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Driving through Southern Africa.?

Cessna 180

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Hello.

So I have booked a J reward to JNB early Feb on the 747 which is always something I have wished to do, along with visiting Vic Falls and seeing a Lion or two.Returning at this stage three weeks later, but I may change to an F via DXB.a little earlier.

I have read various reports by JohnM and others which have been very informative, thankyou.as well as trying to find out via other means with wildly varying opinions.

In a perfect world I would rent a car and drive up to Vic Falls and check the sights out along the way, perhaps via Botswana and return via Zim. Or even drop the car at the falls and fly back, but one way rentals may not be a thing over there.

I am not a "high end" person and don't have heaps of surplus cash anyway.

Does any one have any experience of driving through the countries of southern Africa, or is this a bit of a bonkers idea? haha.

I do apologise if this has been answered previously, but there are just so many good threads on here!

Thankyou
 

juddles

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Hey there Cessna, have been in Africa a few times but never rented a car. I am a reasonably experienced traveller, but nowhere in the league of JohnM and others. But I always see self-driving / rental cars as a very dodgy and stressful area unless you speak the language or really know the country. So many many things that can go wrong.....from excess charges on your credit card that are a nightmare to resolve, to turning down a "wrong street" and ending in a world of pain. The world can be a place very unforgiving of mistakes.....
 

tgh

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There is a pretty good EY fare atm .
East coast au > Auh > Jnb in J for $4k.. cheap as chips..

I tend to feel less easy in Africa ; but there is heaps of anecdotal evidence of successful car trips in South Africa with minimal evidence of the other possibility.
Once heading into neighbouring countries the infrastructure changes and I guess the risk profile changes also.

It is however , necessary to be careful, thoughtful and to plan , but that applies to all travel.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do and please keep us informed.
 

craven morehead

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Following with interest. Heading back over in June (upper deck 747) :D and entertaining the idea of driving down the East coast from DUR-CPT
 

BAM1748

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I've hired a car in SA, doable but hire what the locals drive as better not to stand out. A C class Benz or Nissan Altima or similar.

When driving in large cities you need to be prepared to break a few road rules particularly at night. Ie Don't wait at red lights of several people walking towards the car.

Depending on who and how many with with you, also consider a car with a driver. They aren't that expensive and you have local knowledge.
 

trooper

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I drove quite a long way over a 3 week period - but only in South Africa itself.
From Johannesburg (airport) out through Zeerust to a private game park close to the Botswana border...then back east via secondary (mainly unsealed) roads through very small towns ..eventually through Thabazimbi and on back to the N1..then north to Polokwane, later - to Rorkes Drift via Ermelo and Dundee.
Was VERY impressed with the road manners of just about everybody (if you came up behind a slower moving car or truck they almost invariably pulled onto the generous shoulder to let you past. ) Never felt uncomfortable anywhere along the way...except when pulled over by police - the first time- for what they called a "document check". It seemed like a shakedown to me... maybe all the stories one hears about South Africa coloured my view there... but I acted as the dumb tourist...provided my passport etc, then simply asked "Are we done, can I go now?" The second time however the young cop was laughing and friendly and asked questions about Australia...so maybe I was overly sensitive the first time...who knows?
The second part of the trip I was on my own, and I still felt perfectly safe.... Normal? Dumb Luck? No idea. I strongly suspect however that the fear mongering comments from some SA expats I know were at very least...SOMEWHAT exaggerated. At least for the Madikwe/ Pretoria/Polokwane/Kwa-Zulu Natal areas I drove through...
I found the obvious poverty in some areas a little depressing.... but I would have said that about poverty anywhere....
One thing....when you stop for fuel EVERYTHING is done for you... including window washing. I quickly got into the habit of handing over an amount of cash that included what I saw as an appropriate tip.
Not sure if I should mention this...but it does show how unthreatened I felt so....here goes...I was in South Africa for a major pistol shooting competition...and (somewhat surprisingly to me) "carry" is LEGAL in that country. It would apparently have been quite OK for me (as I had a temporary SA permit) to have had my pistol loaded and in the car with me... At NO point did I even consider that. It was transported locked in a case in the boot...just as is done here.... I will admit to perhaps being a little more alert while out and about there...but apprehensive? No.

EDIT: My Tom Tom unit led us unerringly along all those unsealed roads... never a problem with navigation.
 
