Durban Tourism Information
Durban is the capital of KwaZulu/Natal Province. It's the third largest city in South Africa and a tremendous port. It is the rich city of trade with fashionable resorts. Its is famous for its oriental bazaars and golden beaches. It is supposed to be the most colourful city on the continent. The city is divided into 2 parts: the old Durban with its ancient architecture, Indian district, shopping malls and restaurants and a new Durban, which is located along the ocean with a fantastically beautiful embankment, where most of the hotels are located.
The city is loud, disreputable, a little tattered at the edges, but it's appeal is big, specially as it boarders the hot Indian Ocean, and it's beaches are full of people during the South African Summer, in sandals, a sarong and sunglasses. It has traditionally been the holiday Mecca for working class whites from Johannesburg and Pretoria, and still is popular to travel to by locals and tourists, thanks now to the many resorts and neighbourhoods which have made the outer areas safer.
Many of Durban’s traditional visitors now head south, away from an increasingly run down, crowded and dangerous city centre, which is trying to fight the high levels of crime still present on it's streets. Like with all South Africa, the city centres are more dangerous than the outskirts.
If you are not familiar with South Africa it may not be advisable to use public transportation, as crime levels are high in the city centre. Unless if you have a local who can show you around. Cabs, for example, would be a better option mainly because you will be assured of being dropped off at the front door of your destination. Always take metered cabs that can be easily recognised by their yellow “taxi” lights.
Tour groups are fine as well as taking tour busses or walking tours. However, once the sun sets it's not advised to walk around the streets in the city or neighbourhoods which you are not familiar with. Durban shares the same general dangers of street crime and robbery as the rest of South Africa. There are certain areas in Durban that are more dangerous than others, although nowhere is particularly safe on the streets after dark, so seek and follow local advice on the matter of crime and general safety.
❗Attention: Crime has increased in South Africa in the last years. The biggest problems are being mugged or robbed, stolen cars, broken into cars, being attacked to steal, being insulted, being subject to a physical attack because of your skin colour, ethnic origin or religion, using or dealing with drugs, property crimes such as vandalism and theft, assault and armed robbery and finally corruption and bribery. If you encounter any threats, it's advised always to stay visible on main streets, walk away from any conflict and stay alert of your possessions. Never expose your mobile phone, camera, digital equipment etc and it's recommended to under-dress. Don't wear (expose) any jewellery or items of value on the street. Also, if you are alone make sure nobody follows you when walking around the city and frequently cross the street to avoid any followers. Don't take much money with you and only one credit card, not a wallet.
Areas which should be avoided at all costs in Durban are Cato Manor, Durban Point (close to the Harbour), Clare Hills (Kennedy Road), Japanese Gardens (Durban North) and the CBD (city centre) at night.
Durban has a characteristic humid subtropical climate, this means it has very hot, humid summers but mild to warm winters. Rain is frequent during the summer months, but comes in the form of thunderstorms in the afternoons. In fact, the storms come as a relief from the humidity and the chain lightning over the ocean is a special sight. The average high temperature in the summer, is around 30°C. (Remember that Summers are from December to March)
On the other side, Winter temperatures are more comfortable but still warm enough for the beach, as the sea remains pleasantly warm all year round. Temperatures can drop to 10°C, but generally stay around 15-20°C. (Remember that Winters take place from June to September).
Spring and autumn would be the best time to come to visit. Note that the beaches become extremely crowded in the peak summer months and accommodation must be booked far in advance for this period. Durban is essentially a year-round destination but many people prefer to visit in the off-season to avoid the crowds.
Durban transportation options are more limited than in other cities. Public busses are the main way form of transportation in the city, though mostly used by the locals and lower working classes. You can also find trains and long distance busses connecting to other major cities, (though taking a considerable amount of time). From the airport to the city centre, you can reach by Shuttle Bus service only. These are provided by minivans. The frequency is every 45 min from outside King Shaka International Airport - International Arrivals. The places you can reach include, all Durban Hotels, Durban City, Durban Beachfront, Durban ICC, Sun Coast Casino, North and South Beach, Marine Parade, Durban Bus Station, Ushaka Marine World, Moses Mabhida Stadium, Umhlanga Rocks and the Gateway Shopping Mall.
