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22nd October
written by Justin

After the end of our tour we pretty much just crashed out at the Ritz backpackers. We ordered take out Indian food, did laundry, and slept basically as long as possible. But our rest was not super long because we had booked a shuttle – the only one we could find – to Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland.

The shuttle (website link) was all-in-all a good experience, but it was a lot of hassle trying to get the reservation. We were wary of all the transport options between Johannesburg and Swaziland; the bus station in Joburg is said to be really dangerous, there were no trains as far as we could tell, and no coaches would go past the border. We had heard that Baz Bus, a popular backpacker’s bus, used to go there but alas it had been removed from the route selection. So we were pretty stuck until I found another option – TransMagnific minivan service. This was a company with a 15-seater van that had daily departures, a reasonable website and online bookings, but I couldn’t find any recommendations or reviews online. Needless to say, we were reluctant to pay $70 USD a piece ahead of time for a company that didn’t exist. When it became clear that they were the only option, we gave in and booked online.

Then the difficulties began because they wanted a prepayment to their Swazi bank account. We booked the day before our Acacia safari, and were unable to get to a bank before we left. There were a few banks along the course of our safari that looked as though we could use them, but since apparently banking hours are 9:30 to 3:30 with a lunchbreak in the middle we didn’t manage to get to any bank until Maun, just before we left for the Okovango Delta. That was when the big kicker came: you can’t transfer money to a Swazi account from Botswana unless you have an account! We got agitated at this because we would be unable to pay until maybe the day before our journey.

Fortunately TransMagnific came through – they let us just pay the driver after the trip! We were really happy that we could keep our seats for the van (which turned out to be completely full) and showed up the day of with our luggage.

Besides our payment issues, we had no trouble at all with the service! We had a smooth, comfortable ride with complementary snacks. I think our request for no mayonnaise on our sandwiches caused them to omit the sandwiches completely, but we were prepared with our own food anyway. I can highly recommend this shuttle service. The only caveat is that our van got in to Mbabane more than 1.5 hours later than the website stated, and we didn’t run into any traffic. So our generous hosts in Swaziland ended up waiting at a gas station for a really long time! We made it to Mbabane after dark, a little tired, but happy to be there!

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