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Self-driving South Africa
Self-driving in South Africa is how a number of people decide to travel as it tends to prove a more adventurous and affordable option, as well as giving you the freedom to explore. Self-driving is a hugely rewarding way to travel and appreciate the always stunning and ever-changing scenery. Here we give you our tips for taking to the open road.
Type of car
When renting a car it is likely that budget will determine which class of vehicle you choose. Small hatchbacks are the cheapest. Above this are large estate vehicles which offer more space. Finally, and most expensive, are 4x4s and people carriers. For most areas the main determinant will be the number of people and how much boot space you require for your luggage! 4x4s are not necessary apart from for reaching the most remote places, but the higher the car the more comfortable the ride will be.
Good quality tarmac and gravel roads make up the majority of South Africa’s infrastructure. The tarmac roads are very good and direct, explaining the profusion of well-hidden police speed traps along their length! Control points before major towns and when crossing regional borders are common and friendly.
• Never drive at night.
• Check with fellow self-drivers, lodge staff or locals about road conditions ahead.
• Inform your destination of your expected arrival time, and inform your origin of your destination.
• Check all tyres, including the spare, have sufficient tread depth before setting off.
• Be prepared to change a tyre – especially if you are travelling on gravel roads. Although most locals are also experts at changing tyres if you encounter problems!
• 60-80km/hour is the recommended safe speed.
• Speed limit outside of urban areas is 120km/hour and fines for breaking it are substantial.
• Stop for fuel wherever you can.
• On gravel the best tracks are in the middle of the road – just remember to move left when approaching oncoming traffic or at the brow of a hill!
• Beware of the dust kicked up by your vehicle as well as others, as it can obstruct your view.
• Beware of wildlife – especially on tarred roads where baboons or warthogs are hidden in the long grass by the road side.
• Seasonal rains can damage and sometimes wash away large sections of roads – slow down and pick your path carefully (usually already well worn).
• Some roads that lead to remote lodges can be bad – if concerned, arrange for a lodge vehicle to pick you up.
• Good map (available on request from most rental car companies) and directions (provided by us)
• Driving licence (an international licence is not necessary, but recommended)
• Plenty of water and snacks
• Cash for fuel – most petrol stations, especially in remote areas, only accept cash as payment
• Credit card for rental deposit (in the name of the person hiring the vehicle)
• Mobile phone
• An iPod or CDs
• Common sense and patience!
• A sense of adventure!