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Hitting the road safely: Guide to a self-drive in South Africa

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Frequently Asked Questions

Guide to a self-drive in South Africa

  • What are some risks I should be aware of?

    Taking a proactive approach to safety is essential. Here are some tips:  

    Driving safety tips: Keep your car doors and trunk locked and the windows up, especially when stopping at traffic lights. Keep bags off seats and out of view to prevent ‘smash and grab’ opportunists.
    • Parking safety tips: Always choose well-lit areas for parking, as they deter potential thieves. Avoid leaving any items inside your car, regardless of their perceived value. Even if you hide them, criminals may still target your vehicle. Before leaving, always
    confirm that all doors are securely locked, as there have been instances where criminals use devices to unlock vehicles remotely.    

  • How should I plan my route?

    Research and plan your routes using reputable sources and consult with local accommodations for the safest paths. Inform someone of your itinerary and expected arrival times. Check with your host regarding WiFi signals and known dead spots along your route to prepare accordingly. It’s always a good plan to have an old-fashioned hard copy map for those areas where Apps do not have signal.  

  • What vehicle safety tips should I follow?

    Park in well-lit areas or secure parking lots, and never leave valuables in plain sight. Consider using additional security measures like steering locks or vehicle tracking systems. Make sure your vehicle has the required equipment to change a tire if you should need it i.e. vehicle jack, wheel spanner and spare tyre. 

  • What are some things to watch out for while driving?

    Staying alert is essential! Here's what to keep in mind: 

    • Road signs: South Africa follows left-hand traffic. Be extra vigilant for stop signs, which can be placed in unexpected locations, especially at rural intersections.
    • Road conditions: Potholes can be hazardous, so watch out for uneven surfaces. Reduce speed and navigate these obstacles with caution.
    • Pedestrians: Be aware of pedestrians who may wander onto the road, especially in rural areas.
    • Livestock: Also be mindful of livestock that could wander onto the road, especially in rural areas.
    • Traffic lights: Traffic lights are nicknamed ‘robots’. If a light malfunctions, treat the intersection as a four-way stop which works on a first in, first out basis. Should we mention that loadshedding could impact traffic lights and you might need additional time to get to your destination if you are traveling in urban areas like towards the airport?
    • Seat belts: Wearing seat belts is mandatory for all occupants.
    • Mobile phones: Using a mobile phone while driving is illegal unless hands-free.  

  • How can I ensure my safety while driving in South Africa?

    To maximise your safety while driving in South Africa, always maintain a high level of situational awareness. Plan routes carefully, steering clear of high-crime locations. Share youritinerary with a trusted contact. Provide your accommodation with your phone number and ETA and obtain their contact info as well.  

  • Is it safe to drive at night in South Africa?

    It’s recommended to avoid driving at night, especially during winter months when darkness falls early (around 5 pm). Some roads lack proper lighting, and wildlife activity increases at dusk. If nighttime driving is unavoidable, let someone know your route and estimated arrival time. 

Cholera in Southern Africa

  • What are local authorities doing to contain the outbreak?

    Governments in affected countries and international health organisations like the WHO are actively working to contain the cholera outbreak. Efforts include:

    Awareness campaigns: Promoting safe hygiene practices and educating the public about cholera prevention.
    Rapid response teams: Providing treatment, setting up field hospitals, and training healthcare workers.
    WASH improvements: Increasing access to clean water and sanitation facilities throughout the region. 

  • What resources are available for travellers in case of a medical emergency?

    Advise them to get comprehensive travel insurance including medical evacuation and to keep emergency contact numbers for their embassy and nearest medical facilities. 

  • What if a traveller suspects they may have cholera?

    Encourage them to seek medical attention immediately, even for mild symptoms. Early treatment significantly improves outcomes. 

  • How can tourists protect themselves?

    Here’s how tourists can stay safe:

    Be aware: Stay informed about outbreak hotspots and avoid those areas if possible. Understand that cholera is limited to certain areas of Southern Africa.
    Safe water: Drink only bottled, boiled, or chemically treated water. Avoid ice unless made from safe water.
    Food safety: Eat well-cooked foods served hot. Choose fruit and vegetables you can peel yourself. Avoid street food vendors.
    Hand hygiene: Wash hands frequently with soap and safe water, especially before eating and after using the bathroom. Carry hand sanitiser.
    Vaccination: Check if the cholera vaccine is available in your country and consider getting vaccinated.

  • Is it safe for tourists to visit Southern Africa during the outbreak?

    Yes, with the appropriate precautions, it is safe for tourists to visit. The risk of contracting cholera for tourists adhering to recommended guidelines is very low, especially when visiting areas that maintain high standards of hygiene and sanitation, commonly found in tourist accommodations and venues. 

  • What are the symptoms of cholera?

    Most people infected with cholera experience no symptoms or only mild ones. However, a small percentage develop severe symptoms including:

    • Profuse watery diarrhoea
    • Vomiting
    • Rapid dehydration (sunken eyes, dry skin, decreased urine output) 

  • How is cholera transmitted, and how can tourists protect themselves?

    Cholera is a bacterial disease which spreads through contaminated water or food, primarily in areas with poor sanitation. It’s essential for travellers to practice good hygiene, such as washing hands regularly and consuming only well-prepared food and safe drinking water, which tourists typically have access to.

  • What is the situation in South Africa?

    South Africa experienced isolated cholera outbreaks in 2023, primarily in the Free State, Limpopo, and Gauteng provinces. These outbreaks were not considered a national emergency. Very few cholera cases have been reported in South Africa (less than a dozen), with the majority being imported cases related to travel to and from endemic countries with outbreaks. Generally, South Africa maintains high water quality standards. The government’s long-term focus remains on ensuring water quality and sanitation are upheld across all municipalities. 

  • Where exactly is this outbreak occurring?

    The current outbreak has impacted several countries in Southern Africa. It’s essential to stay updated on the situation, as affected areas can change. Here are reliable sources for current

    • World Health Organization (WHO) – Africa Region: https://www.afro.who.int/ (search for “cholera”)
    • ReliefWeb: https://reliefweb.int/ (search for “cholera Southern Africa”)
    • National Institute of Communicable Diseases (South Africa): https://www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/cholera/ 

  • I’ve heard about cholera cases in Southern Africa. Should I be concerned about travellers visiting the region?

    Some countries in Southern Africa are currently experiencing a cholera outbreak that has affected several countries, however the risk of a tourist contracting cholera is very low with proper precautions. Efforts are also underway to control and mitigate its spread effectively.