Insiders Guide To the Baz Bus
How it Works:
There are two kinds of tickets available:
1. Time Specific: Good for unlimited travel in the allotted time period (1 week, 2 week, and 3 week tickets are available)
2. City to City: Go from Cape Town to Johannesburg or vice versa as slow or as fast as you like. No expiration.
The Baz Bus is Good For:
The Baz Bus is Bad For:
Long Distance and Quick Travel. With potentially stopping at 4-5 hostels per city and unloading and loading new passengers at each one, time is not the Baz Bus’s best friend. These little stops eat up a significant chunk of time. For instance a trip from Cape Town to Durban on the Baz Bus takes approximately 2 full days (because of the mandatory stop over in Port Elizabeth) and includes about 30 total hours of driving. Comparatively, the local Greyhound will do the same trip in only 7 hours.
Meeting Locals. The Baz Bus lacks the local flavor. Since South Africans don’t use it as a method for travel, you’ll miss out on the invaluable experiences and knowledge that residents can offer.
Your Budget. Almost always, the Baz Bus will take more Rands out of your wallet than any other option. Public transportation, renting a car, or obviously hitch hiking (which is fairly common and still deemed safe by many) are much cheaper. From Cape Town to Durban, you could save around 2000 Rands by taking a local bus rather than the Baz Bus.
Other Things to Know:
1. The Baz Bus often runs 30-45 minutes early or late. It’s not their fault though. It really depends on how many stops the bus has to take, what cities it needs to go to, and if the oncoming backpackers are ready when it arrives.
2. The Baz Bus does have great storage space. Depending on how full the ride is, the bags will either be stored on the bus or in a small trailer attached to it. The drivers will treat your bags with care making it safe for passengers carrying guitars or surf boards.
3. During most rides on the Baz Bus, you will have the chance to make a written comment about your experience. This helps ensure that drivers are always on their friendliest and safest driving behavior.
4. The Baz Bus only runs to specific cities on certain days and times. Not only that but during holidays or peak seasons, it can fill up fast. This kills a degree of spontaneity and requires some advance planning.
5. There are eight cities on the Baz Bus route that the buses don’t actually go to. They’ll drop you off at a stop along the way and you must take a separate shuttle to your hostel. The shuttles cost extra and can range anywhere between 150-500 rand one way (approximately $30-100 USD round trip). The prices vary by which city and how many people take it with you. The cities that require shuttles are: Stellenbosch, Hermanus, Oudtshoorn, Hogsback, Coffee Bay, Mpande, Port St. John’s, and Southern Drak.
6. Wifi on the Baz Bus costs extra, is not available on all routes, and must be paid via a credit card.
7. While the Baz Bus can be a fun and enjoyable experience, your ride will most likely not be as hyped up as their promotional video suggests. The majority of people will read or fall asleep Also, while the seats may be more comfortable than a mini bus, they are never the less…. bus seats. Making taller or larger passengers cramped and claustrophobic.
Example #1: Beth is new to backpacking and it’s her first time in South Africa. She is looking for a leisurely way to visit all the coastal cities. She has no time constraint and her budget is not overly tight.
Recommendation: The Baz Bus would likely be the best option due to her inexperience in traveling and her leisurely schedule.
Example #2: Arthur is in Cape Town but needs to get to Johannesburg in three days to catch a flight. He wants to meet other travelers and see as much as South Africa as he can in his last remaining days.
Recommendation: Take public transportation. It will be much faster and will ensure he gets to Johannesburg with plenty of time to spare. If he is interested in seeing as much of the country as he can before he leaves– the Baz Bus is not a great option. Although it travels through more cities and at a slower pace, he will see everything only through the window. It would be better if he took an extra day in Cape Town or somewhere along the way for sight seeing before proceeding on to Johannesburg.
Example #3: Sandra and her boyfriend are looking to save as much money as possible on their trip. They want to travel from Durban to Johannesburg but are worried about safety and security.
Recommendation: Take public transportation. If cost is the biggest factor than it is cheaper not to go on the Baz Bus. Although the Baz Bus might feel more safe and secure, most public transportation is too. If hundreds and thousands of locals take it every day and are safe, chances are so will Sandra and her boyfriend. Of course, they should always use common sense and be careful when arriving at the bus stop in Johannesburg. However if they keep alert and are wise then they can relax knowing their travels will be funded a little longer with the money they save.
Is the Baz Bus Worth All the Buzz?
If you are looking for an easy and leisurely way to travel? Yes. A trip spread out over at least a couple weeks or preferably between Cape Town and Johannesburg with no time constraints could be made more enjoyable with the Baz Bus.
For those with a strict time frame or budget? No. It is simply not worth it. Not when you are in an amazingly beautiful country where a few extra dollars or days to explore can be spent in so many better ways than looking out of a bus window.
So there you have it… the complete insider’s guide to the Baz Bus. Whatever you decide, just remember to have fun and enjoy each and every moment.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014