Traffic Rules & Information
Even though the city of Cape Town extended its’ public transportation , it is still better to rent a car in order to be able to explore the city and the surrounding area. Here are some traffic rules you should abide to when driving through town.
First and foremost South Africa is used to left-hand traffic. Even if it might be unfamiliar to you to drive on the left side of the road, it will get easier very soon. In order to avoid getting confused just try to always orientate yourself by the one driving in front of you. Of course the two front seats are the other way around as well, so just remember that the one who is driving is sitting closer to the medial strip. Furthermore the windscreen wiper and the blinker are on the opposite side we are used to in Germany.
Drinking and Driving
The drinking limit is 0,5 per mill and who is tested more by police might have to spend his night in jail. Law enforcement is getting stricter especially regarding reckless drivers. Would you cause an accident while driving drunk you can be charged with murder.
You have to use your seatbelt, no matter where in the car you sit.
To phone someone while driving is not allowed except for hands free speaking systems. If you are caught violating this rule you have to pay fines and you may have to hand out your mobile. Even though you are driving on the left-hand side, still the one coming from the right has the right of way.
At four way stops you may find stop signs at all four roads. Sometimes there is just a white line on the ground which nevertheless also tells you to stop. All of the cars involved have to stop and the one who came first will also be the one going first. May sound chaotic but when holding eye-contact and giving signs this works out very well. Especially after long, continuous distances there might be striations in the road in order to warn drivers of the upcoming stop.
In traffic circles you have to drive in a clockwise direction and the cars already in the roundabout have the right of way. Some of them are even multi-lane and that’s when it gets difficult. Which lane to take depends on when you want to leave the roundabout. In order to avoid accidents you should try to keep big gaps and drive with precaution. Another crucial thing is to blink early enough to make the others aware of what you intend to do. If the traffic circles are huge there even are traffic lights sometimes.
In South Africa you have two traffic lights, simply due to the fact that they are not placed as high in Germany and the first car couldn’t see when to go from his position without the second traffic light.
Pedestrians are first, no matter what. Here it is normal to cross red traffic lights, so pay attention to people crossing the streets even if you have the right of way.
Speed limits and fines
Speedlimits are as following: In town: 60km/h Out of town: 100 km/h Highway: 120 km/h
We would advise you to stick to those speed limits first because there is a lot of speed monitoring not only in town but also out in the sticks and second because especially on dirt tracks you may do damage to your car if you drive very fast.
Many roads in South Africa have emergency lanes where slower cars are driving in order to let the faster ones pass. To thank them when overtaken, you may just shortly use your warning lights.
Even if some may say that police are corrupt, we would highly recommend you not to offer bribe because this could end in jail. Furthermore it is important to know that police are not allowed to take cash but have to make an invoice.
The roads in the Western Cape and Gauteng as well as all main roads such as highways are in good condition. Highways are mostly just multi-lane in and around congested areas. Most of the National Parks also have roads in a good condition which allows conventional cars to drive on them easily. In poorer or more rural areas one has to mind streets in a bad condition with many potholes and other damages. Passes and other dirt roads should only be used with a 4x4.
Some parts of the highways (N) and country roads (R) are toll roads. Most of them are marked in maps so you can spot them easily. Charges vary depending on region and distance. In Johannesburg the etoll-system was established so you have to purchase day tickets at certain shops or supermarkets and register online. Sometimes there are ways to avoid those toll roads but most of them are in a very bad condition and it will take you much longer to reach your destination.
There are numerous petrol stations alongside the roads and in the cities, even in small towns you can find some. Most of them are 24/7 so you don’t have to worry. Only when you are driving through very lonesome areas you may take a spare can with you. Right at the service station you hand out your key to the attendant and tell him how much fuel he should fill in (you distinguish between leaded, unleaded fuel and diesel). There is no self-service patrol station. Most of the attendants ask whether they should check water and oil and they clean your front shield. That’s why you give them some rand tip for normal. You can pay cash or with card, but you mustn’t give him your card! The attendant is coming right to your car with the machine so you can pay. Sometimes the machine does not work so make sure you always have some cash with you.
Just as we are used to it in Germany most of the street names are indicated on white signs at the entrance of a street. In residential areas or historical towns such as Stellenbosch the street names can be indicated on the curbstone and marked in yellow, which is not easy to read when passing, unfortunately.
Alongside vibrant streets you have to pay for normal and in some cities those parking areas have numbers. Those numbers have to be entered into an automat and payment is due for the particular time span. There are no invoices printed. Otherwise you pay csh at a parking marshall. Furthermore there are two kinds of parking attendants - the official and the inofficial ones. The official ones have a machine with them where they measure the time and those have to be paid just when you arrived at the parking lot. Prices differ dependent on the region you are in but they should be indicated on signs. The inofficial “;car guards” simply watch your car and therefore xpect a little reward such as 3-5 Rand.
A yellow line on the ground means a stopping restriction whereas a red line tells you no standing at any time. There are no signs but still you should definitely stick to those rules, as the fines are pretty high and your car could also be clamped for that.
Members of the ADAC having a flat tire can call the South African Automobile Association (AA) at the following number: 0800-010101. They provide complimentary breakdown service even for members of any European Automobile-association.
When there is rush hour, everything need a lot of time and a lot of patience is needed. It is very important to be precautious and let other drivers filter in. Peak time is mon-fri: 6:30-8:00 and 16:30-18:00.
The white Minibustaxis operate as public transportation and the drivers are known as driving reckless and fast. When using a taxi like this you should shout loudly when you want to exit because otherwise the driver may not hear you. Furthermore you should be precautious and not take many valuable items with you. Those taxis are overcrowded so you should not have fear of contact. Even as a pedestrian you should be aware of those Minibustaxis disobeying traffic rules.
In order to be allowed to drive a car in h Africa you need to be in possession of an international driving license, which you can apply for in your municipality. This is just an official translation of the German driver’s license in various languages. But be aware of the fact that this document is only valid in along with the original driving license. IN order to rent a car you need to be 21 or older and be in possession of your license for a minimum of 2 years.
Faked break downs and accidents: In far off areas thieves often try their luck while pretending to have an accident, so do not stop in order to help, you may get robbed. A safer way to help is just to keep on driving and call the police from a little further down the road.
Fake Policemen: Unfortunately in some cases thieves act as policemen and try to rob you while faking a traffic check. If you do not really trust the policemen in front of you, you have the right to drive to the closest police-station in order to do the check there.
Red traffic lights: When driving around in South Africa at night, you can easily cross a red traffic light if there is no one in your way. You use those red lights more as give way sign. This may not be legal but for normal no one complains.
Hitch-hikers: There are a lot of people standing beside the road in order to get a lift, sometimes even offering 10 or 20 Rand but you should not let them get into your car for reasons of safety.
Animals: Sometimes you may see signs alongside the road which warn you for various wild animals. You should be precautious and let animals pass.
Bakkies: A pick-up is called a bakkie in South-Africa and it is more than usual that there are many people on the loading area which is very crowded for normal.