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Road Safety and Requirements

  • 2013-05-15

Road Safety Advice for foreigners / tourists driving in South Africa

International Driver's Permit

  • An International Driver's Permit carried in conjunction with your national driving license is recommended and must be printed or authenticated in English.
  • If your license does not have a photograph on it, then you must also carry your passport with you so that you can be identified as the legal holder of the driving license.
  • Please note that the car hire companies might have different regulations regarding the length of time that you need to have held a driving license, so it is advisable to check with your car hire company about their requirements.
  • Always make sure documentation is carried with you at all times when driving.
  • Traffic officers will expect to see documentation if they stop you for any reason.

Rules of the road

  • In South Africa we drive on the left-hand side of the road, and our cars – rental cars included – are right-hand drive vehicles.
  • Keep to the left and pass on the right.
  • All distances, speed limits (and speedometers) are in kilometres.
  • There are strict drinking and driving laws - with a maximum allowable alcohol blood content of 0.05%. This translates into about one glass of wine for the average woman and perhaps one and a half or two glasses for the average man.
  • Four-way-stops are commonly found at quieter intersections – the first vehicle to arrive has priority. On roundabouts, give way to the right, although this is often overlooked and it is wise to proceed with caution.
  • The wearing of seat belts is compulsory. All occupants of a vehicle are required to wear seatbelts whilst travelling; if caught without wearing a seatbelt, you will be subject to a fine.
  • Using hand-held phones while driving is against the law – use a vehicle phone attachment or hands-free kit, if you want to speak on your mobile phone.

Road infrastructure and toll roads

  • All signposts are written in English.
  • Petrol/Fuel Stations are mostly open 24 hours and spread along all the routes. They are not self-help, but manned by attendants who can also check oil, water and tyre pressure if required. Gratuities for this service are at your own discretion.
  • When asking for directions, you may be surprised to get the response "turn left at the next robot..." - a 'robot' is the South African term for a traffic light.
  • Road infrastructure is mostly excellent for national roads.
  • Many of the national roads between the major centres are toll roads. Check the toll fees before you leave, and make sure that you have either a credit card or cash to pay.
  • Driving is a viable option with careful planning recommended as South Africa is a huge country not easily traversed in a day.
  • With a good map visitors should have little difficulty in finding their way around.
  • Current information on the conditions of roads can be obtained through the Automobile Association of South Africa (
  • Plan your journey carefully. If you're not used to driving long distances, rather break the journey, as fatigue is a major contributing factor in motor vehicle accidents.
  • Tell your friends and family which routes you will follow and where you plan to overnight.
  • Many petrol stations have restaurants and restrooms - use them to freshen-up on long drives.
  • There are three types of fuel available, leaded, unleaded and 'dual fuel' which can be used in place of either.
  • Petrol prices are fixed and controlled by the government – they are payable in cash.
  • When traveling through South Africa's neighbouring countries, petrol stations are more scarce, so be prepared.

Speed limit

  • The general speed limit on national highways, urban freeways and other major routes is 120km/h (75mph).
  • On secondary (rural) roads it is 100km/h (60mph).
  • In built-up areas it is usually 60km/h (35mph) unless otherwise indicated.
  • Check the road signs and obey the speed limit at all times.
  • Speed limits are maximum speeds. If it is raining, misty or the road is congested, reduce speed.
  • Reduce speed near areas where there is pedestrian activity.

General tourism and road safety tips for driving in South Africa

  • Ensure that your vehicle is checked thoroughly and in good condition before embarking on a journey.
  • Check your vehicle at the start of each day – check the oil and water, that all indicators and lights are functional and that tyre pressure is adequate.
  • Plan your journey beforehand to avoid unnecessary stops [e.g. off-ramps to unknown destinations].
  • If you need directions it is best to stop at a petrol station and ask the attendants.
  • Always maintain a safe following distance and switch headlights on when visibility is poor, ensuring that you are visible to all road users.
  • Always respect the warnings on road signs – be aware that the roads in many rural areas are not fenced, so you could find dogs, chickens, sheep and even horses or cows on the road, so it may be dangerous to drive at night.
  • Large antelope crossing the road can also be a hazard in certain areas – watch out for the road signs depicting a leaping antelope, and take it slowly, especially towards evening.

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