Driving in Africa – Safety Tips on the Roads in Africa

If you are from the United States or Europe, you might find driving in Africa an adventure all on its own.

Not only may the rules be different than what you’re used to, but this is also a place where you have to anticipate the unexpected. Below are safety tips on the road that you need to be familiar with.

If you would like to have the freedom to explore the area you are visiting independently, you might want to look into car hire South Africa for the perfect set of wheels.

Driving Basics

Driver’s License – You must have a valid driver’s license from your home country on you at all times. If it is not in English, you will need an international one.

Road Side – You will be driving on the left side of the road in Africa. This is an important one to remember!

4-way Stop – Most people looking for safety tips on the road will definitely put this one to good use! In Africa, stop signs are used much more often than traffic lights. The first person to the junction always has the right of way, regardless of which way they are turning. You simply then follow the order of arrival.

Robots – If you are driving in Africa and you stop to ask for directions, you may have someone tell you to turn at the robot. This is simply a local term for a traffic light.


Traffic lights are called in

Above: Traffic lights are referred to as “robots” in Africa. Photo by: Audiotribe

Safety Tips

Keep a Map – Under no circumstance should you venture out driving without a map. Even if you are familiar with all the safety tips on the road, they won’t stop you from getting lost. It is a good idea to study the route prior to heading to your destination. Many areas are very poorly lit at night so it is quite easy to miss your turn.

Expect Wildlife – Depending on where you are driving in Africa, there is a good chance that you will come across wild and domestic animals. Be prepared to stop!

Obey Road Blocks – You may feel adventurous and want to explore but even in a 4WD vehicle, all roadblocks need to be obeyed. They are there for your protection.

Be Alert at Night – It is not uncommon to find locals driving without their lights on or pedestrians walking at night. It is vital to remain extremely alert. Defensive driving skills may save your life.


A farm road in Cullinan, South Africa that is lined with bougainvilleas.

Above: Depending on where you are driving in Africa, there is a good chance that you will come across all kinds of animals. The guinea fowl is a normal site in Africa. Photo by: martie1swart

Survival Tips

Even if you plan on staying in the city, you never know when you could take a wrong turn, end up lost and need to be familiar with survival safety tips on the road.

Emergency Kit – Always have a significant amount of water in your vehicle. If you end up stranded or injured, this could make a difference in survival. It is also a good idea to keep a small first aid kit, hazard triangles, flares and something to make a fire with. Smoke will draw attention from the locals.

Stay in Vehicle – A car is easier to spot than a person. If you have to leave your vehicle, write a detailed note and leave it in the car so someone knows you are out there and that you need help.

Blow the Horn – Sound travels very far out in the open, especially at night. Dogs are able to hear horns from miles away. It is recommended to blow the horn once every 20 minutes. This way, if someone has heard you and they are trying to find you, the sound will lead them to you.

Few people face any serious concerns driving in Africa but it never hurts to know the rules, have emergency numbers on you and take note of these safety tips on the road. It is also advised to let your hotel or resort know if you are travelling to a remote location so someone knows where to look for you.

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