Rovos Rail is well-known for being the most luxurious train in the world. From the moment guests enter the headquarters, it’s as if they have travelled back in time to an opulent and elegant era.
With incredible attention to detail, lavish offerings, an incredibly warm atmosphere and enlightening guided tours along the way, it’s easy to see why rail journeys aboard the Rovos Rail are such popular and highly sought-after travel experiences.
In the following post, we discuss Rovos Rail, sharing the brand’s fascinating history as well as an overview of the experience on board.
The Most Luxurious Train in Africa
The History of Rovos Rail
The story of Africa’s finest vintage train begins at an auction in 1985.
Rovos Rail founder, Rohan Vos, a successful mechanical businessman together with his wife Anthea had attended an auction of old coaches. They had an intention of restoring four carriages and taking them to South African Railways (SAR) as a family caravan. Several coaches were purchased, one of them being, Private Saloon 15063 that is still in service today.
After the purchase of several coaches, Rohan took a big leap and purchased a 1938 locomotive from a scrap yard. This was rebuilt and named Bianca after one of his daughters. The idea of long-distance train travel as a business venture came to life, and Rohan was permitted to run his Rovos Rail train in December 1986.
With the business growing alongside the family, all of the engines have been named after Rohan and Anthea’s children; Brenda, Bianca, Tiffany and Shaun.
Rovos Rail accommodation
Life on board the Rovos Rail is a grand affair with the most excellent finishings and exceptional attention to detail. There are three different cabin types:
- Pullman Suites (±7 sq metres)
- Deluxe Suites (±10 sq metres)
- Royal Suites (the most spacious, measuring ±16 sq metres)
The deep wood panelling, richly coloured carpets and beautifully restored carriages hint at the Victorian era of luxury train travel. The cabins are equipped with a double or twin-style bed with soft down duvets and plush pillows. There is a lounging area to read, relax and soak up the passing scenery.
Each cabin comes complete with a private bathroom and flushing toilet. The Royal Suites include a Victorian-inspired bathtub while the other cabins – Deluxe and Pullman Suites – include a shower.
Hot-water bottles and electric blankets are provided during the colder months. There is nothing quite as relaxing as being wrapped up in the best linen with a good cup of coffee while watching Southern Africa’s glorious scenery pass by.
Wining and Dining on the Rovos Rail
A journey aboard Rovos Rail is a gastronomical utopia.
For international travellers, it’s an enchanting “first date” with South Africa’s most classic flavours and signature dishes.
Meal times are a ceremonious occasion on Rovos, set in an Edwardian style manner, with a warm and romantic atmosphere. Four-course menus boast world-class wine and delicious cheeses prepared with a modern twist.
Guests are urged to dress up for the affair, adding to the celebratory feel of the evening. Tables are meticulously set with crisp white linen tablecloths, gleaming silver and sparkling crystal glasses add to the ambience of the celebration.
Meals on all the various rail journeys are served at set times:
- Breakfast takes place between 07h00 and 10h00. Guests can choose from a selection of delicious breakfast options from the a la carte menu.
- Lunch and dinner is a formal affair with a four-course menu. Including starters, mains, cheese platters and desserts, each course is paired with a perfect South African wine.
Dietary requirements are attentively taken care of.
As well as the breakfast, lunch and dinner services, there is a daily High Tea served at 16h30. Here, scrumptious spreads of sweet and savoury snacks are served either in the Lounge Car or the Observation Cart. Afternoon tea is served with an array of cakes, fresh fruit, savoury snacks and a selection of teas, coffee, wine and cocktails.
Rovos Rail routes
The most luxurious train in the world, Rovos Rail offers a series of luxurious train journeys that last anywhere from 48 hours to 15 days.
Rovos Rail links some of Africa’s most fabulous destinations, from bustling cities, extraordinary game reserves, desert landscapes, quaint towns, historic sites and lush, scenic attractions into a grand long-distance voyage, reminiscent of the old days.
The private train service is an opulent extravaganza adorned with captivating art, vintage decor, exquisite vintage coaches, and incredible cuisine.
Depending on the Rovos Rail journey route and itinerary, the train will stop at various points so that passengers can explore the surrounding environment. All of the off-train excursions are guided, promising guests a truly informative and engaging experience at each destination.
If travelling on the famous Cape Town – Pretoria journey, guests will have the opportunity to explore the local attractions such as the Victorian town of Matjiesfontein and the historic village and Big Hole of Kimberley. If guests are travelling outside of South Africa, excursions may include an extraordinary safari experience or a visit to one of the natural wonders of the world; The Victoria Falls.
