Should You Take The Baz Bus in South Africa? A Baz Bus Review

The Garden Route South Africa Baz Bus review

“It’s dangerous.”

“Especially for a woman on her own.”

“You definitely shouldn’t drive the garden route by yourself.”

If there was one piece of consistent advice I received when I was in South Africa it was that driving the garden route – the famous stretch of road from Cape Town up to Port Elizabeth – was a dangerous idea for a solo female traveller.

“Really?” I asked.

“Because the roads look pretty safe to me.” I’d been in Johannesburg for days and was surprised at how easy the roads looked – little traffic for a major city, good road surface and slow, considerate drivers. And some of the best trips I’ve taken have been road trips, like in the Florida Keys and Baja California.

In my heart and in my head I was confident about taking a car, until I allowed people to put me off. Call it superstition but when all the local advice (and from a few travellers) is to avoid a car and catch the bus, I take it seriously. Despite extensive travel alone to many destinations that people consider risky (Mexico, Colombia, Detroit, Naples), I still respect the fact that each country is different. And the local people always give the best advice, don’t they?

Not this time, it turns out.

Travelling the garden route by bus, I saw the roads, assessed the driver safety and concluded that driving to Port Elizabeth would have been a very safe breeze; even for a female on her own. Of course, you can never predict safety with 100% certain but it’s not just cars that can be jacked – buses can crash, planes can fall out of the sky and I could die tomorrow slipping on a banana peel.

Nevertheless, after humming and haring for almost a week, I ditched my car hire plans and booked a ticket on the Baz Bus. What follows is my Baz Bus review.

Baz Bus Review The Garden Route South Africa Knysna Waterfront

I should preface my review with a couple of notes:

  • I planned to travel not just the garden route in South Africa (the stretch from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth) but the wild coast too, from Port Elizabeth up to Durban.
  • I’m from the UK meaning that, at home, I drive on the left and function best in a manual car. So, of all the places in the world I’ve hired a car, South Africa was, in theory, likely to be easiest of them all.

Below are the pros and cons or positives and negatives  of taking the Baz Bus. Whether the Baz Bus is right for you will depend on your circumstances but hopefully this Baz Bus review will help you decide. And when you’re ready to book, you can check car rental rates with Rental Cars. And compare them to Baz Bus ticket prices.

As I’ve mentioned, I ended up making the wrong decision – I wish I’d hired a car – but there are plenty of people who enjoyed the bus.I won’t bother rehashing the details of the Baz Bus routes, prices and timetables, all of which you can find on the Baz Bus website.


Let’s start with the positive points about taking the Baz Bus:

Baz Bus Review The Garden Route South Africa Mossel Bay

1. You don’t have to drive

If you can’t drive, or you’re nervous about driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, operating a manual car or driving in South Africa (because there are plenty of scare stories about carjackings), having someone else – an experienced local – take the wheel means they also take the stress out of travelling in South Africa. If this sounds like you, I’d wholeheartedly say the Baz Bus is a great option and far superior to other public transport. Just go and book your ticket, you don’t need to read any more.

2. You don’t have to navigate

Often, sitting on the Baz Bus, when we turned down a strange lane or came off the main road, I was grateful that I didn’t have to navigate the country. In theory, the journey should be a straight shot up the coast but we seemed to take way more turns than a single route on a straight highway would otherwise suggest.

Driving Tip: if you do decide to drive, head to the Vodacom shop at arrivals in the airport and buy a local data SIM. That way you’ll have Google maps on your drive. You can use Maps.Me for free but for driving I have found it a bit slow and not as accurate.

3. You can do other things

Reading on a long bus journey is one of my favourite things, as is zoning out and listening to music, daydreaming, journaling (smooth roads permitting), eating, chatting and just plain staring out of the window. Obviously you can’t do this when you’re driving, especially not when you’re on the wrong side of the road in a foreign country paying attention to where you’re going. Related: 50 Best Travel Books of All Time.

4. It’s a long drive to do alone

Cape Town to Johannebsurg is over 1,600 kilometres if you go direct, more if you take the coastal route. If you’re on your own, that is a hell of a long way to shoulder all of the driving (at least it is if you’re from the UK and that distance would tip you off the end of the island). It’s still a chunk of mileage if there are two of you in the car.

Driving Tip: if you’re travelling just the garden route up to Port Elizabeth, the distance is much more manageable, around 800km.

Baz Bus Review The Garden Route South Africa Knysna

5. You meet other people

Once you’re in your rental car, the chance of chatting to other people is restricted to when you stop. Hop on the Baz Bus and you’ve instantly got fellow travellers to chat to for the duration of your bus journey.

