There are several frequently asked questions tourists to South Africa have about train travel. Since the two most visited cities are Cape Town and Johannesburg, the first is whether there is a train from Johannesburg to Cape Town, and the answer is that there are several options for overnight train travel between Johannesburg and Cape Town. Another question is whether there is a high-speed train between Johannesburg and Cape Town. The answer to this question is no. The Gautrain is a high-speed train in Gauteng, but there is no Gautrain line between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Your options for train travel between Johannesburg and Cape Town depend on your budget, time in South Africa and what you want from your travel experience. Let’s explore the options for overnight train travel between Johannesburg and Cape Town, which includes the Shosholoza Meyl, Rovos Rail and the Blue Train.
Bus travel between Cape Town and Johannesburg may suit your budget better if you are on a budget.
Train Travel Between Johannesburg and Cape Town: Shosholoza Meyl
The Shosholoza Meyl is a passenger train operated by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA). It travels between Johannesburg, Cape Town, East London, Port Elizabeth and Durban every week at reasonable rates.
The trains travel between Park Station in Johannesburg and Cape Town’s train station. The train journey between Cape Town and Johannesburg lasts 25 hours and covers a distance of 1600 km across South Africa.
The Shosholoza Meyl is a dedicated long-distance passenger train service, offering economy and deluxe sleeper class trains. In both tourist and premier classes, compartments have 2 or 4 berths. Solo travellers share a 4-bed compartment with solo travellers of the same gender. The leatherette benches in the compartments convert to bunk beds at night. Each compartment has a washbasin with hot and cold water under the table. There is a communal toilet, lockable shower cubicle and changing area at the end of the coach.
Train Travel Between Johannesburg and Cape Town: The Shosholoza Meyl Service Offerings
You can book either economy or deluxe tickets on the Shosholoza Meyl. You can also transport your car between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Economy or Tourist Class
The restaurant in the tourist class coach makes South African meals which you can purchase with cash only. You can also buy snacks from a service trolley or bring food. You can get bedding from an attendant at R75 per person. Remember, the tourist class coaches do not have air conditioning, but you can open the train’s windows for fresh air and a cool breeze.
The tourist class Shosholoza Meyl travels between Johannesburg and Cape Town on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The train leaves Johannesburg at 10:30 on these days and arrives in Cape Town the following day at 12:40. The journey is an hour longer than the premier class and takes 16 hours. In addition, the tourist train stops at many towns, whereas the premier train trains only have two stops during the journey.
Deluxe or Premier Class
When you book a deluxe ticket, you travel in the Premier Classe. One of the premier class ticket benefits is access to the VIP lounges in Johannesburg and Cape Town before boarding the train. In the Premier Classe, you get a classy food and beverage schedule. You get welcome drinks and snacks comprising tea/coffee and muffins when the train departs, a full English breakfast, a four-course lunch, high tea and a five-course dinner while travelling. Coffee/tea and juices are complimentary when travelling premier class, but you will pay extra for alcoholic beverages and sodas. You eat meals in a restaurant car and access the premier classe’s lounge coach with a television. The Premier Classe coaches have air conditioning. Your premier class fare includes bedding, towels and additional luxury amenities.
The premier classe’s Shosholoza Meyl travels once a week on Thursdays from Johannesburg and Cape Town. The train leaves Johannesburg at 10:30 on a Thursday and arrives in Cape Town at 12:40 on a Friday. The train travels via Kimberley and Beaufort West to get to Cape Town. You can travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg in premier class once a week on Tuesdays. The train leaves Cape Town at 9:05 on a Tuesday morning and arrives in Johannesburg at 11:03 on a Wednesday. The train travels via Kimberley and Beaufort West to get to Johannesburg.
How Much Are the Shosholoza Meyl Train’s Prices from Cape Town to Johannesburg?
The fare is R690 per trip for tourist class tickets, making this the cheapest train from Johannesburg to Cape Town. The premier class ticket costs R3120 per trip and is reasonable for a more luxurious train travel experience.
How Do I Book the Shosholoza Meyl?
The Shosholoza Website does not contain much information on the service. However, you can book through the following sales and reservation contact numbers: 086 000 8888 / (+27 11) 774 4555. The call centre operates from 8:00 to 16:00 on weekdays and 8:00 to 12:00 on weekends and public holidays.
An online booking alternative is to book through a third-party website by completing a form to get a quote. You cannot make a direct and immediate online booking for travel on the Shosholoza Meyl, and you cannot book tourist class tickets or get a quote for longer than 90 days before your travel date. You can book premier class tickets one year before your travel dates.
Some Considerations for Travelling with The Shosholoza Meyl
Many travellers complain about the train often leaving late and last-minute cancellations. For the most updated information on your journey, follow the South African Railways on Facebook or Twitter.
Train Travel Between Pretoria and Cape Town: Rovos Rail’s Train
Rovos Rail started in 1989 and offers a steam-train experience. They provide several train journeys, including the first-class train between Pretoria and Cape Town. During the trip, guests visit the historic village of Matjiesfontein, with a museum on its platform. The train also stops in Kimberley to visit the Diamond Mine Museum and the Big Hole. Here is a great place to stay if you visit Kimberley.
