The Blue Train of South Africa

Riding the Blue Train of South Africa

Christine Cunanan Travelife Magazine

I’ve taken The Blue Train across South Africa twice, once in each direction. On my first trip, I rode the Blue Train from the capital of Pretoria to the beautiful city of Cape Town.

I still remember every moment. There was the excitement of arriving at the old-fashioned train station of Pretoria and the fancy brunches and dinners onboard the train. I also loved sitting in the viewing carriage at the end of the Blue Train. It was nice to simply marvel at the loveliness of this part of the world.


On the day of departure, we woke up early at our hotel in Johannesburg to take a car to PretoriaThe Blue Train was departing for Cape Town from Pretoria Station.

The distance between Johannesburg and Cape Town is about 1600 kilometers. By airplane, from Johannesburg airport, which is the nearest airport for Pretoria, it takes just under two hours.


Traveling by luxury train

However, by the Blue Train, it takes about 30 hours to travel from Pretoria to Cape Town or vice versa, passing through almost the entire length of the wild and remote Northern Cape.

But the journey is the experience in itself.

The Blue Train is an experience like no other — especially in this modern age when everything is instant and people are so impatient to get to their destinations as quickly as possible.

On the Blue Train, it’s all about the voyage and the people you meet. Then, of course, there are the things you see outside your windows as you travel across South Africa at a leisurely pace. It’s really just like in the old days.

It was a wonderful way to see a country I’ve grown to love.

I’ve been on several luxury trains before so I’m quite used to the configurations for these old-fashioned carriages. None of them are spacious enough compared to a hotel suite. However, the luxurious ones are good enough.

And I have to say that the Blue Train is among the most comfortable luxury trains I’ve ridden. I like the decor of the compartments as well.


Traveling by luxury train

The cabins are spacious, the beds are heavenly, and the ensuite bathrooms are positively palatial by train standards.

The company onboard is the other attraction. You really meet very interesting people as most people who take the Blue Train are very experienced travelers with lots of stories to tell.

Dinner onboard the Blue Train in South Africa

We met so many nice people on this train.

In fact, we sat next to one British couple by chance at the very first dinner. We liked them so much that we arranged to sit with them for every meal.


Menu onboard the Blue Train

This is what brunch was like on that first day, by the way, as we rolled out of Pretoria and past Johannesburg, on our way to the Northern Cape, living a #Travelife.

We began with very nice pink champagne.

Then, anyone who wanted pastries or fruit could have some, as it was brunch.

Within the rather strict confines of this luxury train, a fruit and pastry buffet had been set up very nicely on one side of the Blue Train and passengers could just help themselves after enjoying a glass of bubbly.

For an appetizer, there were several choices but most of us chose the smoked salmon. It was a very nice way to start brunch and an omen of good things to come.

For the main course, almost everyone around me chose a meat dish. They served rack of lamb, and also exotic fare like grilled springbok.    However, I decided to ask the chef to give me a salad with more smoked salmon on the side instead. We’d been having one big meal after another in Johannesburg, you see, so I was very happy with this salad.  

Lunch onboard The Blue Train of South Africa

Dessert was beautiful as well.   It was hard to imagine that this full-course meal was created in a tiny kitchen of a moving train. Then it was served on porcelain, accompanied by a full flank of silverware.

This is a testament to the talents of the chef, as well as his dexterity.   The kitchen was as large as a big cabinet of a large restaurant, after all.  

Strawberry dessert


We enjoyed our conversations with this British couple so much. So our table took the full course every time and lingered on way past everyone else had left. Each meal literally took hours to finish, and happily so.

Dinner onboard the Blue Train

We were easily spending three hours in the restaurant car thrice a day. There was so much good food and wonderful wines to enjoy as we journeyed across South Africa.

Read more articles about traveling by luxury train in Travelife Magazine.