How to Travel From Durban to Cape Town by Bus, Car, and Plane

Long exposure of a road leading towards Table Mountain, Cape Town

~UserGI15667539 / Getty Images

Durban (KwaZulu-Natal’s golden beach city) and Cape Town (the spectacular cultural hub of the Western Cape) are separated by just over 1,000 miles. In this article, we look at the best ways to travel between the two; whether you’re looking to get there in record time or on the tightest budget. We also recommend the most scenic route for those with a rental car and the time to enjoy the journey. 

   Time Cost  Best For 
Bus   24–27 hours From 560 rand Those on a budget 
Plane   2 hours, 10 minutes From 920 rand Getting there quickly
Car   18 hours 1,015 miles (1,633 kilometers) Traveling on your own schedule

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Durban to Cape Town?

For those with plenty of patience and time to spare, the cheapest way to get from Durban to Cape Town is to ride the bus. These are large, interprovincial coaches managed by three different operators: Intercape, City to City, and Translux. Of these, we recommend Intercape because they have the greatest choice of departure times, the cheapest fares, and the most comfortable buses with air-conditioning, overhead movies, and on-board toilets. 

Intercape buses depart from the bus stop on Durban beachfront, on O.R. Tambo Parade opposite the Tropicana Hotel. The journey to Cape Town Station (on Adderley Street in the city center) takes between 24 and 27 hours depending on which service you choose. Expect to pay between 560 and 680 rand (around $41 to $50) for a ticket, with the more expensive option giving you the freedom to change your date of travel with fewer penalties. Tickets can be purchased online or at the bus station before departure. 

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Durban to Cape Town?

The fastest way to get from Durban to Cape Town is definitely to fly direct between the two cities. The flight itself takes 2 hours, 10 minutes, although it’s important to factor in travel time to and from each airport. Durban King Shaka International Airport (DUR) is located 20 miles north of the city center, while Cape Town International Airport is 12 miles inland from the V&A Waterfront area. Transfer times for each city take between 30 minutes and an hour depending on traffic.  

Several operators ply this route, including Flysafair and Kulula (a partner of British Airways). Both are reliable airlines with a good reputation for safety and punctuality, although Flysafair tends to beat Kulula on price. At the time of writing, regular fares start from R920 depending on your date of travel, with specials often offered. You can book tickets directly through the airline websites, or compare prices using an online marketplace like Skyscanner

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

If you were to drive non-stop from Durban to Cape Town, it would take approximately 18 hours. Realistically you should plan on two full days minimum, with a night in between at a hotel or lodge. There are three main routes, the longest of which (1,015 miles/1,633 kilometers) is also the fastest, thanks to the better condition of its roads. To take this route, follow the N3 inland from Durban towards Harrismith, where you will merge onto the N5. At Winburg, join the N1 and follow it southwest through Bloemfontein and all the way to Cape Town.

There are multiple car rental depots, both at the Durban beachfront and at King Shaka Airport. Some internationally recognized and trusted names include Thrifty, Budget, Avis, Europcar, and Hertz. 

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Cape Town?

In terms of the best days of the week to travel, plane fares are typically cheaper from Monday to Thursday and on Saturday than they are on Fridays and Sundays. In terms of the best time of year to visit Cape Town, the Mother City is a rewarding destination at any time of year. The weather is best from September to May, with the South African winter (June to August) being the coldest and wettest season in the Cape. December is the busiest time thanks to the South African summer holidays and the festive season happening simultaneously. If you travel at this time, be sure to book travel and accommodation well in advance. 

What’s the Most Scenic Route to Cape Town?

The most scenic route to Cape Town follows the N2 all the way. It adds just 13 miles to the fastest route listed above, but about 1.5 hours in extra time. However, you will travel through the remote Transkei region before joining the world-famous Garden Route at Storms River. This 125-mile stretch of coastal road takes you past wild beaches and quaint seaside towns, sweeping mountain ranges, and an innumerable list of farm stalls, adventure activities, historic landmarks, and scenic viewpoints. Plan to spend at least a few days and nights making your way south if you choose this route.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

MyCiTi buses connect Cape Town International Airport to the city center and depart every 30 minutes from the bus station directly outside the main airport terminal. Operating hours are from 5 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekends. A single trip costs 80 rand per person, although a more cost-effective option for many travelers is to purchase a myconnect card from the MyCiTi station kiosk for 35 rand. You can then load a one, three, or seven-day pass for between 70 and 230 rand, entitling you to unlimited travel during that time. Taxis and Ubers provide the easiest transfer options outside MyCiTi bus hours. 

What Is There to Do in Cape Town?

Cape Town is often hailed as South Africa’s cultural capital, and for very good reason. The Mother City is known for its world-class museums, theaters, art galleries, and historic landmarks—including Robben Island and Bo-Kaap. Its culinary scene is similarly impressive, and the Cape Winelands are just a short day trip away. Above all though, Cape Town is famous for its breathtaking scenery. Get a bird’s-eye view from the top of Table Mountain, swim with penguins at Boulders Beach, or embark on a scenic drive around the southern peninsula and Chapman’s Peak.

Read our articles on Cape Town’s top things to do and the ultimate 48-hour Cape Town itinerary for more inspiration.