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Durban

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Durban

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Durban beach front.

Durban [3] is a city of about 4 million on South Africa's east coast in KwaZulu-Natal. It is no longer just a holiday/resort city, boasting industry and Africa's busiest container port.

This is a World Cup 2010 host city with games to be played at the new Moses Mabida Stadium.

Understand

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 and South African Express)

See also Discount airlines in Africa.

By bus

All national carriers (e.g. Intercape, Greyhound) and the Baz Bus offer regular services to Durban. The city is also the gateway to Kwazulu-Natal province.

By train

The central train station is in the city centre.

Spoornet 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 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

Durban's newest tourist-targeted transport system is a range of high tech buses, or 'People-Movers', which feature CCVTV cameras, and wheelchair-friendly ramps, among other features. They run from 6:30am until the evening, and depart from each stop every 15 minutes. These buses stop over in the CBD, the Victoria Street Market, and along the beach route.

There is also the usual public bus system but as in any large city use common sense. Bus schedules are relatively accurate but allow extra travel time if taking the bus. You can pick up paper schedules and buy discounted multi-ride tickets at the info booth at the depot across from the Workshop. The Mynah lines depart from this depot to Morningside and the beachfront as well as buses to many southern and western suburbs.

Registered taxis are common, generally safe and relatively inexpensive. These are also known as metered taxis. 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, [4]
  • Eagle Taxi's, ph: +27 (0)31 337-8333
  • Zippy Cabs, +27 (0)31 202-7067, [5]
  • Mozzie Cabs, +27 (0)31 303-5787 (local toll share: 086 066-9943), [6]

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. They are mostly small vans and 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. Combi taxis are very common and less expensive than registered taxis, but opinions differ as to their safety. There are many published reports of accidents involving combis, and there are frequent stikes and taxi wars over territory. 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.

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

FLORIDA ROAD Definately the happening street in Durban. Restaurants, Bars Cafe's Boutique shopping the in happy friendly Durban hang out.

  • City Hall. There is an art gallery and outdated science museum inside, as well a a public library.
  • Berea. This is a long ridge overlooking the harbor, city center and beaches. Once covered with coastal forest, it is now completely built up.
  • Umhlanga Rocks. A holiday resort that's now also home to many businesses that have relocated from Durban's central business district. Home to the Sharks Board, which is well worth a visit.
  • Victoria Street Market. Mostly oriental souvenirs. Haggle hard, beware of pickpockets.
  • Essenwood Craft Market This has somehow lost it oomph - to much imported junk.
  • Durban Botanical Gardens - 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.

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, [7]
  • Gamble at the Suncoast Casino, Suncoast Boulevard, Marine Parade, Durban, ph: +27 (0)31 328-3000 (fax: +27 (0)31 328-3001, email: mailto:[email protected])
  • 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), [8]. Open daily from 9AM to 4:30PM
  • Visit the uShaka Marine World, 1 Bell Street, Durban 4001 ph: +27 (0)31 328-8000, [9] to see the HUGE Aquarium or ride more than eight different rides in the Waterworld
  • Watch the Durban A1 Grand Prix (800m from the Durban CBD and 300m from the North Beach coastline close to the Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World) Brickhill Road, Durban. [10] 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 [11] - International Festival of Poetry. Held on 9th – 14th October 2006. Now in its 10th year, this year is a special edition with an outreach leg in Johanesberg on the 7th.
  • Time of the Writer [12] - International Festival of Writing - preparing its 10th edition for 2007.
  • Durban International Film Festival [13] - International Festival of Film - preparing its 28th edition for 2007.
  • Jomba! Contemporary Dance Festival [14] - International Festival of Contempary Dance - preparing its 10th edition for 2007.
  • Awesome Africa [15] - World Music Festival - now in its 8th year, held during September 2006.
  • MTN Durban Fashion Week [16] - a must see! Will run again in 2008 from the 28th to the 30th of June. For all fashion-lovers!
  • Durban July [17] - Africa's Premier Horse-Racing Event, with plenty of celebrities and walking fashion models to bump into

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.

Parks and Reserves

  • Durban North Japanese Gardens, +27 (0)31 563-1333. Free entrance.

Buy

  • Gateway Mall, the largest in the southern hemisphere

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 Restauranr 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 buildt 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.

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. Another popular destination is Thirsty's, one of Durban's best known pubs located at the edge of the water's mouth so you can watch the vast boats coming and going through the entrance to the port. 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.

Sleep

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.

Gibela Backpackers Lodge. Tel:+27 31 303-6291 [18] 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 was a finalist in the 2007 South African Tourism Welcome awards. It is also offers a totally smoke free environment, including the garden

  • Hotels in Durban
    • The Royal Hotel, [19]
    • The Riverside Hotel & Spa, [20]
    • The Quays on Timeball, [21]
    • Royal Palm - Gateway, [22]
    • Quarters Hotel, [23]
  • B&B in the suburbs along the beach
    • Dolphin Sands B&B, [24]
    • Shelbourne Lodge Bed 'n Breakfast, [25] in La Lucia.
  • Many self catering holiday flats are available in Durban and along the rest of the South Coast.
    • Inyoni Rocks Cabanas, [26], situated right on the Amanzimtoti main beach about 14km to the south of the Durban international airport.
    • Durban Self Catering Accommodation, kingdomofthezulu.com. 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. By the way, I'm a local citizen, and have group-walked through town at one in the morning, without being robbed, raped, or injured. Don't allow silly misconceptions to frighten you.

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.

Stay healthy

DO NOT HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX!!!

In September 2006, a study by the Medical Research Council found HIV infection rates higher than 66% among women in an area just south of Durban [27]. If you decide to engage in sexual activity with someone whose infection status you do not know, please practice safer sex to reduce your risk.


Get out

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