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Durban Introduction

Cool, cosmopolitan Durbs is the place to be on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. The city is defined by the long stretches of golden sand that fringe the Indian Ocean, awash with sunbathers and volleyball players throughout the year. These are broken by the salt-washed piers of Ushaka, which come surrounded by casinos and acclaimed marine parks. And then there's Durban's serene side, popping up with the yogi ashrams – a legacy of the large Indian population – and Zen Japanese gardens.

Hotels in Durban

From the high-rise 5-star hotels that line up along the beachfronts of stylish Umhlanga to the rustic guesthouses in the deeper Durban suburbs, this sprawling cityscape has oodles of different hotel options. Start with the luxurious resorts of the northern districts, with their sparkling outdoor lagoon pools and palm-dotted gardens. Or, go for mid-range lodges in Windermere – pretty colonial builds with parking and sunny verandas. Meanwhile, discount hotels in Durban come in the form of welcoming family homestays with private rooms. These often have small pools in their gardens, common rooms and simple, stripped-down suites for couples.

Where to stay

To be right in the action, and within easy reach of Durban's acclaimed downtown attractions, consider bedding down in the family-friendly hotels between Durban Beach and Durban Point. You'll get roomy suites and hearty free breakfasts, not to mention walking access to the timber piers and sands. Luxury seekers would do well in the northern districts, where Umhlanga comes peppered with gorgeous resorts, their infinity pools perched high above the swells of the Indian Ocean. And for those on a budget, the homey guesthouses of The Berea beckon, surrounded by local pubs, cafés and shopping centres.

Things to see

No trip to Durban could possibly be complete without at least one day spent lazing around on the sun-kissed sands of the city beach. The best of these fringes the rocks around Umhlanga in the north, with hotspots like La Lucia Beach coming peppered with tropical coral gardens and the cove of Umdloti touting rockpools from between its sugarcane fields. And once you're done sunning yourself on the sands, be sure to make a beeline for the famed Ushaka Marine World, where dolphins splash and flip in the lagoons, and waterslides twist and turn just metres from the shore – it's fun for the whole family. But the enjoyment doesn’t stop there either, because Durbs is also a city of casinos and gaming halls, with the poker tables of Suncoast and Sibaya both enticing gamers from the promenade.

How to get to Durban

Durban is home to the King Shaka International Airport, which sits just 40 kilometres north of the city. Flights connect the runways there to Namibia, Dubai, Addis Ababa and Doha, and there are domestic routes to Johannesburg and Cape Town besides. There are also plenty of national bus services connecting Durban with other destinations across South Africa, not to mention long-distance train lines going to Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg. Travel in Durban is best done on the comprehensive inner-city bus network, which connects most of the major areas of the downtown area.