Monday, 7 June 2010

Guest Post: Hostels in South Africa

Ahead of my big trip to New York last year, the fantastic team from HostelBookers.com wrote a guest post for me on New York Hostels.  I had been a bit wary of staying in a hostel but this was a great post that showed just how much the standards have improved in hostels and how they are certainly not the dives they used to be. 
With the upcoming World Cup in South Africa, I thought it would be a fantastic idea to do a post on South African hostels and so I contacted HostelBookers.com again and they kindly agreed to write another guest post for me.  Enjoy!

Hosting the World Cup has thrown South Africa into the spotlight. Not since the country’s movement from apartheid to a multiracial form of democracy back in 1994 has it courted such attention. While the 2010 event may reveal deep-rooted flaws, at long-last, many more will consider travelling to South Africa and start to unearth some of the country’s beautiful attractions. And the accommodation on offer is certainly one of those.
Fortunately for budget travellers, comfortable and quality hostels in Johannesburg and other cities around South Africa are not hard to come by. Many are concerned with giving customers a real ‘African’ experience providing good home cooking, barbeque braai or tropical gardens for guests to relax in.
CAPE TOWN
Cape Town is all about spending time outdoors. Living in the shadow of Table Top Mountain makes for a dramatic backdrop and travellers are always eager to hike, climb or picnic at the summit. There are leisurely walks along the stretches of beach and, for the more energetic, windsurfing.
A room at the Backpack and Africa Travel Centre
A room at the Backpack and Africa Travel Centre
The Backpack and Africa Travel Centre (shared dorms from €15, private from €34) is really in touch with local goings on and ideal if you’re looking for something with a bit more personality. It ranked in the top 3 of HostelBookers Awards for Excellence in 2010 for ‘Best Atmosphere’. Pleasant and comfortable furnishings, there are also self-catering facilities or a restaurant for lazier evenings. They encourage guests to bring their soccer boots and give neighbouring kids a few tips so it’s probably the most ethical choice of all the Cape Town hostels.
Playing football with local kids, Backpack and Africa Travel Centre
Playing football with local kids, Backpack and Africa Travel Centre
The rooftop garden at the Penthouse on Long (shared dorms from €10, private from €20) offers wonderful views of the city. You are right in the cosmopolitan heart of Long Street with cafes, restaurants, theatres and clubs. But if it’s peace and quiet you want after a day of sightseeing, you can relax back at the hostel in the communal lounge and bar areas.
A dorm room at the Penthouse on Long
A dorm room at the Penthouse on Long
JOHANNESBURG
Both travellers and South Africans agree that Johannesburg offers a ‘more African’ experience. The city is both frantic and bustling and suffers from high crime levels, which has in the past, deterred many tourists. But give this city a chance and you will unveil a live music scene that is unrivalled throughout South Africa, arty hotspots in the Melville area and a community dedicated to its sport.
Accoustix Backpackers Hostel
Accoustix Backpackers Hostel
If it's music that attracts you to Johannesburg, pack your instrument and join in the jamming sessions at Accoustix Lodge and Backpacker (shared dorms from €8, private from €11). For those lacking musical talent (and not willing to bang a drum) you can still sit back with a drink and listen, have a game of snooker in the cellar bar, swim or read a book from the library.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
The main attraction of South Africa’s east flank is the Kruger National Park, one of the best game parks on the continent. The size of Massachusetts, it covers 20,000 square kilometres and operates open-top safari drives with rangers
The Kruger View Lodge (shared dorms from €13 and private from €14) is situated on the banks of the Crocodile River overlooking the animals roaming Kruger National Park. The garden is perfect for lazing in and you can cool off in the pool. As the sun begins to set the barbecue braai offers delicious and traditional dishes. If you are eager to visit the park or any of the surrounding area, tours can be arranged by staff at the lodge.
DURBAN
After Cape Town, Durban holds much appeal for travellers to South Africa. British in origin it also has a large Indian and Zulu community. Visitors will enjoy the many historic Victorian buildings complete with fanned palm fronds, developed beachfronts but muddled with temples and the scent of curry wafting through the air.
Rock pool at Hippo Hide
Rock pool at Hippo Hide

