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“Premier Classe - Africa's best kept secret” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Premier Class Shosholoza Meyl Train

Premier Class Shosholoza Meyl Train
Adderly Street 8000, Cape Town Central, South Africa
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Senior Contributor
29 reviews 29 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
46 helpful votes 46 helpful votes
“Premier Classe - Africa's best kept secret”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 12, 2012

We've used Premier Classe before - from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town (Wonderful) and from Durban to Jo'Burg (OK, but a bit short).

We'd spent a week in Kruger and were heading down to Hermanus for whale-watching - both terrific experiences. So we were booked on Premier Classe for the trip from Jo'burg to Cape Town.

I love long-distance rail travel so a trip on Premier Classe is a must for any holiday in South Africa. It can be difficult to book as travel agents don't know about it - often asking do I mean Blue Train or Rovos - and the web site isn't really very functional. But with a bit of determination, its possible to get booked. For us, R2500 (about £200) for 25 hours on a sleeper with all food included is good value - and you see some of Africa and meet nice people along the way whilst avoiding airports and airlines. What could be better?

The accomodation is clean, reasonably comfortable, and the food was very good and plentiful, with good service throughout. The daytime compartment converts to a two bed sleeping compartment with nice bedlinen etc. It also has a small washbasin cleverly hidden under the table and plenty of room for luggage. Whilst not very roomy it works OK and the sleeping cars have shared toilets and shower compartments - one of each for roughly every 4 sleeping compartments. The toilets and showers were reasonably clean and everything worked.

The scenery along the way is wonderful and you get a feel for just how vast the country is - and an insight into some of its modern-day problems. For example, as we entered the wine region after passing the longest tunnel in Africa, we encountered 9,000 agricultural workers holding a strike for better housing services. For "strike" you can read "riot" and we were advised to draw the blinds in case someone hurled rocks at the train. Mildly worrying, but you wouldn't see all this is you flew.

But, there is a sting in the tail and it made this experience suitable only for the most intrepid traveller.

First, the suspension on the bogie (thats the wheels etc) of our carriage needed some maintenance - it caused a bit of vibration. Not enough to be disturbing but it set up a rattle in the trim above the sleeping compartment door - which was disturbing until I shoved a paper tissue in to stop it rattling. The train manager apologised and explained that the carriages would be replaced the very next day with another set that had been in the works for maintenance. But the train staff must have walked past that rattling trim on every trip and ignored it - not even shoving a paper tissue in to stop the noise!

Next, we'd not travelled very far before the air conditioning in the bar car packed up and it soon became a bar-sauna. A shame because the bar car is the social centre of the train. So we adjourned to the dining car - and the air conditioning in that carriage promptly packed up. Thence to bed. Luckily the nights in the Karoo desert are cool so the lack of a/c wasn't too much of a problem - but the days in the Karoo are very hot so the lack of a/c anywhere on the train on the 2nd day was a really big problem for many people. I asked the train manager if anything could be done to get it working and he told me it had become unreliable and couldn't cope with global warming (!!!!). He repeated that it would all be OK on the next trip - not a big help.

Now, I know a little about trains - this train compares very favourably with UK and Amtrak long-distance trains - but things can go wrong anywhere. In this case, I know the air-conditioning etc is driven by electrical generators in the rear cars of the train. They were running when we left Jo'burg - and had definitely stopped running when we got to Cape Town. So did someone forget to top up the diesel tanks? I shall ask Shosholozo Meyl.

I really don't want to give Premier Classe a bad review as its usually such a good experience and the staff are so nice - but I'm afraid the air conditioning problem and the train managers excuses couldn't pass by without comment. I'm fairly sure that on another day, the trip would be lovely and so I'd return to use it again and would recommend the long-distance Premier Classe services to others - with the caveat that it could happen again!

Visited November 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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65 reviews from our community

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English first
Top Contributor
187 reviews 187 reviews
80 attraction reviews
Reviews in 63 cities Reviews in 63 cities
65 helpful votes 65 helpful votes
“Certainly a dramatic end to our holiday....”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 25, 2012

All was good until it broke down in the middle of the night, and was delayed by 8 hours..... and although we'd allowed 6 hours to get to the airport from Jo'burg station, we had to be offlifted from the train and driven at speed to catch our flight (along with a couple of other people). However, we can't fault the communication and importance placed upon that by the train manager etc. in ensuring we got there, and that our airline knew we were delayed.

That aside... the food was good, as was the service, everything was immaculately clean and all the check~in and payment matters went fine.

nota bene... deal directly with the train line and not an agent, and you don't need to pay until the day of departure.

Oh... and the view/scenery well worth it.

Visited September 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Minot, North Dakota
Senior Contributor
38 reviews 38 reviews
6 attraction reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
23 helpful votes 23 helpful votes
“A sad disappointment...”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed October 15, 2012

My husband, sister-in-law and I took the ride from Johannesburg to Cape Town. What a letdown. The compartments were clean and decent, which was great. The toilet was kept fairly clean for the duration of the trip, which is something they can improve on. We were told that we would be served our meals in the 2nd sitting, which ended up with us eating dinner waaay past 9pm. This is a problem if you are used to eating early, and you have no other alternative available to you. The meals were nothing spectacular, but I have to compliment them on their Spinach soup! The crockery was mostly chipped, but at least clean. The staff wore faded and ill fitting uniforms, including the train manager, who did not even bother to brush his hair... Our train configuration had a bar, but it was not open. Why add a carriage if it is not in use? We agreed in the end that you get what you pay for. Even less actually. People should not be fooled by the glamour being advertised on their website, if you can, rather upgrade to one of the other private owned train operators.

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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
20 reviews 20 reviews
8 attraction reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
16 helpful votes 16 helpful votes
“Train train train”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 19, 2012

Just arriving in Joburg on time. We left Cape Town Town yesterday morning. 2 berth sleeper, roomy & nice. Meals were good & plentiful. Morning cuppa in bed. Our bed was made up whilst we were at dinner, really nicely. Slept well. Water a bit short for a morning shower. The views coming out of Cape Town we spectacular - a slow travel through wonderful country side, beats the ain anyway, take the trip, sit back & enjoy the views, & the rest. It great.

Visited August 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oakland, California
Senior Contributor
25 reviews 25 reviews
16 attraction reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
11 helpful votes 11 helpful votes
“Maybe Worth Trying Once”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 4, 2012

**We did not travel on the Premiere Class, but rather the Shosholoza Meyl tourist class**

My wife and took the Shosholoza from Jo'burg to Cape Town in May 2012. We booked a two-person sleeper tourist class sleeper car. As expected the sleeper cars are fairly small, but manageable. Food is offered on the car for reasonable prices (fish and chips for R65), but don't expect it to be great. Also, if you travel in fall winter, expect the train to be very cold. Bundle up! Overall it was a quaint experience, but if we did it over again we would have just taken a plane.

Visited May 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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