Visitors to South Africa often book a rental car as a part of their trip.  Having a car on your holiday is not essential, but it is a good idea.  An informal public transportation system is in place, but tourists do not often use it, and there is a learning curve to how much it works, and what it costs to get where you want to go.  Overall, if you are a visitor to South Africa, it is much advised to rent a car.

Friends and guests often have the same questions about rental cars and which of them to choose.  There are different price classes of rental cars, and it is essential to make sure that you have selected a vehicle that keeps you feeling safe on the roads.

Know Your Route

Major roads in South Africa are paved and in good condition, but some routes outside of the major cities are unpaved and can often take visitors over smaller mountain ranges.  In planning your rental car choice, it is essential to consider the routes you will be driving and on the single day excursions.  Countless visitors have found themselves in vehicles with little clearance or four-wheel drive on South Africa’s minor roads.

Long Stay Rentals

Some rental companies offer better rental deals if you book for a minimum of 30 days.  These daily rates are significantly cheaper than the regular daily rates and cater very well to the long term visitor.  There can be limitations on the daily usage vehicle, but most visitors who are not driving across the country find the 100km per day limit acceptable.

Automatic vs. Manual

South Africa drives on the left side of the road, and this can be a challenge for European and American visitors.  While the setup of the vehicle is the same, the biggest problem is changing gears with the left hand, and this can cause unnecessary complications for drivers.  Cape Town is a hilly city, and when caught in traffic there is an added advantage to driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission, and thus with the small price difference.

Speed Traps

South African roads have many speed cameras in operation, and should you get a ticket, the rental car agency will automatically charge your credit card for the fine.  Traffic fines can be issued up to 6 months following your visit, and should you be a repeat offender these fines can add up.  Speed cameras often look like small boxes placed on the side of the road or tall polls; most are not necessarily hidden but will catch those who are not paying attention.

Bonus:  Keep Spare Change In The Car

All South African parking lots are serviced by an informal or formal brigade of parking assistants who will keep watch over the car while you are away.  South Africa has high unemployment, and this line of work provides a way to generate income.  While this service is free, it is encouraged to give the attendant a small amount of coinage for their service.  It is good practice to keep loose change in the car, but keep it out of site for security reasons.

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