Gautrain running between Pretoria and Jo'burg!
After years of construction-related grief, the complete Gautrain system (with the exception of the southernmost section to Park Station in the Johannesburg CBD) is finally up and running! No problems have been reported in the first day of operation, and it is hugely encouraging to see such huge numbers of people turning out to 'test drive' Our Train, the Gautrain!
Please see my earlier transport tips for more details on operating hours, costs, routes and associated bus services.
It has been announced that a bus service will be introduced between Rosebank and Park Station until engineering work has been completed which will allow this final section of the network is commissioned. Note that at the time of writing (3 August 2011), this bus service had not yet been introduced, but indications are that it will commence "within a few weeks". As ever, watch this space ...
Confirmation of the Gautrain bus feeder routes
Halleluia, the full Gautrain network will open on 1 July 2011 (see tips above)! Equally interestingly for the traveller, the routes for the feeder buses linking to each of the Gautrain stations have been confirmed, several of which are potentially useful for the tourist travelling between the stations and various tourist attractions that could previously only have been reached by car or taxi.
Consult the excellent website link below for maps providing detail on the feeder bus route associated with each of the stations (including those in Midrand and Johannesburg), but the following comments are relevant for tourists to Pretoria.
Unfortunately for the tourist, the feeder bus route from Pretoria Central station is designed to meet the needs of commuters, not tourists and is of limited value to the visitor. It is potentially useful to the tourist wanting to get from Pretoria station (on the southern fringe of the CBD) to attractions such as the Pretoria Zoo and Union Buildings (which are on the northern edge of the CBD), but this would still involve a bit of a walk. Disappointingly, the bus does not provide a link to either the Voortrekker Monument or Freedom Park, which are south of the CBD, but a bit too far to walk from the station, so you'll still have to look for other alternatives (probably a metered taxi, which I wouldn't usually recommend, but perhaps once the expansion of Freedom Park is complete, there might be a shuttle bus connection?)
The fares for the feeder buses in 2011 are R6 per trip (if the train and bus are used within a hour of each other) and R20 per trip if not. Be warned that Gautrain (and its related services, including parking and feeder buses) work on a smart card system which you'll need to purchase at a station, as the buses will not accept cash. There is a one off purchase fee (currently R10) for issuing of the smart card.
Finally, note that the bus services only run on weekdays, not weekends or public holidays. On weekdays, that the buses only run during the period when the trains operate. There has been some discussion about extending the operating hours, but at present, Gautrain operates between 05:30 in the morning and 20:30 in the evening, so be sure not to rely on the feeder buses after early evening. Buses run every 12 minutes in peak periods and every 20 minutes in off peak periods.
If you are at a bus stop and want to know when the next bus is due, you can call 010 223 1098 - just be aware that you will have to provide the number of the bus route (for example, P1) and the number of the bus stop.
Hatfield is a surprisingly well located station
I have to admit to being surprised at how well located the Gautrain station (and terminus) in Hatfield is.
The obvious drawcard is the proximity to the University of Pretoria campus and to the affordable student hangouts along Burnett and Duncan streets (see my tip on nightlife). There are also good student-oriented shopping opportunities at the Hatfield Plaza (which also hosts a flea market on Sundays).
For the traveller, most of the embassies, consulates and high commissions in the adjacent suburb of Arcadia are also within walking distance of Hatfield station. When I visited, a very useful free 'Welcome to Hatfield' map was on offer at the Gautrain ticket office, indicating the location of the embassies (as well as other attractions in the area), but there's no guaranteeing that stocks will be maintained in the long term. It might therefore be more prudent to consult the Hatfield Outreach Programme website listed below (which was unfortunately still under construction at the time of writing).
Complete Gautrain service opens 2 August 2011!
Yippee!!! Gautrain have announced that the whole system (with the single exception of Park Station in the Jo'burg CBD) will be commissioned on Tuesday 2 August 2011. This makes the journey between OR Tambo airport and Pretoria very straightforward and less than an hour: you just need to change train at either Marlboro or Sandton (I would recommend the former, as you stay on the same platform, whereas at Sandton, you have to change platform and use an escalator, which is not ideal for those with heavy baggage or limited mobility).
This route is also useful for those travelling between Jo'burg's two major business/shopping/ entertainment hubs in Sandton and Rosebank - this is a straight route and doesn't require any transfers.
As with the rest of the Gautrain system, services will run approximately every 12 minutes between 05:30 and 20:30.
See my earlier tips for an indication of travel times and fares.
