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You may not have even considered renting a car if it’s your first time in South Africa – especially if it’s also your first time travelling to Southern Africa. But don’t write it off, even if you’ve never driven abroad before. It’s surprisingly easy (and enjoyable) to self drive South Africa.
I would always choose self driving South Africa over an overland tour, unless I was travelling solo. While I know I’d still enjoy a solo road trip in South Africa, I’m a social traveller and I’d simply rather travel with company. If you’re more introverted than I am, chances are you’d enjoy a solo self drive trip to South Africa even more!
Here’s why you should consider self driving South Africa:
#1 – You’ll have the freedom to go where you like
South Africa is one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world, so much so that it often feels like you’re driving through a painting. The landscapes are simply breathtaking. Having your own wheels means you can take whichever road you fancy, and follow the landscapes you love most – and stop when you want to take photos!
#2 – It’s easy to rent a car
All the main car rental companies have offices across South Africa, so you’ll have no trouble finding a name you trust. From Europcar to Avis, most companies have offices at the main airports, in major cities and scattered across the country in-between.
If you plan to begin your trip in one city and end in another, you should be able to do so for a small one-way fee. If not, you’ll just need your driving license and passport. Since South Africa is an English-speaking country, you don’t even need an international driving permit.
#3 – It’s surprisingly affordable
Renting a car in South Africa can be much cheaper than other countries. A manual car will only set you back around $400 (£300) per month, while an automatic or 4×4 will be about double the amount. You can get around South Africa just fine with a manual, but you might need a 4×4 if you want to tackle some of the lesser known roads in parks such as Karoo or Khalaghadi.
Wherever you plan to go, it’s always a good idea to get the full insurance on a rental car in South Africa. Four wheel drives usually include full insurance in the price (hence why it’s a little pricier!) but double check with the rental car company before you drive away.
While I felt safe in South Africa, our car was broken into after we left our tent and sleeping bags inside overnight so it was lucky we had insurance. The rental company came and replaced the vehicle instantly. And of course it goes without saying that you should always have adequate travel insurance!
Have you got insurance?
Even though you hope you’ll never need to use it, travelling with insurance will make sure you’re covered if anything goes wrong. I use World Nomads because it’s the most comprehensive cover I’ve found – they even cover the more adventurous activities that other insurers won’t. Find out more about them in this post or get a quote right here:
#4 – It adds to the adventure
Some countries are just better travelled by road, and South Africa – much like neighbouring Namibia – is one of them.
Driving through South Africa feels wild, open and free. There’s just something about South Africa in general that makes you feel alive and carefree, and having the freedom to drive yourself only adds to that feeling.
#5 – You can sleep in your car (if you want to!)
If you want to go on a super affordable safari, self driving is the way to go. We decided to buy a tent and camping gear for most of our South Africa road trip, but you can also rent a car with a built-in pop-up tent. While it will cost a little more for the car rental, it’ll save you the cost of camping supplies and save you time buying them too. And with camping fees rarely costing more than £20 per night, you’ll have little costs to deal with afterwards.
First time going on safari? Make sure you have everything you need (and leave behind the things you don’t) with this African safari packing list.
#6 – The roads are fairly quiet
Even if you’re not a particularly confident driver, there’s no reason to fear driving in South Africa. In fact, it may be the best country in the world for first time drivers abroad.
South Africa’s roads are, generally speaking, pretty quiet. They’re much wider than roads in the UK, and the majority of drivers in South Africa are considerate and careful drivers. Stick to the rules and you shouldn’t have a problem. Unlike some countries, where driving is a chore, driving in South Africa is (for the most part) an enjoyable experience.
#7 – You can take safaris at your own pace
If you’re a fellow photographer, you might want to self drive South Africa for this reason alone! Having your own wheels in the national parks means you can take safaris at your own pace. You won’t be stuck with schedule drive times, won’t have to go home because your two hours are up and can stay out for eight hours or more straight looking for leopards if you so wish. Yes, we did do that one day.
Gates generally open 30 minutes before sunrise and close 30 minutes after sunset, so you have plenty of time to explore as you please. The only kind of safari you won’t be able to do in your own car is a night safari, but this can always be booked on-site. And it’s much less stressful checking into camp when you don’t have to worry about game drive availability!
Before you go…
Stay connected wherever you go with SkyRoam pocket WiFi. This handy little device will give you unlimited data for your trip to South Africa, so you’ll never be without maps, emails and a way to contact home.
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