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BAM1748

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stats tell us SA and many other African countries are more dangerous than we are used to. Would you be happy to drive around Detroit, it's 10 times safer statistically than South Africa.

The 'old when in do as' works except when my 'white' disguise in some areas bought unwanted attention. It can be hard to distinguish someone who wants to say hello and someone who wants your wallet until too late.

Rural areas are ok, cities well they don't have body armour wearing, machine gun toting guards watching Childrens playgroups for nothing.

I visited one rail yard where 4 guards with shot guns were watching over a pile of scrap steel.

You'll be fine, just be smart and look ahead when you turn into a street. I try to use smaller service stations where the locals hang out and often help you. Take a bunch of $5 notes to give away and some gold coins for kids. Small change for us but appreciated and a good talking point with the locals.
 
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Cessna 180

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Thankyou. This is all interesting reading so far.
I will be on my own and had at this stage intended to not drive at night.

A local told me once "just don't go to Alexandria and you will be fine"
 

JohnM

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As noted, I've driven (solo) in South Africa fairly extensively on several occasions, and in Namibia, and not had any problems. I didn't drive when in Botswana, but I would have had no hesitation in doing so.
 

Jacques Vert

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Hi Cessna 180,

+1 and I drove from Capetown to Plettenberg Bay and back, and also for a few thousand km around Namibia, in 2017. Also from JNB to Kruger and back in 2016. We never felt threatened; but we also made sure we never put ourselves in danger by going to "undesirable areas", especially after dark. If you do your planning well, you will be fine.

Have you seen our trip report: Kruger and Southern Africa It includes our tour of JNB and Soweto, a visit to Vic Falls, a day trip to Botswana, a walk to the ZIM side of the Falls, and details of where we hired our vehicle in Namibia (and their HQ is in Sth Africa): by far the best value we found. It would be worth asking them for a one-way price.

Perhaps consider driving up (or back) via Namibia; a great country and well worth a visit.

I would have no hesitation in doing your proposed trip: we found everyone friendly and helpful (but still be careful of where you go).

Happy to receive a PM if you want specific/more details.

Enjoy,

JV
 

Cessna 180

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G’day JV.

I remember seeing a bit of your trip report a while back but I just could not find it again recently. Thanks so much for this.
It looks very similar to my intention.
I will report back with any questions.
Ta.
 

Cessna 180

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Hello Again JV and All.
I have been reading through your report JV, and it is extremely entertaining and informative.

It is getting me thinking about a lot of things I had not thought about. Also, Africa does not appear to be a cheap destination. Especially around the Falls. (I have no hotel points sadly..)

It appears you had mostly booked in advance? What would your thoughts be on just driving along and pulling in to a motel or similar for the night, similar to what one could do in Aus or NZ?
 
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I made a trip and also planning report which has many details.

I rented two cars while in South Africa. If you use a well known company it is easy, cheap and not a problem.

I also had a Land Rover for 26 days to drive from Nairobi to Vic Falls. We had an escort vehicle and 2 other vehicles drove with us. During the day we were not always together. Hiring this way meant that border crossings were not an issue.

Carnes are often required to cross borders and so if want to do this talk with your rental company first as is not easy or possible for all borders.

In Africa some roads are easy and safe. ie near Capetown and surrounding areas. Though avoid nights if you can.

Parts of Africa though you need to be prudent. ie park in a car park with a guard to watch your vehicle or have one of your party watch it.

Some parts of towns are best avoided. Small towns villages etc are not normally any problem. But again avoid leaving a parked car unwatched.

Book accommodation with secure parking.

All in all we had an amazing time with our three car hires in Africa.....but you need to be prudent. It is not like Oz or Europe etc.
 
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trooper

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Hello Again JV and All.
I have been reading through your report JV, and it is extremely entertaining and informative.

It is getting me thinking about a lot of things I had not thought about. Also, Africa does not appear to be a cheap destination. Especially around the Falls. (I have no hotel points sadly..)

