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Alexandria to Cape Town by train and bus

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This article is an itinerary.

This Alexandria to Cape Town by train and bus itinerary covers the overland route from Alexandria, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa and is one of the very few land routes from north to south in Africa available to foreigners.

Understand[edit]

Trains are available for the majority of the route, but there are also many buses. This itinerary passes through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

US dollar prices are used throughout; US dollars is the most convenient currency to carry because of restrictions on importing and exporting local currencies.

Prepare[edit]

Visas[edit]

Visa-free entry is rather rare in Africa and you will need a visa for most countries no matter what your citizenship is, or in the worst case, even all of the countries. For citizens of western countries, many visas are possible to purchase at the border. Below is an example of what a US citizen paid for their visas.

  • Egypt: On arrival at an Egyptian airport, US citizens can buy a 30 day visa for USD15.
  • Sudan: To get a Sudanese visa, US citizens must apply for one in advance by getting a hotel or travel agency to "sponsor" them. The processing fee is USD150.
  • Ethiopia: US citizens must apply for a two-year, multiple-entry visa before entering Ethiopia. The cost is USD70.
  • Kenya: A one entry tourist visa for US citizens costs USD50, and must be obtained before arrival in Kenya.
  • Tanzania: A one month multiple-entry tourist visa costs USD100.
  • Zambia: A single-entry tourist visa can be bought for USD50 when you enter Zambia.
  • Zimbabwe: On arrival in Zimbabwe, a 30 day single-entry visa can be purchased for USD30.
  • South Africa: Tourists from many countries do not need a visa for South Africa as long as the stay is under 90 days.

Total fares are about USD586. Total visa prices for US citizens are about USD465

Get in[edit]

There are currently no ferries from Europe to Alexandria. There used to be a Venice-Alexandria route, but it is currently cancelled until further notice. However, there is a ferry from Aqaba, Jordan to Nuweiba, and trains linking Nuweiba with the rest of Egypt. Buses from Libya also run to Alexandria, as well as a JETT-operated bus from Amman to Cairo. Be warned, the Amman-Cairo bus travels through Israel and will deny you entrance to Sudan, as well as many other countries. Many airlines in Europe and the United States also offer direct flights to Alexandria or Cairo.

Route[edit]

Following this route will take roughly 84 days.

Egypt[edit]

Downtown Alexandria
Mohammed Ali mosque in Islamic Cairo
The Giza Pyramids
View along one of the main streets in Aswan, Egypt connecting the railway station and Nile river
  • From Alexandria, take the 10:00 express train to Cairo: USD5 for second class. Arrive at 12:55.
  • From Cairo, take the 12:00 train to Giza: USD4 for second class. Arrive at 12:20.
  • From Giza, take the 12:20 train to Luxor: USD8 for second class. Arrive at 22:20.
  • From Luxor, take the 09:35 train to Aswan: USD5 for second class. Arrive at 13:15.
  • From Aswan, every Monday and every second Friday, there is a ferry to Wadi Halfa, Sudan. Base your trip on this so that you arrive in Aswan approximately two days before the ferry leaves. It costs USD75 for a first-class ticket, and you get a bunk bed. (Second class costs USD50, but you only get a padded bench). The ferry leaves at about 12:00 and arrives at about 07:00 the next day.

Sudan[edit]

Bus station (Bahri) in Khartoum
  • From Wadi Halfa, take the 05:00 bus (the only one) to Khartoum: USD20. Arrive at 16:00. There may also again (since 2013) be a weekly train coordinated with the ferry.
  • From Khartoum, take the 06:00 bus to Gedaref: -USD10. Arrive in Gedaref at 14:00.
  • From Gedaref, take a minibus to Gallabat; they generally leave at 10:00: USD10. Arrive in Gallabat at 17:00.
  • Cross the border to Metema, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia[edit]

View of Fasilides' Castle from the Royal Enclosure in Gondar, Ethiopia
Bet Medhane Alem church, Lalibela, the largest rock hewn church in the world
View of Addis Ababa
  • From Metema, take the 09:00 bus to Gondar. Arrive at 12:00.
  • From Gondar, take a minbus to Bahir Dar: USD3.
  • From Bahir Dar, take the 06:00 bus to Gashena: USD5. Arrive at 12:00.
  • From Gashena, Take the 15:00 bus to Lalibela. Arrive at 18:00.
  • From Lalibela, take a minibus that departs at 07:00 for a two-day drive to Addis Ababa: -USD25. Bus arrive in Kombolcha at 16:00 for the night then depart Kombolcha the next day at 06:00 to arrive in Addis Ababa at 14:00.
  • From Addis Ababa, take the two-day bus to Moyale, the Kenya-Ethiopia border town. Depart at 07:00: -USD25-30. Bus stops at Dilla for the night then depart the next day at 08:00 to arrive in Moyale at 15:00.

