Thanks to THE PARTYING TRAVELER for this article published on his blog.
South Africa’s Garden Route is famed worldwide for good reason. It is hands-down one of the best road trips you will find on the planet. Cruising along the Garden Route, you are never more than half an hour from either the mountains or the ocean. Coming from the U.S., I was more than a bit jealous that South Africa had somehow managed to squeeze our entire West Coast onto a single highway.
The moody, foggy wilderness of Oregon, the stoic mountains of Washington, the epic coastline of California… all of it compressed onto a stretch of road that you could cover in half a day. It seemed ridiculously unfair looking back on my three-week West Coast American road trip a few years ago. I really paid for 10,000 miles worth of gas when I could have faked the whole thing on a single tank in South Africa?
Just kidding, America. I still love ya. After over a month spent in Cape Town, I was itching to get on the road and explore what the rest of South Africa had to offer. While there are a number of guided tours for the Garden Route, I think the best way to see the Garden Route is on your own time. The Garden Route has too many things to see to limit yourself to a tour’s itinerary. The hectic pace of a guided tour that tries to squeeze in too many things in too little time can be extremely overwhelming. Traveling like that hardly allows you to truly experience a place.
I am a very independent traveler, mostly because I get restless and bored easily. I don’t think I’ve even made it halfway through a walking tour without getting restless and wanting to wander off on my own. I can’t really imagine being restricted on a several day guided tour but to each their own. If there’s a word that means claustrophobic but for like a travel itinerary, that would describe it a little. Not having the freedom to do your own thang sucks.
Hiring a car would be ideal, but for many travelers, that might not be an option. I technically could have rented a car, but until you reach the ripe old age of 25, in most places, you get charged extra for renting a car. It’s like a dumb extra insurance charge just because I guess us youthful spirits are menaces to society.
There’s also the added inconvenience of having to drive hungover after the inevitable South African braais and jols you’ll experience along the way. Okay, maybe that extra insurance charge does have some reasoning behind it, but I digress…
For budget travelers, solo travelers, backpackers, and any traveler in between, the Baz Bus is the best way to travel throughout South Africa. And when it comes to the Garden Route, it is absolutely unrivaled.
What the h*ck is a Baz Bus?
The Baz Bus, in short, is what it sounds like. A bus. But in long, it is way more than just any bus. From Cape Town to Johannesburg and over forty of South Africa’s most poppin’ destinations in between, it is the premier way for travelers to work their way through the beautiful country of South Africa. But let’s stick with the Garden Route for now.
Why Should You Take The Baz Bus?
The Baz Bus Leaves 5 times a week in Both Directions *
The Baz Bus leaves 5 times a week from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and vice versa. If you are traveling along the Garden Route, this is the perfect way to see it. Next to having your own car, this gives you as much freedom with your itinerary as possible. Having a guaranteed mode of transportation weekly to get where you need to go takes a big load off your chest.
It’s underrated how important peace of mind is while traveling. Not having to worry about getting to and from a place is a game changer. You can spend as much time or as little time somewhere as you like. All you need to do is tell the Baz Bus a little bit in advance when you plan on leaving and you are set. It’s as simple as literally sending a WhatsApp message. As long as the Baz Bus has space, you are good to go. And the Baz Bus always had space during my month traveling with them in the middle of busy season.
Door-to-Door Accommodation Drop-Off
Door-to-door drop off is a huge game changer and one of the aspects where Baz Bus really shines. There are over two hundred accommodation options in South Africa that the Baz Bus will happily pick you up and drop you off at. This is unbelievably useful if you don’t have your own car.
One might argue that public transportation will be cheaper and more direct than the Baz Bus. However, the Baz Bus picks you up and drops you off right at your accommodation as long as it is on their (lengthy) list of accommodation options. For some of the more isolated destinations, public transportation and taxis might not even be an option. The further you get along the Garden Route, you’ll have a much harder time getting to and from places without your own car or a guaranteed pick-up and drop-off.
Baz Bus saves you the hassle of getting to and from bus stations and the extra cost of taking taxis to where you need to go.
Cheaper Than Renting A Car
If you are traveling with a decently-sized group of people, then renting a car might be a viable option. However, for solo travelers and backpackers on a budget, the costs of renting a car might be too much to bear.
My budget in South Africa was a little something like this:
$10-15 per night for accommodation
$15 per day for all of my meals
$420 per day on biltong
As you can see, my addiction to biltong left very little money for transportation. Renting a car as a solo traveling 24 year-old came with a ton of hidden costs. Insurance, gas, hitchhikers who think good conversation is a fossil fuel… Hopping on the Baz Bus was simply cheaper and gives you peace of mind by not having to worry about the well-being of a car in a country where I’ve probably seen more cars with broken windows than not.
