A Traveler’s Guide To Driving In South Africa
driving in south africa
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more information.

South Africa does not have an efficient subway system. As a foreigner wanting to get from place to place, you’re therefore likely to be driving in South Africa.

Roads in South Africa are well maintained and easy to navigate, so you shouldn’t have any problems. However, there are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare for your adventure in South Africa.

South Africa is a developing country. There are crimes that involve driving, but this can be completely avoided by staying away from dodgy areas, and always being cautious.

What Side Of The Road Do They Drive On In South Africa
driving in south africa

South Africans drive on the left side of the road. Most other driving rules apply.

In the USA, you can turn right at a red traffic light, provided it is safe. This rule does not apply to turning left on South African roads.

Passing / overtaking on South African roads

There are many two-lane highways in South Africa. As such, you will need to overtake other drivers, and they make overtake you.

According to the AA (Automobile Association Of South Africa),

When overtaking, check if the road markings allow for this. If there is no solid white line preventing overtaking, check for oncoming traffic before signalling your intent to pass and overtake. Keep your indicator on, until you have passed, and then indicate your intention to move in front of the vehicle you have passed. Do not overtake on a blind rise, or if you cannot see far enough ahead to make a proper judgement of timing. Remember, your life is more important than reaching your destination five minutes early.

If you are driving behind someone who is slower than you, you will notice that they may pull over to the side of the road (on the shoulder,) allowing you room to pass. If it is safe for you to pass, put on your blinker (indicator), accelerate and pass them – as shown in this video.

Once you’ve passed, you can say thank you by lifting your right hand to wave, or put on your hazard lights for a few seconds. These two gestures are acceptable to say thank you.

driving in south africa

South Africans think it’s rude if you don’t say thank you. If they have gone to the trouble of getting out of your way,  it’s polite to say thanks.

If you are the slow driver and someone is behind you on a 2-lane highway, move over into the shoulder lane of the road (if it is safe to do so,) until the car has passed you. Don’t pull over if you’re near a sharp bend, close to the edge of a cliff, on a tight street, or if you don’t feel safe.

If you get behind a big truck, they may not be able to move into the shoulder lane to allow you to pass, . Don’t worry, you will not be stuck behind the truck. The trucker will usually put on his right turn signal. This is usually an indication that it is safe for you to pass. Move carefully into the opposite lane. Once you also believe it is safe, accelerate past the truck.

When passing into the opposite lane to overtake someone, stay alert, check your rear-view mirrors, and watch out for blind spots.

Always use your best judgment. Never speed up for the satisfaction of the driver behind you.

Traffic circles & four-way stops

In South Africa, traffic circles work as a four-way-stop.

Four-way stops are common in South Africa. The first car to arrive at the stop has the right of way. Pay attention and wait for your turn to avoid a possible collision.

Ambulances

In South African, you slow down and move to the side when an ambulance is approaching. In the USA, you pull over to the side and stop. Remember the distinction when you are driving in South Africa.

Rural roads

If you are driving in South Africa through rural areas, there may be few or no street signs and road markings. It’s also not uncommon to find roads that are not marked on a map, or for street numbers and addresses to be completely different from what you expected. You would be best advised to use GPS instead of a physical map. They are usually available from cell phone suppliers like Vodacom and MTN. (Find them in most malls.)

Minibus taxis

Minibus taxis are a popular way for locals to get around in South Africa. You will find many of them in big cities.

They cannot be avoided but do be wary of them. They can be dangerous. There are hundreds of accidents involving minibus taxis every year. That’s because they are often overloaded, and taxi drivers speed. The more trips they can take and the more people they can get into the taxis, the more money they make.

Taxi drivers are aggressive. Know this, accept it, and let them go. (My attitude is – I get out of their way so that if there is going to be an accident, it will not be with me.)

As a traveler, you are generally better off renting your own car or taking metered taxis. Be sure to use an accredited taxi service. (At this time, there are ongoing tensions between Uber drivers and taxi drivers, which sometimes escalate into violence. Avoid it altogether by renting your own car.)

Pedestrians on South African streets

There are no jaywalking laws in South Africa. As such, pedestrians will cross the roads wherever they please. For local drives, this is not an issue – they are used to it. For foreigners driving in South Africa, it can be very unnerving when someone suddenly runs across the street.

Also, consider school children. They often have long walks to and from school, and may carelessly wander into the road.

Wildlife on South African roads

wildlife in south africa

If you’re driving through game parks and reserves, you may encounter the local wildlife. Here’s how to handle it:

  • Stay calm. Give the animals the space they need.
  • Never leave your car unless you are at a designated rest stop.
  • Turn off your car, close your windows, and be quiet. No talking, no music, no radio. Simply wait for the animals to pass.
  • Don’t interact with the wild animals. Animals who feel threatened can become dangerous, especially if they have young ones in tow.
  • Avoid driving at dawn or dusk – this is when most animals are out to feed. If you do want to see the animals at these times, go with a guided tour.
  • The animals will usually go their way. However, if they linger and you get worried, call the emergency number in South Africa (10111). If you have no reception, the best thing you can do is wait in your car with the windows up, and try not to panic.
  • Never feed the animals from your vehicle. This disrupts their natural diet, and it can place you in danger. Baboons, in particular, are attracted by food and can become aggressive. (Baboons are common in certain parts of Cape Town.)
  • Always follow any reserve or game park signage or displayed rules.

