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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.