Road travel in South Africa

Road travel in South Africa

South Africa has an extensive and well-signposted road network comprising some 200 000 kilometers (124,280 miles) of national and provincial highways. Surfaces are generally in very good condition, though the going can be a bit rugged in the remoter and hillier country areas.


Driver’s License
Drivers are compelled by law to carry their Driver’s Licenses on them at all times when driving. Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland licenses are valid in South Africa. So too are other foreign licenses, provided they carry a photograph and are either printed in English or accompanied by an English-language certificate of authenticity. Alternatively, an International Driving Permit should be obtained before departure.



Motor vehicles drive on the left side of the road. The general speed limit on national highways, urban freeways and other major routes is 120 km/h (75 mph), that on secondary (rural) roads is 100 km/h (60 mph), and in built-up areas 60 km/h (35 mph) unless otherwise indicated. Note that in South Africa, a set of traffic lights is referred to as “robots”.

Main roads are identified by colour and number rather than by name. Using a good map (one which incorporates the route marker system), the visitor should have little difficulty in finding his or her way around city and country.

Road Signs In Afrikaans
Words to watch out for are:

  • Links = Left
  • Regs = Right
  • Stad = City
  • Lughawe = Airport
  • Straat = Street
  • Weg = Road
  • Rylaan = Avenue
  • Hou = Keep
  • Slegs = Only
  • Verkeer = Traffic
  • Oop = Open
  • Gesluit = Closed
  • Gevaar = Danger (Beware Hazard)
  • Verbode = Forbidden, Prohibited
  • Ompad = Detour
  • Tuin = Garden
  • Wildtuin = Game Reserve
  • Strand = Beach
  • Hawe = Harbour
  • Polisie = Police

Third party Insurance
Your motor vehicle must be covered by a Third Party Insurance policy; if you’re hiring a car, the rental firm will make the appropriate arrangements; for overland visitors, insurance tokens are available at Beit Bridge and other major border control posts.

Excellent regional and city maps are available from Satour, the Automobile Association, from major book stores and airport kiosks. Recommended are those in the Map Studio series.


Cities, towns and main routes are very well served by filling stations. Many of these stay open 24 hours a day, others from 06:00 to 18:00. Pump attendants see to your fuel and other needs, both unleaded and lead replacement as well as diesel fuel is available.

Automobile Association
The Automobile Association (AA) is the country’s biggest motoring club, and provides a wide range of services, including assistance with breakdowns and other emergencies, accommodation reservations and advice on touring, caravanning, camping, places of interest, insurance and car hire. Maps and brochures are available. These services are offered to visitors who belong to the AA or any affiliated motoring organization.


Coach Travel
Luxury coach services link the major centres (Greyhound, Intercape Ferreira, Translux, Trancity); tour operators spread the network wider, taking in game parks, scenic attractions and other tourist venues.