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Trip Report Johannesburg-Cape Town Premier Train

Level Contributor
861 posts
68 reviews
Trip Report Johannesburg-Cape Town Premier Train

In September, 2018 we took the Premier Train from J'burg to Cape Town. We had finished a two week safari in Botswana and flew to J'burg from Kasane, Botswana. One of the travelers in our group likes trains so our group of four took the Premier Train. We booked two person cabins on line without a problem. The train leaves J'burg at 10:30 AM from the Central Station. There is a dedicated waiting area serving coffee, tea and snacks. If you want other treats for the trip like Coke Zero you can walk into the main waiting area for Central Station which has a grocery store.

The train left on time at 10:30 AM. While I am not an expert on age of equipment, the cabins had a 1960's feel with some updates such as USB chargers. Our cabin had two fold down beds and a hand basin. Toilets were at each end of a car plus a shower room. The cabins were clean and well maintained. I have rode on Amtrak east and west of Chicago. The train felt like a single level sleeper between Chicago and Cleveland. In the middle of the night the heat came on in our car, and it took an hour to find a staff person who could turn off the heat.

The first week of September is still the end of winter in South Africa . The train was about ½ full, a mixture of Northern Hemisphere Tourists (with a few Aussies) and white South Africans. We had assigned seating for meals, and our group had a table for 4. We had two lunches, dinner and a breakfast. There was usually a choice of a meat and non-meat entree. We could purchase beer or wine with dinner, and there was a bar car. Service was slow, but who was in a hurry. The food was good, but not great. I am glad I brought a bottle of scotch to help with the sightseeing. There is a smoking car, but no smoking in the cabins or anywhere else on the train.

We made a slow exit from J'burg, and it reinforced my previous experience that one sees the least attractive part of a country exiting a major city on a train. Since we were traveling in winter the sunset (which was beautiful) was at about 6 PM. We were behind schedule combined with the early sunset meant that we missed the only scheduled stop in Matjiesfortien. We used T-Mobile and were able to had data and voice service on almost the entire route.

We arrived in Cape Town two and a half hours late. They provided us an extra lunch. I have rode the Empire Builder from St. Paul to Seattle, and train is usually 2 or 3 hours late. Sometimes they have run out of food in the dining room to and been able to provide an extra meal.

We had a chance to see the Great Karoo Desert, a part of South Africa we would not have been able to see.

We had to spend two extra days in South Africa to make this trip. We finished our safari in Botswana on a Wednesday and we could have been in Cape Town Wednesday evening. We arrive in Cape Town on Friday afternoon. I am glad I had the chance to ride the train, but I would not do it again.

4 replies to this topic
Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
5,087 posts
434 reviews
1. Re: Trip Report Johannesburg-Cape Town Premier Train

Thank you for this report, I found it interesting as I am sure others will also.

Level Contributor
387 posts
20 reviews
2. Re: Trip Report Johannesburg-Cape Town Premier Train


I took the cheaper 2nd cousin of that train from Cape Town to Joburg - Shosholoza Meyl, I was not impressed BUT at the price I paid it was fine.

Food on train was poor.

Breaking down 5 hours out of Joburg was poor. With a riot brewing I was advised by the police to leave as soon as possible!!!! Took a taxi to Joburg.


PS. I Have travelled on Rovos, Blue Train and Shongololo trains as well. My expectations were reasonable though as I knew it not to be luxury!!!

Nova Scotia
Destination Expert
for Nova Scotia
Level Contributor
14,260 posts
172 reviews
3. Re: Trip Report Johannesburg-Cape Town Premier Train

My husband and I are taking the premier class train from Johannesburg to Cape Town this November. I posted earlier wondering about the new stop in Matjiesfortien. Now we know. I have read this train is usually late but adding that stop so you can cancel it makes the train less late.

However we have time and want to see a bit of countryside. We will have take Rovos Rail from Victoria Falls to Pretoria before that so it will be interesting to compare them.

Se Australia
Level Contributor
219 posts
29 reviews
4. Re: Trip Report Johannesburg-Cape Town Premier Train

We took this trip in 2014 during our 28 day visit to Southern Africa.

We found it one of the trips many highlights. And, in 2014 at least,fabulous value for miney. Would do the trip again.

We left and arrived pretty much on time although I except we may have been fortunate.

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