The Shosholoza Meyl runs from Johannesburg to Cape Town four times a week. It is surprisingly inexpensive, even when you book a “coupé” in Tourist Class, meaning a closed compartment with fold-down beds. Children under nine pay half-fare. I traveled with my son Tommy, who is absolutely crazy about trains. We prepared him for the trip for a few weeks prior by reading books about trains and watching YouTube videos about trains, including Peppa Pig and Caillou.
First we saw the city slip away, then the suburbs, and then we entered the vast middle ground of South Africa. Farms, fields, and grasslands.
And what about the dining car? The food was simple and also affordable, but the decor held a touch of old-school elegance. The seats were upholstered in the official purple of Shosholoza, and white china matched the crisp white tablecloths. Tommy ate a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch and a bowl of vegetables for supper.
I’d highly recommend the Shosholoza — the name is an onomatopoeia for the sound a train makes — for its price, cleanliness, views, and good service. See here for more info and reservations.