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Driving in Africa – Safety Tips on the Roads in Africa

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If you are from the United States or Europe, you might find driving in Africa an adventure all on its own. 

Not only may the rules be different than what you’re used to, this is a place where you have to anticipate the unexpected. Below are safety tips on the roadthat you need to be familiar with.

Driving Basics

Driver’s License – You must have a valid driver’s license from your home country on you at all times. If it is not in English, you will need an international one.

Road Side – You will be driving on the left side of the road in Africa. This is an important one to remember!

4-way Stop – Most people looking for safety tips on the road will definitely put this one to good use! In Africa, stop signs are used much more often than traffic lights. The first person to the junction always has the right of way, regardless of which way they are turning. You simply then follow the order of arrival.

Robots – If you are driving in Africa and you stop to ask for directions, you may have someone tell you to turn at the robot. This is simply a local term for a traffic light.


Traffic lights are called in

Above: Traffic lights are referred to as "robots" in Africa. Photo by: Audiotribe

Safety Tips

Keep a Map – Under no circumstance should you venture out driving without a map. Even if you are familiar with all the safety tips on the road, they won’t stop you from getting lost. It is a good idea to study the route prior to heading to your destination. Many areas are very poorly lit at night so it is quite easy to miss your turn.

Expect Wildlife – Depending on where you are driving in Africa, there is a good chance that you will come across wild and domestic animals. Be prepared to stop!

Obey Road Blocks – You may feel adventurous and want to explore but even in a 4WD vehicle, all road blocks need to be obeyed. They are there for your protection.

Be Alert at Night – It is not uncommon to find locals driving without their lights on or pedestrians walking at night. It is vital to remain extremely alert. Defensive driving skills may save your life.


A farm road in Cullinan, South Africa that is lined with bougainvilleas.

Above: Depending on where you are driving in Africa, there is a good chance that you will come across all kinds of animals. The guinea fowl is a normal site in Africa. Photo by: martie1swart

Survival Tips

Even if you plan on staying in the city, you never know when you could take a wrong turn, end up lost and need to be familiar with survival safety tips on the road.

Emergency Kit – Always have a significant amount of water in your vehicle. If you end up stranded or injured, this could make a difference in survival. It is also a good idea to keep a small first aid kit, hazard triangles, flares and something to make a fire with. Smoke will draw attention from the locals.

Stay in Vehicle – A car is easier to spot than a person. If you have to leave your vehicle, write a detailed note and leave it in the car so someone knows you are out there and that you need help.

Blow the Horn – Sound travels very far out in the open, especially at night. Dogs are able to hear horns from miles away. It is recommended to blow the horn once every 20 minutes. This way, if someone has heard you and they are trying to find you, the sound will lead them to you.

Few people face any serious concerns driving in Africa but it never hurts to know the rules, have emergency numbers on you and take note of these safety tips on the road. It is also advised to let your hotel or resort know if you are traveling to a remote location so someone knows where to look for you.

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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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2 Responses on this page.Add your own

  1. Gravatar Ntobeko Sikosana says:

    Hey Cheréne

    Its the first time I’m reading your posts, I must say, I have found it to be very informative and motivational, as someone who is driven by travelling and events!

    Keep up the great work.

    Which company would you refere me too should I want to do road trip from Durban to Mozambique?

    Reply to this comment
    1. Gravatar Asanda says:

      Dear Ntobeko

      Thank you for visiting our Drive South Africa site and we are glad that you find the information we provide here useful.

      We would be glad to assist you with your road trip from Durban to Mozambique.
      Would you only require travel details, or would you like us to book you a vehicle and accommodation as well?

      Please let us know and we would be glad to assist.

      Have a great day!

      Best Regards

      Reply to this comment

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