Cape Town's train station is on Adderley Street, in the heart of the city, surrounded by lively rows of street vendors and a taxi stand. The station building and facilities are unattractive but functional, servicing local, interprovincial, and luxury lines.
Metrorail, Cape Town's commuter line, offers regular service to the Northern Suburbs, including Parow and Bellville; the Cape Flats townships Langa, Nyanga, Mitchell's Plain, and Khayelitsha; the Southern and False Bay suburbs of Observatory, Claremont, Wynberg, Muizenberg, St. James, Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek, and Simon's Town; and the Winelands towns of Paarl, Stellenbosch, and Franschoek. The trip to Simon's Town takes 60-70 minutes and costs about R24 for a first-class round-trip ticket, R15 for third class. The train to Khayelitsha costs R17 round-trip first class, about half that for third-class. The last train leaves about 8 pm on weekdays (though it's not advisable to take trains after dark), and weekend service is reduced. Timetables change often. If you travel on Metrorail during off-peak periods, avoid isolated cars and compartments, and be alert to your surroundings when the train stops. Muggers work trains intensively, slipping on and off with ease. Train security is erratic at best. You're safer standing in a cramped third-class car than sitting comfortably in splendid isolation in an empty first-class one, but watch your pockets.
National carrier Shosholoza Meyl runs the Trans-Karoo daily between Cape Town and Johannesburg; the trip takes about 26 hours and costs between R310-R570 on tourist class and R160-R180 on economy class, depending what time of year you travel. Tourist class cars have sleeping compartments. A weekly train to Durban, the Trans-Oranjia, departs on Wednesdays, takes two days, and costs R660 tourist class. You need to make tourist-class reservations by phone (bookings open three months before date of travel) and then pay at the station in advance (not just before departure). Credit cards cannot be taken over the phone. For a third-class ticket you can pay just before you go. The reservations office at the train station is open 8-4 weekdays and 8-10 am weekends. Despite its name, Shongololo Express runs multiday journey-tours, with its Good Hope train traveling from Cape Town through the Karoo and the Garden Route to Johannesburg over 16 days.
Looking to travel in high style? Check out the luxurious and leisurely Blue Train, which travels between Cape Town and Tshwane once a week, and Rovos Rail's Pride of Africa, which runs from Cape Town to Tshwane every Monday. Shosholoza Meyl also runs a Premier Classe train that is a major step up from its tourist class, but far more affordable than the luxury trains.
Metrorail. 080/065–6463. www.metrorail.co.za.
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