No bookings are required for this service. It costs R50 to Umhlanga and R80 per person to Durban. Tickets available on the bus. For more information visit Airport-bus-Durban.
Another transport option in the city of Durban are the new "People mover" busses. You will identify them by their green colour and of the same name.They are modern, safe and incorporate even free Wifi. The busses operate every 15 minutes, tickets cost for a single journey R5.50 (ZAR) and a full-day pass will cost you R16.00 (ZAR).
They run daily from 05h00 to 22h00.There are 3 routes: City Line, Circle Line and Beach Line. Check the map below for more details.
Durban is widely known as the main South African beach city. Surfing fans, fishing fans and families in search of a delightful holiday will be astonished by the Golden Mile (a stretch of beachfront) due to its blend of pristine beauty and modern resorts. Among the main attractions to visit and experience are uShaka Marine World, Victoria Street Market with its authentic street food variety, Valley of a 1000 Hills etc. Durban has a rich history and heritage, as well as important site for its fishing, markets and shopping malls.
✔️Tip: Taking a more in-depth tour of Durban is also very recommended. There are many tours and options that include many activirties, the number one tour is the Durban City Tour. These tours can also be tailored to your likes and made to order, depending on how many people are booking. They will pick you up at your Hotel / Hostel and drive around the whole day with friendly and informative tour guides who are not only very knowledgeable but at the same time very involved and want you to have the best time!
For the tour information and details visit Zulusafaris.
Below you will find the highlights of what to see and do in the city: (some of the below listed points are included in tours)
- Durban Bus Tour: This bus tour, is more of a hop-on (rather than a hop-off) scenic tour of Durban (you remain on board for the duration of the trip). The "Ricksha bus" follows a route through pretty much the whole of central Durban, taking in the Victoria Street Market, Francis Farewell Square, beachfront, the Berea, Florida Road, Mitchell Park, Morningside (including the house of King Goodwill Zwelithini and the presidential house of Jacob Zuma), the Cube viewpoint, Wilson's Wharf and the city centre. Note that there are only two tours a day: 9am and 1pm, with two refreshment stops en route.There is an office at North Beach for more information. The bus is the best recommendation to see most of the city, specially for safety and for time. The tour costs 100 Rand.
- Golden Mile: is the popular stretch of beachfront in the city of Durban, including the promenade and the Bay of Plenty. It runs roughly from uShaka Beach (where the uShaka Marine World is located) to Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World in the north.It is one of the main tourist attractions in the Durban area. The wide stretch of golden sands, artificially separated by various piers, provides excellent opportunities for sun-worshippers and swimmers to enjoy the sub-tropical sunshine and warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Most of the Mile's beaches are protected year-round by lifeguards and shark nets.
The beachfront properties are a mix of residential apartments and tourist hotels. The area is very busy when the good weather is out, lots of families and the majority of local black people flock here to enjoy a swim. It's safe to walk around the promenade, however not advised during the night.
- Francis Farewell Square: This historic square in the middle of Durban is the spot where the city originated as a tiny settlement of itinerant traders and hunters in the early 19th century. It is named for Henry Francis Flynn, one of the prominent inhabitants of the time. Around the square are some interesting sights, particularly the 1910 City Hall on the south side, which is an exact replica of the City Hall of Belfast, Ireland.On the first floor of the City Hall is the Natural Science Museum with an interesting insect section; on the first floor is the renowned Durban Art Gallery. Various musical, song and dance performances are held on the City Hall steps every Wednesday at 1pm. Alongside the City Hall is Durban's local history museum housed in the Old Court House, which was the first public building ever erected in Durban, in 1866.
