Who and what is 'Baz Bus?' Three and a half years ago Baz Bus consisted of two drivers and founder Barry Zeidel, otherwise known as 'Baz'. Which is where the name of the company comes from. Despite what you may have heard 'Baz' is not an acronym for 'Backpacking Around Zuid-Afrika' or 'Backpackers Automobile Zoo!' (Names often given by Baz himself.)
In the early days the buses traveled twice a week from Cape Town via Port Elizabeth, Durban, Johannesburg, Kimberley and back to Cape Town. However, due to customer demand the coastal route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth was made bidirectional.
Slowly but surely frequency of the trips was increased. The popular garden route went from twice a week, to four and then five times a week. Today Baz Bus does a daily run between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and back.
Staff size has also grown from three to 36 in three and a half years. "A big difference from the days when marketing manager Warren Whitfield, ill with German measles, came to work because there was no one else to answer the phone. He lasted until 3pm and then 'passed out' with the phone in his hand," laughs Baz.
He explains that the growth of Baz Bus occurred simultaneosuly with that of the burgeoning backpackng industry in South Africa: "At the time of its launch, Port Elizabeth had one hostel, today there are five. Durban boasted only three hostels and now has 13. The number of hostels is in fact growing all the time. We're also happy to add that the standard of South African hostels is generally considered to be of the best in the world," Baz says.
Bazbus arrives in Zimbabwe
In line with the increase in backpacking and budget travel as well as the growing numbers of tourists visiting Southem Africa, Baz Bus has embarked on extending its service to travelers. February 1999 saw the introduction of a four times weekly Baz Bus services from Johannesburg and Pretoria to Zimbabwe. As with Baz Bus hop on/ hop off service passengers can disembark in Bulawayo and then join again to proceed to Victoria Falls. "We have been inundated with requests to go to Zimbabwe and the demand prompted the introduction of this service. Now travelers can do a flexible return South Africa/ Victoria Falls journey with the greatest of ease says Baz.
Zimbabwe is not the only Southern Afican country outside of South Africa visited by Baz Bus. And the service extends across the Royal Kingdom of Swaziland as well. In fact through some innovative alliances Baz Bus network covers five Southern African countries in all. Through these co-operative ventures Baz Bus has negotiated a shuttle service from Swaziland Backpackers to Maputo, Mozambique. Hostels in Livingstone, Zambia offer free pick-ups to take you across the border from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
Baz Bus is not planning on stopping here and has its eye firmly on the future. "Tourism in Southern Africa is getting off the ground in a big way and we want to stay right there with it every step of the way," Baz concludes.