Despite being the third-largest city in South Africa, Durban is one of the underrated places in South Africa. Most people tend to think of only the warm ocean and the long stretch of coastline, but Durban has a much bigger significance in Africa’s economy than anticipated. It has Africa’s biggest port – the ninth biggest in the world, biggest mall, the fifth largest aquarium in the world, to name a few. Although not as cosmopolitan as Cape Town and Johannesburg, it has a unique mixture of British, Zulu and Indian heritage. Life isn’t as buzzing as in bigger cities, but you shouldn’t confuse the slow pace with monotonicity because Durban is quite the opposite. Here is everything you need to know about traveling in Durban.
The Best Time To Visit
We can consider Durban to have a subtropical climate, but it is not as overwhelming as you think, at least not in winter. The winter is usually dry and sunny, while the summers are hot, humid, and rainy. However, being at the southern end of the east coast, the city experiences a much milder rainy season. The ocean, being warm all year round, makes Durban an ever-ideal destination for surfers.
The closest airport to Durban is King Shaka International Airport. On an international scale, it is not as busy as OR Tambo or Cape Town, with most of the international flights coming from other nearby African cities like Maputo and Gaborone. Any flight you take from overseas will have a stopover in Johannesburg. Besides, you are likely to start your South Africa trip in either Cape Town or Johannesburg. Either way, getting to Durban is quite easy.
You can also hire a car in Cape Town or Johannesburg and take a lovely road trip through the countryside. The roads are mostly in decent condition, but you should still avoid driving at night.
Durban is much smaller than Cape Town and Johannesburg, so getting around is very easy. The major attractions in the city are quite close to each other, mostly 5-10 minutes apart by car. That means taking an uber won’t drain your wallet at all.
The People Mover bus system is another way of getting around within the center. It is always on time, safe, and only 16 Rands for a full day’s pass.
The Ricksha Bus is the Durban version of the Red Bus and has a route that goes through most of the major touristic attractions.
Things To Do
Things to do in Durban range from entertaining aquarium excursions to surfing and adrenaline sports. It is also a convenient central base for several National Parks and Game Reserves in KwaZulu-Natal.
Durban City Hall
Durban’s City Hall is an example of British Colonial architecture, whose architect based the design on the City Hall in Belfast. The building is magnificent from the outside, but it has much more to offer on the inside with the Natural Science Museum and the National Art Gallery.
The 9 km stretch of promenade is one of the most vibrant areas of Durban. The warm Indian Ocean makes it ideal for surfing all year round. There are many food stalls, 5-star hotels, shopping centers and restaurants lined up. You could come here every day and still find something new around every corner.
Ushaka Marine World
The largest aquarium in the Southern Hemisphere is located in Durban’s Golden Mile. With many amusing water parks and tanks inside, this place is intriguing for every age. From the large stingrays and massive sharks to small razorfish and seahorses, Ushaka offers all layers of the unique marine ecosystem. There is also a shopping mall-complex that has several restaurants and stores.
Durban Botanical Garden
Being the first botanical garden of Africa, Durban’s Botanical Garden contains a unique collection of indigenous plants, such as a large collection of rare cycad trees.
Victoria Street Market
Durban has the largest Indian population outside of India, so it shouldn’t surprise you to see a prominent Indian influence. This is even more obvious in Victoria Street Market, where you can find everything from spices to scent sticks. Also, try to visit the chaotic Zulu market across the bridge, forming a contrast with the soothing vibe of the Indian market.
Moses Mabhida Stadium
Soccer is very popular in Durban. Moses Mabhida Stadium even hosted a game during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. However, this magnificent structure is not all about football; it is also home to the world’s highest swing. Joining the guided tours, you can swing across the stadium with a projectile that is 80 meters high. The stadium also hosts an authentic goods market on every Saturday.
You cannot visit Durban and leave without trying bunny chow, a traditional cubic dough filled with a curry of your liking. It requires resistance towards chili and spicy, but the result is quite filling.
This affluent neighborhood in Durban’s new business hub and it also features the largest mall in Africa.
This is the most vibrant street in Durban, comprising various pubs and restaurants.
Hare Krishna Temple
Built in 1969 in the Indian neighborhood of Chatsworth, this lotus-shaped temple is the largest of its kind in Africa. From the inspiring architecture and ceremonies to the delicious meals of its vegetarian restaurant, the temple is one of the obvious highlights of Durban
Bunk bed at a hostel: 150 ZAR per person per night
A double standard room: 500-600 Zar par night, sleeps two people
A five-star hotel: 1000-1500 Zar per room per night
Bunny Chow: 50-75 per meal
Fine Dining: 150-200
Uber between Moses Mabhida and the City Center: 30 Zar
Day-pass for People Mover Bus: 16 Zar
Museum Entry: 0-20 Zar
Ushaka Marine World: 180-300 Zar depending on the type of activities you want to join
A safari tour to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi including transportation: 1000-1500 ZAR
Tips And Things You Might Need To Know
- Like any other city in South Africa, Durban is mostly safe during the day, but we don’t recommend walking alone in the dark.
- For a panoramic view of the city, visit the Roma International Hotel near the harbor. The top floor rotates, allowing you to gaze at every part of the city.
- Durban is malaria-free.
- Tipping of 10-15% is expected in restaurants and coffee shops.