It appears you had mostly booked in advance? What would your thoughts be on just driving along and pulling in to a motel or similar for the night, similar to what one could do in Aus or NZ?
Some places are not cheap.. the very popular BIG attractions....but the favourable exchange rate really made a better trip possible for me. I am NOT a high income person, but I was able to do a very comfortable Safari at Madikwe, and an equally comfortable up market-ish stay/tour at Rorkes Drift ...both of which represented excellent value. I personally wouldn't wing it for accommodation.... but if you can plan out your road trips and book intermediate stops in advance, I think you'll find quite decent smaller hotels/B&B's quite cheap.... that was my experience. The safari and Rorkes Drift stays were not "cheap" but great value... everything else, from car hire to petrol to dining to those B&B's...I'd have to call "cheap".
 

Jacques Vert

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Hello Again JV and All.
I have been reading through your report JV, and it is extremely entertaining and informative.

It is getting me thinking about a lot of things I had not thought about. Also, Africa does not appear to be a cheap destination. Especially around the Falls. (I have no hotel points sadly..)

It appears you had mostly booked in advance? What would your thoughts be on just driving along and pulling in to a motel or similar for the night, similar to what one could do in Aus or NZ?
Hi C180,

Glad you have found the TR helpful.

I'm not sure that I would agree that Africa is expensive: you can certainly spend lots of $ if you want to stay/experience 5 stars. There are also more budget friendly options. For example, look at SAN Parks if you wish to keep the budget under control: South African National Parks - SANParks - Official Website - Accommodation, Activities, Prices, Reservations We found them to be good; clean and comfortable while (some) are at the lower end of the scale. But book well ahead if you want to stay in the better/newer places.

We found food was generally inexpensive, compared to Aus.

Re the Falls: we stayed at two spots on the Livingstone side: the Protea and the Avani. The Avani was definitely far more expensive than the Protea but made that up in the ambiance; and it includes free entry to the Falls which will save you a considerable sum. Depending on what month you are staying, be careful where you fly to and book accommodation. Wet season: stay in Livingstone; dry season: stay in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe side). Each has an airport so make sure you fly to the correct one!

We set a budget and when we save a little in one place we can splurge at another; Vic Falls is one place we splurged a little as we were well in front of our budget by the time we got there. Some of the tours (e.g., helicopter) are not cheap; but I would highly recommend you do the long helicopter tour of the falls (but book online as it will be significantly cheaper).

Re booking in advance: we mostly book flexible rates through hotel loyalty programs (Hilton, IHG, Marriott, GHA, etc.). This has the advantage that you have somewhere to stay if things get busy and accommodation becomes booked out. OTOH, you are able to cancel (even on the day of arrival in some instances) for no penalty. So if the price comes down you can re-book at the cheaper rate (make sure you re-book first before you cancel your existing booking).

In Namibia there are long distances between "places" and often very few options, so I would make sure you have something (flexible) booked as you don't want turn up in an isolated spot with nowhere to sleep.

In relation to just driving and calling into somewhere, you could probably do this in parts of Sth Africa but as noted above, in the more remote areas there may only be one or two options so better to at least book a flexible option (you can always re-book it if your plans change as you go along).

Enjoy your trip.

JV
 

Jacques Vert

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I made a trip and also planning report which has many details.

In Africa some roads are easy and safe. Ie neat Cape town and surrending areas. Though avoid nights if you can.

Parts of Africa though you need to be prudent. Ie park in a car park with a guard to watch your vehicle or have one of your party watch it./QUOTE]
I agree with LTO; we avoided driving at night. In fact, our rental in Namibia came with a condition that we didn't drive at night!

Regarding car parks: many tourist places in S Africa have "parking attendants". Perhaps these guys used to rob your vehicle but now they have been made semi-official and guard your vehicle.

A typical "fee" was R10 to R20. I would say "here's 10 for now, and if the vehicle is in one piece when I come back, there'll be another 10 (or 20) for you".

Worked for me (and cheaper than parking in Aus).
 
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RooFlyer

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No-one has commented on the OPs concept of driving up to and into Zimbabwe; what are the thoughts about this? I wouldn't drive in Zim - it would be interesting if Rental Agencies would let you cross that border.

I have driven a fair bit in Sth Africa, but it was a few years ago. The dodgiest place was Jo'burg (I was on a work trip that time). There were a number of areas there my local friends said to go no-where near. Another piece of advice they gave me - when I pulled up at a 'robot' (ie a traffic light), I should keep at least a car length between me and the car in front. Why? "If someone attempts a car-jacking, you have room to pull out and take off" :eek:

...but you won't be driving round Jo'burg like that. As others have said, driving on day trips out of Cape Town is delightful.
 

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