By David Savage *This article first appeared on BootsnAll
The 'Baz Bus' is a hop-on hop-off bus service travelling between Cape Town and Johannesburg via Northern Drakensburg or Swaziland. The concept is the same as OZ Experience and Kiwi Experience. Passengers pay for a ticket which is valid for twelve months and en route they can jump off and hop on a following bus as many times as they like and at their convenience.
The route travels mainly along the Southern Coast of South Africa. From Cape Town along the Garden Route (Eastern Cape), then into the Transkei before hitting Durban. From Durb's, depending on which ticket has been bought, passengers will either travel on to Johannesburg via the Drakensburg Mountains or via Swaziland.
My ticket took me via The Drakensburg Mountains. Those who choose the Swaziland route still get to hop-off in the Southern Drakensburg before hitting Durban.
There are other ways to travel South Africa. Car hire is cheap, especially if travelling on the British Pound, and there is a reasonable Express Bus service operating to most parts of the country. You can even buy a car then sell it just before you fly home, although this practice isn't as well set-up for travellers as it is in places like Australia.
The Pro's and Con's Pro's
- A structured timetable allows you to know where you'll be and when.
- No need to buy maps and involve yourself with route planning.
- Most of the drivers will help you book accommodation and sort out any booking problems when you get there.
- You can snooze and snog whilst someone else does the driving.
- There is an onboard video player and if that's up the duff, the drivers will play your music.
- You get to meet other travellers and swap plans and teach each other (mainly European) obscure drinking games.
- At most stops, Baz Bus will take you straight to your hostel's doorstep.
- You can, in theory, spontaneously decide to jump off at any town on route, should you see a place that inspires you to do so.
- Hi-jacking is less likely, but out of the cities it's unlikely anyway.
- The buses are a little more cramped than Express Coaches.
- There is little challenge in comparison to travelling independently.
- In peak time, you may have to structure your timetable and book your seat well ahead, as buses fill quickly, limiting your spontaneity.
- It is more expensive than taking an Express Bus between cities, but Express buses don't operate a hop-on hop-off system.
All in all Baz Bus is a convenient way to travel the main Backpacker drag of South Africa and into Zimbabwe. The price is pretty good and the flexibility of the ticket isn't oppressive, meaning you can allow your plans to change or just don't plan.
If you've travelled or know of the OZ Experience then this is a no thrills version. The drivers are polite but light on conversation and there is little or no commentary about the places you'll pass through between stops.
If you are a first time traveller then this is an ideal way to find your feet, which will also give you peace of mind from a safety point of view. If you are a hardened traveller you may have wished you'd saved a little harder to buy your own vehicle or rented a car. If you're intermediate...well, find a nice chick or bloke to fall in love with, just to keep yourself amused on those long journeys.