Driving Tips - South Africa
Driving in South Africa shouldn’t be that difficult, though it may be a challenge if you’re used to driving on the right-hand side of the road, as you will need to drive on the left. Read on to learn more about the rules and regulations of driving in the country.
Your country’s license will be valid in South Africa, but make sure you gather all the documentation you need. Be sure to take the following:
- A valid driver’s license from your country
- Official photo ID (passport)
- Proof of insurance (Call your company to be sure of coverage)
- Proof of ownership if you are bringing your own car or written permission by the owner
- An International Driver’s Permit (IDP), which is a translation of your license. You should get it before you leave home
- Car rental agreement if renting a car
For a motorcycle or car, you must be 17-years-old to get a license, though 16-year-olds can drive smaller motorcycles (mopeds). Check with your rental company for age restrictions.
Driving Rules, Laws, and Regulations
- Drive on the left hand side of the road; pass on the right
- All people in the vehicle must be wearing a seatbelt
- To use your phone, you must have a hands-free device
- Watch out for wildlife on the roads, as many areas aren’t fenced
- Most major highways are toll roads, so be prepared to pay
- Some rural roads may be in poor condition or not even paved
- Road signs will be in English
- Traffic lights are often referred to as “robots”
- Be aware of people in the vicinity at stop lights; be sure to keep your car locked and windows up at all times
- Gas pumps are full service, so don’t try to pump your own gas
Speed Limits and Fines
The speed limits will be posted in kilometers per hour. Generally, they are as follows:
- 120 km/h (75 mph) on freeways
- 100 km/h (60 mph) on rural roads
- 60 km/h (35 mph) in urban areas
Traffic fines begin at 250 rand and go up to about 2,500 rand, depending on how many kilometers you are over the speed limit and what speed zone you are in. For instance, in 60 km/h (35 mph), you’ll pay 500 rand for 15-20 km/h over, 1,000 for 20-25, and 2,500 for 25-30. If you are driving at 100km/h or more in a 60 zone, you will need to appear in court. To pay a fine, you can obtain a Purchase Order at a post office and send it by registered mail. You do not have to pay on the spot.
For driving, your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) shouldn’t be over 0.05 g/100ml. That is approximately one drink per hour, depending on your weight. If caught operating a vehicle while above the legal limit, you could face one of the following punishments:
- Fines, which can be as much as 120,000 rands
- Suspension of license. The first time you are caught, your license can be suspended for 6 months, which means you will not be allowed to drive while you are visiting
- Jail time, up to 6 years, depending on how many offenses you have
- Park in the direction of traffic
- Don’t stop at red curbs or lines; don’t park at yellow curbs or lines
- Don’t block road signs
- Don’t park on sidewalks or near intersections
- Don’t park on major roads
Be aware of safety as you are driving. Don’t pick up hitchhikers, and don’t leave valuables in plain sight in your car.
Cape Town Driving Guide
Cape Town or the “Mother City” as it is known to locals, is truly a tourist's dream and a must visit destination in your lifetime. Blessed with unparalleled natural beauty, Cape Town is filled with numerous stunning attractions, not only in the confines of the city but slightly further afield as well.
Once you have had your fill of the city itself, hop in your rental car and explore the beautiful coastlines of the Cape of Storms or the fable winelands of the interior. Perhaps the best thing about these destinations is how close they are to the city centre itself, perfect for varied day trips during your stay.
1 h 59 min to Cape Winelands (172.9 km) via N1
If you are a wine lover, a trip to one of the many small towns situated in the winelands outside the city should be at the top of your activity list. South African wine is recognised worldwide for its quality with most produced in the Cape Wineland region.
Towns such as Paarl, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Robertson are all filled with wine farms that not only offer inexpensive wine tasting and sales but cellar tours as well. These tours detail both the history of the specific farm and reveal the wine making processes used in the production of their wines. Wine, however, is not the only attraction. Many of these towns have a rich history of their own and offer cultural attractions, including museums.
Should you wish to extend your day trip and not return to the city, Cape Winelands accommodation is both plentiful and well priced.
West Coast National Park
1 h 3 min to West Coast National Park (87.7 km) via R27
Situated up the west coast of the Western Cape, approximately 130 kilometres from Cape Town, the West Coast National Park encompasses an area of around 27 000 hectares.
The park itself, filled with a host of fauna, flora and maritime species, is a protected reserve running along the Atlantic ocean coast from the quaint town of Yzerfontein to the beautiful lagoon town of Langebaan.
Langebaan is one of the most well known towns on the West Coast. It offers a variety of activities from windsurfing, kite surfing, sailing, fishing and snorkelling. The town is situated on a picturesque lagoon, a haven for sea birds. Dassen island, situated around 1 kilometre off the beach is home to these birds and they return each night to the island to nest, leading to a truly impressive display as the sun sets over the lagoon.
Langebaan accomodation is plentiful with options to suit every pocket from bed and breakfast establishments, to self catering apartments and luxury hotels.
Shark Cave Diving in Gaansbaai
1 h 59 min to Gaansbaai (162.5 km) via N2 and R43
If you are a more adventurous traveller, an adrenaline filled shark cage diving session should not be missed. Many shark cage diving operators are situated in the small coastal town of Gaansbaai, around 2.5 hours drive from the city centre.
The diving experience itself is an extremely safe operation and takes place daily. Bookings however, are essential. The star of the show is undoubtedly the majestic Great White, the apex predator of the deep. These sharks are found all along the coast of South Africa, particularly the southern coast where Gaansbaai is situated due to its high Cape Fur Seal population, the food of choice for these sharks. Not only will you have the opportunity to see these beautiful creatures under the water, but from May to September (the seal breeding season), there is every chance you may see a shark fully breach out of the water as it chases its quarry.
For those choosing to spend more than one day in the town, many options are available. In fact, Gaansbaai accomodation will suit almost all needs and is extremely cost effective. Booking during high season is important however.
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