For travelers planning adventures to South Africa, there now are 31 low-cost accommodation facilities affiliated with Hostelling International (HI).
The HI hostels have shared accommodations and some private rooms. All have 24-hour access, and most offer a TV lounge, cooking facilities, a travel service and, sometimes, a free shuttle.
Here are some of the HI-affiliated hostels that provide a free airport shuttle if you call when you arrive.
The three Cape Town hostels:
* The Albergo for Backpackers, 5 Beckham St., Gardens, 8001; telephone 011-27-21-22-1849, fax 011-27-21-23-0515.
* Ashanti Lodge, 11 Hof St., Gardens 8001; tel. 011-27-21-23-8721, fax 011-27-21-23-8790.
* Cloudbreak Backpackers Lodge, 219 Buitenkant St., Cape Town 8001; tel. 011-27-21-461-6892, fax 011-27-21-461-6892.
Three Johannesburg hostels are:
* The Backpackers Ritz, 1A North Road, Dunkeld West, 2196; tel. 011-27-11-325-7125, fax 011-27-11-327-0233.
* Fairview Youth Hostel, 4 College St., Fairview, 2094; tel. 011-27-11-618-2048, fax 011-27-11-614-2823.
* Johannesburg Central Hostel, 4 Fife Ave., Berea, 2189; tel. 011-27-11-618-2048.
For more information, contact HI--South Africa, 3rd Floor, St. Georges House, 73 St. Georges Mall, Cape Town, 8001; tel. 011-27-21-24-2511, fax 011-27-21-24-4119.
HI will arrange travel passes for backpackers on Translux Express, the intercity coach service. Bus trips can be long--Johannesburg to Cape Town is a 17-hour trip.
The Internet can be a helpful resource. Many hostels have their own Web sites. The Amazulu Backpackers Lodge, which is in Kwanbonambi, 110 miles from Durban, recently moved its Web site to http://www.sa.co.za/amazulu. On it you'll find information on their budget accommodations (tents, dorms, double rooms) with a pool, shop and a travel center. At the hostel you can arrange local excursions, such as nature hikes, visits to a game reserve and a boat safari.
An excellent Web site that will link you to many South Africa hostels is http://users.iafrica.com/m/mg/mgregory/index.html.
Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She can be reached at http://www.izon.com