As South Africans we love to road trip across the country – discovering tiny towns, unexplored hiking trails and deserted beaches along the way!
Though there is the odd pothole or two large enough to just about swallow your vehicle whole in some parts of the country, the majority of South Africa’s national road infrastructure is excellent, especially when compared to a number of other popular tourist destinations, and especially those situated in southern Africa.
SA has miles upon miles of well tarred open roads with spectacular rolling landscapes and interesting towns dotting the map making it an epic country to explore by road.
Read on below for some top tips to make your next road trip with friends or family go as smoothly as the roads you’re about to hit.
7 Tips For Planning Your Next Road Trip in South Africa
You probably don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere especially if you have to drive at night or you have children with you. Make sure your car is up for the journey before said journey ever begins. For the ultimate peace of mind and ease of travel, have a service done and get a car insurance quote well in advance of the festive season or long weekend you’re looking forward to.
2. Drive Carefully
So we’ve already established that, barring a few potholes here and there, SA’s freeways are relatively unproblematic. The same cannot be said about SA’s drivers. From the flagrant flouting of the rules of the road to reckless speeding, road accidents claim thousands of lives every year.
But even though the situation may seem lawless at times, most people get to where they’re going without incident by doing their bit. They resist the distractions of cell phones by going hands-free or getting a co-pilot to assist with GPS, and they avoid eating meals while driving unless they’re at rest stops or petrol stations.
Spontaneity is all good and well, and it is definitely one of the benefits of doing a road trip, but if you’re travelling during a peak period you’re going to need to pre-book accommodation in popular spots. And if you’ve pre-booked tours or events, always add some time to your ETA for toilet breaks, leg stretches and traffic to ensure you arrive timeously.
Carry cash for vendors who don’t take cards. Carry a paper map in case there’s no signal. Make sure to have your power bank and charging cables to keep necessary devices juiced. Remember that the main highways are the better roads. Stick to them as far as possible even when you feel the lure of the road less travelled, especially if you’re not driving a 4×4. A shortcut on the map may take you longer if you factor in the potholes on back roads.
If you’re travelling solo or with grown-up company, a playlist is practically mandatory. If you’re too lazy to compile your own, there are apps that can help you with that. Throw in some South African jams for flavour.
If, however, you’re travelling with kids who’ve grown up with technology, you’ve got to be on top of the entertainment situation or you might go bananas before you and the family ever get to see Cape Town’s baboons.
Think about what you and/or your travelling companions want out of this trip and plan a route that helps make that happen. SA caters for everybody – the nature enthusiasts, the foodies, the culture vultures and the adrenaline junkies.
We advise doing energy-intensive things at the beginning of your journey and then doing relaxing things towards the end as far as possible. This way, you’ll feel fine at the end of your drive instead of totally knackered.
6. Appropriate Gear
From waterproof zip-ups to sun protection, be prepared for different kinds of weather.
We’re not saying carry your whole cupboard. Just make sure that you’re equipped for car comfort. Carry insect repellant so there won’t be too much scratching and irritation in the car. Keep some microbead pillows in the back for comfortable sleep.
Are you even on a South African road trip if there’s no padkos? Some of our favourites are biltong, chips, fruit, nuts, sandwiches, and samoosas. Build a stash and pace yourself. Replenish at pit stops if need be. Getting the right balance is key – too much sugar spells potential chaos. Too little, and ‘hanger’ might put a dampener on proceedings.
South Africa is a veritable road-tripper’s dream and by following these road trip tips, you’ll be to have a “lekker” time.