The Hippo Hide Backpackers (shared rooms from €10, private from €13) does well to keep to ethnic African decor. Complete with tropical garden and rock pool, the accommodation is an oasis in the heart of the city. For those after local knowledge or help booking tours, staff can arrange safaris or excursions.
If you decide to explore the wilder coastline and spend a few days on the outskirts of Durban, the Blue Sky Mining Backpackers and Lodge (shared from €12 and private from €15) is 30km south of the city. You can enjoy breakfast in a tropical garden surrounded by coconut, banana and papaya trees with a 180° sea view. The nearby Aliwal Shoal is one of the top ten diving sites in the world with wrecks, reefs and abundant marine life. But you’re not far from clubs, bars and a pleasant arts and crafts market.
JEFFREYS BAY
With a reputation for prime surfing along the Eastern Cape, many travellers visit Jeffreys Bay hoping to try the sport for themselves or take some time relaxing on the beautiful stretches of beach. You are not far from the Whale Coast which offers some of the best onshore whale-watching in the world.
Island Vibe Backpackers in Jeffreys Bay
Island Vibe Backpackers in Jeffreys Bay
The beach is on your doorstep at the Island Vibe Backpackers (shared from €11, private from €17). The private doubles have access to balconies with spectacular views and even a breakfast-in-bed service. The hostel can arrange surfing tuition and horse-riding, quad biking and sandboarding are all popular sports to try too.
Bonfires on the beach at Island Vibe in Jeffreys Bay
Bonfires on the beach at Island Vibe in Jeffreys Bay
Madeleine Wilson is a travel writer for the budget accommodation website, HostelBookers. She specializes in guides and low-cost travel solutions for destinations around the world.
You can follow HostelBookers.com on Twitter (@hostel) and Facebook too.
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11 comments

  1. Never done SA, but later this year we are off again for our third holiday in Namibia; love it there.

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  2. These places look great and better than some hotels I stayed at. I've never stayed at a hostel and thought it would be an adventure including meeting interesting travelers.

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  3. I'd have thought everything would be booked out for the world cup by now. Maybe not? Are you going?

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  4. Hey Emm - just a quick comment to answer your question! As far as I can remember, the picture of the standing stones is unedited. I remember being slightly disappointed with it because the sky had some lovely pinks and purples in it which I didn't manage to capture.

    Archaeolink is well worth a visit - if you have the opportunity go for it! They seem to have lots of different demonstrations on at different weekends. But enjoy your visit to Crieff :)

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  5. It looks like a very nice place to visit,but I heard some terrible things about South Africa lately,I remember when they were having the Anti-Aparthied movement back in the 1980's thing were pretty ugly back then.

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  6. South Africa isn't terrible, it's no different to any other country. It has its good and bad areas, just do your research before heading out to the World Cup and you'll have an awesome time.

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  7. @ John: Oh fabulous! I have really enjoyed your previous photos of Namibia so I look forward to these too!

    @ AVCr8teur: I haven't done hostels before either but I came very close to doing so last year when I went to NYC. At the last minute, a friend offered me a place to stay but these hostels look positively luxurious! Hotels are so lacking in soul and personality these days!

    @ Mo: No (and I don't intend to be in London for the Olympics either). But I am going home in December for three weeks.

    @ Kitty: Hiya! Well, it is an amazing photo and not lacking at all in my opinion! Thanks for stopping by!

    @ Michael: I was going to give you a nice long reply not unlike Ryan's below but then I saw you're from Maryland. I mean, you're kidding, right? Isn't Baltimore in Maryland, the very city where Homicide: Life on the Street was set? Pot <-> kettle. But I wouldn't paint the whole of South Africa, or Maryland and Baltimore for that matter, with the same brush. We'll be able to say with relative certainty in six weeks time but I imagine that on the whole, tourists will be safe from the problems that most South Africans face with respect to home invasions and hijackings simply because they'll be staying at hotels and driving hired cars. Of course, I'm guessing so we'll have to see.

    @ Ryan: Well said. Have you been to South Africa before?

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  8. Thank you, Emm for this so informative post!
    SA seems such a fascinating place to visit. And those hotels look really nice.
    B xx

    P.S thank you so much for your lovely comments on my blog. I always appreciate them! :)So glad you liked the pictures.

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  9. Those hostels look amazing...I would consider possible staying in one of those. They look a hell of lot better than the one I stayed in for a month in Tel Aviv many, many years ago, it was a flea pit full of lunatics from all over the world. I fitted in well in those days but nowadays I'm more refined..!

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  10. It makes me want to go back to SA so badly!!

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  11. @ Betty: South Africa is an amazing country with everything from mountains to cities to forests and the sea.

    @ William: Me too! Hostels are certainly improving their game enough for snobby little old me!

    @ Claire: I can imagine! Any plans to travel any time soon?

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