Kenya[edit]

Nairobi's Skyline
Mombasa's waterfront
  • Cross the Ethiopia-Kenya border.
  • Take the 10:00 bus to Nairobi: -USD30. Arrive at 12:00 the following day.
  • The train from Nairobi to Mombasa departs Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 19:00: -USD45 for second-class sleeper. Arrive in Mombasa at 10:00.
  • From Mombasa, take the 08:00 bus to Dar es Salaam: -USD20. Arrive at 18:00.

Tanzania[edit]

Dar es Salaam's skyline
  • On Tuesdays, a train departs Dar es Salaam for Kapiri Mposhi at 15:50. On Fridays, it departs at 13:50: -USD35 for second-class sleeper. The trip takes two days. Arrive in Kapiri Mposhi 2 days later between 13:00 and 14:00.

Zambia[edit]

The Kapiri Mposhi train station
Lusaka
The Livingstone Museum
The Zambezi Bridge above Victoria Falls
  • On Mondays and Fridays, there is a train from Kapiri Mposhi to Lusaka: USD3. It departs at 16:42. Arrive at 23:30.
  • From Lusaka, take the daily 09:30 bus to Livingstone: -USD22. Arrive 17:30.
  • From Livingstone, take a taxi to the Zambia-Zimbabwe border. Cross the border over the Zambezi Bridge to the Zimbabwean town of Victoria Falls.

Zimbabwe[edit]

Bulawayo
Downtown Harare
Bulawayo
The Beitbridge borderpost
  • From Victoria Falls, take the daily 19:00 train to Bulawayo: -USD19 for first class; USD12 for second class. Arrive at 10:00.
  • From Bulawayo, take the Monday, Thursday, and Saturday train to Harare. It departs at 20:00: USD15 for a sleeper. Arrive at 08:00.
  • From Harare, take the Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday train back to Bulawayo. It departs at 21:00: USD15 for a sleeper. Arrive at 08:00.
  • From Bulawayo, take the Sunday and Thursday train to Beitbridge, on the Zimbabwe-South Africa border. It departs at 18:00: USD15 for a sleeper. Arrive at 10:00.
  • From Beitbridge, cross the Zimbabwe-South Africa border. Take a taxi to the town of Musina.

South Africa[edit]

Strijdom Square, Pretoria
Johannesburg City Hall
A Durban street
Johannesburg's business district
Kimberley's Big Hole
Central Cape Town
  • From Musina, take the Sunday & Thursday train to Pretoria (economy seats only!). It departs at 15:25: USD10. Arrive at 04:16.
  • From Pretoria, take the 09:00 train to Johannesburg. They depart every 20 minutes: USD8. Arrive at 09:40.
  • From Johannesburg, take the Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday train to Durban. It departs at 18:30: USD15 for economy class, USD33 for a sleeper. Arrive at 07:10.
  • From Durban, Take the Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday train back to Johannesburg. It departs at 19:15: USD15 for economy class, USD33 for a sleeper. Arrive at 07:44.
  • From Johannesburg, take the Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday train to Kimberley. It departs at 12:30: USD15 for economy class. Arrive at 21:20
  • From Kimberley, take the Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday train to Cape Town. It departs at 21:20: USD43 for a sleeper, USD27 for economy class. Arrive in Cape Town at 15:30.

Stay safe[edit]

Check the current political situation. As of 2016, travel warnings are in effect at least for Egypt, Sudan and Kenya.

Alexandria[edit]

  • Crime is rarely violent in Alexandria.
  • Don't flash valuables or expensive items.
  • Women are expected to dress modestly and cover their heads when entering mosques.
  • Tourists may be harassed.
  • Dial 123 in an emergency.

Cairo[edit]

  • Cairo is a fairly safe city but women may be subject to catcalling.
  • Dial 122 in an emergency.
  • for consular assistance please see Cairo#Embassies

Giza[edit]

  • Giza attracts millions of tourists each year to the Giza Pyramids, as well as a lot of pickpockets and con artists.
  • Offers of unsolicited help may be in expectation of a tip.
  • Wear headphones: they make strangers easier to ignore.
  • Avoid eye contact and keep walking when someone tries to harass you.
  • Don't climb the pyramids! It's illegal and dangerous.
  • Bring bottled water.
  • Choose a camel or donkey ride carefully.

Luxor[edit]

  • Luxor is known as the hassle capital of Egypt.
  • Tour guides inside temples will demand a tip for guiding you.
  • Scarf sellers will try to pickpocket you.
  • Ask a local for directions or info, not a taxi driver or tour guide.
  • Women travelling alone should exercise extreme caution.
  • Luxor merchants are infamously manipulative and aggressive.
  • Pretend to speak an obscure language such as Azerbaijani when being hassled. If you do speak an uncommon language, use it! If not, fake it.

Aswan[edit]

  • Aswan is much safer than Cairo and Luxor.

Wadi Halfa[edit]

  • Wadi Halfa is a pretty small town with low crime. Just avoid pickpockets, and remember that alcohol is illegal.

