Self drive in South Africa is easy; as is flying between our major cities. Our coaches service the main highways across the length and breadth of the country, but our train service is limited to localised travel around the major cities, and not recommended if you are visiting the country for the first time. We do have metered taxis and Uber is very popular here.
South Africa has 10 international airports, the two major ones being Cape Town International and OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
Baggage theft at airports is common especially at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg so avoid putting valuables such as jewellery and expensive devices in your main luggage if you can. Rather place them in your hand luggage. Lookout for kiosks at the airports that offer an industrial cling wrap solution - perfect for broken zips and for keeping your luggage safe. At around R85 per bag, it’s great value.
Roads and Road infrastructure
South Africa has an extensive road infrastructure including national highways and secondary roads. Speed limits are set at 120km/h on highways; 100km/h on secondary roads; and 60km/h in urban areas. The roads within South Africa, connecting most major cities, and between its immediate neighbours are very good. There are many national and regional roads connecting the cities and larger centres, including the N1 running from Cape Town through Johannesburg and Pretoria up to Harare, Zimbabwe, the N2 running from Cape Town to Durban, which passes through the world-famous Garden Route and the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg.
The large fuel companies have rest stops every 200-300km along these highways where you can fill up, eat at a restaurant, buy takeaways, do some shopping or just stretch your legs. Restrooms at these facilities are well maintained and clean. Most (but not all) of these rest stops also have ATMs.
Fuel stations are full service with lead free petrol, lead replacement petrol and diesel available. Pump attendants will offer to wash your windscreen and check oil and water in addition to just filling up the car. There is no self service at fuel stations in South Africa!
It is usual to tip the attendant approximately R5 - if you don't have change filling up R195, for example, and let the attendant keep the change, it is a courteous idea. Most fuel stations are open 24 hours a day. Major chains include international chains Shell, Total, and Caltex (the last one is part of US oil giant Chevron), as well as domestic chains Engen and Sasol. Only the most remote or rural fuel stations are still cash only. If a fuel station is in a reasonably sized town (at least a few thousand people), you can safely assume that it will accept major credit cards. Thus, you do not need to carry large amounts of cash to pay for fuel, unless you are absolutely certain you will need to purchase fuel in a very remote area that does not yet support credit cards. Some portions of the national roads have limited access, dual carriage freeways (the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban is freeway almost all the way) and some sections are also toll roads with emergency assist telephones every couple of kilometres. Toll roads generally have two or more lanes in each direction. Some of the main roads have only one lane in each direction, especially where they are far from urban centres.
When driving on such a road, it is common that a truck or other slow-moving vehicle will politely move onto the hard shoulder (often marked by a yellow line) to let you pass. Once you have passed it is customary to flash your hazard lights once or twice. This is considered a “thank you” and you will very likely receive a “my pleasure” response in the form of the slow vehicle flashing its headlights once. Bear in mind that it is both illegal and dangerous to drive on the hard shoulder - although many people do.
In many rural areas, you will find unpaved "dirt" roads. Most of these are perfectly suitable for a normal car, although a reduced speed might often be advisable. Extra caution is required when driving on these roads, especially when encountering other traffic - windscreens and lights broken by flying stones are not uncommon. Often fences are broken or absent in these areas so it is advisable to be on the lookout for domestic and farm animals.
Whilst it is not compulsory, more and more drivers are adopting the practice of driving with their headlights on at all times. This greatly increases their visibility to other road users. The N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town and the N3 between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal can become very busy at the start and end of Gauteng school holidays, due to many people from Gauteng spending their holidays at the coast. If you are planning on using these two highways, it is wise to try and avoid the two days after schools break up and the two days before they open again.
