Overland South Africa Travel
West Africa > South Africa
Currency to display:
- 1 Visiting South Africa
- 2 Entering South Africa with a Car or Motorbike
- 3 Driving in South Africa
- 4 Gas and Diesel price in South Africa
- 5 Safety and Security Considerations
- 6 Camping in South Africa
- 7 Navigation
- 8 Special Overland Travel interests
- 9 Vehicle Maintenance
- 10 Buy or sell a car or motorbike in South Africa
- 11 References
- 12 Helpful External links
Visiting South Africa
South Africa is an enormous country with basically everything on offer from beaches and mountains to lakes and deserts. The cities are very developed and it's possible to buy everything you could ever need for your vehicle or to spoil yourself with great food and drink.
Entering South Africa with a Car or Motorbike
Correct as of: October 2017
Travel Visa for South Africa
The travel visa for South Africa is free for virtually all nationalities, and is given at the border - land or airport.
Duration is usually 90 days, but be careful about just leaving and coming right back again. Everyone has a different experience, but it's quite likely they won't just give you another 90 days right away, but tell you it's mandatory to leave until 12 months have gone past, or to fly into SA from a country that does not border it.
- Passport of registered owner.
- Drivers license of registered owner.
- Original vehicle registration.
- (OPTIONAL) Carnet de Passage.
(no copies are required)
NOTE: If you are driving into any country in the South Africa Customs Union (SACU) (Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland) You do not require a Carnet de Passage. If you are shipping into or out of any of those countries, you absolutely must have a Carnet de Passage, no exceptions.
South Africa will issue a 6 month Temp Import Permit for the vehicle, which you can use in all the SACU countries. Once you have the 6 month one from South Africa, travel between all those countries is extremely simple - you don't even need to visit Customs or complete any vehicle-related paperwork at each border.
Process at border
- Get yourself stamped in at Immigration.
- Go to Customs to get a Temporary Import for the vehicle. Using the vehicle registration the officer will write out an import form, valid for six months (make sure to ask for 6 months).
- If you have a Carnet de Passage, you don't need the temp import permit, just get the Carnet stamped. If it's already been stamped into a SACU country, you don't need to get it stamped out/in, it just stays "in".
Cost of entry
Free of charge when crossing land borders or shipping.
Permitted length of stay
The Temp Import Permit is usually valid for 6 months, and a Carnet stamp probably means it's permitted for 12 months total. This can possibly be extended with a permission letter from the AA, but likely it's just easier to leave the entire SACU and come back.
Extension of stay
Talk to Customs or the AA.
Storing a vehicle and temporarily leaving the country
Leaving the vehicle and returning is extremely common in South Africa. Make sure you are back and leave the SACU countries before the Temp Import Permit expires.
Exiting with a vehicle
- Get yourself stamped out at Immigration.
- Get your Carnet de Passage stamped out if you have one, or hand in your Temp Import Permit.
Driving in South Africa
Recommended books for Overlanding in South Africa
Travel insurance for South Africa
Vehicle insurance requirements
Third party cover is provided by the Road Accident Fund which is funded via a percentage charge on fuel and therefore covers all road users automatically.
Note it only covers third party liability for personal injury/death not damage to a third party's property.
Cost of vehicle insurance
Vehicle insurance is not covered by the levy in the price of fuel this is only for 3rd party personal liability. Vehicle insurance must be obtained separately from an independent insurance provider.
Where to purchase vehicle insurance
As long as your license is in one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, is not expired, and has a photograph, there is no need to get an International Driving Permit. Unless you are intending to rent a car and the rental company requires it. Really whatever license you have from home will be fine.
Driving side of road
LHD vehicles can be driven in South Africa without a problem.
Mandatory items in vehicle
You probably need two safety triangles, first aid kit, fire extinguisher and a bright yellow safety vest for every person in the vehicle. It's a good idea to have them to avoid a ticket.
General Road quality
South Africa has an extensive network of good tarmac roads. However, a few roads are not always well maintained, potholes as a result. You can find these all over the country. Also an extensive network of Gravel roads which are generally good and mostly in the outer lying rural areas.
Road signs are frequent and generally good quality. Street names are hit or miss. Many towns/cities have been renamed after the end of the apartheid. Some signs still have the old names.
Major freeways in Gauteng Province (Joburg and Pretoria) are almost all toll roads. There is an e-toll system which requires a pre-registered tag, or bills are sent to the registered address of the vehicle. Tolls outside of Gauteng are common on the N-1, but rare in other parts of the country. These tolls can be paid in cash and range from R20.00 ZAR to R120.00 ZAR for a passenger vehicle or 4x4 and much higher for box trucks, etc. Tools add up fast in South Africa, and you will spend a lot of money in a month or two.
Foreign credit cards are often NOT accepted at toll booths, you MUST have cash.