Khartoum[edit]

  • Khartoum is a safe and dirty city.
  • for consular assistance please see Khartoum#Embassies

Gedaref[edit]

Metema[edit]

  • Metema is a small border town with a few shops and hotels. Locals will perceive foreigners as very wealthy, and there are lots of pickpockets.

Gondar[edit]

  • A very common scam in Gondar is where young Ethiopian men will invite you for a night of "authentic" Ethiopian music. However, they will take you to an obscure bar where you are the only patron. You will be prodded into buying drinks for all the locals and tipping the musicians.

Bahir Dar[edit]

  • Like most of Ethiopia, Bahir Dar is mostly safe and generally free of violent crime.
  • Malaria does exist here but is uncommon.
  • Beware of hustlers who will offer to get you a "cheap" boat on Lake Tana. They will overcharge you.

Lalibela[edit]

  • Local children in Lalibela will ask you to buy schoolbooks for them.

Addis Ababa[edit]

  • Addis Ababa is safer than most cities in Africa.
  • Gang violence and violent crimes are unusual. However, there are a lot of pickpockets and con artists around areas frequented by tourists.
  • Most pickpockets are aggressive young boys. Tell them firmly to go away.
  • Keep your belongings close on crowded public transport.
  • Call 991 in an emergency.
  • Addis Ababa police never ask foreigners or tourists to show their passport or other identification.
  • for consular assistance please see Addis Ababa#Embassies

Moyale[edit]

  • Moyale is a border town between Ethiopia and Kenya. Security is excellent and it is very safe.

Nairobi[edit]

  • Nairobi has a reputation for thievery, con artists, and scams.
  • Scams are very elaborate, with up to 10 people working together.
  • It is normal for young children to excitedly approach foreigners, but be wary of children over 9 or 10 getting close to you.
  • Stay in the city centre, know where you are going, and don't talk to strangers.
  • There are not a lot of beggars in Nairobi. Kenyans are a proud people.
  • Slums and the Eastleigh neighbourhood should be avoided by tourists.
  • Do not walk alone at night in unfamiliar neighbourhoods.
  • for consular assistance please see Nairobi#Embassies

Mombasa[edit]

  • The city centre is unsafe at night.
  • Carjacking is widespread.
  • Robberies have been known to occur on the beaches after dusk.

Dar es Salaam[edit]

Kapiri Mposhi[edit]

  • Kapiri Mposhi is a pretty small town in Zambia with little to no crime. Just keep track of your belongings.

Lusaka[edit]

  • Lusaka has a bad criminal reputation, but Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg are much worse.
  • Remember that unemployment is 80% and many Lusakans live in poverty.
  • When Zambians pickpocket, they do not try to hurt you unless you threaten them. They are after your money, not you.
  • HIV/AIDS is prevalent in Lusaka.
  • for consular assistance please see Lusaka#Embassies_and_High_Commissions

Livingstone[edit]

  • Livingstone's economy depends on tourism, so they do their best to make travellers feel safe.
  • Don't annoy taxi drivers.
  • Livingstone is home to a large number of Zimbabwean refugees.
  • If you go rafting, make sure that you hire an experienced guide who will not endanger your life.
  • Use the government bureau to exchange your currency.

Victoria Falls[edit]

  • Victoria Falls is full of tourist police. They wear bright yellow vests and ensure that travellers are safe.
  • Ignore beggars.
  • Victoria Falls is a safe town.

Bulawayo[edit]

  • Bulawayo is a nice, safe city.

Harare[edit]

  • Walking after dark should be avoided. Take a taxi to restaurants.
  • It is illegal to walk on the pavement around the Presidential Palace after 18:00.
  • for consular assistance please see Harare#Embassies

Pretoria[edit]

Johannesburg[edit]

  • Johannesburg has a very high crime rate, but tourists are rarely victims.
  • Armed security guards are common.
  • When walking on the street, act like a local and don't display any signs of wealth or valuables.
  • If you are a victim of a robbery, cooperate. Then report it to the police.
  • South Africans are notoriously bad and drunken drivers.
  • Johannesburg has high rape and sexual assault rates. Women should travel in groups.
  • for consular assistance please see Johannesburg#Embassies

Durban[edit]

  • The beach is patrolled by policemen.
  • Avoid the Point Road area.
  • Stick to the main streets at night and don't go out too much.
  • Dress down to blend in.
  • The harbour area is safe.
  • Some street children carry knives.

Kimberley[edit]

  • Kimberley is a small, safe town, though there are a few pickpockets.

Cape Town[edit]

  • Cape Town also has a high-ish crime rate, but tourists are generally not the target of violent crime.
  • Leave everything that you value in your hotel room.
  • Travellers should avoid hitch hiking and local commuter trains.
  • Merchants and beggars are respectful and will accept a "no".
  • Use a taxi at night instead of walking.
  • Minibus taxis disobey every traffic law and speed limit.
  • Try not to appear as a tourist.
  • for consular assistance please see Cape Town#Embassies_and_Consulates

Go next[edit]

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