Top Tips for a South Africa Road Trip

A dirt road on a hill in South Africa.

South Africa is an incredible country, with countless adventures, stunning sights, and fascinating places to explore. Renting a car is simply the best option for travelling in South Africa; it’s surprisingly cheap, safer than many people think, and it allows for exploration of areas that may not be accessible by public transport. So get planning your South Africa road trip!

Two cheetahs crossing a dirt road on a South African road trip.
A cheetah traffic jam in Kruger. Image credit: Ailish Casey

Car Rental Tips

Shop around for the best deal. Some companies offer cheap rates, but have a limit on miles per day. Also, some have hefty one way fees and additional driver charges.

Share your car. Pairing up with other travellers means splitting the cost of car hire and petrol during your South Africa road trip. Not to mention making new friends!

A dirt road on a hill in South Africa.
Exploring a South African village near Coffee Bay. Image credit: Ailish Casey

Route Tips

Take your time on the garden route. This is a very popular South Africa road trip, and, as it is just 300km long, it’s tempting to whizz through. But there’s lots to see and do on this fascinating coastal route, so plan enough time to include beach visits, animal encounters, wine tasting, and exploring the surrounding areas.

A group of penguins standing on the beach during a South Africa road trip.
A colony of penguins along the garden route. Image credit: Ailish Casey


Include a safari. You can drive through many of South Africa’s national parks, without the need for a guide or a tour. Simply pick a park, drive to the entrance, pay your fee, and follow the roads through the park. You’ll likely spot a wide range of South Africa’s animals right outside your car window!

Get off the beaten track. Though you’ll undoubtedly want to see all of the highlights, there are plenty of hidden treasures to be found, too. So be sure to leave yourself time to explore this wonderful country.

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A man on a South Africa road trip looks at a hyena laying on the side of the road.
Spotting African wild dogs from a car window in Kruger. Image credit: Ailish Casey

Camping Tips

Camping is a popular form of accommodation throughout a South Africa road trip. Campsites are cheap, and offer facilities such as bathrooms, kitchens, common areas, and even bars and swimming pools.

Book ahead during the busy season. During the summer months and school holidays, campsites do fill up, so advanced bookings in popular areas are recommended.

Many car rental companies offer vehicles designed to be camped in, from fully equipped camper vans to cars with rooftop tents. Though of course different vehicles vary greatly in price, so decide if the extra comfort is worth it!

A tent is set up under a tree during a South Africa road trip.
Camping may not be glamorous, but it is practical! Image credit: Ailish Casey

Safety Tips

Stay aware on the road. While the roads in South Africa are in good condition, you will encounter reckless drivers, so stay aware, especially on corners.

Be sure to rent a car that suits your route. When tackling unpaved roads, or more difficult  drives such as the Sani Pass, make sure that your car can handle it. Do your homework first, and discuss what route you will take with the car rental agency.

A dirt road in South Africa with mountains in the background.
The Sani Pass- scenic, but difficult. Image credit: Ailish Casey

Look after yourself and your belongings. South Africa is far safer than many people think, and you will likely encounter no problems during your South Africa road trip. However, do keep your car doors locked and your windows rolled up while driving (car jackings are far less frequent than they were, but they do still happen). Park in car parks where attendants will keep an eye on your car in exchange for a small tip. And never stop for hitchhikers or anyone else on the road.

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Know when you will reach your next petrol station, and fill up on petrol whenever you can. It’s also a good idea to stock up on water and snacks before tackling a long stretch of road.

Plan your route. Though part of the appeal of a road trip is going wherever the wind takes you, it is wise to plan at least a rough route. That way, you know the distance you are trying to cover each day, and won’t get stuck driving through the night, or taking a wrong turn through a dangerous area.

A group of elephants walking in a field during a South Africa road trip.
Close encounters with elephants in Addo National Park. Image credit: Ailish Casey
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