UPDATE: The National Arts Festival is back to 100% capacity thanks to the removal of Covid-19 restrictions. More tickets are therefore on sale for the big shows you’ve been asking for.
The National Arts Festival (NAF) is officially back in Makhanda after two years of an all-virtual format. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned Festival-goer, it’s worth brushing up on the basics before you embark on 11 days of amazing, so we’ve gathered all of the necessary information. From travel and accommodation, to tickets, best restaurants and what to see and do, here’s everything you need to know before you go.
There are a few ways to get to Makhanda. If you’re not up for a roadtrip, you can fly into Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) on a direct flight from Durban, Johannesburg or Cape Town. The drive from Gqeberha to Makhanda is about 120km and the distance from East London is much the same. If you’d prefer not to hire a car, busses and shuttles provide regular trips from Gqeberha and East London. Finally, if you’d prefer to get to Makhanda by coach, the newly relaunched Greyhound is up and running.
Where to stay
Once you’re there, you can either stay in Makhanda, or in one of the surrounding towns and travel in for the Festival each day. The NAF has advised that visitors book their accommodation as early as possible. If you’re looking to stay at one of Makhanda’s various guest houses and B&Bs, there’s AirBnB or Makana Tourism. And if you’re on a budget, Victoria Girls are offering dormitory style digs and Rhodes University has reopened its student accommodation for hire during Festival.
What to see
You’re always spoilt for choice at the NAF. As a result, deciding which shows to see, or figuring out what you definitely can’t afford to miss, can be a daunting task. To get you started, we’ve put together a few of our top picks from the Curated Programme as well as the Fringe Programme here.
Booking your tickets
The NAF’s gone paperless this year – no printed programme, and no physical tickets. That means all programme and ticket info will be found on the Festival website. Luckily, they’ve put together a quick and easy guide to navigating the online programme which you can read here. The Festival has also announced that all venues will be operating at 50% capacity this year, which means shows will sell out faster than usual. Be sure to book in advance!
Where to eat
Whether you’re grabbing a coffee and a bite on the go, or looking for a sit-down meal, there are plenty of places in Makhanda that’ll have what you’re looking for. For the full festival experience, we recommend grabbing something from one of the many food stalls at the Village Green during the day, and paying the Longtable a visit for dinner and drinks at night. Be sure to visit Makana Tourism who’ve compiled a full list of restaurants, cafes and pubs here.