The N3 normally has a Highway Customer Care line during busy periods, ☎ 0800 203 950, it can be used to request assistance for breakdowns, accidents or general route information. Current toll fees, road and traffic condition can also be found on the N3 website Should you be entering from one of the other countries in Southern Africa you might want to do so by car. To acquire a car in South Africa, there are basically three options: you can hire a car, buy one or use the so-called buy-back option. Hiring a car is fairly easy and bookings can be made online and in all major cities, although you can get better rates by calling some of the smaller operators. Buying a car takes a bit more work (Roadworthy license, registering the car, insurance), but there is a lively used car market in South Africa. The third option is a combination of both, as you buy a car with a guarantee that the rental company will buy-back your car at the end of the contract. Car Hire Renting a car in South Africa can range anywhere from US$15 per day and upwards of US$200 per day depending on the car group, location and availability. The major rental agencies are Avis, Hertz, Budget Car Hire, Europcar, Tempest Car Hire, Thrifty Car Rental, Dollar Rent A Car and http://www.exequecarrental.co.za/ Long Term Car Rental Most rental fleets in South Africa largely have manual transmissions and vehicles with automatic transmission are limited and tend to be much more expensive. Renting a vehicle with complete loss damage waiver (as is available in the United States) is expensive and hard to find; most agencies will provide only reduced waiver ceilings or waivers for certain types of damage such as to the glass and tires. If you plan to drive on dirt roads in South Africa, check with the rental agency about (1) whether that is authorized for the vehicle you intend to rent and (2) do your own research into whether the vehicle(s) offered are adequate for expected driving conditions. If however you don't have a driving licence or are uncomfortable with driving yourself around then you can hire a pre-booked taxi service or a chauffeur driver from the various service providers in this industry. www.wikitravel.org Cabs/Taxi’s Hail taxis are generally not available in South Africa; and to get a meter taxi you need to walk to a public rank or pre-book a private taxi service through a call centre which usually gives the price of your trip. Uber is a brand new addition to the South African landscape. www.wikitravel.org Rules of the Road Road traffic in South Africa (and its neighbouring countries) drives on the left hand side of the road. Make sure you familiarize yourself with and understand South African road signs. South Africa previously used an unusual system of road signs which combined American typefaces with English and German design elements. This was problematic as American typefaces were not designed to accommodate the long place names typical of Afrikaans. The result was that place names were often abbreviated or hyphenated and broken across two lines to fit on signs. Since 1994, South Africa has been implementing a system of road signs almost identical to Germany's system, with suitable modifications for local conditions (German, like Afrikaans, also has long place names). However, many of the older signs are still in use. A special kind of intersection is the 'four way stop' where the car that stops first has right of way. You will not encounter many traffic circles (roundabouts), but when you do, take special care since the general attitude of some South African drivers is that traffic circles do not constitute a traffic management roadway structure and they often treat them a four way stops. They do not use their turn indicators in a safe and predictable fashion, if at all. A noticeable number of South Africans tend to ignore speed limits. They are prone to selfish or aggressive driving behaviour, such as tailgating and hooting. On multi-lane roadways, the principle of keep-left, pass right, is often not adhered to. On two-lane roadways, cars often pass slower vehicles in the centre of the roadway despite oncoming traffic. Cars are expected to merge into the emergency lane as much as possible to permit passing down the centre, even in heavy traffic. Left (or right) turns on red at traffic lights are illegal. You will, however, find traffic lights and 'four way stops' that have an accompanying yield sign (or a flashing green arrow) explicitly permitting a left turn. The wearing of seat belts is compulsory. The front seat occupants of a car are required to wear seat belts while travelling, and for your own safety, it is recommended that those in the rear seats do so as well. If you are caught without that, you will be subjected to a fine. The use of hand-held cell (mobile) phones whilst in control of a vehicle is illegal. If you need to speak on your cell phone, use either a vehicle phone attachment or a hands-free kit. Or even better (and safer), pull off the road and stop. NOTE: only pull off the road at safe places, eg, a petrol station. Pulling over and stopping along roads can be dangerous. The majority of petrol stations are open 24/7. www.wikitravel.org
South Africans are generally polite, friendly and accommodating to tourists. Men generally greet with a handshake, which may be firm or gentle depending on culture, while women will do the continental kiss on the cheek. Public behaviour is very similar to what you might find in Europe. Heterosexual displays of affection in public are not frowned upon unless you overdo it. Homosexual displays of affection may generate unwelcome attention although they will be tolerated and respected in the more sophisticated and cosmopolitan areas of Johannesburg (Sandton, Rosebank and Parkhurst), Cape Town (Greenpoint, Clifton and De Waterkant) and Durban. South Africa is the first and only African nation where the government recognizes same-sex relationships and homosexual marriages are recognized by law. Except for the few designated beaches, nude sunbathing is illegal, although topless sunbathing for women is sometimes acceptable along Cape Town's Clifton and Camps Bay beaches. Thong bikinis for ladies and swimming trunks for men (speedos if you really must) are acceptable. Eating places are casual except when otherwise indicated. Eating is generally done the British way with the fork in their left hand and the tines pointed downward. Burgers, pizzas, bunny chows and any other fast foods are eaten by hand. It is generally also acceptable to steal a piece of boerewors from the braai with your hands. Depending on which cultural group you find yourself with, these rules might change. Indians often eat biryani dishes with their hands, a white person from British descent might insist on eating his pizza with a knife and fork or a black person might eat pap-and-stew with a spoon. Be adaptable, but don't be afraid to also do your own thing; South Africans are used to diversity. If your table manners are really unacceptable, people will generally tell you so rather than take offence. South Africans are proud of their country and what they have achieved. Although they themselves are quick to point out and complain to each other about the problems and shortcomings that still exist, they will likely defend it against any outsider doing so. One thing you need to understand is that South African people are very straight-forward. If you do or say something that offends a South African, they will tell you so, in a very straight-forward manner. So, you must not be offended if this happens, but just apologise and change the manner in which you do things so that you don't offend any other people. www.wikitravel.org
Make sure you have one blank page (two if you require a visa) and that your passport is valid for at least 30 days after your intended date of departure, or you will be sent back! Most international airlines that serve South Africa now check for these specific issues at check-in. They will not let you check-in or board your flight if your passport does not meet both of these strict requirements, because they know from painful experience that you will be summarily denied entry.
