Prior work on data obtained from the urban Johannesburg-Soweto based Birth to Twenty Plus (Bt20+) cohort has documented extensive levels of travel to school in the early post-apartheid era (1997–2003), with fewer than 20% of children attending the age-appropriate school closest to their home (de Kadt et al., 2014). These extremely high levels of schooling mobility impose costs on children and families, as well as the educational system more broadly, and have contributed to the evolution of contemporary enrolment patterns. This paper analyses the relationship between travel to school and potentially related variables at the individual, family and community level. Our analysis indicates that Black children, children attending higher quality schools, and those living in relatively poor areas were most likely to travel to school. However, while travel to school has a strong and positive univariate relationship with both maternal education and family socio-economic status (SES), this fades out in a multivariate analysis. Our findings highlight the significant costs incurred in the pursuit of high quality education by many Black children and families, as well as those living in poorer areas, in the early post-apartheid era. This is despite post-apartheid educational policy with an explicit aim of redress. The paper contributes to understanding the challenges of apartheid’s inequitable geographical legacy in ensuring equitable access to high quality education for all in South Africa, as well as to the growing literatures on the geography of education and school choice in low and middle income countries.