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.
East London Driving Guide - Spend less, do more
Situated on the east coast of South Africa and conveniently located between Port Elizabeth and Durban, East London is one of South Africa’s smaller tourist destinations.
Of course, as it is situated on the coast, East London is home to stunning beaches including Gonubie, Nahoon and Eastern. These are some of the premier beaches in South Africa. Not only can you soak up the sun, but the city is a haven for watersports enthusiasts particularly kite surfing, wind surfing, surfing as well as fishing.
Other attractions in the city include a Lion Park, the East London zoo, Anne Bryant Art Gallery, the East London Museum and the Aquarium.
East London is the perfect base to see the rest of the surrounding countryside by rental car, particularly the ‘Wild Coast’, a section of coastline leading through the Transkei towards Durban as well as west down the ‘Garden Route’ towards Port Elizabeth, George and Cape Town.
East London to the Addo Elephant Park
2 hours 40 mins to Addo Elephant Park (247 kilometres) (153 miles) via the R72
Perhaps one of the more famous national parks in South Africa, Addo Elephant Park is home to a number of animals, with elephants a particular highlight.
Addo is the third largest national park in the country and is 180 000 hectares in size, taking in numerous diverse eco-systems.
Today the park is home to around 600 different animals from a wide variety of species. These include elephant, antelope, zebra, leopard, hyena, black rhino, buffalo and lions. In fact, Africa’s ‘Big 5’, all have a home in the park, while Addo is also the home of the ‘Big 7’ if you add the Southern Right Whale and the Great White Sharks found along the park’s coastline.
Activities in the park include hiking trails, game drives, camping, zip-lining and scenic walks.
Accommodation options in Addo Elephant Park include various rest camps, tented camping sites, guest houses and more luxurious options.
East London to Port Elizabeth
3 hours 10 mins to Port Elizabeth (283 kilometers) (175 miles) via the R72
The largest city in the Eastern Cape region, Port Elizabeth is known as the ‘Friendly City’ to all South Africans. Known for its relaxed way of life Port Elizabeth and incredible hospitality, the city is filled with excellent tourist attractions and activities.
It is also filled with national monuments and perhaps the best way to explore this is to undertake the Donkin Trail through the city. This follows in the footsteps of the 1820 British settlers who landed in the city and incorporates 47 different monuments in a 5km walking trail.
Other attractions in Port Elizabeth include township tours, Kragga Kamma game reserve, an array of beaches, watersports, fishing, numerous museums (including the SA Air Force Museum and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum), excellent restaurants and brilliant shopping opportunities.
Accommodation options in Port Elizabeth include bed and breakfast establishments, self-catering apartments, rental homes and hotels in various price ranges.
East London to Qunu
2 hour 20 mins to Qunu (204 kilometres) (126 miles) via the N2
The birthplace and last resting place of Nelson Mandela, Qunu is a small rural village located in the Transkei region on the East Coast of South Africa. Although many modern facilities can be found in the villages in this area, a traditional way of life is still practiced by many of its inhabitants. They are very welcoming to tourists and more than happy to share stories about their daily lives.
Perhaps the most famous attraction in the village (other than Madiba’s homes) is the Nelson Mandela Museum. It is in fact spread across three areas, Bhunga in the nearby town of Umtata, Mvezo (his birthplace near Qunu) and Qunu itself (where he spent his childhood).
Other attractions in the area include the Dwese and Cwebe Nature Reserves and the Hole in the Wall, a famous rock formation on the coastline.
Accommodation options in Qunu are limited in the village itself although the Museum does offer overnight accommodation. Other options around Qunu include guest houses, bed and breakfast establishments and farms.
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