Driving in South Africa tips

Driving overseas takes some getting used to. Getting into your car at home is probably the simplest of tasks. Travelling and driving in South Africa is really somewhat different. On this page we gladly provide some of our own tips and experiences.

driving in south africa

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Car rental on arrival

When arriving in Johannesburg or Cape Town you can easily pick up your rental car and start your holiday immediately. If you wish to recover a bit from your long flight it is of course also possible to book a transfer to a hotel nearby and have the car deliverd next morning. When arriving on a KLM flight from Amsterdam in the evening, we do recommend booking a transfer to your hotel. This way you don't have to drive around in an unknown city after dark.

Planning your route in South Africa

Driving around South Africa and see all highlights is very possible. If you wish to travel from Johannesburg to Cape Town (or the other way around) you should calculate for about three weeks travelling. Even the you might feel a bit rushed from time to time, so four weeks would be even better. 
If your trip is shorter or if you would like to see a lot, try to plan well in advance. Your trip will become a lot more fun and relaxed by cutting down on your driving time. We also recommend using domestic flights: all major cities and towns are well connected by various carriers and flights don't have to cost you the world when flying a low cost carriers such Kulula.com or 1time.

driving south africa kruger tips

Travelling from Johannesburg or Pretoria to Kruger National Park by car takes about six hours driving time. Especially on Friday afternoons and Sundays the motorway can be very busy. You'lle be able to travel further from one Kruger's airports. Airports are located near Phalaborwa, Hoedspruit and Nelspruit (Kruger / Mpumalanga International), of which the latter services the most domestic routes (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, but also Vilanculos in Mozambique and Livingstone in Zambia). Please bear in mind that a driving distance of about 500 klometres implies that you'll spend most of the day in your rental car.

Only car rental?

Driving around independently in a rental car through South Africa, it seems like ultimate freedom- but is it the smartest way to see the country? There are plenty of accommodation possibilities in the cities and along the Garden Route. However, in game reserves, national parks and smaller towns accommodation can be sparse, especially in holiday season. It is therefore better to plan your South Africa holiday well in advance. If you're travelling during the South African school holidays, you should definitely book accommodation before departure. If you would like to visit national parks, reservations should be made several months in advance.

South Africs Chic! tip: Extend your stay with one ore two nights at various places on your route. Stretch your legs and book some (extra) activities. This is the way to fully appreciate the country and get some rest at the same time. Extending our modules or itineraries is possible at all times.

What type of car?

It is likely that you will cover great distances on your luxury South Africa holiday. As such, it may be worthwhile renting a somewhat bigger car. Space for baggage is rather limited and having just that little bit of extra room eases your comfort en route. When following the main tourist routes it is not at all necessary renting a 4x4 vehicle in South Africa.

Departure times & safety

south africa driving cape town

Start your driving journey early in the morning whenever possible: you will feel more relaxed, temperatures are pleasurable, and you'll be able to cover great distances. Driving after sunset is not recommended. It is prohibited to drive in game reserves and national parks after sunset (gates are normally open from sunrise to sunset). Please obey speed limits. Roads outside urban areas are usually quiet and of good quality, you might be tempted to drive faster than allowed. Traffic police actively enforces speed limits in South Africa and breaking them may result in a hefty fine. Close doors and windows when driving in bigger cities for your own safety.


It might sound obvious, but be sure to fill up with petrol whenever possible. There are many petrol stations throughout the country: along major routes, in nearly all towns and villages, but also near and in national parks. Please be aware: credit cards are not widely accepted at petrol stations in South Africa, so make sure you carry enough cash. When filling up your windows and mirros will be cleaned, it is customary to pay a small tip for this service (about ZAR 3 would do). The attendent will also ask whether he should check your oil and water. Please make use of this service and have your car checked regularly. Also mind your tyre pressure: stopping because your tyre ran flat on a long empty road under the Afican sun just isn't that much fun.

Food on the road

All overnight stays include breakfast (with the exception of self catering accommodation). Dinner is usually served between 18.00 en 20.00 hours. On travelling days on which long distances are covered, it may occur that you miss out on lunch. It is a good idea to stock up some food and drinks at petrol stations or at local supermarkets so that you don't have to go without. A petrol shop or convenience store in never far away in South Africa. The maximum distance between two towns normally is about 90 kilometres. Meals at lodges in the private game reserves ars mostly served at set times.

Mobile phone reception en route

Mobile phones generally have good reception throughout South Africa. If you deviate from the beaten paths it will obviously be less. The country code for the UK is 44. If you want to use your mobile phone while on your luxury South Africa holiday, ask your provider about costs and options. It is also possible to buy a local SIM card in South Africa upon arrival. In most shops and petrol stations you can top up your "airtime": a lot cheaper than normal roaming rates.


What to bring on your South Africa holiday? Travelling to South Africa normally implies that you are away from home about three weeks on average. Many travellers tend to bring too much baggage on such a trip. Please keep the following in mind:
- South Africans usually dress quite casually, it is no problem at all wearing your leisure wear.
- Bring multiple layers of clothing with you. Temeratures differ significantly throughout the day. Multiple layers allows you to adapt easily. For more information about what to wear on safari read more on our South Africa safaris page.
- Hard shell suitcases do not fit very well in the boot of your rental car. It is better to bring duffel bags on wheels, but make sure they can be locked with small padlocks.
- Bring along a good moneybelt. Do not leave valuables behind in your car. A torch might come in handy.

And also...

With your rental car also a South Africa map is provided. These maps usually are not the most comprehensive. As such, we advice buying a good road book in the UK before departure. This is a bit more expensive, but allows you to prepare better for your luxury South Africa holiday. At all large petrol stations in South Africa excellent road maps are for sale for about £ 7. It also possible to rent a navigation system. This can be a handy aid on the larger roads, but as soon as you deviate into the bush it becomes pretty much useless. The organisation of South Africa's road networks means you are also fine without a navigation system.

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