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Tips for Driving in South Africa

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 26 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Driving South Africa Law Restrictions

South Africa can be a beautiful touring country, but it has it’s fair share of dangers for the uninitiated and uneducated driver. The overall standard of driving in South Africa can vary drastically and although the road conditions are generally good in built-up areas, there are still many fatal accidents every year. Before setting off learn as much as you can about local signals and road rules to help your trip go as safely as possible.

Essential Tips for Driving in South Africa

In order to drive legally in South Africa you must have your full UK licence. The minimum age to drive legally there is 18, so even if you’re 17 with your full UK licence, you won’t be able to drive in South Africa. The modern photo licence is accepted in South Africa, but you can also use an International Drivers Licence there. If you have the old style paper licence, you will need to have this authenticated by the Consular Section at the British High Commission or by the Consulate General located in Cape Town. Always remember that South Africa is also a left hand drive country, so for most people from the UK, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get used to manoeuvring your way around. It is illegal to use your mobile phone while driving in South Africa unless you’re using a hands free kit.

Parking and Avoiding Danger

Parking in South Africa is very strict and must your car must always have the front facing the direction of the traffic. This means you should be parking on the nearside of the road and if you don’t, you might find yourself with a fine or worse. Many rural roads aren’t of a very high standard and will often be poorly lit and maintained. If you’re planning to go out alone at night on unknown roads, think again. It can be dangerous and it’s definitely worth waiting until you know the roads better or have someone with you who does.

Thieves have been known to develop ways to get people to stop in their cars at night so that they can rob them. One of these is by putting large stones in the middle of the road, so if you do notice this, drive around it slowly rather than stopping altogether.

Seatbelts are obligatory and should be worn by all passengers. If you’re caught without your seatbelt, you’ll be subject to a fine and will often be expected to pay it there and then. Children aren’t allowed to sit in the front of the car if they are under the age of 12 and you can also be given a fine if you break this rule. There are a number of tolls in South Africa so it’s worth keeping some loose change in local currency on you at all times.

Speeding Laws in South Africa

There are strict speeding limits in South Africa that should be adhered to at all times. Speed limits tend to vary, even on similar stretches of road, so always try and stay aware of any changes. You can be fined or suffer more dire consequences if you are caught speeding. Locals will often be seen breaking the speed limit, but you must try and remain in control and don’t be dragged into feeling that you’re travelling too slowly. The general speed limits are:

  • Motorways – 120 km/h
  • Open Roads – 100 km/h
  • Built-up Areas – 60 km/h

If you’re involved in an accident or witness and accident in South Africa, you can dial the emergency services on 112 from your mobile phone. If you don’t have access to a mobile, you can dial the police on 10111 or the ambulance service on 10117.

Road Rules in South Africa

South African driving laws are strict, but often driving licences and vehicle maintenance aren’t to the same standard as in the UK. When approaching roundabouts, always remember that those approaching from the right have right of way. You shouldn’t proceed until there are no vehicles at all approaching from the right as often they’ll continue straight through the roundabout expecting you to slow for them. There are also some other important South African road tips to consider before driving there:

  • South Africa traffic lights are usually called ‘robots’
  • Be careful at lights if they’re on green. Some people will red light jump, so check for other traffic before moving off
  • A flashing red arrow on the left means that you’re able to turn in that direction, as long as there is no other traffic on the road
  • A continuous red (or green) arrow is telling you that you can proceed with caution in that direction
  • Petrol stations are generally open 24 hours, but mainly around the major cities. Leaded petrol is still available in South Africa
  • You must pay for petrol with cash, they don’t accept cards
  • Overtaking can occur in any lane on a highway, even the hard shoulder
  • Trucks or slow moving vehicles will often pull onto the hard shoulder to let you get passed – a customary flash of your lights is a friendly gesture should this occur.

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The GB has reciprocal exchange agreements with around 15 designated countries and South Africa is one of those. Direct Gov says: If you are a resident in GB and provided your full licence remains valid, you can drive small vehicles for 12 months from the time you became resident. To ensure continuous driving entitlement, you must exchange your licence for a GB one before the 12 months end. If you do not do this you must stop driving although you may apply to exchange your licence at any time within five years of becoming resident.
AboutDrivingAbroad - 15-Mar-11 @ 9:52 AM
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