Driving Tips For Your South African Road Trip

Your safety is of the utmost importance to us. Prepare for your SA road trip with these tips and rules when driving in South Africa. 

Being safe on the roads is critical to ensuring you have an enjoyable road trip in South Africa. South Africa has an excellent road network with most regions easily accessible, with some exciting off-the-beaten-track options for some hidden gems. As a visitor in a foreign country, it is important you are aware of the rules of the road to ensure a safe vacation. There are also some unspoken rules when driving in South Africa that are worth taking note of. We’ve put a comprehensive list of driving tops as well as a road safety list for you to work through.

General Road Tips & Things To Remember

  • Many of our national roads which cross the country and connect the top destinations are toll roads. The tolls are relatively inexpensive, but you will encounter them throughout your trip. Credit cards are widely accepted but we do recommend carrying some cash should you have challenges with your foreign card.
  • While most national roads are tarred and in good condition, the more rural the road, which are the ones you want to be exploring, are often in poorer condition with regular potholes. We recommend you reduce your speed when driving these roads. You will want to slow down to take in the incredible scenery. You may also encounter speed humps when driving through rural areas so keep an eye.
  • Plan your journey carefully and break the journey up, as fatigue is a major contributing factor in motor vehicle accidents. With so much to see in South Africa, it is easy to get caught up in trying to drive too far. Less is more is our principle!
  • While South Africa has 11 official languages, all signposts are written in English. You may also encounter some Afrikaans signage but it is normally accompanied by an English translation – it is a great opportunity to practice your Afrikaans pronunciation.
  • When asking for directions, you may be surprised to get the response “turn left at the next robot…” – a ‘robot’ is the South African term for traffic lights.
  • Most of our Petrol/Fuel stations are open 24 hours a day – although we don’t recommend driving at night. An important thing to remember is our petrol stations are manned by attendants so no self-help. The attendants are always friendly and will offer to check oil, water, and tyre pressure. They will also happily help you remove a nail in your tyre or do a quick tyre repair. Remember to tip them – another good reason to keep some cash with you.
  • While South Africa has petrol stations at regular intervals they are more scarce in our neighbouring countries. If you heading across the border you will need to do a little more planning.

Rules Of The Road / Traffic Enforcement

Driver’s License:

  • An International Driver’s Permit carried in conjunction with your national driving license is recommended and must be printed or authenticated in English. While you will find mixed reports and drivers licenses in English are widely accepted, we always recommend getting an international drivers permit for peace of mind.
  • If your license does not have a photograph on it, then you must also carry your passport with you so that you can be identified as the legal holder of the driving license.
  • Always make sure documentation is carried with you at all times when driving.
  • Traffic officers will expect to see documentation if they stop you for any reason. We recommend you keep all your documents in one place so you can easily find them should you be stopped.

 Rules of the Road

  • In South Africa, we drive on the left-hand side of the road, and our cars – rental cars included – are right-hand drive vehicles.
  • Keep to the left and pass right – driving on the open road you will notice that trucks and large vehicles often pull over into the yellow lane to let you pass. While this is not strictly legal and not recommended, it is common practice in South Africa.
  • All distances, speed limits (and speedometers) are measured in kilometers.
  • There are strict drinking and driving laws as with most countries – we recommend you adopt a zero drinking policy if you are going to be driving. Going through roadblocks and drink driving tests is stressful in a foreign country.
  • Four-way-stops are commonly found at the quieter intersections – the first vehicle to arrive has priority. On roundabouts, give way to the right, although this is often overlooked and it is wise to proceed with caution. When approaching four-way stops and circles never assume the other driver is going to abide by the rules.
  • Wearing of seat belts is compulsory. All occupants of a vehicle are required to wear seatbelts whilst travelling if you are caught without you will be subject to a fine.
  • Using hand-held phones while driving is against the law – allow your travel buddy to make calls, manage the playlist and control google maps.

 Speed limit

    • The speed limit on our national highways, urban freeways and other major road networks is 120km/h (75mph). Our Suzuki Jimny’s are most comfortable at 100 Km/h so we recommend you stick to this for a safe and comfortable journey.
    • On secondary (rural) roads it is 100km/h (60mph). It is important to pay attention as the speed limits often drop to 80 Km/h or 60 Km/h when approaching villages.
    • In built-up areas, it is usually 60km/h (35mph) unless otherwise indicated.
    • Reduce speed near areas where there is pedestrian activity. Pay more attention when driving in remote locations. It is common practice for people to walk on the road in South Africa.

Things To Remember

  • We know you have the right intentions but don’t ever stop to pick up hitchhikers.
  • When parking the car, pay attention to what is easily visible through the window. Make sure not to leave items like cameras, mobile phones, sunglasses, etc easily visible. It is also important to always lock the vehicle when parking.
  • Try to always park in a busy, well-lit area. You will regularly meet car-guards asking to watch the vehicle while you are away. We recommend you tip them when you return. Importantly, always acknowledge a car-guard when they ask to look after the vehicle.
  • Do not confront aggressive or abusive road users. The best approach when driving in South Africa is a defensive one. Rather avoid conflict or engaging with other road users when unnecessary.
  • We strongly advise against travelling at night, especially in remote locations where there is a real risk of encountering wildlife and cattle on the road.
  • If there are foreign objects in the road – bricks, tyres, etc, never stop the vehicle to move these. Thieves do from time to time leave items in the road in an attempt to make you stop the vehicle. Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Always maintain a safe following distance and switch headlights on when visibility is poor, ensuring that you are visible to all road users.
  • Always respect the warnings on road signs – be aware that the roads in many rural areas are not fenced, so you could find dogs, chickens, sheep, and even horses or cows on the road.
  • Large antelope crossing the road can also be a hazard in certain areas – watch out for the road signs depicting a leaping antelope, and take it slowly, especially towards evening.

Our Suzuki Jimny 4×4 Hire Vehicles Include 24-Hour Roadside Assistance

Contact us if you have any questions.

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