Destination Guide: Self Drive in South Africa

If you intend to cover South Africa on a free and easy trip, I think it is necessary to drive or travel with someone who is able to drive. South Africa is huge such that it took hours to drive from one point to another which looked rather close on the map. By now, you could probably tell that I’m not quite a map reader and have no idea about map scale.

The trusty white Honda Ballade at Bontebok National Park
The trusty white Honda Ballade at Bontebok National Park

In one and a half weeks, we were only able to cover Cape Town and Western Cape, including some of the key points along the Garden Route. Eastern Cape would have to be saved for another trip.

Introduction: Scenic points along the routes

In Cape Town, one of the best scenic drives is the Cape Peninsula Route that covers Fish Hoek, Chapman’s Peak, Cape Point, Simon’s Town and Muizenberg Beach. This driving route took a whole day to complete. Do set off early if you intend to have a leisurely drive on this route and catch most of the sights before sunset.

The drive takes longer if you intend to discover some quiet beach such as the Llandudno Beach.
The drive would take longer if you intend to discover some quiet beaches along the way such as the Llandudno Beach.
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Street stalls at Hout Bay
The Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope
Keep your eyes peeled while inside Table Mountain National Park when driving towards Cape Point. You might spot some animals!
Keep your eyes peeled while inside Table Mountain National Park when driving towards Cape Point. You might spot some animals!
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Boulders Beach where there is a huge penguin colony.
Thankful to be able to reach Muizenberg Beach before the sun set!
Thankful to be able to reach Muizenberg Beach before the sun set!

From Cape Town, we drove towards the East to Hermanus for some whale watching, and then towards Knysna. If you are interested to check out more animals along the route, you should not miss out Betty’s Bay and Oudshoorn.

Scenic point towards Hermanus
Scenic point towards Hermanus
Self Drive in South Africa
Whale watching in Hermanus
Betty's Bay
Betty’s Bay
If you are expecting a colony, you get a colony.
If you are expecting a colony, you get a colony.
We made a detour to Cape Agulhas, the southern most tip of African continent for a Kodak moment.
We made a detour to Cape Agulhas, the southern most tip of African continent for a Kodak moment. This is the point where Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean (or vice versa).
Enroute to Kynsna, we stoopped by Oudshoorn to check out the Ostrich Farm.
Enroute to Kynsna, we stoopped by Oudshoorn to check out the Ostrich Farm.

Preparation prior to the trip

  • We booked our trip through Go2Africa where they helped with transfers, car booking and accommodation bookings. You could seek their advice on itinerary planning if you have a clear idea on the places you would like to cover. Go2Africa is especially great if you have domestic flights to catch during your trip. In the event of flight misconnections – which is frequent for South African Airways – they are able to find a solution quick enough for you.
  • Go2Africa has a preferred list of hotels or bed & breakfasts that they have accredited. You could pick and choose from their list of accommodations based on your budget. The places that I stayed at during the trip were very good by my standards.
  • Remember to include a GPS in your car booking, unless you are such an expert in map reading or you are assured of trusty data connection. The 3G didn’t quite work well in some of the mountainous areas during the drive.

Tips on driving in South Africa

Some might comment that it is not safe to drive in South Africa. Our experience in the Cape was pretty smooth – although I did not drive in Johannesburg and would not be able to comment about safety on Joburg’s roads.

Our Honda Ballade again - this time near Chapman's Peak.
Our Honda Ballade again – this time near Chapman’s Peak.
  • Exercise some common sense while driving on the road – do not stop and get out of the car by the road or at the side of the expressway.
  • Do not stop for any hitch hikers.
  • If you have luggage in the boot, make sure you do not open the car boot in public. You would not want to attract unnecessary attention that you are a tourist on the go!
  • If you are driving at a comfortable speed and noticed that a vehicle behind you is tailing you quite closely, slide to the leftmost lane to allow the vehicle behind to overtake you.
  • Take note of the speed cameras – the GPS gives advance warning on them. Make sure you adhere to the speed limit or you will be slapped with a fine (or two) for speeding – and will probably only know about it when the car rental company bills you.
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On the road

I would highly recommend you go for the self-drive route if you are traveling to South Africa as it would allow you to stop by scenic points with ease. If you would like to find out about our itinerary, feel free to leave a comment with your contact details.

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