Driving Tip: If you’re driving solo and you’re hoping to meet people to car share along the way, don’t be surprised if you find this hard. Direction of travel, itinerary preferences, travel duration and pre-planning all mean that most people have their trip organised before they arrive. Related: What To Do When You Feel Lonely Travelling Alone.

6. The Baz Bus is reasonably comfortable

Ok, it’s a minivan and there could be more leg space (said by the 5ft tall person) but the bus was never full when I took it so you could usually enjoy the luxury of two seats. The air conditioning isn’t great and is often ‘natural’ (i.e. open the window) but it never got too hot and stuffy or too cold as so many long distance buses do.

7. There is wi-fi on board

Sure, it’s only 100mb per journey and there were sometimes glitches with connection but there was, at least, social media quality of internet access onboard. Follow me on Social Media here.

8. Rest stops are regular enough

After a near hostage situation on more than on Vietnamese night bus, having to literally break-out to use the loo mid-way through a 16 hour journey, I always appreciate when bus companies schedule regular stops. Snacks, caffeine refuelling, smoking breaks (if that’s your thing) and just breathing new air – the Baz Bus stopped just enough.

9. The Baz Bus is far better than public buses

First of all, the Baz Bus hits up all the popular backpacker and tourist spots along the garden route and the wild coast. The Greyhound does too (on the garden route, at least) but it comes with two major inconveniences – first, the Greyhound travels that route through the night, so you’re going to arrive some time between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. and, second, you’re going to get dropped off in the arsehole of nowhere, leaving you scrambling around at 3 a.m. for a taxi to your bed. Will you find one? Is it safe? Questions I don’t want to explore at 3 a.m. on my own in South Africa with all my valuables, including my vagina which I’m eternally keen to protect from intruders.

10. The Baz Bus will take you door to door

The Baz Bus will take you door to door. The benefits of this can’t be downplayed. Not only does it save you the cost of getting to and from the bus station to your accommodation, it means you don’t have to deal with finding a ride in the middle of the night. While Uber works like a dream in the big cities (Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Jo’Burg), there’s not a single Uber to be found in the smaller spots. Taking a taxi after dark in Mossel bay, the bar owner called her friend (not a taxi driver) who tried to charge me double what I’d been charged by the official driver on the way there. With the Baz Bus, all you need to do is be packed and ready by the allotted time.

It’s a strong list of positive reasons to take the Baz Bus and overall I have few to no complaints about the service. If I was going to review the Baz Bus just as a service, I’d give it a firm 9 out of 10.


But there are some downsides to consider before you book.

Getting stuck in the rain.

11. You’re stranded when you get to your destination

The one thing I wish I’d known above all else is that the garden route is designed to be explored by car. If you’ve ever travelled through the USA outside the major cities without a car, you’ll know what I mean. Distances between things are far and, often, not walkable. And while your accommodation may have a coveted beach-front spot, chances are, all the action (restaurants, cafes, shops, activities and bars) are located elsewhere. When the general advice is not to walk alone at night (and in some spots during the day), and when you’re in locations where Uber disappears, getting out to explore and even to do something as simple as eat, can be a real chore. Most backpacker spots along the garden route offer either a kitchen for self-catering or they sell food and drink but, for me, I don’t want to travel thousands of miles to cook dinner or eat a load of western food with a bunch of other travellers.

12. Exploring means forever taking tours

Want to go and explore than nearby nature reserve? You have to book a tour. Want to go three bays over to check out the surf? You’ll need to find a driver or a tour. Want to go look around the city when it’s not so safe to do it by foot. Guess what – you’ll need a tour. I can’t say it enough, this part of the world is designed to be explored by motor vehicle and while there are plenty of tour operators willing to step in to help out, sometimes you don’t want an 8-hour combi-tour of the area. Sometimes you just want to spend half a day exploring the national park. On your own. Related: To Take Tours or Not to Take Tours – That is the Question.

Tip: One exception is if you plan to explore Kruger National Park. In that case, I really do recommend a tour because on your own, you’re not likely to see as much – the safari guides know what they’re doing. If budget is a worry, there are some pretty cheap options if you book when you get to South Africa. You can find out more in my guide: Best Kruger National Park Safari on a Budget.