- Durban Muthi Market, (Victoria Market): Enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of this Market and get a feeling of mystery and wonder while you walk around the market stalls. Immerse yourself into a world of traditional African healing and discover ancient remedies and insights from the ancestors.The herbalist, otherwise known as the Inyanga can offer potions, medicines and other treatments for a number of ailments. You can purchase a number of other goods or ingredients at the market such as snake skins, crocodile teeth, plants, bird claws, powders, knobkerries or talismans. If you want to learn more about what is being made at the stalls it is advisable to bring along a Zulu speaking guide as many vendors are not fluent in English. The market is located at Victoria Street. The market is located at Victoria Street.
- The Old Fort: Is one of the historical gems of the city, and comprises gardens and a museum. It was named after the camp in which the British were besieged by the Boers in 1842, which they then occupied until 1897. Thereafter, it was neglected for some time, until Colonel Molyneux decided to take the initiative to revamp the building and its gardens. It was declared a National Monument and is now maintained by the Durban City Council and the Historical Monuments Commission. What were once the old barracks rooms have now been renovated to serve as retirement accommodation for ex soldiers and their wives. On display is also a gun from the wreck of the Grosvenor, which sank on 4 August 1782, as well as a timber seat from the Southampton war ships.
- Wilson's Wharf: It offers a yacht's spectacular view of the working Durban Harbour. You can get excellent food and drink here, from the Tamed Marina and the drinking decks of outdoor pubs where festivity is served warm and seafood is served fresh from the fishing vessels.The fresh fish market on the wharf is a bustling seafood harvest of the catches of the day for home preparation. Restaurant choices range from quick to-go meals seasoned with the Indian Ocean air to fine dining. On Saturday's afternoon Jazz is played and Sunday brunch with classical music at Zack's on the Wharf. Speciality stores offer shoppers craft items and retail therapy in the mini mall.
- uShaka Marine World: This marine inspired theme park offers a world of water rides, oceanarium, dolphin, seal & penguin shows, shopping, beach activities and lots more. Located close to Durban Point just end of the Golden Mile Beach.To get there best take a cab from your accommodation.
- Durban's Old Court House Museum: It was the oldest public building in Durban’s CBD. It saw both of the South African Wars and the Bhambatha Uprising, as well as World Wars I and II. In fact, during these massive wars, it acted as a recruitment centre. Before it was turned into a museum, it also functioned as a library. Being only a few metres away from the Durban City Hall makes this museum central and easily accessible for tourists and locals. It is also close to a number of other attractions and activities.
- Durban Art Gallery: A pioneering national gallery and the first to recognise African craft as art in the 1970's, the Gallery continues to proclaim South African artistic ethnicity. Traditional baskets, beadwork, carving, clay pots, ceramics, sculptures and wirework exhibit an excitement of contemporary local artists and their creations.
- Umhlanga: is an affluent residential, commercial and resort town north of Durban, the name means "place of reeds" in the Zulu language. It is well known for it's massive shopping malls which is the largest shopping mall in the southern hemisphere. It also has the second tallest skyscraper in South Africa named Pearl Sky which stands 183 meters completed in 2018. There are two beaches - Bronze Beach and Main Beach both of which are patrolled by life guards throughout the day. Umhlanga is very safe for tourists. It is also an area mostly lived in by whites and higher black classes due to the decline of the Durban city centre which made them relocate here. It's located 20 min drive from Durban centre.
- Zulu Dance: To get to understand the rituals and the true African culture, why not visit a Zulu Dance Village.The best one is located 35 min drive from Durban and is nestled in the Valley of 1000 Hills. Named, Phezulu village, where the world famous Gasa clan has over the last 30 years, allowed visitors to Phezulu the opportunity to savour the taste and feel the rhythm of Africa. Visitors are taken into traditional beehive shaped thatched huts, where the various artifacts, beliefs and rituals are explained, giving foreigners an insight into the fascinating Zulu culture. The Zulu dancing show is impressive with the dancers in their traditional "clothes", showing off their skills with grace, agility and humour. To get there you can drive or take one of the tours which include this dance. (www.zulusafaris.com)
- Valley of a Thousand Hills: is an exciting component of Durban and South Africa's province of KwaZulu-Natal. The Valley of 1000 Hills has unspoilt nature, wildlife, magnificent scenery, wining and dining, and warm country hospitality just a half an hour's drive from the centre of Durban. The area is named after the thousands of hills which tumble down to the mighty Umgeni River, which flows from the distant Drakensberg Mountains to the warm Indian Ocean. To get there, best organise tours from Durban.