In addition, if you do not have a return ticket (knowing the reservation number is enough), you will need to pay a refundable deposit. Be wary of arriving with a damaged passport as new security measures might trip up your entry into the country.
South Africa requires a valid yellow fever certificate from all foreign visitors and citizens over one year of age travelling from an infected area or having been in transit through infected areas. Infected areas include Zambia and Angola in southern Africa.
The following nationalities do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less:
Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Portugal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania (90 days per 1 year), United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and citizens of British Overseas Territories.
The following nationalities do not need a visa for a stay of 30 days or less: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Gabon, Guyana, Hong Kong (BNO passports or SAR passports), Hungary, Jordan, Lesotho, Macau, Malaysia, Malawi, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Peru, Poland, Seychelles, Slovakia, South Korea, Swaziland, Thailand, Turkey, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Citizens of India have to apply for tourist visas but the visa is issued gratis. The same applies to South Africans visiting India. This is because of the reciprocity that India shares with a lot of countries like Argentina, Uruguay and Mongolia.
Make sure to apply for visas and visa extensions as early as possible. Also check their website for updated regulations as these do change from time to time.
Be warned. Do not show up without a visa if you are required to have one. Visas cannot and will not be issued at ports of entry.
If needed, you can extend your visa in South Africa. With an extension the total amount of time you are allowed to stay is 6 months.
Additional information as well as Visa application forms can be found at the Department of Home Affairs ☎ +27 12 810 8911.
Embassies and consulates
• Australia, 292 Orient St, Cnr Schoeman St, Arcadia, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 423-6000. High Commission
• Austria, 1109 Duncan St, Brooklyn, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 452-9155 (email@example.com). Embassy
• Belgium, 625 Leyds St, Muckleneuk, 0002 Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 440-3201 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Embassy
• Brazil, Block C, Hatfield Office Park, 1267 Pretorius St, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 426-9400 (email@example.com). Embassy
• Canada, 1103 Arcadia St, Hatfield, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 422-3000 (firstname.lastname@example.org). High Commission
• Germany, 180 Blackwood St, Arcadia, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 427-8900 (GermanEmbassyPretoria@gonet.co.za). Embassy
• Greece, 1003 Church St, Arcadia, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 430-7351 (email@example.com). Embassy
• India, 852 Schoeman St, Arcadia, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 342-5392 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Embassy
• Ireland, 2nd Floor, Parkdev Building, Brooklyn Bridge Office Park, 570 Fehrsen Street, Brooklyn 0181, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 452 1000 (email@example.com). Embassy
• Japan, 259 Baines St, Groenkloof, Pretoria (Cnr Frans Oerder St), ☎ +27 012 452-1500 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Embassy
• Netherlands, 210 Queen Wilhelmina Ave, Nieuw Muckleneuk, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 425-4500 (email@example.com). Embassy
• Portugal, 599 Leyds St, Muckleneuk, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 341-2340 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Embassy
• Russia, 316 Brooks Street, Menlo Park, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 362-1337/8 (email@example.com). Embassy
• United Kingdom, 255 Hill St, Arcadia, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 421-7500 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
• United States of America, 877 Pretorius St, Arcadia, Pretoria, ☎ +27 012 431-4000. Embassy If your country is not listed here, have a look at the list provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
• New Year's Day (1 January)
• Human Rights Day (21 March)
• Easter weekend (4-day long weekend in March/April) - Consisting of "Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday", and "Easter Monday", the dates are set according to the Western Christian tradition.
• Freedom Day (27 April)
• Workers Day (1 May)
• Youth Day (16 June)
• Woman's Day (9 August) • Heritage Day (24 September) • Day of Reconciliation (16 December) • Christmas Day (25 December) • Day of Goodwill (26 December) - Often referred to as 'Boxing Day'. If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, then the Monday following it will be a holiday School holidays occur early December to middle January, early in April, middle June to middle July and late September. Most South Africans go on leave during these times and accommodation will be harder to find and more expensive. www.wikitravel.org