Air Travel in Durban
Durban's new international airport, the King Shaka International Airport, at La Mercy, on the north coast, will take over operations from Durban International Airport (DUR) in 2010, prior to the World Cup. (At this writing, it plans to open on May 1, 2010.) The airport—three times the size of the current airport—is about 17 km (11 mi) from Umhlanga and about 32 km (20 mi) from Durban. Durban International Airport (DUR), which is 16 km (10 mi) south of town along the Southern Freeway, will be decommissioned once the new airport opens. For updates on the new airport, contact Airports Company South Africa.
South African Airways (SAA) flies to Durban via Johannesburg. Domestic airlines serving Durban include SAA, BA/Comair, Kulula, 1Time, SA Airlink, and Mango. Perhaps the easiest way to book a ticket to or from Durban is online. Kulula and 1Time are the more comfortable of the budget-priced airlines, as their seats are a little larger, but Mango is also well worth considering. If you're flying one of these three airlines, you'll be expected to buy your own snacks and drinks on board. SAA is usually the more expensive option, unless you're looking for a ticket at short notice (next day or two), when it may turn out to be cheapest.
The most inexpensive transfer into Durban and back is the Airport Shuttle Service, which costs R50 and departs a half hour after incoming flights arrive and leaves the city center every hour. Its drop-off points are flexible within the city and include the Hilton Hotel and South Sun Elangeni, but it's likely to drop you anywhere central if you request it first. Call ahead and the bus will pick you up at any hotel in the city; there's no need to reserve for the trip into Durban. If you want to go farther afield, call the Magic Bus or catch a cab from outside the terminal building.
Airports Company South Africa. 011/921–6262. www.acsa.co.za.
Durban International Airport. 031/408–1155.
King Shaka International Airport. 011/921–6262.
Airport Shuttle Service (031/465–5573.)
Magic Bus. 031/263–2647.
Greyhound and Translux Express offer long-distance bus service to cities all over South Africa from Durban. All intercity buses leave from New Durban Station off Masabalala Yengwa Avenue (N.M.R. Avenue), between Archie Gumede Road (Old Fort Road) and Sandile Thusi Road (Argyle Road). Bear in mind that you can often fly for much the same prices as traveling by bus, especially if you book well in advance or find a discount.
Small Mynah buses operate from 6 am to 7 pm along set routes every hour through the city, along the beachfront, and on to the Berea. Bus stops are marked by a sign with a mynah bird on it. The main bus depot is on Monty Naicker Road (Pine Street) between Samora Machel (Aliwal) and Dorothy Nyembe (Gardiner) streets. It costs a couple of rand per ride, and you pay as you board; exact change isn't required. Route information is also available at an information office at the corner of Samora Machel Street and Monty Naicker Road.
The new People Mover buses service the Golden Mile and Central Business District (aka CBD) at a cost of R4 per ride or R15 for a day pass; buses arrive every 15 minutes between 6:30 am and 11 pm. All of the fleet's 10 buses are air-conditioned and equipped with electronic ramps for disabled access and strollers. Buses also have security cameras, and each of the 17 stops is staffed by security people.
Mynah Bus and People Mover. 031/309–5942.
Translux Express. 031/361–7670.
Durban is relatively easy to find your way around because the sea is a constant reference point. Downtown Durban is dominated by two parallel one-way streets, Dr. Pixley Kaseme Street (West Street) going toward the sea and Anton Lembede Street (Smith Street) going away from the sea, toward Berea and Pietermaritzburg; together they get you in and out of the city center easily. Parking downtown is a nightmare; head for an underground garage whenever you can. As with the rest of South Africa, wherever you go you'll be beset by self-appointed car guards who ask if they can watch your car. The going rate for a tip—if you want to give one—is R2–R5, depending on how long you're away. The guards directly outside Joe Kool's, between North and South beaches, are said to be very trustworthy. Don't leave your keys with anyone.
The M4 (Ruth First Highway), which stretches north up to the Dolphin Coast—from Umhlanga to Ballito, about 40 km (25 mi), and beyond—is a particularly pretty coastal road, offering many views of the sea through lush natural vegetation and sugarcane fields. It's much nicer than the sterile N2 highway, which takes a parallel path slightly inland and offers no views.
Avis, Budget, Europcar, and Tempest have rental offices at the airport. The cheapest car costs about R300 per day, including insurance and 200 km (125 mi) free, plus R1.50 per kilometer (per half mile), or about R400 for the weekend. Avis offers unlimited mileage to international visitors, as long as you can produce your return ticket as proof.
Avis. 0861/102–1111. www.avis.co.za.
Budget. 0861/016–622. www.budget.co.za.
Europcar. 0861/131–000. www.europcar.co.za.
Tempest Car Hire (0861/836–7378. www.tempestcarhire.co.za.)
Colorfully decorated rickshaws are unique to Durban—you won't find them in any other South African city. Though their origins lie in India, these two-seat carriages with large wheels are all over the city and are pulled exclusively by Zulu men dressed in feathered headgear and traditional garb. The rickshaw runners ply their trade all day, every day, mostly along the Golden Mile section of the beachfront. The going rate is R20 for about 15 minutes per person, and R8 for a photo (don't assume you can take a picture without paying for the privilege). While it's worth doing because it will be memorable and you won't have the opportunity anywhere else—negotiate the rate before climbing on.
Taxis are metered and start at R5, with an additional R9 to R10 per kilometer (per half mile); after-hours and time-based charges apply. Fares are calculated per vehicle up to four passengers. Expect to pay about R50 from City Hall to North Beach and R200 to Durban International Airport. The most convenient taxi stands are around City Hall, in front of the beach hotels, and outside Spiga d'Oro on Florida Road in Morningside. Some taxis display a "for-hire" light, whereas others you simply hail when you can see they're empty. Major taxi companies include Bunny Cabs, Eagle Taxi, Mozzies, Umhlanga Cabs, and Zippy Cabs. If you're headed to the Indian Market on a weekend, consider having your taxi wait for you, as it can be difficult to flag a taxi in this neighborhood.
There's no need to worry about contacting a taxi on your own. They will either be easy to find or your hotel or restaurant can call one for you. Once a driver has dropped you off, he/she will usually give you a card so you have contact details for the return trip.
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