New direct flights, a weak rand, a glittering coastline and a multicultural vibe make South Africa’s third city a hot contender for a winter escape, says Damien Gabet
Before you arrive
South Africa’s number-three city isn’t like its bigger siblings. Laid-back and sunny 300 days a year, Durban is where those from ‘European’ Cape Town and ‘money-making’ Johannesburg come to holiday on the amber-sand beaches, able to swim and surf safely behind the country’s only shark nets.
For overseas guests, Durban’s peripheral, up-market neighbourhoods are sold as a place to unwind glamorously following a safari in the national parks and reserves of KwazuluNatal province. In doing so, though, they risk overlooking a multicultural city centre that offers an authentic South African experience. It’s best represented in the city’s myriad markets, which offer wares from both the native Zulu and thriving Indian communities (the largest outside India).
Durban got a boost in 2010 when South Africa hosted the World Cup. The competition yielded a modern stadium and the Golden Mile, a waterfront promenade dotted with hotels and tourist attractions. Throw in British Airways’ new direct route from Heathrow and a weakened rand, and you’ve got a worthy contender for a winter visit.
At the airport
Durban is a 12-hour flight from London. Its King Shaka Airport is less than a decade old, so has the feel and fluidity of a major European terminal. UK passport holders are granted a no-admin 90-day stay. Pass through customs and you’re greeted by a large Woolworths. ATMS are at the far end of the arrivals concourse; there’s a post office just opposite. Durban centre is 30km down the coast; ex-pat enclave Umhlanga is 20km.
Getting into town
The most popular option is to hire a car, and all the major providers are represented. An Uber ride to Durban centre costs around R300 (£16). If budget is a priority, hop on one of the accredited shuttle buses, which depart every 30/45mins; fares cost R80 (£4), payable to the driver in cash.