The transportation packages of the Baz Bus gives you the best bang for your buck. You can choose to go one-way for an unlimited amount of time, giving you the chance to truly immerse yourself into every region of South Africa. The other option is limiting yourself to a certain amount of time but with the ability to go in either direction. This is perfect if you maybe just need a two-week break from Cape Town and want to hop around the Garden Route and have a guaranteed way back to Cape Town.
Free Wi-Fi On The Baz Bus
I mean, obviously, this is the trump card, right? Yes, you’re traveling and Wi-Fi should be the last thing on your mind but having Wi-Fi on the Baz Bus proved to be extremely useful. Looking for last minute hostels, double-checking bookings, contacting friends you’re meeting up with, and of course uploading things to Instagram. None of that would be possible without Wi-Fi. Baz Bus or bust.
Knowledgeable Drivers That Can Help You Out
One of the pleasant surprises of the Baz Bus was the friendliness of the drivers. Although most other transportation options are just there to get you to and from one place, I found the Baz Bus journeys going by quicker with entertaining bus drivers. From Xhosa lessons to life advice, the Baz Bus drivers were never shy to partake in conversation with their passengers.
The drivers represent the company extremely well and were definitely one of my favorite parts of the entire Baz Bus experience. On the occasional ride when it’s just you and the driver, it feels like you’ve got your own private chauffeur who is capable of answer any questions you have about South Africa and always willing to impart their own advice.
Meeting Fellow Travelers on the Bus
The best part of riding on the Baz Bus is easily the people that you meet on the bus. From the get-go on my very first ride on the Baz Bus, I met some amazing people who had endless stories to tell. There wasn’t a single dull moment from Cape Town all the way to the start of the Garden Route.
One of the only real perks I see of doing a guided multi-day tour is that you don’t have to worry about your itinerary. You can go in completely blind and just be whisked away from place to place without worrying. However, what if you’re less into beach days and more into mountains? Or you’d rather spend the day kayaking instead of relaxing.
The thing with the Baz Bus is that you can go into your trip completely blind. The people you meet on the bus and the drivers themselves will be able to help you out with anything you want to do. If there’s something you want to do, someone on the bus is likely interested in doing the same thing or has already done it. You can hop onto the Baz Bus hopelessly unprepared and be able to take it day-by-day without any worries. I think that’s the best way to do it because plans can change, weather can change, but the Baz Bus will always be there.
Running into people over and over again on the Baz Bus and sharing suggestions and experiences with each other is priceless. As a solo traveler, you are never truly traveling alone. The backpacking community is one of the most open and welcoming in the world, and surrounding yourself with fellow travelers on the Baz Bus will make your South African experience much more exciting and much less lonesome.
The Highlights of South Africa’s Garden Route
And because pictures speak a thousand words, here is a glimpse of what you can expect on the Garden Route. Just in case you were wondering what exactly made this little road trip special.
Spend The Day At Tsitsikamma National Forestry
This national park is one of the top attractions along the Garden Route. The scenery is diverse and there is no shortage of things to see or do.
Kayak or Hike Your Way Up The Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness
Hike The Circuit at Robberg Nature Reserve in Plettenberg Bay
Kayak Your Way Through Storms River
This could kind of fall under Tsitsikamma but it is cool enough that I think it deserves it’s own little section. I so badly wanted to do this but could only watch from the hanging bridge as the kayakers disappeared into the deep crevasses of Tsitsikamma.
Catch The Killer Views Of The Knysna Heads
This viewpoint is a stop that you can easily drive up to. It takes no more than about half an hour to take in all of the insane beauty of the stunning South African coastline from above.
Take A Dip At Knysna Lagoon
Once you’re done taking in the beauty of Knysna from above, you can take it all in from within by diving right into the Knysna Lagoon. The setting made it feel like I was taking a dip somewhere in the Italian Riviera. It was one of the most unexpectedly beautiful swimming holes I encountered in South Africa.
Take The Leap Off Of Bloukrans Bungy Bridge
The bungy bridge is one of the tallest in the world. I, unfortunately, was not able to make the jump myself due to me being a big wuss. It is 216 meters high, making it one hell of a drop. Watching from a distance was good enough for me, but for the more daring, it is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things that you should consider doing.
Take it easy in Jeffrey’s Bay
The beach town of Jeffrey’s Bay, or JBay as it’s more affectionately referred to, is one of the most chill spots on the South African coast.
Go Surfing and Wipe Out at Super Tubes in JBay
There are also a ton of other things that I didn’t have a chance to do. The more time you spend along the Garden Route, the better. It is paradise for anyone passionate about adventure and the outdoors.
Out of every country I’ve traveled to, South Africa was the one that I spent the most consecutive time in. From the culture of Johannesburg, the beauty of Cape Town, and literally everything in between those two, it’s hard to even come close to seeing it all. My epic adventure through South Africa was in no short part thanks to Baz Bus.