The Ultimate Destination Guide to Durban, South Africa

Durban is the ultimate destination for beach going travelers. Located on the east coast of Southern Africa and forming one of the biggest ports in Africa itself, it’s no wonder this city is at the forefront of trade and tourism. More affectionately known as The Kingdom of the Zulu, this  city is world renowned for its warm sandy beaches, cosmopolitan vibe, mix of cultures and strong British colonial heritage. Here is your ultimate destination guide to Durban.

 

ESSENTIAL TRAVEL INFORMATION:

Current Time Zone: GMT +2

Area Code: 031

Currency: ZAR / South African Rand

north-beach-durban

PRETRAVEL INSPIRATION

South Africa has a strong British past and rich colonial history. Before getting there you should watch:

  • Invictus (2009)
  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)
  • Tsotsi (2005)
  • Leon Schuster’s Mr Bones (2001)

You should read:

  • Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela
  • Cry the beloved country – Alan Paton
  • Jock of the Bushveld – James Percy

ricksha

LOCATION

Durban is the third largest city in South Africa. It is a coastal city located on the eastern side of the country.

INTERESTING FACTS

The Durban harbor is the 9th largest in the world.

The oldest ultra-marathon in the world, also known as the Comrades marathon, takes place here annually.

The famous beachfront rickshaws were originally brought to Durban in 1893 from London and have been in operation for over 100 years.

Durban is home to the world’s fifth largest aquarium known as Ushaka Marine World. It is located at the end of The Golden Mile (a stretch of beach running 6 km’s).

The International Airport – also known as King Shaka International Airport – is named after Shaka Zulu, a famous Zulu King who ruled the surrounding lands.

GETTING THERE

By air: Durban has two airports – King Shaka International Airport and Virginia Airport. King Shaka International Airport is the preferred airport for all international flights and the majority of domestic flights.

 

GETTING AROUND

By bus: Durban Transport runs the major bus service lines. These are the Mynah and Aqualine. The Mynah travels around most of the city, including residential areas like North Beach, South Beach, Musgrave, Mitchell Park, Botanic Gardens and Kensington Road while the Aqualine buses run through the greater metropolitan area. Trips usually cost around R5.

 

By taxi: Popular 24 hour taxi services include Mozzie Cabs, Zippy Cabs, Eagle and Uber. There are local minibus taxis running all around the city however for safety reasons, it is recommended that private and metered cabs be used.

 traditional-artwork-on-sale-at-essenwood-market

POPULATION & CULTURE

Durban has an approximate population size of 3.6 million people who originate from a range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The main religions practiced in the city include Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. Over the years, the city has more fondly become known as the rainbow nation for the growing fusion of cultures in the tourism industry.

 

WHEN TO VISIT

Well known for its year-round warm subtropical climate, Durban averages with 320 days of sunshine a year. The winter season runs from June to August and is generally characterized by maximum temperatures of 24 °C as well as low humidity levels, making it one of the more popular times to visit. This also means that even during the coldest times of the year, you can still enjoy the beaches!

 ushaka-marine-world

TOP THINGS TO SEE & DO

The beaches

Durban has become famous for its central beach area where you can wander along the promenades, browse flea markets or take a surf lesson. For the adventurous, maybe try kayaking on the Umgeni River, jet skiing at Blue Lagoon or grab a cocktail as you dangle your feet over the waves at the famous uShaka Moyo Pier Bar.

Moses Mabhida Stadium

The Stadium itself was originally built for the 2010 Fifa World Cup but now has a range of fun activities on offer year round. Take a ride up the stadium arches on the Sky Car or for adrenaline junkies you can bungee jump of the stadium! The iHeart market is open on the first Saturday of every month where you can grab a drink and shop. You can also rent a bicycle and ride alongside the stadium and beachfront promenades.

