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

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Pocket Guide -

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.

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