Travelling by Car in South Africa - (Cows don't have headlights)

Gerald Crawford

Visitors: 144

Road safety

Our transport infrastructure is excellent and our roads are in good condition. However, the distances between towns are significant, so if you're planning to self-drive, it is a good idea to plan your itinerary to ensure they don't drive long distances as fatigue is a major cause of road accidents. Avoid long car journeys that necessitate driving at night as it always carries more risk. Also, in some of the more remote rural areas, the roads are not fenced so there may be stray animals on the road - which could be very dangerous at night. (Cows don't have headlights. )

South Africa have very strict drinking and driving laws - with a maximum allowable alcohol blood content of 0.05%. Translated that means about one glass of wine for the average woman and perhaps 1.5 or two for the average or large man. Our speed limits are 120kmph on the open road, 100kmph on smaller roads and between 60 and 80kmph in towns. Be aware that even major national roads cut through residential areas so there may be a speed limit of 80 or 60kmph on a road that looks like an autobahn. This is to protect pedestrians, especially children, so we really do encourage people to comply.


All visitors intending to drive are required to obtain an international drivers permit, visitors found driving without a permit will be fined and not permitted to continue on their journey. Visitors will also not be able to rent a car without a valid driver's permit. The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory and strictly enforced by law.

Driver's Licence

It is of vital importance that you are in possession of an international driver's licence. The best is to have a photocopy of the driver's licence on you, in case it gets lost or stolen.


In South Africa we drive on the left side of the road and give way to traffic approaching from the right. On multiple lanes it is advised to overtake on the right-hand side. The general speed limit is 120km/h on open roads and 60km/h in urban areas. Be aware of cameras and speed traps especially before and after small townships. In case of late arrivals at the airport, it is advisable to take a taxi, and collect your car the next morning at the hotel or holiday house. After a day or two driving on the left will be no problem for you as it is quick and easy to adapt to.

Car Rentals

Driving on gravel roads can be very dangerous, thus it is important to drive very slowly. The car rental companies do not compensate for damage occurring on these roads even though a comprehensive insurance is taken out before hand. The client is held liable for all the damages. In South Africa there is no obligation to take out any insurance. The best advice is to always take out a comprehensive insurance for the driver as well as the passengers. If the passenger causes an accident the insurance will not be held liable.

The big “L" on the rear window

The big “L" is for people who have their learner driver's license but have not yet passed their driving test. We advise tourists to be careful and considerate.

Traffic Circles

Keep in mind that approaching a traffic circle in South Africa does not give you right of way, traffic already in the circle has right of way.

Stop Signs

We have a lot of four-way stops instead of traffic lights. A four-way stop means who ever approaches the stop first has right of way. This traffic rule works wonderfully in South Africa. The four-way stops hinder people speeding in small town and living areas.


The roads in South Africa become very slippery when it rains due to long periods of no rain in summer. Drive slowly and keep a fairly big distance from the car in front of you.


In South Africa we park in the direction that we drive. Always make sure that your vehicle is locked properly and no goods are lying around inside as this leads to theft. Car radios are one of the favourite items to be stolen so assure that it is always taken out and locked away.

Gerald Crawford was born in South Africa, studied electronics, telecommunication, eco-travel and african travel concepts. He taught responsible tourism in South Africa. If you have any questions or comments please e-mail me on. E-mail Address: Website Address:


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