Is Durban Still Cool? 5 reasons to visit

Tourists and travellers are asking this very question following the wild ride and hard breaks of the past three years. As if the pandemic of 2020 was not enough, the city of Durban experienced more hardship. In June 2021, we saw the worst riots and looting ever seen in South Africa. followed up with the tragic April 2022 floods.

“Is Durban safe?”, “Can tourists Swim at the Durban Beaches?” and, “How bad is the water pollution in Durban?”

Don’t let these questions overshadow your plans to visit our beautiful city. We are still here and kicking. After the floods, our water authority, Umgeni Water, rebuilt one of the largest raw water pipelines in the world in under 6 months. We get things done down here. Therefore, don’t write the city off too easily yet.

As always, a memorable and unique experience awaits you in the largest city in the Zulu Kingdom! 

 IQ Air reports a good air quality index. A little-known fact is that the Upper Highway areas have a healthier climate than other parts of the world.

Keeping our sh*t together

The elephant in the room is the claim that the Ethekwini Metro cannot keep our shit together. E-coli levels in the sea are a tad high. Fair point. There was an issue after the floods. However, if you are worried about possibly leaving your holiday hotel with diarrhoea, visit the Woz’Olwandle website. You will receive an accurate and up-to-date report of what the risks really are.

Those from the Western Cape and Gauteng often ask if Durban is safe.

Like many major cities in the rest of South Africa and the world with a huge socio-economical gap, there is a high crime rate. Unemployment and desperation are catalysts of petty crime anywhere on the planet.

As you would in other cities, take common-sense precautions such as not flaunting cash or valuables, locking your car, staying aware of where your children are and do not walk about on your own looking like a relaxed tourist.

It is advisable not to travel long distances at night and to remain in busy shopping malls or tourist attractions rather than trying to explore the hills, valleys, and back alleys on your own.

The promenade along the Durban beachfront is a great place for a walk or run. It is well-patrolled and generally safe during the day. Similarly, it is safe to visit all major shopping malls and holiday hotels.

Having dealt with all that, let’s look at some other cool stuff about Durban.

Cool things about Durban

Durban is culturally diverse

Yes, Durban is probably the most culturally diverse city in South Africa, if not the planet.

The great thing is, everyone here just gets on with things and whatever floats your boat (or moves your board), it’s cool.

No matter your creed, culture or faith, we get you and we will all enjoy your holidays too (probably why Durbanites are so chilled…)

With all the things we have had to deal with, Durban folk also have resilience and a great sense of Ubuntu. This shows through every experience you might have had in our city.

Dubanites are friendly

Durbs is camaraderie, a club of its own. It’s an often-repeated adage that Durban is a small place, and everyone knows everyone else. To a large degree that is true…someone, somewhere will know your connection bru!

Go to a ‘smart’ dinner, no one is wearing a jacket and tie! ‘Smart’ ‘in Durban is putting on jeans and a button-up unless it’s a do by larneys from upcountry or the Cape.

There is a general feeling of support and helping each other to shine. So many entrepreneurs in Durban have lost jobs due to the constraints of the country’s economy, the only way to survive for many has been to use their own unique skills and “Make it happen Ek se! No use parking at pawsie and feeling sorry for yourself.”

This is evident in some of the wonderful local Markets in Durban. A visit to The Golden Hours Market in Durban North will reveal stories of starting a business due to unemployment.

Durban has a warm spirit seldom replicated elsewhere. Learn to say “Sawubona!” to any shop assistant and watch the smiles appear! Take the time to chat with your fuel pump attendant, and be amazed at the interest in your origins and your experience of the city. If you ask what to do in Durban? Be prepared for a lot of suggestions as to activities to do!

Durbanites contribute to their communities

Durban has so many initiatives and NGOs doing great work to fill the gaps left in society. There are incredible places such as The Elder’s VoicePhilakade Care HomeDenis Hurley Centre and El Gibbor Kitchen. Volunteers all around Durban take time out of their day to help and serve the community.

Philakade Care Home Video by Mark D. Young

Durban has beautiful scenery

There are many, beautiful scenic places to visit in Durban besides the beaches. Try Giba GorgeNew Germany Nature Reserve, the Durban Botanical GardensJapenese Gardens in Sarnia, and the Valley of 1000 Hills.

There are many forgotten places such as the Durban Museum, and places you may not know exist such as The Wushwini Art Centre in Inanda. (images below)

Durban has tasty food and good vibes!

Speaking of food, Durban is a foodies’ paradise! Every style, palate and diet is catered for, from vegan to carnivore, Halaal to Kosher and Braai! No wonder visitors put on a few kgs when they spend some time here.

You can go informal or glamorous. Grab a bunny chow from The Curry O’s on the Point Waterfront or scrub up and dazzle at the Beverly Hills HotelThe Radisson Blu in Umhlanga.

Durban Bunny Chow
Durban Bunny Chow

There is live music in many pubs and clubs. Some of the top local talents to look out for include Gavin FergusonTiaan Rivers and Tanner Wareham to name but a few. Take a cruise down Florida Road or pull in at Lifestyle Centre in Ballito, and you will catch good vibes!

So? Is Durban still cool?

Beverly Hills Hotel

Well, we seldom go below 12 degrees, even in winter, therefore, no need to wear nineteen layers of clothing to survive in winter. In that sense, we will never be as ‘cool’ as other places.

But, when you add up all our positives and throw in some common sense while throwing away your hang-ups, you will be hard-pressed to find a more integrated, easy-going, or culturally diverse city anywhere on our planet.

And THAT is cool!

This article was a feature article in Unfold Durban Magazine.

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