Careful Car Hire in South Africa: 15 Drive Safe Tips
It’s no secret that South Africa has a reputation for high crime levels, but don’t let that put you off driving in the country because, if you abandon your South African car hire plans, you will be missing out on one of the experiences of a lifetime. As long as you take a few sensible precautions, your travels in South Africa will be memorable for all the right reasons.
- Never travel without your driving licence.
- Don’t exceed the speed limit (120 km/h for national roads and freeways, 100 km/h for secondary roads, and 60 km/h for built-up areas). Speed cameras and traffic police are all over the place. If you do receive a speeding fine, don’t think you can get away with not paying it: Your car rental company will pay the fine, and then they will charge that sum – plus a heft administration fee – to your credit card.
- Keep all the doors locked while driving.
- If you are in a remote, run-down, or poorly lit area, keep your windows rolled up, and if you have to open the windows, make sure that a hand could not fit through the opening.
- Don’t leave your belongings where they can be seen. Even bags on the floor can be spotted and snatched through a broken window.
- When stopped at intersections or traffic lights, watch your mirrors for opportunists sneaking up to rob your car. If someone does try to rob you, do not challenge them. Crime in South Africa is often violent, and most criminals are armed with some kind of weapon.
- Don’t head off without a pre-arranged route, and check with hotel staff or police to ensure the areas you plan to visit are safe. If they advise against certain areas, heed the recommendation.
- Never pick up hitchhikers.
- Given the risks posed by animals, poor secondary roads, and car theft, it makes sense to take out the maximum insurance when arranging your car hire in South Africa.
- If your car breaks down, or you are involved in an accident, remain in the car. Pull over as far as you can, switch on your hazard lights, and wait inside the car with the doors locked. Ring the police on 112 or, if you need a tow truck, call the number provided by your car hire company. You should find this information in the glove box (which South Africans call a “cubby hole”) or on the key ring.
- Contact the police after even the most minor accident or incident. Take photos with your phone, and contact your rental company.
- Resist the urge to help someone else broken down or involved in an accident. A passenger should call the police and advise them of the incident.
- Don’t let somebody wash your windscreen when you’re stopped in traffic. If not stopped instantly, they may become abusive or even damage your car if you refuse to pay. This kind of windscreen-washing is illegal in South Africa, so you may be held responsible as the customer if you decide to avail of the service.
- Even if beggars appear genuine, don’t give them money. Some are opportunists or even trafficked children. Donate food or bottled water or contribute to one of the established charities for street children.
- South Africans generally slow rather than stop when when approaching an intersection at night. If there is no traffic, continue if safe to do so, as waiting alone at intersections after dark is dangerous.