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Road trip along Chapman's Peak Drive in Cape Town

Top Tips for Road-Tripping Around South Africa

So, you’ve decided to, or at the very least you are thinking about, going on a once in a lifetime road trip around South Africa. You definitely won’t regret it!

From the beautiful beaches to the lush green mountain scenery, to the awe-inspiring safaris, there is so much to do and explore in this diverse and vibrant country, and a road trip is an ideal way to take it all in.

However, if you have not been to Africa’s second-largest country before, the thought of driving across it by car can be a little scary, to say the least.

Thankfully, there are ways in which you can make sure you have an unforgettable trip while still ensuring that you remain safe at all times.

Keep reading to find out the top five tips for road-tripping around South Africa and you’ll be on your way to the biggest adventure of your life before you know it!

Don’t go overboard with planning

If you are a fan of itineraries then this may be difficult for you, but South Africa is one of those countries where it is better to just take each day as it comes rather than plan everything down to the last detail.

One of the main reasons for this is because the locals are so incredibly friendly and helpful. They will be more than willing to share their regional hidden gems and areas of natural beauty that are outside the usual ‘touristy’ hotspots.

If you want a real taste of South Africa, an authentic travel experience, then just go with the flow and see where each day takes you. Although, you will not want to miss out on recording the best moments of your trip, so make sure that you have all the relevant tech and devices in order to do so. These may include:

  • Laptop and charger
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Camera with extra batteries, memory cards or hard drives
  • Portable charges and cables
  • Converters and cables.

Be vigilant and stay safe

Depending on where you want to travel to in South Africa, you need to make sure that you stay as safe as possible at all times. Certain areas of the big cities, such as Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban can be a bit scary; therefore you should avoid the more deprived neighbourhoods in these areas and focus your stay on a more reputable part of the town.

Once you go outside the big cities to more rural areas, you are generally much less likely to experience any crime, and as long as you follow the advice of the locals on how to stay safe, you should be able to enjoy your trip without any worries.

Top tips for staying safe in South Africa include:

  • Not driving at night
  • Keeping your car doors locked at all times
  • Not leaving valuable belongings visible in your vehicle
  • Not pulling over for anyone
  • Keeping your windows closed when driving through busy cities
  • Looking for a car guard (unofficial) when parking up in cities, but be sure to tip them appropriately
  • Not walking around alone at night in the major cities
  • Being extra vigilant of pickpockets, especially at night and on the weekends.

Pack for all-weather

If you are planning to explore as much as South Africa as you can during your vacation, then you should expect to be faced with a variety of different weather conditions. Yes, this country is known for its sunshine, but it is also known for its temperamental weather.

For example, there are certain towns such as the stunning Hogsback, which can be found in the centre of the Eastern Cape Province, where snow sometimes falls in winter at higher elevations. Then there are other areas where it can be sunny one minute and freezing cold the next.

It is better to be prepared than to get caught out in the middle of a thunderstorm with no waterproofs.

Make sure you drive safely

South Africa is a vast country and the distance between gas stations can sometimes be quite far, so it is important that you don’t let yourself run too low on fuel in your RV rental or you risk becoming stranded in the middle of nowhere.

It is also advisable not to drive after dark as many of the rural roads are unlit and often have people, not to mention local wildlife, walking across the roads at all hours of the night. Potholes are also common so look out for these to avoid unnecessary damage to your vehicle.  

Speeding is a big no-no, with this country being known for its abundance of speed traps and radars so stick to the speed limit at all times.

Look after your health

Depending on which parts of the country you plan to travel through, it is advisable to have the recommended vaccinations before you travel to South Africa, including Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, typhoid and cholera, but you also need to make sure that you continue to look after your health once you arrive.

You should always ensure that you have a first aid kit to hand in your vehicle for any minor injuries or illnesses that you may incur, which should include:

  • Any prescription medications you take
  • Malaria prophylaxis (Limpopo and Nothern KwaZulu-Natal)
  • Prescription antibiotics in case you are far away from medical assistance
  • Antidiarrheal medication
  • Rehydration salts
  • Antibacterial medicines
  • Antihistamines
  • Pain killers
  • Basic first aid items such as plasters, bandages, scissors, etc.

Although mosquitos are not that prevalent in South Africa, the ones they do have are fast and ferocious, biting repeatedly in one sitting. Therefore, it is a good idea to pick up a plug-in mosquito repellent or two for your journey.

Finally, the sun is a big thing you must be wary of. Getting sunburnt, or worse, experiencing sunstroke while on your vacation is a horrible experience, and the South African sun can be incredibly harsh, especially in the summer months. Avoid ruining your road trip with a nasty case of sunburn by ensuring that you wear sunscreen at all times, whatever time of year you are visiting this subtropical country.

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