Each train includes coaches for accommodation, dining and a lounge. There is also a small gift shop, a smoking lounge and an observation car with a balcony. The Rovos Train has no radios or television sets on board.
The Rovos Train does not use Pretoria Station, but the Rovos Rail Station in Capital Park, Pretoria. The train departs from Pretoria at 11:00 on the first travel day. During the second travel day, guests visit Kimberley, and on the third travel day, they see Matjiesfontein. The train arrives in Cape Town on the third day at 18:00. The journey from Cape Town to Pretoria has the same schedule, just in reverse.
Choice of Compartments
The Rovos Train offers a variety of compartments to choose from, including:
- Royal suites: These suites have a private lounge area and an en-suite bathroom with a Victorian bath, separate shower, basin and toilet. Guests can choose between double beds or twin beds.
- Deluxe suites: Each suite has a lounge area and en-suite bathroom with a shower, toilet and basin. Guests can choose between double beds or twin beds.
- Pullman suites: These are available on long journeys and have an en-suite bathroom with a shower, toilet and basin. During the day, these suites have a couch for seating that converts to a bed at night.
How Much Does a Trip on the Rovos Rail Cost?
The ticket prices depend on the type of compartment you book and whether you share a compartment or travel alone. A single supplement is a 50% add-on to a compartment’s regular price. The prices for the train tickets between Pretoria and Cape Town or from Cape Town to Pretoria are:
|Type of suite||Price in South African Rand||Price in USD|
|Pullman Suite||R26 500||$1 875|
|Deluxe Suite||R39 500||$2 794|
|Royal Suite||R53 500||$3 785|
How to Book Tickets for Rovos Rail?
You can submit an information request, a quote, or a booking on the Rovos Rail Website.
Train Travel Between Pretoria and Cape Town: Blue Train
The Blue train launched in 1946 and provides a luxury hotel experience. If you love old steam trains and want a first-class experience, this train is for you!
The Blue Train does not travel from Johannesburg to Cape Town but from Pretoria Station to Cape Town station and between Cape Town and Pretoria. The Blue Train typically travels between Pretoria and Cape Town weekly.
When travelling on the Blue Train, you can choose between suites with either twin or double beds. Each suite has an en suite bathroom. The suites also include the following:
- Radio and move channels.
- A digital entertainment area.
- A selection of music CVs and DVD movies.
The train is air-conditioned, and the windows remain closed at all times. A butler is available in each coach, and room service is available 24 hours daily.
When travelling from Pretoria to Cape Town, the Blue Train leaves Pretoria Station at 14:00 and arrives at Cape Town station at noon on the third day of the journey. The reverse journey from Cape Town to Pretoria has similar departure and arrival times. The Blue Train travels between Pretoria and Cape Town once a week. Depending on the month, there are between 3 and 5 trips a month. For the updated schedule, check their website.
There is also a Blue Train route between Pretoria and the Kruger National Park.
Compartment Options on The Blue Train
You can also choose between a deluxe or luxury experience on the Blue Train. The deluxe compartment has either a double bed or two single beds. It also comes with an en-suite shower or small bath. The luxury compartments are identical, except they have a full bath in the en-suite bathroom.
How Long Is a Trip on The Blue Train?
The Blue Train travels 1660 km between Pretoria and Cape Town. The train journey on the blue train takes three days and includes an excursion in Kimberley in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa if there is time and the weather is good. Guests visit the Kimberley Open Mine Museum and the Big Hole in Kimberley.
What Should I Wear on The Blue Train?
When travelling on the Blue Train, you must take formal clothing for dinner. Men need to wear a jacket or waistcoat with a tie, while ladies need elegant evening wear. During the day, the dress code is smart casual, but you cannot wear shorts or flip-flops in the dining car.
How Much Does a Trip on The Blue Train Cost?
The Blue Train’s rates include all meals, high tea every afternoon, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and excursions. The fare does not include French champagne, caviare or telephone calls. When you make your reservation, you can specify if you need special meals (such as halal, vegetarian or kosher) and whether you prefer a double or twin-bed suite.
The rates for travelling on the Blue Train depend on whether you travel in the low or high season. The low season is from 1 January to 31 August each year and from 16 November to 31 December. The peak or high season is from 1 September to 15 November each year. The Blue Train’s rates from Pretoria to Cape Town or from Cape Town to Pretoria are:
|Type of booking||Low season (ZAR)||Low season (USD)||High season (ZAR)||High season (ZAR)|
|Luxury sharing||R28 915||$2 045||R35 990||$2 546|
|Luxury single||R43 370||$3 068||R53 980||$3 819|
|Deluxe sharing||R23 085||$1 633||R28 495||$2 016|
|Deluxe single||R34 630||$2 450||R42 730||$3 023|
How to Book Tickets for The Blue Train?
You can book your tickets for the Blue Train online.