town “Day Tour”, which is different from the hop-on-hop-off route you can take from Cape Town to Johannesburg, or vice-versa – sooo, I hope this wrap-up is ok to post here in the Forum.
The Baz Bus website (www.bazbus.com) is a great place to kick-off, letting you know what types of tickets you can buy; which are based largely on (a) the time you have and (b) if you want to travel in only one direction or back-track along your route.
That’s all you have to decide in the first instance, to book a ticket. Everything else you can decide along the way, as you go. Freedom!
The Baz Buses themselves are mini-buses, with capacities of about 20, and are mid-comfort level (not bombs, but not high-end luxury).
Depending on each journey’s booked capacity, luggage is either stowed in-bus on the seats, or in a towed luggage trailer. Wi-Fi is available on the buses.
The Baz Bus travels in the direction of either:
• Cape Town > Johannesburg
• Johannesburg > Cape Town
and has scheduled drop-off/pick-up towns along the way.
The map on their homepage indicates these towns clearly, and they’re the same no matter which direction you’re travelling. However, days and times of arrival and departure differ depending which way the BazBus is going, so it’s best to print and take a copy of the timetable from their website.
Travelling in either direction, if you want to do the route in its entirety, just using it as a way to get from point A to point B, it will take three or four days, depending on the days you choose to travel. But what’s the fun in that?
In two weeks you can manage about six stops and have a great time, but a month is recommended, and longer is the dream!
If your time is limited, you can still BazBus it. Just book a ticket that allows you to back-track and head out to the stops you can do in your time-frame and return to where you started. Or, if you’re time-poor but cashed-up, end your journey in one of the towns that has an airport and fly to where you next need to be.
In both directions, the BazBus has scheduled overnight stops in each Port Elizabeth and Durban, so if you want to give either of these towns a miss you will need to sort alternative transport (local buses etc) from either of these points to the next Baz Bus town.
The BazBus does not run every day, which differs, depending on direction. It’s not a total biggie, given it’s only ever one more night you’ll need to stay somewhere, but if it’s a travel connection you need to absolutely make, it’s best to know. (Again, keep that timetable handy).
Mostly, and the crème-de-crème of the BazBus, is: it is door-to-door to the Backpackers you choose from their list of accommodation stops (no need to lug your gear from edge-of-town bus stops … bonus!).
So, to book your ticket: how long will you be travelling the Coast of South Africa? (Remember, you will have to include overnight stops in both Port Elizabeth and Durban). Do you want to travel in one direction only, or back-track? Once you’ve answered both those questions, book whichever ticket suits you best. There’s often great on-line specials, but I booked over the phone.
You will be given a ticket # to quote, then both an SMS and phone contact for booking each leg of your journey as you go. Or, as I did, just have each backpackers you stay make the bus booking for you – they were all happy to do that.
I printed and took with me: the map on the BazBus homepage, the timetable, and their list of backpackers (the last two are in PDF, so alternatively you can download and save to your phone).
Once you’ve boarded the BazBus for the first time, thereafter, you just let them know (via phone call or sms) from which backpackers you need to be collected on what day, and to which backpackers you want to be dropped.
When you’re confirmed, they’ll issue a 30-minute time range of when you’ll be collected from your backpackers.
The time of year you travel may make a difference to the BazBus experience you have. I travelled May/June, in what is considered the low season, so the bus was rarely full; only once at capacity and once just two of us (lie-down, sleep, score!).
When it’s full, it’s a very intimate, squishy, shoulder-to-shoulder journey. But not unbearable. And still nothing like “the” local buses in other parts of Africa/India/et al.
At half or three-quarter capacity, on the journeys I took, the driver/s tended to have ditched the luggage trailer, and so, whatever extra room we might have made use of, was taken up with bags (small annoying groan, but not overly dramatic).
Also, depending on the destinations you choose, many of the travel legs between towns, for most, won’t be longer than four hours in duration but, even if yours is, the bus will often have emptied out in the course of the journey, making those last few dog-hours more comfortably bearable.
Because of low-season, I was able to book the next leg of my Baz Bus just a day ahead each time, however, I was advised in the summer-peak it can book out, and three days ahead is recommended.
To that same end, I was able to book each of my backpacker accommodation just a day ahead too, but the same applies for their potential to book-out in the summer-peak season.
TIP: private rooms and/or private rooms with ensuites weren’t as easily available as dorm beds in some locations, so if it’s this type of accom you’re after, book in advance.
The BazBus has a good list of the backpackers you can stay in each town (and thus be dropped, & picked-up, at their door/s) and it’s just as easy to stick to these; though it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of you choosing elsewhere, getting dropped at one of the BazBus backpackers and, making your own way to the accom of your choice. This is different in Northern Drakensberg where the Baz Bus has only one backpackers on its list and which, as indicated in reviews on Trip Advisor, might not necessarily be where you want to stay.
In terms of deciding which towns to stop and where to stay, you can pre-plan or work it out as you go. I chose the latter, and it was many of the backpacking hosts who provided the most valuable advice and recommendations. Talk to them. Most obviously too, hit up like-minded travellers who you’ll meet on the bus; and at backpackers, those travelling in the opposite direction are a gold-mine for up-to-date info on where you’re headed.
Alongside bus companions, the many and varied drivers are an integral part of your unique Baz Bus experience; all wonderful, but different. They ranged from the inspiring, charitable driver who stopped to deliver bread and clothing to families in need; to one who was a veritable walking, talking travel guide; to he who had us partying until we arrived in Durban for “bunny-chows” (curry in bread).
All age ranges use the Baz Bus, and although the majority is of the 35-and-under type, it doesn’t feel weird if you’re not. It’s a terrific option for solo travellers and as a female alone, I felt entirely safe, always. I met amazing people and had incredible experiences.
The coast of South Africa is stunningly beautiful and its wilderness, just a little inland, equally so.
The Baz Bus is a great weight-off-your-shoulders way to take the worry out of your travel and enjoy all this route has to offer; which is a lot!
Baz Bus booking was easy and efficient; both in the first-purchased overall ticket, and then the bookings for each leg thereafter.
I would definitely travel the Baz Bus again, but next time would take longer, to make every stop on the route!