Halleluia - good things really do come to those that wait!
Gautrain ticket pricing
The provincial authorities have recently confirmed the pricing on the complete Gautrain high speed rail network that will be open on 1 July 2011 (with the O R Tambo - Sandton link already being operational).
Ticket prices vary based on whether you're a frequent traveller (those doing 44 or 10 trips monthly get a discounted rate) or whether you're just doing ad hoc travel and are detailed on the website below.
Those of interest to the tourist are likely to be the one way tickets from O.R. Tambo International Airport to Sandton (currently R100, increasing to R105 in June 2011), Rosebank (R115) and Pretoria and Centurion (R125) respectively. There is no discount for a return trip (just double the price).
Prices are lower for journeys that do not include the airport link. For example, the longest journey possible (from Park Station in Central Johannesburg to Hatfield in northern Pretoria) will cost R49.
Gautrain to Pretoria opening 1 July 2011!
As of April 2011, the provincial authorities confirmed that opening of the complete Gautrain high speed rail network is still on track (sorry, couldn't resist that!) and will open on 1 July 2011. For a map of the complete network, follow the link below.
In essence, the network has two components: a west-east link from Sandton to O R Tambo International airport (aimed at tourists and those travelling to the airport) and a north-south link from Hatfield in northern Pretoria to Park Station in Central Johannesburg. The hub of the network is Sandton, so anyone travelling from Hatfield, Pretoria, Centurion or Midrand in the north, or Rosebank and Park Station in the south needs to change in Sandton to transfer to the airport.
The most relevant station for tourists on the Pretoria area is likely to be Pretoria Central. This is on the southern limit of the Pretoria CBD, with attractions such as Church Square, Pretoria Zoo, the Transvaal Museum and the Union Buildings. It is also fairly close to the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park. I would not recommend that first time tourists walk to the Voortrekker Monument or Freedom Park - though locals and seasoned backpackers might be confident to walk to the attractions around the CBD - so your only real option is to catch a taxi cab.
Those wanting to get to the Johannesburg CBD should use Park Station, which will bring you close to tourist attractions such as Constitution Hill/the Women's Prison, the Newtown Precinct (including World of Beer, The Worker's Museum, MuseumAfrica and Sci Bono), the Johannesburg Zoo/Zoo Lake and the Oriental Plaza. It is also the closest station to the Apartheid Museum and Gold Reef City, although this is still quite a trek. Most of these (with the exception of the Apartheid Museum and Gold Reef City) are walkable. Having said that, I wouldn't recommend that first time visitors did this anyway, although if you're a local (or a savvy backpacker) it might not faze you. Alternatively, you should catch a taxi cab.
I confess that I am not too excited about advising that tourists take taxi cabs in South Africa, as too often they are unroadworthy, dilapidated and driven by individuals of dubious competence and ethics. My advice would be to look for one in good condition with a meter, and agree the price up front. Hopefully the existing Gautrain bus service (which currently operates around the Sandton/Rosebank area) will be extended once the whole network is open to make these attractions safely and easily accessible from the stations. Alternatively at least some of the major attractions may see the gap and arrange shuttles from Gautrain stations once they get up and going.
Luxurious Rovos Trains
Rovos Rail started in the '90s used old trains of SAR, with it's steam locomotives to bring back bygone ears, luxurious and pricey fro the well heeled and well wallet padded.
It used to have it's passengers spend a nigh at the Victoria Hotel in Paul Kruger Street south opposite the Pretoria Station,
but due to socio-economic shcnages, it renovated the old Capital Locomotive yards buidning ibto a pelasant secene for it's camera keen passengers.
Easy to get there, i.e Capital Park
either a Bus from Church Sqaure of the 'racy' 14/16 seater taxis.
Rovos Rail Head Office, P.O. Box 2837, Pretoria 0001, Gauteng South Africa
Tel: (+27-12) 3158242 / 3236052 Fax: (+27-12) 3230843
Gautrain to Pretoria scheduled for June 2011
South Africa's achilles heel for tourists is the almost complete absence of public transport: interestingly, feedback from visitors who attended the Soccer World Cup in 2010 listed this as their No.1 negative experience (way ahead of more obvious issues like crime).
A major step forward in this regard has been the introduction of the Gautrain rapid rail link between OR Tambo International airport and Sandton, which was commissioned in June 2010 just before the World Cup. This has proved to be wildly popular and is working like a dream. Construction of the next phase of the project (which will involve a northern link to Midrand, Centurion, Pretoria and Hatfield, as well as a southern link to Rosebank and Park Station) is happily due for completion in June 2011.
