FAQ | Travelling in South Africa

Cape Town International Airport.

Getting Around

By Plane:

South Africa has 10 international airports spread out across the country. The two major airports are Cape Town International and O.R Tambo International in Johannesburg. Regular international and domestic flights arrive and depart daily from these airports on a regular basis.

Regular flights arrive from major centres throughout Africa, including Dar es Salaam, Maun, Cairo, Gaborone, Nairobi and Windhoek. Direct flights also arrive from major European centres, including Amsterdam, London, Paris, Munich and Lisbon. There are also direct flights from Bangkok, New York, Washington (D.C), Hong Kong and Sydney to name a few.

O.R Tambo International Airport and Cape Town International Airport receives flights from all five continents. Flights from Europe are usually overnight, with a flight from London to Johannesburg being approximately 12 hours. Direct flights between the USA and Johannesburg are about 15 hours. A flight between Cape Town and Johannesburg is about 2 hours.

By Car:

When entering one of the other countries in Southern Africa, it is advised to do so by car. South Africa operates numerous land border posts between itself and its bordering countries, including Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Please Note: All measurements are done using the metric system, distances are measured in kilometres (km) and fuel is sold by the litre (l).

To obtain a car in South Africa you have 3 options:

1) Hire a car
2) Buy one
3) Use the buy-back option

Hiring a car is fairly easy and bookings can be made online and in all major cities. With a booming used car market in South Africa, buying a car is quite easy if you have all the right documentation (roadworthy license, registering the car, insurance).

The third option is a combination of the 2, where you buy a car with a guarantee that the rental company will buy back the car at the end of the contract. Most cars are manual, but the selection of automatic second hand cars may be limited.

By Bus:

There are numerous scheduled bus services connecting Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and other cities (with stops in between), as well as to neighbouring countries. If you must, opt to use a minibus taxi. These taxis are poorly maintained and rarely adhere to raod safety regulations. Drivers are wild and be prepared for many detours and unscheduled stops. This mode of transport is, however, very inexpensive and could possibly be quiet fun if you are prepared.

By Train:

Spoornet is the national rail operator. There are budget passenger services between major cities in South Africa, as well as luxury train services operating between Johannesburg and Cape Town. Daily commuter trains operate in larger cities and are run by MetroRail. Most services are safe but can be overcrowded.

Which side of the road do you drive on in South Africa?

South African drivers drive on the left hand side of the road.

What are the Road Conditions like?

Roads in South Africa are excellent. There are many highways connecting the cities and larger centre, including the N1, the N2 and the N3. Please be aware that South Africa has a high rate of road fatalities, so avoid driving at night and for long distances without resting.

Be on the lookout for unsafe drivers (taxis), poor lightings in the more rural areas, pedestrians and wild animals. If you see an animal on the road, slow down but do not leave your vehicle as wild animals are very unpredictable. Do not stop to feed wild animals.

What are the Rules of the Road?

Speed limits are clearly indicated on road signs. Do not exceed these limits. Speed limits on the highway is usually 120 km/h, major roads outside cities are 100 km/h, major roads in built up areas are 80 km/h and in normal towns and suburbs 60 km/h.

Do you have any advice pertaining to driving safely?

Please be aware that hijackings do exist in South Africa, especially in Johannesburg. Should you find yourself at a red traffic light late at night and you do not feel safe, you are allowed to cross the red light carefully after checking that there is no other traffic.

A fine received for doing this can usually be waivered by writing a letter to the traffic department or court and explaining your actions. Please be vigilant when driving, especially at night. Keep your doors locked, windows shut and do not display bags, cell phones etc on your car seat.

What driving license do I need for South Africa?

If your driver's license is in any of the official languages of South Africa, contains a photo of yourself, as well as your signature integrated into the license document, then it is legally acceptable as a valid driver's license. Some car rental and insurance companies do, however, insist on an International Driver's Permit.

How do I get around South Africa?

Major South African cities are linked by reliable air, rail and roads transport services. Public transport is used by many local as a way of commuting to work, but are unreliable and of poor service. Taxis are cheap and quick but quiet unsafe.

Buses are a better option buy are quiet slow and a little more expensive. It is advisable to hire a car when travelling in South Africa. If you are traveling long distances, consider one of the local bus companies. Alternatively, join an organized tour group.

What are the major distances between the towns?

  • Cape Town - Durban: 1620 kilometres (1006.6 miles)
  • Durban - Johannesburg: 565 kilometres (351.1 miles)
  • Johannesburg - Cape Town: 1390 kilometres (863.7 miles)

What are the distances between the airports and nearest towns?

Cape Town International Airport - 22 kilometres (14 miles)east of the city (travel time - 25 minutes by car)
Bloemfontein International - 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) east of the city (travel time - 15 minutes by car)
Durban International - 16 kilometres (10 miles) south of the city (travel time - 20 minutes by car)
O.R Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) - 24 kilometres (15 miles) northeast of the city (travel time - 35 minutes by car)
Port Elizabeth International Airport - 25 kilometres (16 miles) from the city (travel time - 30 minutes by car)
Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (Nelspruit) - 22 kilometres (14 miles) from Nelspruit, 44 kilometres (28 miles) from Numbi Entrance Gate of Kruger Park and within close proximity to the major game lodges in the area.

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