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Driving in South Africa - What do I need to know?

Updated on December 19, 2011

What can I expect from the roads in South Africa

If you are planning a vacation or holiday in an around the continent of South Africa, there are a few things you ought to know about driving the roads in South Africa.

As a South African, I am used to driving around South Africa and can verify that the horror stories you may envision with regards to the roads in our country are all untrue.

We have a few types of roads in South Africa and driving them is much of a muchness in terms of the conditions you may expect. Lightening strike are quite rampant during certain parts of the year, mainly September and October, and are usually responsible for potholes the size of a diiner plate or frisbee to give you an idea. The repairs are ongoing and are usually not big enough to cause flat tires or problems on the roads in South Africa.

National Roads and Highways in South Africa

Our Highways,Freeways or national roads, depending on what you would like to call them are the primary means of driving from province (read state) to province (state).

These National Roads in South Africa are usually denoted by a capital N or a capital M such as the N2 National highway from Cape Town all the way to the Mozambique borders in the North or such as the M4 Highway which is a Kwa Zulu Natal coastal highway following within a few kilometers or miles of the N2, but going through all the coastal villages.

Also of interest if you have a gps in your own or hired car

Driving the Regional Roads and neighbourhood roads

The majority of Highways as stated above, have toll booths ranging from R 5.00 up to R 40.00 depending on distances from offramp to offramp and is the equivalent of say roughly 50 American cents to $ 4.00. This will range from about 100 miles to about 400 miles coverage.

Their are usually 3 lanes off traffic in either direction as opposed to 1 and 2 lanes on the regional roads.

When driving in South Africa, you will always find large rest stop type service stations on all routes providing maps, fuel , restarant fascilities and change rooms.

Fuel is available as an unleaded 93 octane, a leaded 98 octane and a diesel octane.

Driving the neighbourhood roads in South Africa, you will find that they are really well sign posted and houses are always numbered and easy to identify.

General Info for driving on South African roads.

The rules of the road in South Africa, are slightly different to Europe in that in most cases pedestrian yield for traffic at traffic lights (known as robots here) unless the green man is showing to walk. In cities it is the reverse where vehicles will often miss traffic light changes due to the vast numbers of pedestrians crossing the street.

Speed limits range from 60 in residential areas and cities to 80 on regional roads through towns to 100 and 120 on National roads.

The only time you may find yourself driving on a dirt road is in outerlying rural areas which are densely populated with farms and are usually denoted with a capital D. The roads are ripe with animail life due to dairy farms etc. and it is wise to travel safely at a speed of no more than 40 kilometers per hour as these roads are rarely maintained by the local municipalities of the government as cattle are often found being lead to grazing land via these roads.

Licences can be obtain as an international drivers permit at the cost of a few Dollars or pounds and are really easy to get once in South Africa via the AA (Automobile Association) at a cost of roughly R 50 South African currency and cab be completed while you wait. AA offices are in most major city centres.

If you are planning a visit to South Africa and intend driving

Most border posts require 3rd party insurance on the vehicle which is relatively cheap.

 4 x 4 vehicles are handy if travelling through game ranch areas as there are various fun routes that can be added for some extra scenery and excitement on your main route.

Well if you want to order a map of South Africa to help with furthering your research and planning your driving route through South Africa, here are a few of my favourites.

Just click on the picture and you will be able to view more info on each product. Note that certain of these products are discounted against the list price for a limited time only.

More detailed Books on South Africa - discounted offers


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