The Gautrain website listed below provides good and comprehensive information, but I must confess that I find the structure a little counterintuitive - maybe I just don't think like an engineer!
Watch this space!
Although not in use yet, this will make a huge difference to the transport system we have. The first part will be completed in 2010, and should connect the airport to Sandton and Northern parts of Johannesburg. A year later, you should be able to travel to Centurion and also Pretoria.
I will update this tip as the project progresses
Motorist when parking in City Centre and SUnnyside area, do not put money into meters;
attendants will guide you into the parking spot.
Depending on time parked, two to five rand is given for the service
of looking after your car and to avoid paying expired meter fine.
This is done to provide some form of work and income for the unemployed
Pretoria bus service
The Pretoria bus service is not that hard to understand and can be reliable if you understand how it works. You can go on to the City of Tshwanes website were you can download the relevant areas bus timetable. A bus route takes about an hour. Thus if you are half way between town (city centre) and the end route it will take the bus an half an hour to get to you and the other way around. http://www.tshwane.gov.za/bus.cfm
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Arriving by Air
Pretoria does not have an international airport of its own. It is served by OR Thambo (Johannesburg International Airport).
It is easy to get to Pretoria from the airport by the R21 highway. You will enter Pretoria at Fountains Circle, with a view of UNISA (University of South Africa).
These are some of the airlines flying to Johannesburg: South African Airways, Air France, Delta, British Airways, Virgin, Lufthansa, Swiss, Turkish, Emirates, Qantas, Ethiad, Gulf Air, Egypt Air, Iberia, TAP, Olympic, KLM, Singapore, Cathay Pacific, Thai Airlines and others
Ulysses - Tours & Safaris
----- quotes from their website -----
Ulysses Tours and Safaris, established in 1996 and based in Pretoria (Gauteng Province), is an incoming tour operator, specializing in tailor-made itineraries for up-market FITs, groups, incentives and pre- and post conference tours. The company owns a fleet of air-conditioned microbuses, sedan cars and coaches as well as Pretoria’s famous Purple Bus – a double-decker sightseeing and party bus.
In short: Ulysses Tours offers general transport as well as a variety of day and overnight tours.
Apart from the private and scheduled day tours departing daily from Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town, several overnight packages are available. These include tours of the Kruger and Pilanesberg National Parks, the Garden Route, trout fishing areas and Sun City.
Centurion Airport Shuttle
Ulysses Tours and Safaris is operating a “Shuttle Service” between Centurion and the Johannesburg International Airport. This provides single and budget travelers an affordable way of getting to the Johannesburg International Airport.
Private transfers are however still available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Bookings are essential, as we will not automatically be stopping at every hotel if there are no confirmed bookings from that specific hotel.
Service runs four times a day from Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays.
Imperial Car Rental
Imperial Car Rental
5 offices in Pretoria & surrounds.
15 offices in Johannesburg & surrounds.
----- quote from Imperial's website -----
Imperial Car Rental is currently the largest home grown, South African born car rental brand. It was started by Carol Scott in 1979 with a humble fleet of nine cars in a small office in downtown Johannesburg.
Imperial’s philosophy has always been to operate with an entrepreneurial spirit, thinking big, but with the attitude and commitment of a small business. Personal service and attention to detail has been the foundation of the company with a focus on delivering “impressive” customer service.
Imperial currently operates a fleet of over 15 000 vehicles in more than 100 locations across eight African countries namely; South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia. Its most recent branch opening was in the largely untapped market of Soweto.
Imperial has the largest share of the South African corporate market and a rapidly growing leisure market share which Imperial is well positioned to serve through its extensive network and wide range of product offerings.
Imperial’s attributes its success to date to consistently raising the service level bar, which is the key differentiator in this fiercely competitive industry. With its 24 hour service and willingness to go to any lengths for its customers, the company has revitalized and re-energized its twenty five year old slogan ‘Yours Personally’. Every person in the company lives the Imperial promise – “We will impress you”.
Through the decades, Imperial has become a household name and remains one of the strongest brands in the car rental industry.
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Trains from Jo'burg
Trains from Johannesburg to Pretoria is said to be the new 'Muggers' Target' so be careful. Anyhow, I suggest getting here with a registered tour guide. The city is so rich in history, you may need someone to tell stories. A Half-day trip will cover most of the attractions, but a full-day is recommended. If you still insist coming here by train, then you have to get a local cab to take you from place to place...don't ever think about walking, it's way too far!!!
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