South Africa's road infrastructure is excellent, so driving is a viable option, but South Africa is a huge country not easily traversed in a day, so plan your journeys carefully. If you're not used to driving long distances, rather break the journey, as fatigue is a major contributing factor in motor vehicle accidents.
While most national roads are tarred and in good condition, the more rural the road, the more likely it is to be pot-holed and poorly surfaced.
Several inter-city Bus Services have almost daily schedules between all the main cities making interesting stops along the way. The Baz Bus follows the Eastern coastal route with a Hop-on Hop-off fare, an economic, fun way to see South Africa for the budget traveller.
There are several luxury Train Services as well as a domestic main line services available. Travel Agents can assist you with co-ordinating your travels around Southern Africa. They can assist you with flights to and from South Africa and neighbouring countries, as well as special tour packages, day trips, accommodation and any other travel needs you might have. If you're not used to driving long distances, a bus may be a better idea than a rental car.
Check out Intercape or Greyhound and Translux, all of which offers a variety of national routes. You can book bus tickets at Computicket. If you want to go seriously upmarket, Compassline offers tailor-made, personalised tours in luxuriously equipped Mercedes buses with a maximum of 12 spacious seats. Coach tours offer a comfortable and relaxing way of seeing the country. A guide or your driver often provides a commentary, pointing out significant sights or relating stories from history or legend. In larger cities day tours are available.
Shuttle Services: All of South Africa's international airports and most domestic ones have shuttle services running from the airport to CBD. Shuttle services are cheaper than taking a taxi, but do take longer. Allow plenty of time when booking your return shuttle to the airport, or make sure the shuttle company is aware of your check-in time.
There are conventional metered taxis, but unlike in many other countries these do not cruise the streets in search of passengers, and must generally be summonsed by telephone. Major hotels do often reserve bays for taxi companies, however, and in those that don't, reception staff can quickly make arrangements for visitors.
Road info, maps
Current information on the conditions of roads can be obtained through the Automobile Association of South Africa. The AA also provides invaluable guides for road users in the form of strip maps tailored for specific destinations and information for tourists on accommodation en route.
Main roads are identified by colour and number rather than by name, and with a good map which incorporates the route marker system, visitors should have little difficulty in finding their way around.
Before you set off, check your route. Many of the national roads between the major centres are toll roads. Check the toll fees before you leave, and make sure that you have either a credit card or cash to pay. Toll fares for a light passenger vehicle vary from R2.50 to R46.00.
Routes Travel Info Portal: Toll Roads
Watch out for animals in rural areas
Be aware that the roads in many rural areas are not fenced, so you could find dogs, chickens, sheep and even horses or cows on the road, so it may be dangerous to drive at night.
Large antelope crossing the road can also be a hazard in certain areas – watch out for the road signs depicting a leaping antelope, and take it slowly, especially towards evening.
Keep left, belt up, think kilometres
We drive on the left-hand side of the road, and our cars – rental cars included – are right-hand drive vehicles. All distances, speed limits (and speedometers) are in kilometres.
Wearing of seat belts is compulsory. Using hand-held phones while driving is against the law – use a vehicle phone attachment or hands-free kit, if you want to speak on your mobile phone. The law prohibits the use of hand-held phones while driving but that doesn’t stop most of the locals from using them.
The general speed limit on national highways, urban freeways and other major routes is 120km/h (75mph). On secondary (rural) roads it is 100km/h (60mph). In built-up areas it is usually 60km/h (35mph) unless otherwise indicated. Check the road signs.
Any valid driver’s licence is accepted provided it bears the photograph and signature of the holder and is printed in English.
A variety of petrol (gas) stations are situated on both main and country roads. Most of them are open 24 hours a day, although some keep shorter hours. However, distances between towns (and therefore between petrol stations) are considerable in some parts of the country, so it is advisable to fill up your tank before it starts giving warning signals.
Different petrol types are available: unleaded, and 95- or 93-octane ("super" or "premium"). The 95-octane petrol is available in the higher altitude, inland regions, while 93 or lower is used at the coast. New fuel specifications will be in effect from January 2006, when all petrol will be lead free.
If you are hiring a car it is likely to require unleaded petrol, but check before you set off.
Buses and trains
If you're not used to driving long distances, buses and trains offer comfortable alternatives, allowing you to relax and enjoy the landscape. Both budget and luxury options are available.
Domestic flights in South Africa
South Africa has a number of airlines flying between its major cities, and to some of its smaller ones, with fares ranging from first-class to cut-price economy. Flights can be booked online from anywhere in the world.
To & from Jo'burg airport
Assess your options for getting from Africa's busiest airport to wherever you're staying in the city - and back again.