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Revision as of 08:39, 25 February 2009

Durban beach front.

Durban [1] is a city of about 4 million on South Africa's east coast in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). It is no longer just a holiday/resort city, boasting industry and Africa's busiest container port.

Contents

Understand

Durban was originally called Port Natal, and was founded 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 South Africa. Zulu is the most common local language in both KwaZulu-Natal and Durban. Afrikaans features far less in Durban (and in KZN in general) than in the rest of the country.

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Get in

By plane

Durban International Airport (formerly Louis Botha Airport) is the main airport serving the city of Durban and is 15km south of the city center. It serves mostly domestic destinations and the only international flights are to/from Mauritius (Air Mauritius) and Swaziland (Swazi Express Airways [2] and South African Express). All other international flights will enter the country through either Cape Town or Johannesburg. A new international airport is under construction 40km North of the city at La mercy and due to be operational in time for the Soccer world cup in 2010. See also Discount airlines in Africa.

By bus

All national carriers (e.g. Intercape, SA Roadlink, Greyhound, Translux ) and the Baz Bus offer regular services to Durban. The city is the gateway to Kwazulu-Natal province & north eastern Eastern Cape province.

By train

The central train station is in the city centre.

Spoornet [3] operates daily inter-city trains to Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg, with a weekly service to Bloemfontein, Kimberley and Cape Town. You can also get to Port Elizabeth or East London by changing trains in Bloemfontein.

MetroRail [4] operates frequent commuter trains to various suburbs of Durban and towns nearby (such as Pinetown and the resort towns of both the south coast (eg. Kelso and Park Ryne) and the north coast).

By boat

Some cruise ships dock in Durban, but generally there are no "one-way" entries by boat to Durban. In theory passage on a freighter might be arranged, but it's not widely advertised.

Get around

By car

The best way to get around Durban is by car. You are able to explore the city and surrounding areas at your leisure. There are a number of car rental companies that have safe and reliable vehicles for travel groups and single travellers.

  • CABS Car hire, +27 (0)21 386 5500 (, fax: +27 (0)21 385 1110), [5]. Branches at all major airports in South Africa
  • Tempest Car Hire, +27 (0)31 469 0660 (, fax: +27 (0)31 408-1416), [6]. Safe and affordable car rental service at all major locations in South Africa.

By bus

Unlike other major cities in South Africa,Durban has got a reliable, user/tourist friendly public transport to get around the city centre & its surbubs.The municipality is replacing the older buses with brand new one's.The process will be completed by August 2009 in time for the 2010 soccer world cup. Durban's newest transport system is People-Movers buses, which feature CCTV cameras, tv and wheelchair-friendly ramps. They run from 6:00am until 23h00, and depart from dedicated stop every 15 minutes. These buses stop over in the CBD, the Victoria Street Market,the Workshop,Suncoast casino,Ushaka marine world and along the beach route.(R4.00 per trip,valid for 1hour on a hop-on ,hop-off basis (route map available at the tourist juntion cnr Pine/Gardiner streets and Ushaka Marine World. There is also the usual public bus system. Bus schedules are relatively accurate within the city but allow extra travel time if taking the bus. You can pick up free paper schedules and buy discounted multi-ride tickets/coupon at the info booth at the depot across the road from The Workshop.To travel between the Berea surbubs and the city its cheaper to travel by Mynah buses,R2.40 off peak (8h00-15h30), peak R3.60. Park your car in Musgrave Centre and travel by Mynah bus to the city or Florida road as parking in those areas is scarce to non existant. The Mynah buses depart from the Workshop terminus every 15/20 minutes to Musgrave,The Ridge, Kensington, Mitchell Park/Florida road, South , 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. If u travelling daily by bus to work,its advisable to buy a weekly coupon,which can save you up to 35% of the cash fare. Fare, bus route & time table enquiries :-@ 0313095942/3 To Bluff (route 330/338/411/418 )To Yellowwood Park/Woodlands/Woodhaven/Montclair (route 505/518/520.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). 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). To Pinetown/Westville central/Westwood mall, catch Aqualine Pinetown/Westmead bus (route 855,857,858,870,871,873,877,886).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 .Most buses depart every hour,check the bus schedule. Please note that sometimes to get to your destination, u 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 in front of the bus. Please note that u must flag the bus down to stop at the bus stop, it won't automatically stop. It is advisable to have the extact change before u board the bus and get a receipt!

By metered taxi

Registered taxis are common, generally safe and relatively inexpensive. There are ones which are based in Durban, in surrounding suburbs and in Umhlanga Rocks. These 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. The ones that can be recommended for the Durban and surrounds are:

  • Umhlanga Rocks Taxis (Ucabs), ph: +27 (0)31 561-1846, [7]
  • Eagle Taxi's, ph: +27 (0)31 337-8333
  • Zippy Cabs, +27 (0)31 202-7067, [8]
  • Mozzie Cabs, +27 (0)31 303-5787 (local toll share: 086 066-9943), [9]

By minibus taxi

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 then buses.

