Durban, South Africa - Stein Travel
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Delightful Durban is the largest city of the vast and varied KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. A coastal port with a more than equable sub-tropical climate and wide golden beaches washed by the warm Indian Ocean, Durban is a holidaymaker's paradise and gateway to the dozens of seaside resort towns of the coast to the south and north of the city. The 'Golden Mile' central beach area, flanked by numerous high-rise hotels, stretches for four miles (6km) and is fronted by promenades and entertainment facilities with many things to see and do, such as a skatepark, flea markets and colourful traditionally clad Zulu rickshaw pullers.

Although much of Durban is characterised by British colonial heritage and beautiful Art Deco architecture, the city is actually an exciting mix of cultures. There is a large Indian community, descendants of indentured labourers who came to work on the Natal sugar estates in the 1850s, and who provide the city with an intoxicating oriental flavour enhanced by their shrines, bazaars and tantalising curry restaurants. There are also the Zulu people, whose proud warrior ancestors inhabited the province before the coming of the European colonial powers. The heritage of the amaZulu is very evident in the region north of the Tugela River, known as Zululand, where the legendary King Shaka once ruled supreme and today is where most of KwaZulu-Natal's best game parks are to be found.

Durban is the gateway not only to the coastal beach resorts of the province, but also to the rolling hills and plains of the Natal Midlands and their backdrop: the majestic, jagged peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains, which border the province in the west and cradle the nearby mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

Information & Facts


Durban enjoys a subtropical climate, with very hot, humid summers and mild to warm winters. Rain is frequent during the summer months, but comes in the form of thunderstorms in the afternoons, so the sunny holiday weather is not badly affected. In winter temperatures are more comfortable but still warm enough for beach-going.

Eating Out

Eating out in Durban is a multicultural activity, with its large and diverse cultural communities each bringing their own distinctive flavour to the table.

Durban's Indian population, one of the largest outside of India, permeates its cuisine at nearly every level. Take-away curry restaurants abound on every corner, offering samoosas and Durban's own traditional food, the 'bunny chow': a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with a hot helping of beef, mutton, chicken, prawn or bean curry. Thanks to the generous helpings of peri-peri chillies, the curries tend to be very spicy at most traditional restaurants; most waiters will be able to recommend dishes suited to more sensitive palates, though. If you find yourself battling with the spiciness, you can end your meal with a bowl of mild soji (semolina pudding) and cream. Iconic restaurant Silverani's in Berea is a great place for true Durban curries.

Because of the large Muslim population, many Indian restaurants follow Halaal guidelines. Vegetarian options tend to be somewhat lacking overall in Durban restaurants however, apart from vegetable curries.

Durban's strong and proud Zulu culture makes its own contributions to local cuisine, though you'll find it mostly in more rural areas. Traditional restaurants in the Valley of 1000 Hills and Eshowe offer hearty meals of amadumbi (Zulu potatoes), uphuthu or pap (hard maize porridge), mogodu (tripe), and more adventurous options like boiled chicken feet and sheep heads.

Restaurants tend to be clustered in residential districts like Glenwood's Helen Joseph Road, Morningside's Florida Road, or Durban North's Kensington Drive. There are cosmopolitan options to suit every taste, including Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Mexican, Moroccan, Mediterranean fusion and sushi.

There is cheap food and fine dining for every budget when deciding where to eat in Durban, ranging from burger joints like Steers and Wimpy to the elegant Roma Revolving Restaurant, which offers a romantic atmosphere, decadent food, and spectacular views as it rotates on the 32nd floor of a South Beach skyscraper.

Most restaurants close their kitchens promptly at 10pm; however you'll find a few late-night dining options in the party districts like Florida Road and Suncoast Casino, and Chartwell Drive in Umhlanga. Pizza and pasta eatery Spiga d'Oro is popular with locals, staying open until 3am on weekends.

Tipping is always encouraged, as many waiters don't receive a wage. 10 percent is the standard minimum, going up to 15 percent for very good service. Most restaurants accept credit cards, but don't let it out of your sight as identity theft is a concern in South Africa.

Getting Around

Durban's public transport system can be described as ad hoc at best. The city's bus network, which services the city centre and surrounding suburbs, has fallen dramatically in quality in the last several years, resulting in an erratic schedule that may leave passengers stranded.

The mode of transportation used by most working-class Durbanites is the minibus taxi (or kombie), which are independently-operated vans that stop anywhere along their routes. These taxis are cheap and widespread but often cramped, and can be dangerous as the drivers largely ignore the rules of the road. Minibus taxis should only be used during the day and on busy routes, and travellers should not enter an empty minibus.

