Backpacking through South Africa is one of the best ways to see this diverse and beautiful country. Not only are there a range of affordable options, but they are also located in some of the most scenic parts of South Africa’s 11 provinces.
In preparation for a trip that I’m planning, I decided to do some digging to see which backpackers are top-rated on review and booking sites like Accommodation Direct. The more I travel, the more I find myself checking to see what other travellers are saying about a backpacker's before I book. This is mainly a result of checking into a dodgy ass hostel in India, my passport getting stolen out of another hostel in Thailand and a few other horror stories over the past two years.
So if you are planning a backpacking trip through South Africa, and you are still deciding where to stay, here are 10 of the top-rated backpackers in South Africa!
1. Once in Joburg
Once in Cape Town has finally launched their Johannesburg leg and it is all set to be just as epic as it's Cape Town branch. Situated in the heart of Braamfontein, Once in Joburg is an All Star Hostel in walking distance of the city's vibrant art and culture.
Experience the creative atmosphere of First Thursday's while tasting some of Johannesburg's tastiest treats while walking between local art museums. Or take in the city's nightlife and have a drink at Kitcheners or dance the night away over at Baseline.
Free breakfast is included during your stay and served at the hostel's in-house restaurant, The Immigrant. There is also a concierge service to help you book local sightseeing activities like The Red Bus, a trip to the Kruger National Park, graffiti tours and car hire.
Price: R 235 in a 4-bed dorm with a locker, charging points and a reading light.
Nearby Attractions: The Civic Centre, Museum of Africa, South African Museum of Military History, Constitution Hill, Wits University, Market Theatre
Facilities: Free WiFi, Safety Deposit Box, Airport Shuttle, Air conditioning, Wake-up service, Shared lounge/TV area, BBQ area, laundry, 24-hour front desk, ATM cash machine on-site
2. The Backpack Shack in Mossel Bay
Situated along the famous Garden Route, Mossel Bay has earned the moniker of South Africa's "Do Stuff" destination.The area is known for its diverse natural beauty, 60 kilometres of beaches and a culture that stretches back 164, 000 years. For budget conscious travellers, a stop at The Backpack Shack is a low-cost way to experience this adventurous and cultural spot in South Africa.
Price: R350 double or twin room with breakfast at R75 per person.
Nearby attractions: The Outeniqua Mountains, Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, Santos Beach, Diaz Strand, Robinson Pass, Diaz Museum, scuba diving, sandboarding, skydiving, St Belize Hiking trail
Facilities: Free Wifi, airport shuttle, wake-up service, car hire, safety deposit box, on-site bar, restaurant, communal kitchen, BBQ and pool area.
3. B.I.G Backpackers in Cape Town
If you are looking for a top-rated hostel centrally located in Cape Town's bustling metropolitan city, B.I.G Backpackers is the perfect spot to put down some roots to explore this iconic part of South Africa.
Situated between the beautiful mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, the hostel is in walking distance to the Sea Point Promenade, V & A Waterfront and the city centre. Hop on the MyCiti bus and in a few minutes you'll find yourself lounging on the pristine beaches of Camps Bay or sipping on cocktails at one of the trendy hot spots along Clifton Beach. Don't forget to keep an eye out for the local pub crawl!
A continental breakfast is served daily and the hostel offers a fully equipped kitchen for travellers who want to whip up their own cuisine creations. The hostel also offers 3 course in-house dinners once a week, and the staff take the guests out to see and do things they would not specifically do on their own five times a week.
Price: R 360 in a 4-bed dorm with charging points, a reading light and a wardrobe.
Nearby Attractions: Table Mountain, Lion's Head, Signal Hill, Long Street, Robben Island, 2 Oceans Aquarium, Paragliding, Old Biscuit Mill, Wine Tours
Facilities: Free WiFi, complimentary breakfast, airport shuttle, safety deposit box, car hire, bicycle hire, 24-hour front desk, luggage storage, laundry, pool and BBQ area
4. Hazyview Adventure Backpackers in Mpumalanga
If you are planning a trip along the scenic Panorama route, you need to stop at Hazyview Adventure Backpackers. It boasts stunning views of the Klein Drakensberg escarpment mountain range and is bordered by the Sabie and Blyde rivers.
The backpackers location makes it ideal for travellers who want to explore the Kruger National Park (only 12 km away!), Blyde River Canyon and want to get their adrenaline fix. Go river rafting, abseil around the beautiful Sabie valley, hike the numerous routes or try your hand at Mountain Boarding.
After an adventurous day exploring the local area, enjoy at home cooked meal at the backpacker's own Jungle Cafe, have a drink at Voodoo Bar or relax in the "boma" around an African fire.
Price: R130 a night in an 10-bed dorm
Nearby attractions: God's Window, The Three Rondavels, Sudwala Caves, Bourke's Luck potholes, Elephant Sanctuary, Kruger National Park, The Panorama Route, Lowveld Botanical Gardens, Gold Panning Pilgrims Rest
Facilities: Communal kitchen, swimming pool, climbing wall, BBQ area, laundry service, transfers, luggage storage,
5. Tsitsikamma Backpackers in Storms River
Tsitsikamma Backpackers can be found along one of the most scenic spots on the Garden Route. The area was declared Africa's first marine reserve in 1964 and is made up of over 80km of coastline.
The backpacker's proximity to Tsitsikamma National Park and adventure activities like the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour, the Otter Trail, bungee jumping and an 800-year-old Yellowwood tree make it the perfect getaway for nature geeks on a budget.
