There’s no doubt about it – self-drive is the way to explore South Africa. You can travel at your own pace, pull over at the places you want for as long as you wish. The roads are well maintained in South Africa and the signage is clear and easy to follow. We found it pretty easy to drive through South Africa ourselves, especially since they drive on the left side of the road, just as we do. Of course there are differences with driving in the UK, so here’s out handy guide for self drive in South Africa:
You can discover every highlight in South Africa by hire car, but bear in mind that this will take at least three (preferably four) weeks. If you don’t have that much time you can also take a domestic flight to get from one point to the other. In our opinion, you do not want to race across the country and would therefore advice you to not drive more than 500 kilometres per day.
The roads are generally good, but with many curves, occasionally a pothole and nice places to stop you won’t drive as fast as you are probably used to in Europe. We suggest planning for early mornings so you can set off when it is still cool, with the added bonus that you have the entire day ahead of you. That way you can take your time in every place without having to hurry at the end of the day to be home before dark.
We also advise to hire a car that is big enough for you and your luggage. You will be travelling and therefore driving a lot. Having enough leg space and enough room in the boot for all your luggage makes the journey more pleasant.
Take your time discovering the country, but do keep an eye on the sun. We really don’t recommend driving in the dark. There can many people and animals walking along the side of the road in certain areas during the night. In many parks, it is not even allowed to drive in the dark; there you can only drive from sunrise to sunset.
Besides the sun is it also important to keep an eye on your fuel gauge. There are plenty of pumps on the way, but you do not want to risk an empty tank in the middle of nowhere. You usually pay for your gas in cash and there are a few places where you can pay by card. When stopping at a pump you will notice the South African friendliness and service. Your windows and mirrors are wiped and they will check your oil level. A tip of 2-5 Rand is much appreciated for these services.
Even thought the long clear roads may appeal your inner Jenson Button, it’s important to make sure you are keeping to the speed limits. Just as in the UK you can find police officers in places where you do not expect them to be. You can find them, for example, with a laser gun in the Kruger Park. The fines are pretty high, so keep an eye on your speed.
Some useful tips:
• A traffic light is called a robot in South Africa.
• If someone wants to let you pass on the highway, they will move over to the left hand side lane to signal you can overtake.
• When you are at an intersection without traffic lights everyone stops. The one who stops first has priority and should be the first to cross over. The right has priority rule does not apply here.
Our favourite South Africa self-drive holidays:
A Taste of South Africa
Route: Cape Town – Stellenbosch – Farmstay – Oudtshoorn – Knysna – Pretoria – Dullstroom – Central Kruger – Hazyview
This is one of our most popular South Africa holidays and a great way to experience this extensive country independently. You will cover all of South Africa’s highlights over the course of two weeks. You’ll start off with a relaxing visit to lively and beautiful Cape Town before driving along the Garden Route in the comfort of your own hire car.
You’ll pass through stunning winelands and rugged mountains to the ostrich capital of Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo. Next, you’ll cross blue lagoons, explore wild beaches and discover thickly forested National Parks. At the end of this memorable South Africa holiday, you’ll stay at a very special place or ‘bijsonder plekkie’ in the bush.
Mighty Mountains and African Kingdoms
Route: Pretoria – Dullstroom – Greater Kruger – Hazyview – Swaziland – St Lucia – Umhlanga – Drakensberg – Lesotho – Port Elizabeth
This off the beaten-track South Africa itinerary will take you from the bush to the coast to the mountains and into some of South Arica’s neighbouring countries. It’s a great way to experience South Africa’s versatility without the need for internal flights.
During your trip around South Africa, you’ll stay in a romantic bush camp near Kruger National Park, in a traditional beehive hut in Swaziland and a scenic mountain lodge in the majestic Drakensberg Mountains. You’ll also experience the unique cultures of Swaziland and Lesotho.