Driving in South Africa


Jun 9th, 2016, 12:13 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2016
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Driving in South Africa

Hello my fellow Fodorites,

First of all thank you for the ample amount of information you guys have provided up here in particular christabir, tripplanner001, and pixel...(sorry I forgot the rest of your username). Based on the positive reports that you have, we decided to self-drive in South Africa for our upcoming trip.

I want to use a TO to help plan the trip. When I mentioned about self-drive they recommended me not to. The reasons they gave me include 1) it's dangerous to drive with big trucks 2) there are robberies everywhere 3) if you never drive on the left before, south africa is not your testing ground 3) number one death rate there is car accident 4) people don't wear glasses or contact lens there when they need to 4) it's dangerous when encounter animals and you don't know what to do with (mind you, though I don't have experience, I do not plan to run over the animals when I see them...so I am not even sure what number 4 even means) 5) last but not least, they don't send clients on self-drive because if something happens they can't help (this TO is U.S. based by the way)

My route is very standard in my opinion Johannesburg, Durban, Lake Sibayi, and KNP.

As you can see, all of this is in stark contrast to what I have read from your reports. I would like to know how you feel about all that given some of you have been there done that.
t4kemeaway is offline  
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Jun 9th, 2016, 02:04 PM
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Sorry to say, but that's over-the-top advice on self driving. I'd suggest doing some research and getting an in-country TO who can provide the same services but offer much more realistic information on self-driving.
sdb2 is offline  
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Jun 10th, 2016, 01:38 AM
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I agree with the above poster , the advice is way over the top & scaring you for no good reason. We've driven in South Africa numerous times. The only part of the advice I would agree with is driving on the left for the first time, that takes a bit of getting used to (eg 10 minutes) and with GPS it takes the stress out of getting lost.

The road from JNB to Durban is really good, the services along the way I thought were excellent. It's a 6 hour drive, there are tolls along the way. I would not be in ZA without car, it gave us freedom to do our own thing.
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Jun 10th, 2016, 06:23 AM
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That TO is just wrong. Yes, it takes a little adjustment to drive a RHD car. You have to overcome the instincts that are ingrained in all LHD drivers. That said, the hardest thing to remember is that the wiper stalk & turn signal are reversed as well & you might go around a lot of turns with your wipers on - like I did . . .

The roads are good. The drivers obey the standard road rules. I was apprehensive as well but it was a real non issue. The number one rule is: don't drive after dark. And keep your doors locked if you go through any areas that make you feel uncomfortable. We drove all over the Cape area, in Kruger & a long drive in Namibia without the slightest issue. 3 different vehicles. Over 2000 kms. Without a scratch on the cars (and truck).

Ian is offline  
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Jun 10th, 2016, 06:56 AM
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I would not take any advice from a TO offering you such poor and inaccurate advice about self-driving. It suggests a very poor knowledge of South Africa. My DH and I have (since 2004) self-driven through SA, Namibia, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia with no difficulties. Fire your TO! There are a couple of excellent US-based TOs recommended on this forum - contact one of them.
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Jun 10th, 2016, 07:46 AM
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That said, the hardest thing to remember is that the wiper stalk & turn signal are reversed as well & you might go around a lot of turns with your wipers on - like I did . . .

Not all vehicles have the stalks reversed from North American/European norms. Best to check before you go. For me, the hardest thing (and not very hard at that) is to stop looking at the doorpost and expecting a rear-view mirror to be there.

I have driven thousands and thousands of km in South Africa without incident. In general I find SA drivers to be extremely courteous and adept, and the main roads are very good. Be careful in rural areas - lots of roadside pedestrians - but otherwise I think it's a joy.
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Jun 10th, 2016, 08:26 AM
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Thank you all for your insights.

I do plan to contact local TO. This U.S. based TO is more in a why not category, since it was mentioned on the board. But honestly I never felt any rapport since the beginning. The "advice" regarding self-driving in South Africa just killed the deal. This person who gave me the "advice" was supposed to "have driven all over South Africa" hmmm

True that I haven't been there to judge for myself but based on what other people say - including you guys - their advice is just totally "over the top" like Odin said and misinformed in my opinion. And echo Canadian_robin, it suggests a very poor knowledge of SA. By the way, I have this feeling from the beginning based on their other suggestions. So unless they want to pay for my trip, I do not want to plan my safari with them. By the way, this TO was mentioned on the board, I guess it's YMMV but I should have known better when there are both positive and negative mentions. At the end of the day, all I can say to myself is at least I gave it a try.

Also thank you for other advice of how you guys adjust to left hand driving. They are helpful in terms of imagining what to expect. No worries, I absolutely do not plan to drive at night time.
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