Rovos Rail Tours and Itineraries
Below are a selection of the popular Rovos Rail itineraries:
- Cape Town Journey (3 Days): The popular train route between Cape Town and Pretoria is the perfect journey from the famous Mother City to the country’s Capital city, showcasing South Africa’s gems in between.
- Victoria Falls Journey (4 Days): Embark on a magical trip through to Zimbabwe, with a visit to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls.
- Durban Safari (3 Days): Travel through the spectacular scenery of Natal Midlands and Drakensberg Mountains, into the heart of the African bushveld for a magical affair experience.
- Golf Safari (9 Days): Play at a selection of the most beautiful golf courses in South Africa.
- Namibian Safari (9 Days): An epic journey from the savannahs of the Highveld through historic Kimberley to the Fish River Canyon, Etosha Pan and the deserts of Namibia.
- Dar es Salaam Journey (15 Days): This trans-African safari carries explorers between Cape Town and Dar es Salaam on one of the most memorable train rides in the world.
Why You Should Book a Rovos Rail Journey
A luxury rail journey is an excellent way to escape the fast-paced lifestyle of the 21st century and travel back in time to a nostalgic and elegant era.
Long-distance luxury train travel is an opportunity to slow down and soak in the incredible natural beauty that surrounds us. Rovos Rail provides travellers with a ‘digital detox,’ and there are no televisions or radios on board. There is also no Wifi abroad the train, and guests are requested to only use screens in their cabins.
A trip aboard the Rovos Rail is the perfect opportunity to switch off from the internet and reconnect with the incredible surroundings and scenery of Southern Africa.
The train, the service, the food and wine are all proudly South African and run by the Vos family, who have a passion and love for what they do.
Rovos Rail is a luxurious and unforgettable experience that is sure to make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
What to wear on Rovos Rail
The dress code on the Rovos Rail is smart-casual. You’ll get away with a more casual look during the day, especially on excursion days where you’ll want to be comfortable. However, evenings are a fancy affair.
Dinner has a cocktail dress code with men expected to wear a jacket and tie, while the ladies should wear elegant cocktail dresses and heels (pumps or dressy flats are also fine). The evening dress code really adds to the sophisticated ambiance – so don’t be afraid to dress up a little!
Each suite can easily accommodate several suitcases, so don’t be afraid of overpacking!
Here’s a few more tips for packing for a Rovos Rail trip:
- For the men, opt for a classic fitted blazer that you can also wear on a night out in Cape Town or while going for dinner in Victoria Falls.
- To prevent wrinkled suits/blazers while traveling, make sure to pack your suit in a bag that folds over itself. Here’s a great bag by David King & Co.
- For the ladies traveling with an evening gown, you may also want to protect it with a protective garment bag, like this one.
- Don’t forget about your jewellery, keep it all organised in this luxury jewellery travel case.
- Keep your make-up organised with this three-piece travel make-up bag.
- Don’t forget to pack comfortable shoes, a hat and sunscreen for the daytime excursions.
Are children allowed on the Rovos Rail?
Rovos Rail does accommodate children above the age three. However, they ask parents to be sensitive to the adult atmosphere of the train.
The trips are more geared to adults, with no facilities for babies, toddlers or older children aboard. Excursions are also more suited to adults and there are no outdoor areas or indoor activities for kids to play around in. If your kids are extremely active, then these are things to keep in mind. If, however, they love getting lost in their book for hours, then a trip aboard the Rovos Rail may just be their dream.
Long journeys are not recommended for children under 13. Children over the age of five will also be required to have their own cabin/suite, as a maximum of two guests are allowed per suite/cabin. If you aren’t comfortable with this, then one parent can share with the child.
Rovos Rail prices for children:
- 3-9 years: pays 75% of the adult per person sharing rate.
- 10+ years: pays full rate.
Experiencing the Cape Town to Pretoria Rovos Rail journey
We recently experienced the luxury of Rovos Rail and spent two nights aboard the train, travelling from Cape Town to Pretoria. If you’re curious about our experience, read about our luxury rail vacation on Rovos Rail.
Are you ready to go on a Rovos Rail journey?
If you’d like to book an incredible rail journey on the world’s most luxurious train in the world, contact African Travel Canvas and we’ll create a unique itinerary for your unforgettable experience in Africa.
Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a Rovos Rail price list.
30th Anniversary Celebrations!
To commemorate their 30th anniversary, Rovos Rail released an incredible film that showcases the full story behind the brand. If you love locomotives and rail travel watch this fascinating film about Rovos Rail.
This post was first published in October 2019, updated March 2021.