 

Go on safari at Hluhluwe Game Reserve

The Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve is located on the north coast of the KwaZulu-Natal province and is home to approximately 84 species of game. It is also home to Africa’s “Big Five” which means if you’re lucky, you could see lions, buffaloes, rhinos, elephants and leopards amongst other majestic creatures.

 

uShaka Marine World

One of Durban’s top water parks located on the Durban’s Golden Mile beach stretch is Ushaka Marine World. Home to the Wet & Wild swimming area, Sea World, Village Walk, uShaka Kids World and UShaka Dangerous Creatures; this is a fun place where many locals hang out.

 

Valley of a 1000 Hills

For a more tranquil setting, visit the Valley of a 1000 Hills which is located just 30 minutes inland of the city. Here you will find the Phezulu Safari Park, Cultural village, Crocodile & Snake Park as well as the Umgeni Steam Railway train which will take you through many nearby villages.

Annual Sardine Run

If you’re lucky and if temperatures are right, you will be able to catch the annual Sardine Run which happens sometime between June and July. During this run your will see thousands of sardines travelling along the east coast followed by dolphins, whales and sharks.

Traditional Afternoon Tea at the Oyster Box

For something a little more stylish and pretty, afternoon tea at The Oyster Box is a must. Enjoy a range of treats under chandeliers purchased in London and of course, live piano music. It’s one of the prettiest places around.

 

Scuba diving

Durban and surrounding areas have a range of reefs and shipwrecks, making it a fun spot for diving. There are also a range of centers providing PADI scuba diving courses ranging from beginner to the more advanced. Popular dive spots include Aliwal Shoal and Sodwana Bay.

 cocktails-at-ushaka-moyo

WHAT TO EAT & DRINK

Many cultures have infused together giving the city a mix of flavors. This has manifested into some of the most unique dishes only found in this city. Try these:

Borewors Roll

This is a local version of the more well-known New York hot dog containing a spicy char-grilled sausage.

 

Biltong and Droewors

Traditional South African beef snacks that consist of dried, cured meats which are usually salted and sometimes flavored.

 

Bunny Chow

An Indian delicacy that you will only find in Durban, consisting of a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry.

 

Chakalaka

Spicy relish consisting of grated carrots, green peppers, sliced onions, vinegar and chili, often served alongside a main course.

 

Melktert (also known as ‘milktart’)

This classic South African dessert shows distinctive Dutch traits and is similar to the ‘melktert’ you will find in Holland.  It consists of a sweet crust, filled with a creamy custard filling made from milk, flour, sugar and eggs; baked in a round pie followed by a delicious dusting of cinnamon.

  essenwood-market

ESSENTIAL PHRASES YOU SHOULD KNOW

Howzit – Used as a greeting meaning “How’s it going?” (You may also hear “heita” or “hoezit”)

Lekker – really nice

Ja-Nee – “Yes No” – used when you don’t really want to agree or disagree

Jislaaik – Expressed in extreme surprise

Bru / Bra / Oke / China – male friend

Braai – a BBQ

Chow – to eat

Eina! – Ouch!

Eish! – used to express surprise, wonder, outrage

Further Reading:  A Travelers Guide to South African Slang

 

USEFUL INFORMATION

  • Police and Flying Squad: 10111
  • Metro Police: 031 361 0000
  • Ambulance: 10177
  • Durban Transport information: 0861 000 834 / http://pti.durban.gov.za/
  • Durban Tourist Information: 031 304 4934
  • KwaZulu-Natal Tourist Information: 031 366 7500 / http://www.zulu.org.za
  • South African Tourism Information Call centre (open 24/7): 087 803 4636
    (Operators speak Dutch, English, Afrikaans, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese)
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Posted by

Hi World! I'm Shal - an environmental microbiologist, writer, teacher and artist from Durban, South Africa. I've spent the last two years traveling and teaching Chemistry and English to young kids in Asia. Life of Shal was founded as a way to share travel experiences, tips and other worldly magic with you! Join me on my journey!

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