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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

Age Restrictions

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.

Drunk Driving

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.

Port Elizabeth Driving Guide

Port Elizabeth is also known as The Bay and The Friendly City.  After just a few hours in PE, as the locals refer to it, you’ll realize how warm and welcoming the residents are. They’re simply happy to have you on their doorstep.

Are you keen for trip that combines the activities found in a city with the watersports of a beach holiday?  You have come to the right place. The Bay (or (Ibhayi in isiXhosa, one of the local languages spoken there) includes Algoa Bay, which consists of a stretch of 40km of beaches, some of which have earned Blue Flag status. Besides swimming in the warm, welcoming waters found on South Africa’s east coast, surfing, sailing, fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling are also available at various beaches. Try beach hopping, you’ll find a different activity in every bay, plus you’ll return home with a golden brown tan!

Port Elizabeth to Shamwari Game Reserve:

1 hour 13 min (75km)

Head 75 km’s east to Shamwari Game Reserve to spot the Big 5 without the threat of Malaria! Shamwari has been voted the World’s Leading Safari and Game Reserve for many years, a day trip here and you’ll soon realize why.

Here at Cheaperthancars we take pride in offering a wide range of cars to suit every budget and every desire. We appreciate the freedom that renting a car allows a traveler, you can go where you want, when you want and change your plans, or direction, at will. But while at Shamwari you may choose to be driven by a professional game ranger in an open game viewing vehicle who will take you to the best locations to spot the animals you wish to see with valuable information at hand, or go on a guided game walk.

Go for the day and be back at your accommodation in Port Elizabeth by the evening. A day tour will cost an individual less than half a tank of gas, and it will be well worth it!

Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown:

1 hour 25 min (127 km)

Grahamstown is a city 127 km northeast of Port Elizabeth. It is a University Town, home to Rhodes University which is known for its excellent journalism programme among other things. As in all University Towns, there are plenty of bars and local nightlife, including much live music. Originally founded in 1812 as a military post, the town has much architecture that dates almost as far back in time. Grahamstown Cathedral, the Observatory Museum stand out as architectural sites well worth a visit.

Visiting Port Elizabeth in June-July? The National Arts Festival (known as the Grahamstown Festival) simply can’t be missed, and by choosing to stay in Port Elizabeth you will save on accommodation! The Grahamstown Festival is the Edinburgh Festival of the Global South and the largest arts and cultural festival in Africa. You will find an abundance of plays to choose from which will cost you the same as a meal for one at a local restaurant. Visiting on a strict budget? The street food will fill your tummy for half that and there are many free and public performances, including art exhibitions and installations. The local flea market is well worth a visit and you will find plenty of trinkets that may find their way into your suitcase.

If you like the idea of spending more than a day in Grahamstown we have plenty of accommodation available to choose from. Head over to our website at Cheaper Than Hotels to view our selection of hotels.

At Cheaper Than Cars we understand, as well heeled travelers ourselves, what concerns visitors and we’re aware that your budget predicts the activities you are able to explore. We not only have a range of rental cars to suit every budget but we understand that a good deal on a rented car will allow you to travel further, rather than only having enough (after the rental price) to travel within the perimeter of a given city. We also understand that plans change and so we don’t charge for cancellations, our rates are pretty low too. Choose us as your car rental providers and you’ll travel further on the money you save.   

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