13. The bus timings can be awkward

Don’t get me wrong – compared to the Greyhound, the daytime timetable of the Baz Bus is a dream. However, when most (and I’d estimate about 80-90%) of the tourists are travelling by car, you can feel a little stranded, especially as you get further up the coast and the collection times get later. I don’t know about you but I prefer to get up and get on the road. However, in some spots you can be left hanging around until 3 p.m., 6 p.m. or later waiting for your Baz Bus ride. Often, the timings mean you can’t make much use of your day – you’re checked out of your room but don’t have enough time to take a tour. I drunk a lot of coffee on this trip, just waiting for time to pass. It didn’t help that it rained a lot. (It’s worth noting the Baz Bus times can be a bit flexible too – more than once I was picked up late. Once I was picked up over an hour and a half late).

14. You can spend all day waiting just to travel up the road

Once you leave Cape Town and get along the bulk of the garden route, the stops get closer together with 30 minutes and 45 minutes between some places. To have to hang around all day to catch the Baz Bus to take you just 45 minutes up the road can feel like a waste of the day.

Baz Bus Review The Garden Route South Africa Coffee
I spent a lot of time drinking coffee, hanging around waiting for my bus…not that I’m complaining too much.

15. The bus might not fit your itinerary

Most visitors through the garden route seem to breeze into each town for one night only. They arrive early, spend the day exploring by car and leave the next day. From what I’ve seen of each spot, that’s the ideal way to do it. However, if you’re taking the Baz Bus, this isn’t so easy. You tend to arrive after mid-day, meaning you need a whole day the next day to really explore. This is going to add extra nights at each spot, overall extending your travel time or reducing the number of spots you see on your trip.

16. You need to decide your itinerary in advance

Baz Bus advises that you book your seats 72 hours in advance. Although I never had any trouble booking the day before, it does remove the spontaneity of seeing how you feel on the day. Feeling stranded in Wilderness when it heaved down with rain for the whole day, I wished I had a car to take me up one hour up the coast rather than having to spend six hours hanging around at my accommodation waiting for my Baz Bus departure time (I read a lot that day). Likewise, you’ll have to rearrange your plans if you decide you want to stay on for another day.

17. The Baz Bus booking system isn’t as slick as it could be

In an ideal world, you’d be able to book your Baz Bus tickets online but you can’t. Yes, you can buy your original ticket online but when it comes to your day to day buses, you need to send an email requesting a seat and wait for a reply. The website says that the office is only staffed during week days so I found myself having to plan all the way through the weekends, adding too much rigidity to my usual style of travel. That said, I never had to wait too long (a few hours or overnight only) for a booking confirmation. Related: Top Travel Sites – Over 100 Links for Trip Planning.

18. On the wild coast the buses don’t leave every day

By the time I reached the end of the garden route and was looking to explore the wild coast, I was so over the inflexibility and lack of a car that I abandoned my plans to continue with the Baz Bus.

Travelling through the wild coast without a car seemed even less flexible with the buses no longer running every day. This meant that, taking the route I had planned, I’d end up staying either too many or not enough nights in the spots I wanted to explore, just so I could time my trip with the bus. I did, at this point, consider hiring a car but of the entire road trip, this was the area I’d been most nervous about exploring alone – the roads are not always great and it presents the longest distances. So, I decided to cut my loses, abandoning nearly a week’s worth of my Baz Bus ticket in the process. This is purely because of the way I prefer to travel rather than there being anything wrong with the bus.

19. You’re not likely to meet other people to travel with

I wasn’t using the Baz Bus to meet other travellers but I know this will be on the minds of some solo adventurers and the truth is that it’s unlikely to happen. Almost everyone on the bus ends up stopping in a different town or, at least, different accommodation. I didn’t see any new travel friendships formed for longer than the bus journey and if this is your plan, I’d say you have more chance of meeting other solo travellers in your hostel.

20. Car hire is often cheaper and there’s no reason you can’t do it yourself

Most of the Baz Bus users I met were travelling just the garden route. With excellent roads and google maps, cheap car hire prices and much more flexibility, unless you really are too terrified to go it alone or you can’t drive, the benefits of taking the Baz Bus do not, in my view, outweigh the inconvenience.

Baz Bus Review The Garden Route South Africa Wilderness Beach

I don’t always get my trips right and I believe that this was one of those times. With the ability to rewind, I’d not listen to all those people who told me all manner of bad things would happen if I drove the garden route alone. I’d have hired a car for 10 days and travelled through the garden route exploring a lot more than I did by taking the safe option of the Baz Bus.

But, we can’t ever press rewind and the one thing I have learned is that when a plan is failing, the worst thing you can do is stubbornly stick with it. So I devised a new plan instead: a flight from Port Elizabeth back to Jo’Burg (a city I actually really love), a four day safari in Kruger National Park followed by an impromptu trip to Zimbabwe and Victoria falls.


For other traveller’s Baz Bus reviews, click here for TripAdvisor reviews. 

