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Transportation options in South Africa

I am often asked the best way to get around South Africa. My answer is usually that it depends what type of traveler you are and what type of holiday you are looking for. From private transfers, to car hire, taxis, trains, camper vans and 4×4's, here's a quick summary of the different options and a guide for when it's a suitable option.

Car rental:
Confident explorers will enjoy the freedom of car rental, it's easy, efficient and affordable. South Africa has a good and extensive road network and it's certainly the most convenient way to travel around.
What you need to know:
¢Most rentals are gear shift. Automatic vehicles are available but usually only in the more expensive categories and in limited number. If you want an automatic vehicle then request it in advance.
¢Choose a rental option that includes comprehensive insurance and unlimited mileage or at least 200km a day. These will work out to be the most cost effective.
¢You will need a valid international driver's license, be over the age of 23, and have a valid credit card for the fuel deposit. Without these you will not be able to rent a vehicle.
¢Drivers drive on the left hand side of the road with the fast lane on the freeway being the far right hand lane. Traffic lights are commonly called robots.
When to use it:
¢If you are two or more people travelling together, exploring regions or multiple cities where there are scenic routes in between that are worth exploring.
¢If you are confident to drive and navigate yourselves and know which sites you'd like to visit or have a preplanned route.
When not to use it:
¢If staying in one place for more than 4 days where the sites are fairly close by “ then it's a better option to get a taxi or local shuttle.
¢If you are not confident of your ability to drive on the left hand side of the road and in traffic then it's not for you.

Private transfers:
A good option for arrival and departure. It means you won't have to navigate in unfamiliar territory, especially when you are tired from a long haul flight.
When to use it:
¢When you are 1-8 people travelling together. The rate is charged per vehicle so naturally it'll work out more affordable if there are more of you.
¢Upon arrival if you are not part of an all inclusive tour. You will be met and taken directly to your hotel or guesthouse which is both safe and convenient.
When not to use it:
¢If you are staying overnight at an airport hotel. Most of these have inexpensive shuttles to and from the airport.
¢If renting a vehicle and starting your overland explorations right away.

Convenient for short city point to point trips.
When to use it:
¢A good option for when you are sightseeing or out to dinner and don't know how long you will be spending at a place.
When not to use it:
¢When travelling distances of more than 30 minutes or visiting multiple points in a day. This then works out to be quite an expensive option and it would be better to arrange a private transfer or tour.

Whilst there is an extensive rail network in South Africa, it's not a popular mode of transport, especially for foreigners.
When to use it:
¢If you are an adventurous backpacker, then taking short trips around the city in places like Cape Town during daylight can be fun. But know where you are going and where your stops are to avoid ending up in the wrong side of town.
¢If you would like a short sightseeing trip, then the Apple Express in Port Elizabeth and the Outeniqua Choe Choe in George are great afternoon excursions. Info can be obtained from the local tourist offices.
¢If you are looking for a luxury travel experience, both Rovos Rail and the Blue Train offer trips between Cape Town and Pretoria or along the Garden route. It's a superb experience.
When not to use it:
¢In Johannesburg or Durban, and especially after dark. Safety is unfortunately is an issue so it's not recommended.

Campervans and 4×4's
For the adventurous and independent type of traveler, this can be a lot of fun!
When to use it:
¢If you plan to explore the back roads, like to be totally self sufficient and exploring at your own pace then this is the option for you.
¢A nice option for families where you are exploring multiple cities and destinations.
When not to use it:
¢If you are not good at navigating your way around or familiar with handling large vehicles and camping equipment.
¢If you are on a tight budget. Hiring campervans and 4×4's can be expensive so if travelling modestly it's better to pack a tent and hire a smaller vehicle.

Adam | Sep 14, 2009 | Category: Travel Tips

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