Top tips for driving in South Africa

R62, South Africa

As we will shortly be returning to Cape Town I thought it was worth sharing a bit more from our previous travels to South Africa. As well as my favourite roads to include on a trip to this country (more on that here), I thought it was also worthwhile sharing a few tips we came across from our experience driving there. The drives were one of the many highlights of the holiday and an experience in themselves, but probably something that I was a little apprehensive about before going. I didn’t need to worry though. The large majority of roads are in excellent condition and the driving is relatively easy, but these tips might be useful when planning your trip…


  • Google maps offline is very helpful – Download areas on Google maps when you have wifi and then use them as your Sat Nav throughout your trip. We rented a Sat Nav but it ended up being a waste as we found Google maps on our phones so much easier to use. The only thing you will miss is live updates such as traffic reports but it’s perfect otherwise. Also you might need to watch your battery! Our car had a charge point with the radio so wasn’t a problem.


  • But having said this, don’t always trust Google maps or your Sat Nav! – Although great for pretty much all of our routes in South Africa, when we used it to go from Kalk Bay to the airport on our final day, we ended up going right through the middle of a township near the airport. Not a problem, but it was a bit chaotic with people, traffic (and quite a few farm animals!), as well as numerous roads, so just double check your routes. For the most part the Sat Nav works really well though.


  • Petrol stations  – Fill up when you see a station especially on some of the quieter routes (R62) – you don’t want to be caught out when there’s miles between stations and no one on the roads to help you! Have coins ready as a tip for the petrol attendant too (there’s no self serve). Give a bit more if they clean your windows which is often the case. We had around 2-5 rand ready. 


  • What to pay parking attendants – Also have coins handy for the parking attendants which you’ll find at pretty much every parking space in South Africa, even if it’s just on the street and not in a car park. In a lot of cases these are self appointed attendants who claim an area for parking as theirs to earn some money. They will keep an eye on your car but make sure you have a few rand when you are leaving in return for this. It’s not compulsory but we were happy to do it and most people seem to pay the attendants for this.


  • Avoid driving far at night – Don’t drive long distances at night and if you want to drive then ask your hotel for advice first. We did it twice but short drives to go to restaurants from our hotel in built up towns (Plettenberg Bay and Hermanus) where lighting was not a problem. Animals, pedestrians and lack of lights pose a real risk on more isolated roads at night so consider whether you can wait until daylight before embarking on the big trips – you won’t want to miss those views anyway! 

Enjoy the drive!




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