- I took the Cape Town to Johannesburg train, and got off at Hutchinson.
- It only cost R250 (Tourist class)
- The entire journey took 13 hours.
- It was safe.
- There is good cellphone signal along most of the way. Gets sketchy after Beaufort West.
- No card facilities on train, take cash.
I have always wanted to take the train home and KoppieX-ing planning was a great opportunity for me to finally do it.
At first I tried to buy the ticket online, and although it seemed easy enough, since I have never done it, it just felt more comfortable to go to Cape Town station and talk to people in person to find out what I can expect, what ticket to buy, etc.
The process was simple and fast enough and the ticket only cost R250, for first class, or as they call it Tourist class.
There are 3 Cape Town - Johannesburg trains (Tourist class) on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, leaving at 10am.
I bought my ticket, and was told to be at the station an hour before departure.
I arrived that the station at 9am on Thursday 25 Feb. There were already people waiting and I was surprised by the number of people, as I thought there would be very few. You are supposed to look up your carriage and cabin number on a piece of paper taped to a pillar (something I did not know).
I was assigned coach 1 cabin G, and walked down the platform. By this time I was getting excited, as this was something I had really always wanted to do.
As I made myself comfortable in 1G, Mr Aaron came in, my cabin mate, we chatted very nicely as we settled in. The cabin was clean and spacious, with 220V power, lights, aircon, etc. It was a 4 person cabin but it was only the 2 of us. I would imagine that if you are actually 4 strangers in the compartment, it would get a bit crowded.
After a while I decided to take a walk and was pleasantly surprised by how clean the toilet and shower were ( I have heard horror stories about the state of the toilets on the trains). The train departed at exactly 10am, making me very optimistic about my journey.
Soon after we left the station we stopped around Century City, a very friendly hostess, Jeanette, came around and asked us if we would mind moving as the train wasn't full and we could each have our own 2 sleeper cabin. We agreed and were escorted by a friendly and helpful employee who helped us carry our luggage all the way through the train to carriage 6.
We stopped at Bellville station around 11am, picked up some passengers, headed to Paarl, arrived around 12, picked up some more passengers and then headed around the mountains to Worcester, where we arrived at 14:45. (To put this in perspective, Cape Town to Worcester takes max one and a half hours by car, on the train it took almost 5 hours).
By this time I had made my way to the dining car. Earlier in the day a lady came by with the menu to ask if I would like to order anything and have it delivered to my compartment. I declined as I wanted to eat in the dining car.
Again, the dining car was clean, and there was real cutlery and table cloths!!!! The menu is relatively good, with all the usual suspects, burgers, steak, chicken, etc. Did not really see vegetarian options (I was not looking) but they have salad and chips. I ordered a burger and chips, and was told by a friendly, somewhat embarrassed waitress that they have run out of buns so the burger will be on bread. I had no problem and the food was really not bad. The prices were very affordable as well. Another good thing was that the beer was really cold!!!
By 16:00 we were rolling through Touwsriver, 17:00 Matjiesfontein and arrived just after the sun had set over the Karoo, in Beaufort West around 20:00. By this time we were 45 min behind schedule. We left Beaufort West at 21:00, 1 hour and 10 minutes behind schedule.
I had another very pleasant meal in the dining car, this time a quarter chicken and chips, with a salad. Once again the food was very nice, well presented, very affordable (R55), and tasty!
After dinner I relaxed a bit, and we arrive at a very dark and pretty deserted Hutchinson station at 23:00, 1 and a half hours behind schedule, where my wife, daughter and a family friend picked me up.
It was an extremely pleasant experience. The train was clean, relatively spacious and everybody was super friendly and helpful.
The only negative thing about the trip, which I knew would be the case and which is common knowledge, is that the train ran late.
So, in short, would definitely recommend it, and do it again, as long as you are not limited by time!
Check out this short video I made on the train: https://youtu.be/nnG3aLjJ64M