Some countries, if they are lucky, have one long-distance train journey worth taking. South Africa has four. The irony, of course, is that the public railway system itself is on its knees, beset by many years of maladministration and corruption, but these four trains have maintained standards that range from good to excellent. Take a look at them.

Rovos Rail

Famous the world over and always in Top 10 lists, Rovos runs everything from short trips between Pretoria and Cape Town, and Cape Town to Dar es Salaam, a full 15 days of luxury, pampering, stopovers in game reserves, you name it. For more information on Rovos, click here.

rovos rail train south africa 5-star travel
Inside one of the Rovos suites.
rovos rail train south africa travel
Rovos Rail running along the Garden Route.

Shongololo Express

Also owned by Rovos, the Shongololo offers much the same experience, but almost exclusively does fairly long, two-week trips. The Good Hope goes from Cape Town to Durban, across the Drakensberg, to the Kruger Park and then ends in Pretoria. The exciting Southern Cross begins in Pretoria and goes via Swaziland and Maputo into Zimbabwe to end at the Victoria Falls.

shongololo express train luxury travel south africa rovos
The Emerald Double on Shongololo Express.

The Blue Train

blue train south africa travel victoria falls
The Blue Train at the Victoria Falls. The photo is on the train’s website, although it doesn’t list an itinerary that takes in the famous falls. (Take note, Blue Train!)

The luxury train is still run by the government and manages to make many lists of best luxury trains in the world. It runs shorter trips than Rovos and Shongololo, mostly between Cape Town and Johannesburg. The train’s website (like Premier Classe’s) is long overdue for an update. For more details.

Premier Classe

The poor man’s Blue Train, it could be called, Premier Classe runs the same route – Johannesburg-Cape Town – but at a fraction the price. The compartments are fairly plush, and it feels like a four-star hotel. Being run by the beleaguered state-owned Passenger Railway Agency of South Africa, it’s not always easy to get hold of them, but it’s worth the effort. For more information.