By Rickshaw

Rickshaw rides are offered to tourists along the beach front, for amusement rather than getting around. Watch out for the many ups and downs in the ride; the tipping back of the rickshaw cause the contents of your pockets to fall out, into the coffers of the drivers!

See

  • Berea. This is a long ridge overlooking the harbor, city center and beaches. Once covered with coastal forest, it is now completely built up.
  • City Hall. There is an art gallery and outdated science museum inside, as well a a public library.
  • Florida Road. Definately the happening street in Durban. Restaurants, Bars Cafe's Boutique shopping the in happy friendly Durban hang out.Durbans most interesting book shop, Book Base also located at the top of Florida Road (275) and is open every day. Lots of interesting material of historical interest, Zulu Wars etc to be seen ph:+27(0)31312355.
  • Durban Botanical Gardens, +27 (0)31 201-1303 (, fax: +27 (0)31 309-1271), [10]. Visit on a Saturday and see a mixture of Cultural weddings all having their photos taken
  • The Golden Mile The Golden Mile, the nickname for the beaches near downtown that stretch along the Indian Ocean, is well known for it's excellent surfing, occasional shark attack and wide sandy beaches. Visiting around the Christmas holidays ensures a crowded experience, complete with stations for missing children, but visit at the off season and you'll practically have the place to yourself, save the serious surfers. There are also play pools and playgrounds for children along the waterfront, as well as hotel, bars and restaurants.

Events

Do

uShaka Marine World
Dolphin Show at uShaka Marine World

Down on the beach strip:

  • Swim, surf or canoe year round or watch pro surfers at the various tournaments held throughout the year.
  • Snorkel and deep diving in the secluded beaches, amongst the clear waters and corals.
  • Take helicopter rides with NAC Helicopters Unlimited, Hangar No 4, Virginia Airport, Durban 4051, ph: +27 (0)31 564-0176, (fax: +27 (0)31 563-0037), mob: 082 977 1847, [11]
  • Gamble at the Suncoast Casino, Suncoast Boulevard, Marine Parade, Durban, ph: +27 (0)31 328-3000 (fax: +27 (0)31 328-3001, email: mailto:webmaster@tsogosun.com)
  • Sibaya Casino, Sun international


  • Visit Fitzsimons Snake Park, 240A Lower Marine Parade, North Beach, (next to Mini Town), Durban. ph: +27 (0)31 337-6456 (cell: +27 (0)73 156-9606, fax: +27 (0)31 337-3125), [12]. Open daily 9AM-4:30PM.
  • Visit the uShaka Marine World, 1 Bell Street, Durban 4001 ph: +27 (0)31 328-8000, [13] to see the HUGE Aquarium or ride more than eight different rides in the Waterworld
  • Watch the Durban A1 Grand Prix (800 m from the Durban CBD and 300 m from the North Beach coastline close to the Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World) Brickhill Road, Durban. [14] The only road race on the world circuit.

Elsewhere in the city:

  • Watch the horse racing at the Greyville Race Course.
  • Surfing artificial waves at the Gateway Shopping Center.
  • Visit the Shark Institute and take a boat offshore to see the shark nets that protect beachcombers from shark attack.
  • Crocodile creek.
  • Mahatma Gandhi Settlement - historical tours.
  • Historical compensation sugar mill
  • International 18 hole Zimbali Golf Estate.


Festivals

  • Poetry Africa [16] - International Festival of Poetry. Early October every year.
  • Time of the Writer [17] - International Festival of Writing - March every year.
  • Durban International Film Festival [18] - International Festival of Film - July/August every year.
  • Jomba! Contemporary Dance Festival [19] - International Festival of Contempary Dance - every year.
  • Awesome Africa [20] - World Music Festival - September every year.
  • MTN Durban Fashion Week [21] - For all fashion-lovers! June every year. For all fashion-lovers!
  • Durban July [22] - July every year.Africa's Premier Horse-Racing Event, with plenty of celebrities and walking fashion models to bump into.
  • Hindu Festivals - There are dozens of these and you'll need to ask around because they're not well publicised, but there's one in Easter in the Umbilo area where devotees walk on hot coals, and another sometime between February and July (it moves) called Kavady where the devotees pierce their backs with hooks and drag decorated portable shrines. Not to be missed!

Hiking

  • Glenholme trail for disabled & blind persons, Glenholme Nature Reserve, +27 (0)031705-5448. Caters for wheelchairs and the blind with elevated walkway and guide rails and braille plaques.
  • Nature Parks - There are dozens of nature reserves in the suburbs, just ask around. Please remember to be safe, there are natural hazards like snakes, and criminals like the isolation for different reasons.