When visiting in Durban you can't help to notice that there is an independent country not too far from you, this is Lesotho. It declared independence from the United Kingdom on 4 October 1966. About 40% of the population lives in poverty and it's considered one of the poorest countries in the world with a population of 2 million people. This tour leaves from Durban and progresses through Pietermaritzburg which is the capital of KwaZulu Natal and then goes up to Sani Pass.
The Sani Pass is a 33 Km gravel road that straddles the sheer cliffs of the Drakensberg escarpment in a series of tight Zig Zag curves. The route begins at the Sani Pass Hotel which is 1566m above sea level. You will be travelling in a Land Rover 4×4 upwards along the narrow road crossing the South African/ Lesotho border post which is 1968m above sea level. For the tour it's essential that you bring your passport, as well as water proof gear, comfortable walking shoes and sun-cream for sunny days. The prices are high, around €170 per person. But this includes all entry fees, transport, experienced tour guides and information. The trip is recommended during the Summer time (November to March) for better weather conditions, other times you will experience snow and freezing winds.
Book the trip at (www.zulusafaris.com) For more information about this country please visit our guide on Lesotho.
Most of Durban's nightlife options is centred on the docks area, along the Golden Mile, and in suburbs such as Morningside and Westville. Durban has a lively arts scene, which reflects the city's cultural diversity, it offers a rich choice of African, Indian and western entertainment.
❗Attention: Attention should be taken when going out in Durban due to safety and security. If you are staying in the outskirts of the Durban, these are normally safe when going our with locals who know the area. However, if you venture alone, always seek advice from your hotel on places to go or what's on.
If you are staying in the downtown, then you should NOT go out after sunset.
During the tours which can be taken in Durban, many can pass via the markets or places of interest for shoppers, with everything from African crafts to colourful and spicy spices.
If you are not taking a tour, key areas are located at Wilson's Wharf, for quality crafts and speciality products. Major modern shopping malls, offering international brands as well as African goods, include the Musgrave Centre in the Berea district, which has around 100 shops, as well as restaurants and bars. Field's, a mall in the wealthy suburb of Kloof, is a good stop for those eager to stretch their credit cards, while the Pavilion, one of South Africa's biggest and most varied shopping centres, is another option, close to the N3 freeway in Westville. One of the biggest malls in Africa can be found in Durban at the Gateway Shopping Mall, in Umhlanga Ridge New Town Centre, offering more than 280 stores. Other shopping malls include: the Musgrave Centre, for independent boutiques and Galleria.
When visiting Durban you have to consider which areas you are going to stay, firstly for safety and then convenience and price. The city centre can be walked around during the day, however only in tourist areas. But still it's not advised to go out after the sun sets. If you are seeking budget accommodation there are plenty of reasonable Hotels and Hostels in Durban located in the heart of the city and not more than a 10 min walk to some major attractions. Prices can be found from €20-30 per night for private accommodation.
However for peace of mind and safety the best Hotels and resorts can be found along the Gold Mile as well as in the area of Umhlanga. For these Hotels prices can be found from €45 to the €100's for the most exclusive!
When visiting this Durban you will soon realise the ease and relaxed atmosphere present along it's streets and the laid back attitude of it's people. it's a destination ideal for those seeking to chill and swim in the warmer Indian Oceans. If you come here only to explore the city and make the most of it, a suggested stay of 3 night would be enough to visit the beaches, take a city tour or even take a longer trip to other areas or including a tour for a day trip to Lesotho.
Durban Photo Slide 📷