Guide to Driving In South Africa - Drive Safe in South Africa

Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in South Africa?

Driving is on the left with right hand side drive vehicles. Roads are generally good and you may not necessarily need a four wheel drive. You may find yourself driving very long distances in South Africa so make sure you stop frequently as fatigue is the main cause of road accidents. Also refuel regularly as in the country, fuel stations are few and far between.

The Automobile Association of South Africa is the best source of up to date road information.
 

Driving Laws

Seat Belt Laws

You must wear a seatlbelt whether you are in the front or rear of the car. Fines are imposed for non-compliance. The law helps to reduce the huge death toll on South Africa's roads so please follow it.  

Drinking and Driving

The legal limit is 50mg per 100ml of blood which is less than in the UK. This means that one drink is enough to take you over the limit. Given that and the high accident rate in South Africa, we'd recommend that you don't drink and drive.

If you fail a breath test and subsequent blood test you will be fined, have your licence withdrawn and will face a court case and possible sentencing so it's just not worth it.

Must Have Documents

EU drivers should be fine with their photo licences as long as there's a translation into English but some car hire companies require you to have an international driver's licence, check when you book.

Speed Limits

  • 60km/h in built up areas
  • 100km/h on secondary roads
  • 120km/h on major routes such as urban freeways and national highways.
Always remain aware of potential obstructions on the road, especially at night, and reduce your speed accordingly.

Minimum Driving Age

You can drive from the age of 18 in South Africa but car hire companies will require you to be anything up to 25 before renting a vehicle. Below that age you may find you'll have to pay a daily excess because of your age.

Safety Camera Warning Devices

It's not illegal to have safety camera warning devices in South Africa but the speed limits are there for a reason - don't become another statistic!

On the Spot Fines

On the spot fines mean that you are given a ticket by the police officer which you then have to pay, either at a bank or at a police station within a certain amount of time - usually 14 days. Fines are never demanded in cash on the spot so if one is requested, ask to pay it through the proper channels or get a receipt. 

Being caught on speed camera when in a hire car means the car hire company will deduct the cost plus an admin fee from your credit card. 

Child Safety Rules

Children must not sit in the front of a car without a suitable restraint system. Up to three years old they can sit in a rear facing child seat where the airbag is disabled. Up to twelve years old they must sit in the rear of the car with an appropriate booster seat. 

Ask when booking for a suitable system to be included when you collect your hire car.

Insurance

A minimum of third party insurance is required in South Africa. It's useful to carry the documentation with you as proof should you be asked for it. 

Rules of the Road

There are some anomalies to driving in South Africa that you need to be aware of:

South Africa has four way stop signs where the first car to arrive at the junction has right of way. You should come to a complete stop before you proceed.

Towing Regulations

There are no specific regulations for towing in South Africa but, given the number of accidents caused by reckless driving, it's sensible to use hazard lights and a sign indicating that you are on tow.

Speed Cameras

Speed cameras, both fixed and mobile, are prevalent in South Africa and there are also many cameras on traffic lights to catch those jumping red lights.

Using Mobile Phones when driving

You can only use a mobile phone with a hands free kit in South Africa and you'll face a fixed penalty charge if caught. 

Parking

Parking regulations
 
You must always park facing the same direction as the traffic. You cannot park on a yellow line nor stop or park on a red line. You mustn't park on the pavement nor within five metres of a junction or intersection.
 
Paid parking
 
There is limited free parking in any of the cities and invariably you'll find you have to park on a meter or in a garage. Parking rates are reasonable so in most cases there's not too much point driving around looking for free spaces. 
 
Enforcement
 
There are parking officers and traffic wardens in South Africa. First you will get a parking ticket and if you don't move your car within a reasonable time, you'll have it clamped or towed away. As well as paying the towing fee and fine you'll also pay a release fee and a 'pound' rate for holding your car.
 
Disabled parking
 
Whilst there's no reason why they shouldn't, it's unlikely you'll find that your home country's disability parking badge will be accepted in South Africa. The country has its own scheme but even then doesn't always accept badges from neighbouring authorities.

Motor Way Signs

Motorway signs are blue and the roads are prefixed with N or R.

Motorway Sign in South Africa

Phrases

Traffic lights – Robots
Rand – South African currency
Heita - Hello
Dirt roads – Usually safe to drive on at a reduced speed.
Garage card - For buying fuel, otherwise its cash only.
A small hill - Koppie
Phone call – Tinkle
I have broken down - My motor het gebreuk
Where is the police station? - Waar is die polisiestasie? 
I have a flat tyre - Ek het 'n pap band 
I have been in an accident - Ek was in 'n ongeluk
Where is? - Waar is?
Where can I buy petrol? - Waar Kan ek petrol koop?  
 

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights are slightly different in South Africa. Amber lights are used only on the change from green to red and mean you should stop if safe to do so. Flashing red means that the lights are out of order and you should proceed with caution. At traffic lights a flashing green arrow means to proceed. A flashing red arrow means you can proceed if no other cars are approaching. Left or right turns at traffic lights that are red are illegal

Be careful at traffic lights at night as there are sometimes car-jackings. Leave enough room between you and the car in front so that you don't get boxed in by car jackers. If driving at night have your windows rolled up and your door locked. 

Toll Roads

There are many toll roads in South Africa and almost all operate with card or cash payments at booths as you leave the toll section. The exception is Gauteng where you can purchase prepaid tickets for periods of one day or longer. 

Emergency

The number is 10111 for police and fire services and 10177 for medical services. If you break down use the number given to you by your car hire company 

The British Embassy is located at 255 Hill Street, Arcadia, Pretoria and has the phone number 27 012 421-7500.

The American Embassy is located at 877 Pretorius Street, Arcadia, Pretoria and has the phone number 27 012 431-4000. The emergency medical company Netcare can be called on 082911.

Emergency SOS Phone Booth in South Africa

What to do in an emergency

To avoid potential emergencies, do not pick up hitch hikers or offer assistance to broken down vehicles. Always leave your car parked in a safe and well lit spot. You may want to consult local knowledge about some areas which are best avoided.

Driving at night you should always be aware that there may be vehicles on the road without proper lights such as bicycles.

Animals in the road are also something to watch out for and these can vary from domestic animals like cows to wild animals such as baboons and antelope. If someone is leading animals across the road and request you to stop you must do so. Do not ever try to feed wild animals.

The following advice is only recommended and not statutory. If you have a warning triangle, display it 30m from the scene of the emergency. Move all people to the side of the road and call the emergency services. Don't move any of the vehicles until the police arrive. Take photographs of the scene plus any injuries where possible.If you are involved in the accident don’t move your car till the police arrive. Turn on your hazard lights. 

Fuel Costs

As of May 2014, the price of unleaded petrol 95 octane in South Africa is 73p a litre whilst diesel is 77p
 

Comments

Raleigh
One thing about the speed limits; I think you wanna say kmh since kms is more like an astronomic speed.
6/29/2010 3:30:32 PM
Colin Nelson
I am from South Africa. The following phrases are not correct. I have restructure it: I have broken down - My motor het gebreuk I have been in an accident - Ek was in 'n ongeluk Where can I buy petrol? - Waar kan ek petrol koop?  
9/2/2017 3:19:08 AM

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Hiring a Car

With our Drive Smart guide you're fully prepared to hire a car in South Africa and stay safe on unfamiliar roads.