Price: R220 in a six-bed dorm
Nearby attractions: Tsitsikamma National Park, Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour, Otter Trail, Bloukrans Bridge, Hog Hollow Horse Trails, Kayak Adventure, snorkelling
Facilities: Free Wi-Fi, communal kitchen, outdoor boma area, shuttle service, laundry services, bar area, lockers and BBQ areas.
6. Elundini Backpackers in Hogsback
Elundini Backpackers is an award-winning hostel located 20 minutes from the Garden Route in the Eastern Cape. In January 2016, it was voted the best backpackers in the Eastern Cape by The Guardian - and it's not hard to see why. With Xhosa Cultural activities, unmatched scenic beauty and the one of three backpackers in the area, it's a unique opportunity for any traveller wanting to experience "the other side" of South Africa.
Situated in Hogsback, high up on the Amathole mountains of the Eastern Cape Province, the area is surrounded by centuries-old Afro-montane forests. The area is dense with tall forests, mist and often sees snow in the winter months. J.R.R. Tolkien is said to have been inspired by these very forests when he penned his world famous Lord of the Rings novels.
Price: R235 in a 3-bed dorm
Nearby Attractions: Eco-Shrine, Hogsback Pass, hiking, mountain biking, Double Drift Game Reserve. Xhosa Village Tour and bread-making lessons.
Facilities: Airport shuttle, bicycle rental, on-site buffet style restaurant, BBQ area, communal kitchen, laundry services
7. Monzi Safari Backpackers in Saint Lucia
Situated in the Kwazulu Natal province, Monsi Safari Backpackers offers travellers the chance to experience a unique luxury backpacking experience. The hostel boasts an open plan kitchen, two large swimming pool with sundecks and an entertainment area. It provides daily tours to the Hluhluwe Imfolozi National Park and the Cape Vidal as well as a variety of adventure activities.
Explore the legendary coral reefs of Maputaland and keep an eye out for its famous hippos who often roam the streets at night. St Lucia is also a central hub for iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa's first World Heritage Site. The park contains eight interlinking ecosystems, 700 year old fishing traditions, some of the world's highest vegetated coastal dunes and most of South Africa's remaining swamp forests.
Price: R200 a night in a 10-bed dormitory tent
Nearby Attractions: Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Saint Lucia Estuary, horse riding, bird watching, snorkelling and hiking, whale watching, kayaking, culture tours
Facilities: Free Wi-Fi, bicycle rental, airport shuttle, BBQ area, laundry service, car hire, daily maid service
8. Curiocity Durban
Housed in an historic 1930 British-Colonial style building, Curiocity Durban offers travellers the chance to experience Durban's unique heritage, history and aesthetics.
The hostel boasts yoga classes, an outdoor cinema, chill-out lounges, co-working spaces, an urban spa and an onsite bar. It's in walking distance from the beach, only 2.3 km from UShaka Marine World and a short Uber drive away from some of Durban's hottest nightlife spots.
Price: R230 in a 10-bed dorm
Nearby Attractions: uShaka Marine World, ICC Durban, Marine Parade, Cape2Cairo Nightclub, Umgeni River Bird Park, Durban Botanic Garden, Stainbank Nature Reserve, Umhlanga Lighthouse, Beach Hurst
Facilities: airport shuttle, safety deposit box, Wi-Fi, communal kitchen, bicycle rental
9. Platberg Backpackers in Harrismith
Further inland is Platberg Backpackers in Harrismith. Centrally located in town, the hostel is in prime position for all amenities as well as an ideal base to explore the surrounding areas major hikes. For South African’s the town of Harrismith is best known for being a “halfway house” between Durban and Johannesburg as well as a stop on the way to the Drakensberg mountains. It’s the perfect midway break to fill up on food, fuel and explore the local area.
If you are passing through on your way to either city, make sure to spend some time in this beautiful part of the country and say hello to the local alpaca residents.
Price: Enquire for dormitory bed prices
Nearby attractions: Sentinel Park, Royal National Park, Platberg Mountain, Golden Gate National Park, Blockhouse, Mt Loskop, Sterkfontein Dam, Platberg Game Reserve, Swinburne
Facilities: Wi-Fi, laundry, free parking, darts, communal kitchen, library
10. Karoo Soul Backpackers in Oudtshoorn
No trip to South Africa is complete without a visit to the Klein Karoo. In the heart of the Karoo between the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains lies a beautiful Tudor-style manor house that offers some of the most affordable prices for travellers on a budget.
Located in the uppermost hills of Oudtshoorn, Karoo Soul Backpackers offers breathtaking views of the local area, a large swimming pool and an entertainment patio.
With over 330 sunshine days in a year, a trip to Oudtshoorn is a must for any outdoor enthusiast. It's home to the spectacular Cango Caves, Africa's largest show cave system, is an ecological hotspot and is part of the Cape Floral World Heritage Site.
Price: R150 in a 5-bed dorm
Nearby attractions: Oudtshoorn Golf Course, Cango Wildlife Ranch, Cango Caves, Buffelsdrift Game lodge
Facilities: Free Wi-Fi, communal kitchen, BBQ area, laundry services, shuttle service,
Have you stayed at any of these backpackers? Let me know in the comments below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hey, I'm Lauren! I'm passionate about inspiring young South Africans to travel for less and sharing my experiences and how to navigate the endless visa paperwork along the way. When I'm not busy preparing for the inevitable zombie apocalypse, I'm having a travel fail somewhere and geeking out in countries all over the world. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat!