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2012 Driving Tips for Tourists in South Africa

If you are planning on visiting South Africa this for a holiday, or even a business trip, then chances are you might considering car hire in South Africa

The public transport system in a lot of the cities is not that extensive, although this has improved in recent years due to the World Cup 2010.  Due to the limitations in most cities, possibly with the exception of Cape Town, most people tend to drive so hiring a car from Johhanesburg will be your best bet if you need to get to different destinations whilst on your trip.  We’ve put together some general hints and tips that will help you to navigate and drive safer whilst on the road - as it can be a daunting experience for a traveller who is not used to the rules, regulations, and driving habits of the country. 

Drive on the Left Hand Side of the Road

One of the first and probably most important aspects to driving in South Africa is to remember which side of the road you should be driving on.  Due to the historical reasons and connections with the British Empire, the South African road network is set up so vehicles are driven on the left hand side. 

Stick to the Speed Limits despite What Other Drivers Do

You will probably notice that most drivers on the road don’t stick religiously to the speed limits.  However, as a tourist and visitor we would advise that you to stick to the rules, especially as you will be unfamiliar with the road network and any potential speed cameras on route.  The speed limitations are typically as below, and will always be sign-posted – although if you have a GPS this will also show display the limits too.

  •       Residential Areas: 60 kph
  •       Major Urban Roads: 70 or 80 kph
  •       Open Roads: 100 kph
  •       Freeways & National Highways: 120 kph

Take Out a GPS with Your Car Hire

Make sure that you ask the company you hire the car from to supply you with a GPS, or if you have your own device then take it with you.  Using a GPS with your car rental will give you that added peace of mind, because it will constantly remind you which lane you should be in and will give you plenty of advance warnings when it comes to where you need to turn and any upcoming junctions and hazards.  Bear in mind that a GPS is only ever as good as the maps that are installed onto it so ask the car hire company whether they have updated the device with a new Navteq DVD in the last six months. 

Watch Out for Minibus Taxis

The humble minibus taxi has a unique place in South African driving culture, so please be aware that the rules for them appear to be slightly different to a car driver.  As a car driver you are not allowed to turn left when faced with a red traffic light, although you will probably notice minibus taxis don’t follow this rule.  It’s just something to watch out for because as a general observation, taxi drivers do tend to operate to their own rules and regulations whilst on the road – above all though, don’t let them pressure you into a mistake if you have one driving behind you.

You might also be interested in finding out how to rent a mobile phone is South Africa or volunteer work in Africa. Please click on the link for more information on the volunteer visa programmes.

About the Author: Bob Simmons is an automotive blogger who has spent considerable time in South Africa on business.  When not travelling, he runs a number of websites designed to offer informative and independent information about GPS devices and products.  He has recently published information on the Ford Navigation DVD 2012 including tips on how to get the best from the Ford Navigation System. 

Cheréne Pienaar

Cheréne Pienaar Title: Blog Contributor
Affiliation: Drive South Africa Blog

Born and bred in Bloemfontein, this Free state gal is an obsessive reader and hiker and loves discovering... all the time. As an e-marketing assistant and copywriter she believes social media is the future and plans to conquer Africa one word at a time.


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  1. Gravatar Real Life Adventures says:

    here’s a travel tip for driving in South Africa - expect the unexpected and be prepared - most importantly, don’t panic ! i lived in SA for a year w/ a dodgy car and trust me, there isn’t a situation you won’t get out of with a clear and rational reaction to any incident. On a recent trip to Kruger our hire vehicle broke down on entering the park and then 3 times inside the park in the nxt 9km . On day 3 we broke down @ 5.30 am just a couple of feet from a huge male lion - we stayed calm(ish), enjoyed the sighting then roll started the car (without getting out). it’s amazing how this usually tricky skill suddenly comes back to you with necessity and a bit of a hill to roll/reverse down. i’d highly recommend taking notes on this skill and doing a bit of homework / practice. but remember, a clear mind will hand you the most obvious solution and hopefully you won’t need any solution at all anyway ! thanks, and happy travelling!

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