10 Tips for Renting a Car in South Africa

by Sandy Salle on January 6, 2015

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Article by Hills of Africa Travel Marketing Director, Britt Urbach

When Sandy (founder of Hills of Africa Travel) first recommended to me that I rent a car during my South African honeymoon, I thought, “Are you kidding? I can’t even imagine the stress! They drive on the opposite side of the road. Cape Town city driving must be beyond stressful and I will certainly get lost!”

But after much discussion, Sandy persuaded me to rent the car. And let me tell you, my husband and I were so glad we did, for several reasons:

  • We saved money on private transfers.
  • We got to explore on our own time.
  • The roads were windy so it was actually quite fun to drive!
  • The scenery was stunning and we were able to soak it in.
  • Driving on the opposite side of the road was actually quite easy and driving through Cape Town wasn’t nearly as stressful as I imagined it would be.

So, if you plan on taking a trip to Cape Town and the Cape Winelands, I highly suggest considering renting a car.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you do plan on renting a car:

1. Get your international drivers permit at an AAA travel location before you depart for your trip to Africa. You will be in and out in 10 minutes and all you have to do is bring your license, passport, and $15.00.

2. Request an automatic vehicle through your South Africa car rental company. Even if you are an avid manual (stick) driver, we suggest renting an automatic car. Many parts of South Africa—especially Cape Town—are extremely hilly and so a manual car will just cause you headache!

3. Rent your car from a reputable South Africa car rental agency at the airport, such as Budget, Hertz, Alamo, National, or Avis.

4. Keep your windows rolled up and your doors locked when your vehicle is stopped. Most areas you will be driving in are completely safe, but just for added security measures we suggest leaving your windows rolled up and your car doors locked. There are occasionally people selling items on the streets and begging for money at traffic lights so the best course of action is to ignore them and keep your vehicle secure.

5. Drive the speed limit. You don’t want to get pulled over on vacation – that is not fun!

6. If you’re driving and a person pulls to the shoulder but continues driving, it means they are letting you pass. If it’s safe to pass you may do so (only if there is a dotted line and no cars coming from the other direction). When you pass someone, be sure to turn on your hazard lights as a way of saying “Thank you” – it’s what they all do. And then, if someone is tailgating you or wants to get past you, the polite thing to do is cautiously pull into the shoulder and slow down slightly to let the driver pass (only do this if you can clearly see in front of yourself) – do NOT do this when going around a bend.

7. Pay attention to road signs when parking and do not leave any valuables visible in your car.

8. Pay the “unofficial” parking attendant as a thank you for watching your car. When parking in a public parking lot, you will notice people dressed in reflective vests and they will tell you where to park and will tell you their name and that they will watch your car. Thank them, lock your doors, and when you return back to your car, pay the attendant 5 rand (which is approximately 50-cents in USD) as a thank you for watching your car.

9. If you can, take a private car tour, such as the Cape Peninsula Tour with a private guide and driver before renting your car. This allows you to observe proper driving techniques so you can apply them when driving. I know that sounds silly, but we felt more comfortable driving our car after we observed someone else driving from a passenger perspective.

10. Spring for the GPS! When renting your car, request a GPS with the car. This was essential for us and helped us to easily get around. We never got lost with the GPS, so I would HIGHLY recommend it.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Fabiana February 2, 2015 at 9:20 pm

Great tips. They will be useful for my upcoming vacation.

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