Livestock on rural roads

If you are driving on small rural roads, be cautious. Some farmers do not fence their animals.

Parking your car / Parking attendants

south african greetings

Whenever possible, park in a parking garage, a parking lot, or a busy and well-lit area. At many of these places, you will find parking attendants.

Because carjacking does happen in South Africa, you’ll find volunteer Parking Attendants around the parking lots to “watch your car.” This is often the only way they can make money, so they do appreciate any tips you can offer.

You are not obliged to tip but a R2 tip will be much appreciated. $2 is approximately $0.15 at the time of this writing, so it will not cost you much to help someone out.

Do not overtip car watchers. Overtipping makes you appear like a Mr or Mrs moneybags, and some people may want to relieve you of it.

When parking your vehicle, keep it locked with the windows closed.  Make sure all valuables are completely out of sight.

LOVE THIS POST? SHARE IT...
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest

TAGS:

RELATED POSTS

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

About The Author

Hi! We’re the Cheltens’. We visit South Africa 1-2 times per year. We want to share our experiences with you so that you may make educated decisions when you plan your next trip to the rainbow nation.

Time now at South Africa (GMT+2)

2:52 pm
Sunday, August 31, 2022

Upcoming festivities/holidays in South Africa

August 2022

MO
TU
WE
TH
FR
SA
SU
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
Women’s Day (National Holiday)
All Day
On 9 August 1956, women participated in a national march, Their goal was to petition against Apartheid South Africa’s pass laws. The pass laws were legislation that required non-white South Africans carry a pass/ document with them to ‘prove’ that they were allowed to enter a ‘white area’. , ...
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
1
2
3
4
Want to have your business or product featured?
We’re always looking for awesome places, products, activities, restaurants, travel accessories, or anything else that promotes the rich and colorful culture of South Africa.
Travel Categories
Best Travel Products
Sale
Ceptics South Africa Travel Plug Adapter (Type M) - 3 Pack [Grounded & Universal] (GP-10L-3PK)
  • Small Travel Size - 3 Pack
  • Standard: Type M plug, South Africa CEE 7/16. Grounded 3-Prong plug.
  • Accepts plugs from all countries including USA.
  • New conductivity design - internal metal interfaces provides better Conductivity
  • Grounded 3 Round Prong plug. Max Capacity Up to 3000 Watt (max 250 Volt, 13 A)
Sale
Money Belt for Men Travel Security Belt with Hidden Money Compartment Pocket, Belt with Hidden Pocket Cashsafe Anti-Theft Wallet Non-Metal Buckle
  • PATENT PENDING ; (🔥 KEEP YOUR CASH HIDDEN FROM YOUR WIFE / GF!🔥 ) Travel Security Money Belt
  • 🔒 BYE BYE PICKPOCKETS 💵 - DESIGNED FOR TRAVEL TSA 🧳 - keep your cash safe from pickpockets; equipped with an easy-to-use hidden zippered...
  • 💪 DURABLE - Made with Premium YKK Zipper with reinforced non-slip buckle, Adjustable wear-resisting nylon materia for waist sizes 26 to 42 inches....
  • ✅ Easy access and storage; quickly stash and remove your bills, coins, and keys with ease
  • ✅ NOT JUST A NORMAL BELT - It is a Long-lasting companion; made of premium quality top-grade webbing, YKK zipper, and a reinforced buckle; this...
Travelrest Nest Patented Memory Foam Travel Pillow / Neck Pillow - Washable - Voted Best Travel Pillow for 2018-2022 by NYTimes Wirecutter - Packs to 1/4 of its Size (2 Year Warranty)
  • THE BEST TRAVEL PILLOW FOR 2022: As featured on New York Times Wirecutter. After taking four cross-country red-eyes in window, aisle, and middle...
  • UNIQUELY ANGLED BACK: Travelrest Ultimate sets it apart from other travel pillows because it can lay flat against the seat back. Most other pillows...
  • THERAPEUTIC DESIGN: Made from special thermo sensitive memory foam to provide optimal neck, shoulder and head support. Non-slip backing holds pillow...
  • VERSATILE: Great for long flights, car trip, trains, buses, lounging on the couch, wheelchairs, watching TV.
  • SCIENTIFICALLY TESTED: Developed originally by NASA, memory foam forms perfectly to your neck for maximum support. Ideal for chronic pain sufferers.
Sale
INIU Portable Charger, USB C Slimmest Triple 3A High-Speed 10000mAh Phone Power Bank, Flashlight External Battery Pack Compatible with iPhone 13 12 11 X Samsung S20 Google LG iPad, etc [2022 Version]
  • ✅【From INIU--the SAFE Fast Charge Pro】Experience the safest charging with over 38 million global users. At INIU, we use only the highest-grade...
  • ✅【Ultra Slim 10000mAh】The thinnest 10000mAh power bank on the market, easily slips it into any of your pockets or bags. Enjoy the days’ worth...
  • ✅【2022 Version USB C Input & Output】Unlike most chargers featuring a USB C input only, INIU 3A High-Speed PowerPaw has a USB-C In & Out port to...
  • ✅【Faster 3A Charging Saves You 45 Mins】Fater 3A charging enables fueling your iPhone up to 78% in 1 hour, which markedly outpaces 2.1A's...
  • ✅【Even Wider Compatibility】Unlike the market’s most power banks incapable of charging low-current accessories, INIU portable charger can work...
FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM @YEBOSOUTHAFRICA