Bribery in South Africa
Bribery a rarity but on the increase. If you do get asked for money it is usually best not to pay and rather keep calm with a persistent smile. See the bribery tips page for advice.
Police checkpoints are setup randomly throughout the country. Usually they are routine stops to check you have a license and proper registration. They are much more common at night. Police are generally friendly and the stops don't take more than a few minutes. Bribes can happen, but are becoming less frequent.
Traveling with pets
List the entry requirements and anything else required to travel with a pet.
Gas and Diesel price in South Africa
Last updated: November 2017
Currency and unit to display:
|Unleaded||R13.90 ZAR per Liter|
|Diesel||R12.35 ZAR per Liter|
Gas and Diesel Availability / Frequency
Gas shortages are rare. They may occur in very remote areas, like National Parks. Petrol stations are frequent throughout the country. Generally a station attendant will have to turn on the pump, it's rare to find a self-service station.
Gas and Diesel Quality
Diesel is mostly available in 50ppm and 500ppm. Sasol also have 10ppm at some Fuel Pumps. Petrol quality is generally clean.
Safety and Security Considerations
Driving at night
Driving at night is common in South Africa, but should be avoided if possible. In rural areas and national parks, wildlife are a problem. In cities and suburbs, crime and hijacking are serious. It's common practice to not stop at red lights, if no other traffic is present, because of the high frequency of carjackings. Many vehicle drive without headlights. If driving at night, use caution.
Street parking is not recommended in urban areas. Secure garages exist in most areas where street parking is not safe. As with most parts of the world, some areas are safer than others, use your instincts. Most parking lots have attendants to help watch over vehicles, although they aren't always as attentive as they should be.
Special driving considerations
Driving on the shoulder on freeways to allow other vehicles to pass is common practice. If you park on the shoulder make sure you are visible to traffic behind you. In high crime areas, many cars will not stop at traffic lights (aka robots) or stop signs. Smash and grab carjacking happens in cities and suburbs. Keep valuables out of sight when driving. There is no free left turn on a red light, wait for the green before turning, always. Hawkers are common at intersections. A smile and a no thank you will send them on.
Security advisories and information
- Country Specific Information - U.S. Department of State
- Travel Reports and Warnings - Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
- Travel advice by country - Foreign and Commonwealth office (U.K.)
- Travel Advice for South Africa - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Camping in South Africa
South Africans love camping (and a braai) and you will find excellent campsites with all facilities all over the country.
Wild camping is not a common and/or safe practice. There is a lot of violence in South Africa and for your own security its better to find a campsite.
Camping guide books
List and link to books specifically for camping.
Water from taps is safe to drink in many parts of the country. Of course, proper water filtration is the safest option.
Reise Know-How are amoung the best paper maps. Purchase paper maps before arriving in South Africa
GPS Maps of South Africa
Tracks4Africa are the undisputed best GPS maps for Africa.
Tracks4Africa is an SD Card for Garmin GPS, and contain Routable turn-by-turn maps with 809,000 kms of roads and over 129,000 points of interest.
GPS co-ordinates for camping, propane, gas, repairs, etc. in South Africa
- iOverlander is a website and iPhone application designed by Overlanders, for Overlanders. It contains GPS co-ordinates and reviews for camping, hotels, propane, water, mechanics, borders and much more.
Link to sites that have a list of GPS co-ordinates (or directions) for camping locations (including "wild" campsites), propane filling, gas stations, repair shops, places of interest, etc.
Special Overland Travel interests
This couple has an overlander's hub near Cape Town and except camping, they offer services like storage, vehicle shipping, workshop etc. http://www.africanoverlanders.com/
4x4s / Trucks
- Toyota Global Dealer Locator
- Land Rover International Dealer Locator
- Mercedes Benz International (select country on bottom right)
- Jeep International site locator
Add known good mechanics here.
Buy or sell a car or motorbike in South Africa
Firstly with a SA registered car you will be able to drive up as far as Tanzania on temporary imports at each border post. But before this can happen you need a car in your own name. You can do this quite easily if you have an identification document from your own country, the ones that look like a credit card and have your picture on. You will also need an address, with this you need to go to the local government office and enter this on the eNaTIS (National Transport Information System). From this moment you are able to buy a car and put into your name. Remember to put the car in your name it needs a roadworthy certificate, this only needs to be done once when you buy the car. Finally if you come from a country that doesn't have ID documents like the United Kingdom you will need to apply for a TRN number (Traffic Register Number). This takes a bit more time and a bit more paperwork, you will need an address, photos and a document to prove that you live legally in SA, this is the tough bit. This information is then sent to Pretoria and your TRN certificate is received back between 7 – 14 days later. For further information about the TRN look at http://www.gov.za/services/register-motor-vehicle-driving/traffic-register-number
Describe how a foreigner can sell a foreign-plated vehicle, or list not possible.'
Links to the source of any information - blogs or discussion forums, etc.
Add any helpful external links here.