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Driving in South Africa

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On moving to South Africa, travelling will undoubtedly be part of your everyday life. If you do not wish to use public transport, you may probably want to drive, provided you have a valid driver's licence. In general, foreign nationals are allowed to drive in the country with their original driver's licence provided it contains a passport-size identity photo and it is accompanied by an English translation. The international driver's licence is also recognised by local authorities.

In case you have not been able to translate your original driver's licence before moving, you can still hire an accredited translator once there.

South Africa's road infrastructure

In general, most South African main roads are in good condition. However, you are likely to come across dirt roads or asphalted roads with potholes and which are prone to landslides. Beware, also, of sharp bends without any road signs. In general, driving in South Africa seems straightforward enough and road quality will vary from one municipal district to another.

Toll roads

Toll generally applies to roads linking the major cities to one another. Rates vary between R10 and R200 and can be paid either in cash or via bank cards. There are usually free alternatives, albeit much longer routes.

The South African Highway Code

In South Africa, you will be driving on the left side of the road as the steering wheel is found on the right side, as is the case in England. Driving can seem quite tricky at first, especially when you come across junctions without traffic lights. In this case, priority goes to the car that arrives first.

With regards to road markings, continuous yellow lines indicate that parking is prohibited, while red lines indicate that no stopping at all is allowed. Most traffic signs are in English, along with one or more local languages.

Speed limits generally vary from one road to another. The speed limit is 60 km/h in cities (80 km/h in some ares) and 120 km/h on national roads. Speed cameras are used frequently, but you are likely to come across these in major cities and their peripheries.

Finally, a maximum of 0.5 mg of alcohol in blood is the legal limits in South Africa, and the use of mobile phones is strictly prohibited. The authorities have taken a zero tolerance approach to drinking and driving, which has been a boost to the taxi industry.

Behaviour

First of all, you are advised to be very vigilant or to avoid driving at night, especially in rural and poorly lit areas where you are likely to come across pedestrians and animals on the road.

On the other hand, the use of hazard lights and headlight flash is almost part of road courtesy. In fact, drivers generally communicate through these signs. A driver will generally switch on his vehicle's hazard light to thank another driver. Flashing the headlight usually means giving way or indicating danger ahead.

Roundabouts are also treaded differently in South Africa. Small roundabouts are often, incorrectly, treated as four-way stops where the first one to arrive has right-of-way. This can be confusing and a little dangerous because you don’t know how the locals treat their roundabout. In major cities, roundabouts are used as anywhere else, except that indicate where you intend to leave the roundabout – thereby warning waiting traffic that you will either be passing them to get to your exit, or you’ll leave at the next exit, and that they are free to enter.

 Useful links:

Arrive Alive – Road safety
Converting your licence to a South African licence

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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