Travel guide for Africa

5 Things You Should Know When Taking the Bus in Southern Africa

In Africa, you can visit iconic destinations or discover game reserves that are off the beaten path. The most popular way to explore Africa’s diverse and vibrant locales is to travel by bus. Not only does the bus conveniently gets you around, it also lets you get a good eyeful of Africa’s best coast-to-coast landscapes. View our  Quintessential Guide to bus traveling in Africa to discover more travel tips.


The sub-region of Southern Africa is extremely diverse, being home to many culture and peoples, speaking a wide variety of languages, ranging from Bantu dialects to Afrikaans, Portuguese and German. The southernmost region of the African Continent is also known for its beautiful landscapes and natural treasures. Activities range from adventurous escapades such as taking part in safaris and scuba diving in the reefs to laid back getaways like wine tasting and sandcastle building on beautiful beaches. We strongly encourage you to make the most of your time in the Southern African region by visiting more than one country. There is an extensive network of international bus lines, making inter-country travelling seamless and hassle-free. If you’re currently in the area or planning an upcoming trip, Here’s what you need to know when taking the bus in Southern Africa:

Make sure to venture outside of South Africa

We did a bit of research on tourism in Southern Africa. We found out that a large part of international tourists visiting the region of Southern Africa tend to stay solely in the country of South Africa, at the southernmost tip of the continent. Although South Africa has unique attractions, such as its beautiful coastline and vast national parks, there are many surrounding countries with natural and cultural jewels. Here’s a bit about South Africa’s neighbouring countries, we’ve included links to some links to our site to help you find buses you might want to check out. 😉

Zimbabwe: the Victoria Falls, twice as high a the Niagara Falls, considered by many as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World

Mozambique: beautiful beaches and scuba diving-friendly reefs

Namibia: the Kalahari desert, which can be seen in the movie The Gods Must be Crazy

Botswana: the Okavango Delta and its incredibly diverse wildlife

Malawi: Lake Malawi, an African Great Lake

We’re excited we’ve recently added coverage on Busbud in this region. Bus travel is pretty popular down here. In fact, you can travel between countries in the region quite easily by bus as the coverage between large cities and parks is extensive

Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

Main bus companies

Lucky for you, there are several bus companies in the region! In terms of frequency of departures, coverage and overall quality, we have handpicked a few that are superior to the masses:

Lions cubs in South Africa. Photo credit: Christine Donaldson

How to make the most of the Luxury Service

Unlike in other countries, such as Brazil or Mexico, buses in the Southern African region don’t have class tiers. However, most bus providers often offer luxury services, which include extra amenities. For example, Intercape has its Sleepliner, and Greyhound operates a fleet of double-decker buses named the Dreamliner (in contrast to Boeing’s new plane with the same name, all passengers on the bus get VIP treatment and space for a good night’s rest, not just those in first class). Something good to know: wifi in buses isn’t widespread in Southern Africa, but air conditioned is common, even when you book the more basic bus options. Here are a few extra amenities you can expect to find if you book a luxury service in Southern Africa:

  • Seats that can recline up to 150 degrees
  • Extra leg room
  • On-board toilet (although several companies offer this in the basic bus options as well)
  • Video entertainment (movies)
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • A hostess or steward
  • Reserved seating
The interior of Intercape’s ”Sleepliner” fleet

When to buy your ticket

As bus travel experts, we at Busbud agree to say you should buy your bus ticket as far in advance as possible, especially during peak times or high season (which in Southern Africa runs from November to March), because prices will generally tend to rise as the travel date approaches. We launched a new feature on Busbud where you can view your past searches and compare them to observe the price trends of the ticket you are looking to book.

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Photo credit: Christine Donaldson

Safety

There are some safety precautions that are valid for any travel around the globe, and that we would suggest you apply when in Southern Africa. Keep an eye on your luggage! Your heavy/large bags will most likely be stowed behind the bus you’ll be travelling on. Once arrived at your destination, be sure to stand nearby when the driver or company employee opens the baggage hold and starts unloading the bags, as this is the most favorable moment for thieves to snatch baggage. Furthermore, you will likely be solicited by locals very enthusiastic to carry your bags in return for a tip. Take your time and make sure you have the situation under control if you decided to take them up on it, to be sure to avoid any unfortunate misunderstandings or an innocuous-looking person running off with your stuff before you know what’s going on.

Giraffe crossing in a desert in Zimbabwe. Photo credit: Jonatan Pie

So what are you waiting for? Book your next bus ride through Southern Africa!