Durban has several reputable metered taxi companies, but these can be expensive for long journeys. It is always advisable to use a branded cab such as Zippy, Mozzie, or Eagle. You can negotiate a price upfront, or use the meter. Most cabs do not take any form of credit card, and tipping is customary.

There are many places to hire cars in Durban, however visitors should avoid driving in the central business district, as traffic during the day can be very congested and the streets considered unsafe at night. Doors should always be locked while driving as hijacking is a serious concern in South Africa, and purses and other valuables should not be left visible on seats.

Kids Attractions

KwaZulu-Natal has always been a popular destination for both local and international families to holiday in, so it has quite a few attractions that make Durban great for children.

The famous Golden Mile beachfront offers gentle waves for kids to splash around in, and wading pools for those too little to venture deep. The Fun World Beachfront Amusement Park has carnival rides and an arcade, including a gondola ride that gives you a great view of the city and the ocean, but it's best to go there only during the day. Minitown in North Beach is another way to get a bird's eye view of the city, with miniaturised versions of buildings and landmarks to wander through.

uShaka Marine World gives children an exciting educational experience in its massive aquarium, and you can let them let loose in the Wet 'n Wild Water Park with its eight waterslides. Be sure to pack sunscreen though, as the Durban sun can be brutal, especially in the summer months.

Gateway Theatre of Shopping in Umhlanga has much to offer for children of all ages, and ensures there's a lot to do in Durban for kids and teenagers, with a massive indoor climbing wall, a skate park designed by Tony Hawk, and the Flowrider man-made wave at the Wavehouse. It also boasts an IMAX theatre, ten-pin bowling, video arcade, indoor carnival rides, and go-kart racing.

For a relaxed afternoon picnic, the Durban Botanic Gardens are a scenic oasis in the middle of town, or you can visit the manicured Mitchell Park, which has a restaurant and tea garden, a small and slightly dilapidated zoo, and a playground that features a special area specifically designed for handicapped children.


South Africa has 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho. English is widely spoken.


South Africa's currency is the Rand (ZAR), which is divided into 100 cents. Money can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and the larger hotels. ATMs are widely available (there is a daily limit for cash withdrawals) and major international credit cards are widely accepted, except in petrol stations where cash is required. Visitors should be vigilant when drawing cash from ATMs, as con artists are known to operate there. Travellers cheques and some foreign currencies are accepted at larger hotels and shops, but commission is charged, otherwise all commercial banks will exchange them.

Night Life

Durban is primarily a holiday town, with its mind set firmly on the beach. That doesn't mean the fun stops when the sun goes down, but it lends Durban nightlife a relaxed atmosphere more focused on fun than glamour.

A good place to start is at a beach bar on Golden Mile, perhaps with a local beer at the neon-lit Joe Cools or gigantic strawberry daiquiri from the more African-themed Moyo at uShaka Marine World. Restaurants, bars, and pubs tend to be clustered in certain streets and neighbourhoods, so there are always alternatives if you aren't satisfied.

The most famous nightlife district in Durban is Florida Road in Morningside, which has a busy atmosphere every night of the week. It has a wide selection of restaurants, bars, pubs, and nightclubs to choose from, but due to municipal noise restrictions you won't find live music. The Davenport District of Glenwood is another cluster, offering a neighbourhood feel with small, independent restaurants and bars. Both areas have limited parking on the street, with car guards standing by for a tip of two to five rand. A bit further north, Umhlanga Rocks has its own main street in Chartwell Drive, with a pedestrian-friendly strip of restaurants, pubs, and bars spilling out onto the pavement.

Durban has a burgeoning live music community, with great local bands in every genre, from rock and jazz to hip hop and electronica. Burn Nightclub in Stamfordhill is the destination for hard rock enthusiasts, whereas the Jazzy Rainbow offers a blend of jazz, hip hop, and live poetry. City Hall hosts concerts by the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra every Thursday night in season, and bigger concerts are held at the International Convention Centre.

For clubbers, Durban has quite a few mainstream house venues, including Eighties Nightclub, The Clapham Grand, and Club Sasha. For alternative dance music, Origin hosts international deejays and packed parties every Friday and Saturday night. The Lounge in Stamfordhill is Durban's only major gay nightclub, and Cool Runnings offers a reggae-and-rasta poolhall with drum circles on Thursday nights.

Late-night entertainment doesn't have as many options in Durban, but the watering-hole for the city's creative crowd is Bean Bag Bohemia, with its massive cocktail menu and artistic atmosphere.