Parks and Reserves

  • Durban North Japanese Gardens, +27 (0)31 563-1333. Free entrance.
  • KwaZulu Natal National Parks [23]

Buy

  • Gateway Mall, the largest in the southern hemisphere
  • Victoria Street Market. Mostly oriental souvenirs. Haggle hard, beware of pickpockets.
  • Essenwood Craft Market - For a true taste of South Africa look out for a guy selling biltong (South African jerky). A good place to buy curios, and don't be afraid to haggle. Last time I was there I found some beautiful Zimbabwean soap-stone sculptures at a very good price.
  • The Pavilion - A large shopping mall with a good range of shops.

Crafts

  • Zulu beadwork
  • Wirework
  • Wicker work - from baskets and sustainable conference bags to fantastic lights and furniture

Clothing

  • Note the crafts are designer quality 'collectibles' in the best shops - try the African Arts Center at Tourist Junction on West Street, or the BAT Center on the harbor front

Food to bring home (subject to import regulations)

  • Spices - anyone dare 'mother-in-law's revenge' ? Fantastic!

Eat

As Durban has one of the largest Indian populations outside of India itself, 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 - Windermere 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 a long pier build into the harbour, 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. Its South African-style jerky and available in a whole range of flavors and textures.

Drink

Zacks, located at Wilson's wharf on Victoria's embankment is a popular place to get thirst quenching drinks and just relax and enjoy the view of the harbor. 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, on the port is also a good place for a quick meal or drink. There's free jazz most nights as well as 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.

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under R500
Mid-range R500 to R1000
Splurge Over R1000

As one of the largest cities in South Africa, and a major tourist destination, Durban offers a broad range of accommodation. There are many budget guest houses, an abundance of mid-range hotels and several luxury hotels. For those who want to stay longer it is also possible to rent a fully furnished flat.

Budget

Gibela Backpackers Lodge, +27 (0)31 303-6291 (), [24]. This lodge has placed itself high with international and local travellers alike. It is a 4 star graded property by the South African Tourism Grading Council and is the 2008 winner in the South African Tourism Welcome Awards - Backpacking. It is also offers a totally smoke free environment, including the garden.

Banana Backpackers, Pine Street, +27 (0)31 368-4062.

Hippo hide, 2 Jesmond Road, Berea, +27 (0)31 207-4366, [25]. Dorm R85, single R170, double and twin R220, triple and en-suite double rooms R280.

The Happy Hippo, 222 Point Rd, Waterfront, +27 (0)31 718-1196, [26].

Shelbourne Lodge Bed 'n Breakfast, La Lucia, +27 (0)31 562-1282, [27]. R350.00 pps.

Sundance (Ballito Bed and Breakfast), 18 Dolphin Crescent, Shakas Rock (Up the hill from Salt Rock Main beach, 20 mins North of Umhlanga), +27 (0)32 525-5342 (, fax: +27 (0)32 525-5342), [28]. From R300.00 per person per night.

Durban Self Catering Accommodation, +27 (0)76 480 2565 (), [29]. magnificent upmarket apartments are right on the beach front with unobstructed views of the Indian Ocean.

Midrange

Dolphin Sands B&B, [30].

Crooked Tree Cottage, Umhlanga Rocks, [31].

Splurge

Royal Palm - Gateway, 08 Palm Boulevard, New Town Centre, Umhlanga Ridge, [32].

The Royal Hotel, [33].

The Riverside Hotel & Spa, [34].

The Quays, Timeball Square, Waterfront, [35].

Quarters Hotel, [36].

Durban Self Catering Accommodation, [37]. An Exclusive Private Beach House, With sea views spanning from Ballito in the North, to the Durban Point and light house in the South. The part of the beach it is on is usually very quiet.

Stay safe

Mounted police

The beach strip is frequently patrolled by policemen, there are CCTV cameras and there's ample lighting at night. As in all countries, 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 promonade along the beach is safe to walk, but do not venture to the side and back roads of the hotels. Avoid the Point Road area - day and night time.

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 70s 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, known for prostitution and cheap hotels has higher crime rate (although parts are currently 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. Point Road has been renamed Mahatma Ghandi Road. Despite the new name and the image the city is trying to project it is probably better to keep clear of this area.

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

HIV/AIDs is very common in South Africa, so observe standard precautions. Assuming that everyone is HIV positive is not an unreasonable precaution.

Stay healthy

  • Travel vaccines and general practitioner services available at Umhlanga Sports and Travel Clinic [38] Umhlanga Hospital Helipad, 323 Umhlanga Rocks Drive, Umhlanga Rocks. +27 31 560 5569

Get out

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!







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