Is it safe to drive ourselves, a couple

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Sep 30th, 2005, 01:33 PM
  #1
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Is it safe to drive ourselves, a couple

Hello, my husband and I are renting a car at Johannesburg airport (late at night), driving 3 miles to our hotel, then off to Kruger the next day. We intend to cruise around Kruger and Blyde River Canyon area. We will then return to Joburg. and fly to port elizabeth where we will rent a second car and make our way to cape town, leisurely over 2 weeks. Is this safe for a couple of 45 year old tourists in a rental car who have never been to South Africa? I am getting very mixed advice! Warned that we will be stopped, robbed and killed if we are lost or perhaps through a road block of some sort (that was the most extreme warning, is it crazy?) Thank for advice!
andreaandmike is offline  
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Sep 30th, 2005, 01:49 PM
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Hello,

I've driven in Joburg, and if you stay in the northern suburbs (where most visitors stay) you will be fine. I'm not a fan of driving around any strange city late at night right after a plane fligh, but you will almost certainly be fine IF you get very clear instructions on how to get to your hotel. The major danger is taking the wrong exit and ending up in a dodgy part of town.

In general, you should take the usual urban precautions whilst in cities -- don't leave money or valuables sitting in plain view, park in a welll-lighted area rather than in a dark alley, etc. You will often encounter self-appointed car guards who will watch your car for you in return for a small tip - R2-5 is fine for a few hours of car watching. Car jacking does occur, but not with the frequency that it seems to given the media hype -- car jacking also occurs in New York and other major American cities.

Mpumalanga (Blyde River Canyon, greater Kruger area) is perfectly safe to drive around -- the main danger is speed traps! Avoid the road that runs through Acornhoek if you would prefer not to get fined. I'd strongly advise something with a few extra horses under the hood for this region as there are a lot of hills. I've been there several times, and on my first visit I rented a little Nissan Almera which really struggled on the hills -- I spent a lot of time with my foot to the floor, which wasn't fun and started really hurting my back after a day or two. The next time I rented a Merc C-class -- it made a world of difference.

Cape Town, the Winelands, and the Garden Route are all safe to drive in. Many British tourists prefer self-drive holidays and thousands of Brits drive this route every year without incident.

In rural areas, you should avoid driving at night as both domestic and wild animals become a navigational hazard. Even a goat can do your car (and you) some pretty serious damage.

Enjoy South Africa -- it's a wonderful country!

Cheers,
Julian
jasher is offline  
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Sep 30th, 2005, 01:55 PM
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PS -- Note that SA petrol (gas) stations do not take credit cards. You will need to have cash on hand to buy petrol. Stations are fully-serviced rather than self-serve.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 30th, 2005, 06:41 PM
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Go for it. I have been driving there on and off for 18 years. Like anything else, the bad is hyped alot like the drive by shootings in LA. Just need to be more aware and plan where you are going.

The one thing I recommend is hiring a cell phone. The system is excellent and you know you can get assistance quickly.
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Oct 1st, 2005, 11:35 AM
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If you have a phone which works in SA, you can hire or buy a SIM card. I've done this on my past two trips -- it's been great.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 1st, 2005, 12:49 PM
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Hello Andreaandmike,

I wish you the best on your trip to South Afica. My husband and I are spending 2 weeks in much the same places you are going to (we're leaving Oct.11th.- just 10 days from now!!). We have never been to Joburg (except the airport several times), or Cape Town etc. We're really looking forward to this trip, and are not particularly worried, but we do plan to be careful. We're going to try to avoid driving at night except in Cape Town or the coast, and of course try not to look like tourists and flash money around etc.
We fly into Joburg, and are checking into an airport hotel for the night, then driving about an hour or so to our B&B. A couple of days later, we'll drive to Cape Town with stops at 3 other B&B's along the way. Then about a week in the wine country and the coast.
Four years ago we and a couple of relatives drove the four days from the north to the south of Kruger - it was wonderful - we did see animals most of the time, especially elephants. You will enjoy this, and it was very safe staying at the park camps. They were a bit rough, but not too bad - just be sure to arrive before closing time or they will not let you in the gates (and you won't be allowed to stay in the park either - I don't know what they do to you - probably feed you to the lions.
Very good advise to take a cell phone - ours won't work there (US-Verizon), so we plan to rent one at the airport in Joburg.Be sure to collect the emergency numbers you'll need in case you need help.
I learned of a sort of Buddy System of South African residents who will give you their tel. numbers and be available if you need help, and a contact if someone needs to find you. I haven't used this but I'd like some feedback from someone who has. I'll look up the info and post a question tomorrow.
When are you and your husband going to be in South Africa?
Don't worry about your age, my husband and I are in our late 60's and early 70's, and we travel whenever possible.
Be very sure to speak to your doctor about anti-malarials - they are very important if you're going to be in the Kruger game area. And ask him/her about any other medications, besides your usual ones, that you may need to take with you.
Have fun. -Joan
treasuresofafrica is offline  
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Oct 1st, 2005, 01:21 PM
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We drove Garden Route to Cape Town for 10 days and had no problems at all. Felt very safe. That said, our travel agent strongly adviced us not to drive in the Johannesburg area. But we were only there in transit so didn't need to drive.
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Oct 1st, 2005, 01:22 PM
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PS: Even our South African friends said not to drive at night. Two of them have been car-jacked. I personally would NOT drive at night in Joburg.

If your hotel is only 3 miles away, why not take a cab? They felt quite safe to us.
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