Related Articles:

Heading to Johannesburg? I’ve written a guide to what to do in Johannesburg – the city is a lot more fun, safe and fascinating than you might think.

Thinking about taking a safari to Kruger National Park from Johannesburg? Read my post about how to plan your trip including a recommended itinerary and safari.

If you are going on safari, here’s my safari packing list.

And if you’re spending any time in Cape Town, here’s my guide to the best things to do in the city

Have you taken the Baz Bus? How did you find it? Do you agree with my Bas Bus review? Any tips for people who do decide to go by bus? Let me know in the comments below.

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24 thoughts on “Should You Take The Baz Bus in South Africa? A Baz Bus Review”

  1. Hey, I really appreciate the details shared in your blog! I’m heading to Cape Town next weekend for 2 weeks but I read that post-pandemic, Baz Bus is no longer in service. Do you have any idea if that’s true? Also, did you go to Lesotho at all? I’d love to explore more than just Cape Town as I have 11 days in the country x

    • Hi Leigh, I’ve just checked and while Baz Bus did close temporarily during covid, I’ve just checked their website today and it looks like they’re up and running again in 2022 (so it says on the website). I did have trouble trying to book online so I’d recommend emailing them. Their website wasn’t so slick when I took them, email was better. I didn’t get to Lesotho, though I wanted to (ran out of time). I’d highly recommend going north to do a Kruger Safari – that was an utter highlight. Check out my Kruger post. Have a great trip and I’d love it if you could come back and share whether you were able to get Baz Bus to work. Jo

  2. I’m going to doing this trip solo later this year so your review has been very helpful. Well done you for sharing this experience. Many thanks,

  3. Hi Jo,
    Thank you for your review on baz bus as i am in the same situation like you. Solo female traveller who can drive on the same side in SA received discouragement of driving alone, so looked up for BazBus review and found yours. Totally agree with your “negative” points of taking the bus vs self-driving.
    By the way, could you share about your “four day safari in Kruger National Park followed by an impromptu trip to Zimbabwe and Victoria falls”?

    If you could email me, that would be very helpful of you.


    • Hi YY, my Kruger trip is sat part written – I know, I’m sorry! I will get around to finishing it. If you send me a direct message, I will dig out the details and send you a link to the safari I booked! It was under £600 so a very good price for the area. 🙂

  4. Really useful information as I plan my trip in February 2020. I’m also like you an independent spirit and my driving isn’t allyhat sadly ( I’m not an experienced driver ), so I’m thinking I’m going to do the bus. I was wondering if I could ask you some further questions – I got in touch on Twitter , let me know if Instagram is convenient to send a private message ..? Thank you

  5. I am only planning a trip now. And thinking it over I came myself to the same conclusions about the pros and cons of the trip as you advise here.
    So, reading your Baz Bus Review brings me the satisfaction of realizing that maybe I am not so stupid after all.
    Unfortunately, I have no other choice — must take Baz Bus. (I am 83 years old and an amputee — walk with the prosthesis). So. perhaps, many disappointments await me ahead.
    But I feel your good wishes will help.

    • Leo – bl@@dy hell, well done keeping travelling at 83. If you’ve still got the spirit to be hitting the road, Ive do doubt you’ll make the most of whatever mode of transport you make and the Baz Bus was a great experience. Have a wonderful trip. You really are an inspiration!!

  6. Hey Jo, really loved this post. We just did the PeruHop hop-on-hop-off backpacker bus trip as a family (2 weeks with a family that includes 7, 6 and 4 year old kids). It was perfect for us because of the door to door service and the ease of getting between towns in a safe way with small kids. I’m now looking for similar hop on hop off in other countries to repeat the experience but struggling to find similar companies or countries where is would work as well (except NZ where they seem v popular). This Baz Bus review is super helpful especially considering the challenges of being stranded when you arrive at a destination – since you’ve travelled so much do you know of other similar bus options in other countries?

    • Hi Seren, let me scratch my memory a second…I think there is one that goes through Central America – Bamba – but looking at it now it doesn’t get great reviews. There are countless overlanding buses in Africa but they are the eat and sleep and travel on the bus kind of experience. And there is Busabout in Europe. I hope those help?

    • Me too, ha ha. Hope you had a good trip. I’d be interested to know whether you took the bus and, if so, what you thought of it.

  7. Wow! This is incredibly helpful. I’m actually considering the exact trip with BazBus. Great list of pros and cons.

    Thanks so much for the post!

    • Thanks Jarret – I wrote what I wish I’d been able to read before I booked. Hope you have an amazing time in South Africa.


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