Durban Travel Guide for Foreign Visitors

durban travel guide

With over 3.7 million residents, Durban is the third most populous city in South Africa. It is located on the east coast of the country and is famous for its long beaches and being the busiest port in South Africa. It is a surfer’s paradise that presents a pleasant subtropical climate.

Since the World Cup in 2010, the city has been completely renovated and development projects have been completely all across town.

Visitors report Durban to be an extremely cosmopolitan city that, thanks to the largest community of Indian descent outside of India, has a distinct Asian feel. The craft food and beer industry and the lively film and music scene also makes it a great creative hub.

What Is the Best Time to Visit Durban?

The great size of the country and the varied nature of the activities that can be done here make it impossible to find just one best time to visit South Africa. Durban can be considered to have its own microclimate and therefore, it is quite easier to plan a holiday here.

Durban’s climate is subtropical and similar to that of Mozambique. This means that:

  • Summer runs between December and March. This is when the temperatures get high and the weather humid, with a good amount of rainfall.
  • Winter time goes from June to August. Temperatures are still pleasant and the weather is dry, making this the best time to visit the city.

Is Durban a Safe Place to Visit?

Durban is one of the safest urban centers in South Africa. Visitors will immediately feel comfortable in this modern city.

The risk of terrorism is near to non-existent and tourist areas like those around the beach strip are covered by CCTV and regularly patrolled by the local police.

This doesn’t meant that there is no risk at all: common sense and general safety rules should always be followed. At night, certain areas like the business center become deserted and non-residents should stick to neighborhoods where people typically hang out.

Tourists should avoid flashing expensive items and are advised to pay special attention while in crowded situations like at a mall and when crossing busy streets.

Useful Information for Foreigners: Visas and Documents Required for Durban</h2

Durban is a South African town and therefore, South African visa policies and regulations apply.

At the moment, over 100 nationalities around the world require a South African visa if they wish to enter the country for tourism purposes. As part of their application, they will need to provide an eligible passport. Other relevant supporting documentation may apply depending on the specific circumstances of the applicant.

Some travelers are asked to provide a yellow fever vaccination certificate while those arriving in Durban with children must submit the minor’s birth certificate including the details of both parents. Tourists may be required to show proof of sufficient financial means to support themselves during their holidays and a return flight ticket may also be necessary.

Can I apply online for a visa?

It should be noted that the government is testing a new electronic visa application system that will make the process of requesting a tourist visa much easier and quicker and will eliminate the need to attend a South Afican embassy or consulate in person.

Eligible foreign visitors will be able to apply for their travel permit to Durban from the comfort of their own home or office, as long as they have access to the internet.

At the moment, the program is being tested with Kenyan passport holders only but will soon be extended to other nationalities.

How to Get to Durban

Durban can be reached via air, land, and sea. Durban King Shaka International Airport operates intercontinental flights, especially during the peak season, but it is also very common among foreign visitors to stop over in Johannesburg (which is an hour-long flight away) or Cape Town (2 hours away by plane.)

The airport is located only one hour from the beach by car.

Those who prefer driving should keep in mind that South Africa is a vast country. It takes 18 hours on the N2 from Cape Town to Durban, although the road is very scenic. From Johannesburg, take the N3 for 6 hours and admire the stunning Drakensberg Mountains.

Being a major cruise terminal in Africa, it is also possible to travel to Durban by boat.

Famous Durban Attractions

There are countless reasons why one should visit Durban. Once popular mostly among surfers, the city is now somewhere between a tropical paradise and a hip and cosmopolitan center.

From walking down the promenade to shopping at a market in the Indian area and attending a music festival, there’s much to do and see in Durban. Find below some of the most popular attractions in the city.

A day with the family: uShake Marine World

This marine theme park extends for over 16 hectares and can be found in the area between the beachfront and he harbor.

Species that can be seen in what is the fifth-largest aquarium in the world include:

  • Ragged-tooth sharks
  • Spinner sharks
  • Hammerhead sharks
  • Local catsharks
  • Eagle rays
  • Honeycomb morays
  • Geometric morays
  • Local gamefish
  • Giant groupers
  • Potato bass
  • Kingfish
  • Cobia
  • Pythons
  • Nile crocodiles
  • Black mambas
  • Scorpions
  • Gila monsters
  • Arachnids (some of which venomous)

Visitors can experience an animal encounter and snorkel in the lagoon among thousands of fish. Adrenaline seekers can book a shark cage diving adventure.

Entry fees for adults start at R198 while children under 12 pay R147 for a daily pass.

What to do at Moses Mabhida Stadium

Built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Moses Mabhida Stadium is now a multi-purpose stadium.

The stadium can be found in the suburb of Stamford Hill and can be reached via metrorail or by driving the M4 motorway.

It can accommodate up to 80,000 seated fans during events like the Commonwealth Games. It also hosts 120 corporate hospitality suites with 7,500 seats.

Besides purchasing a ticket to watch concerts and games of football, rugby, cricket and more, visitors can decide to take a tour and:

  • Access the changing rooms, players tunnel, hospitality facilities
  • Explore the stadium’s art gallery
  • Take a SkyCar run up and down the arch
  • Walk up the arch
  • Swing from the top of the arch over the pit

Tickets for all-access tours are R90.

Can you have a picnic at the Botanical Gardens in Durban?

Spreading over 15 hectares, Durban Botanic Gardens are the oldest botanical gardens in Africa. The first garden was founded in 1849 by Dr Charles Johnson.

The gardens are open all year round including public holidays and entry is free.

Although there are hospitality facilities and tea rooms across the gardens, informal picnics are allowed but no open fires are permitted.

What is the Golden Mile in Durban?

There are no less than 370 miles (600 km) of beaches around Durban’s coastline. It is no surprise then that the beach culture here is vibrant.

The Golden Mile is the name that locals gave to the land stretching  from South Beach to the Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World in the north and has quickly become one of Durban’s most popular locations.

Those who wish to enjoy a day on sandy beaches and dipping their toes in the warm Indian ocean should head here. Moreover, surfers will hardly ever be disappointed by waves in this area. Lifeguards operate in these waters and swimmers are kept safe with protective shark nets and beacons to point safe swimming spots.

Some of the most famous beaches include:

  • Umdloti for rock pools
  • Addington Beach and South Beach for smaller waves (perfect for surf learners)
  • North Beach for the most breath taking sunrise
  • Dairy Beach, one of the best surfing spots
  • Umhlanga Rocks for luxury hotels and restaurants
  • Sodwana Bay (part of the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park World Heritage Site) for diving

From families to party-goers and nature lovers, there is a beach for everyone in Durban.