Most Durban clubs and bars will accept credit cards (except American Express). Travellers should take extra care when going home late at night, as drunk driving is a serious problem and hijackings are common in some areas. For comprehensive event listings, look in the Sunday Tribune's Sunday Mag Diary section.


Durban is home to several of the largest shopping malls in the southern hemisphere as well as a plethora of traditional markets, boutiques, craft fairs and independent stores, ensuring a wide variety of experiences for visitors looking for gifts, souvenirs, and mementos of their Durban holiday.

For those who crave a breadth of choice, the nearby coastal town of Umhlanga boasts the Gateway Theatre of Shopping, with over 420 stores offering everything from designer clothing and jewellery to furniture, electronics, music and books. It's also home to the Kizo Gallery, which specialises in local art. Gateway is a great family excursion as well, with dozens of restaurants, an IMAX movie theatre, a wavehouse, a skate park designed by Tony Hawk, and a new indoor funfair with go-karts and other rides.

The Pavilion, just inland in the suburb of Westville, is another popular Durban shopping destination. In addition to stores, it has a miniature golf course, movie theatres, skate ramp, and a great selection of restaurants.

The more adventurous shopper might head to the Victoria Street Market in Durban's central business district to catch the scent of herbs and spices and traditional muti (medicine) sold by traditional Zulu healers. You can bargain your way to a great deal on many handcrafted local items, including elephant hair bracelets, soapstone carvings, wooden drums, and tribal masks. Other distinctive Durban souvenirs include hand-woven baskets made of wire, colourful saris, traditional Zulu "shwe-shwe" fabric, and Indian spices. It's a must-see, but be careful not to show expensive cell phones, cameras, jewellery, or cash, and keep a watchful eye for pick-pockets.

Other markets to visit include the weekday Workshop market, which surrounds a local shopping centre in the central business district set inside an old train workshop; Essenwood Market, which offers fashion, art, music and food beneath the trees in a park in centrally-located Musgrave on Saturday mornings; and the hawkers at the beachfront, who offer many traditional Durban things to buy, including popular souvenirs like miniature Zulu shields and knobkerries, paintings, wire sculptures and Ndebele beaded jewellery.

Stores in Durban close early, at 5pm on weekdays, 6pm on Fridays, and 3pm on weekends, but major shopping centres tend to stay open longer in the evening, particularly on Saturdays and Sundays. While nearly all stores and shopping centres accept credit cards (Visa, but not American Express), markets and less formal traders will only take cash.


Durban's beautiful subtropical climate means the city enjoys a relaxed outdoor lifestyle that makes it a great destination to visit at any time of the year. Renovations for the FIFA World Cup in 2010 have given its tourist infrastructure a sparkling new finish, and ensure that there's always plenty to see and do in Durban.

The first place to start for Durban sightseeing is definitely the beach, with its famed Golden Mile stretching four miles (6km) from the neon-lit Suncoast Casino in the north to uShaka Marine World in the south. The Golden Mile is famous for its mild water temperatures, great surfing, and beautiful setting. There are plenty of beach bars and restaurants to choose from when enjoying a sundowner cocktail or local beer. The beaches are patrolled by colourful Zulu rickshaw pullers, who will give you the royal treatment and a ride over the short distance of the promenade.

uShaka Marine World in South Beach is Durban's newest major tourist attraction, with massive aquariums displaying fish and marine life from all over the world, and a Wet n' Wild Waterpark with eight water rides ranging from gentle to extreme. You can even go shark diving or snorkelling for an up close and personal experience. It's a relatively short walk from the Golden Mile, and opens right onto the beach.

Durban's Botanic Gardens, centrally located in Greyville and accessible by bus or taxi, are beautifully-maintained, and have one of the best collections of plants in the world. They host regular Sunday afternoon concerts, and are a great place to take the kids for a relaxed picnic. The Gardens are popular for wedding pictures as well, and bridal parties of all cultures can be spotted there on Saturdays.

More adventurous travellers will want to take advantage of the plethora of water sports available in Durban, including surfing, swimming and kiteboarding from the Golden Mile; snorkelling and scuba diving among the shipwrecks at Aliwal Shoal; or just going for a boat cruise in the harbour. Those more comfortable on land can enjoy hikes through the Mangrove Swamp or spotting zebras, rhinos, hippos, and other game in the Kenneth Steinbank Reserve or Tala Valley.

Most attractions in Durban are relatively safe, as long as travellers refrain from wearing expensive jewellery and clothing and showing expensive cameras. It is always best to stay in a group when walking around in urban areas.


Local time is GMT +2.

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