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Self Drive Holiday in South Africa

Buderim, Australia
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Self Drive Holiday in South Africa

We are a married couple aged around 50 and have booked a holiday to South Africa in August/September this year. We fly into Johannesburg and the next morning on to Cape Town. We have five days there prior to flying to Durban. In Durban we have arranged for a hire car - a Toyota Frontera. We will be travelling from Durban to the northern end of the Drakensburg Mountains to Rorkes Drift to Thanda Game Reserve to Nkomozi Game Reserve to Sabi Sand Game Reserve. I would like to know if there is any part of this trip where we should be more vigilant than other areas, if there are any places along the way that can be recommended for toilet/food stops and any other general information.

We are very excited about this trip but have been getting concerned re all the horror stories you hear about SA. In particular the crime.

We have travelled extensively, so know to always be aware of our surroundings but don't know what extra precautions we may need to take.

Sydney, Australia
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1. Re: Self Drive Holiday in South Africa

Hi

We are also visiting for 3 weeks in September and will be self driving again as we did on our last years visit. We are flying into Durban airport and will collect our rental next day, so I cannot speak for that area.

We drove over 5,000kms from Jburg to Cape Town via kruger, St Lucia, Battlefields area including Rorke's Drift, Drakensbergs, Karoo, Paarl, Franschoek and surrounds to Paternoster on the west coast ending in Cape Town. No problems at all. Service stations on the main routes are fine for pit stops etc.

Take the usual precautions. First do not drive at night, we did once and never again, as we encountered cars with no headlights, dangerous driving, people/animals (hard to see) on the side of the road etc. Do not speed, there are traffic police patrolling even in the remote areas. Stop dead at the 4 way intersections. We were picked up on the last 2 but let off when they checked our international drivers license. Always plan your route before starting out and ask your local accommodators about your proposed route/state of roads. We had a SA glove box road atlas pre purchased here at Dymocks plus we brought the Tom Tom with us this had the SA map preloaded before we left. The latter proved very handy in large cities and towns, although I guess you could get away without one. Do not leave anything visible in the car if you leave it for sightseeing/shopping etc, . Pay the parking patrol attendants say R5-10 to keep an eye on your car if they are around, usual in the shopping centres and touristy spots. Make sure you have the petrol topped up, we never let in go under half full particularly when we out in the remote areas. Lock all doors when driving and be vigilant. Take a mobile phone with a prepaid local sim card which you can get at the Vodashops at airports for emergencies. We had a handy information sheet we had prepared before leaving with local emergency nos, police, medical, car rental etc and our accommodation providers contact ph nos which we keep in the glove box. We did need it and the phone to ring Avis when the car gear box went on the 2nd day as we were nowhere near any town.

Hope this helps with your planning and makes life easier to enjoy the wonderful scenery and sights.

Gold Coast...
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2. Re: Self Drive Holiday in South Africa

Hi FooteParty

Well there is not really anything to add to the excellent advice given by Nooee.

They are all the same guidelines that we always follow and have never had a single problem. Cant deny that before our first trip we had a few concerns thanks to all the friends of friends and other so called experts who told us we will never even get out of the airport alive ! Ugh.

We also never drove at night apart from in Cape Town, apart from a few minutes to our nearby hotel after dinner and same in Knysna. We hire an SUV so can fit all the luggage hidden in the back, kept doors locked and so on. We gave a generous tip to car guards and told them they will get another one when we return. SUV also good for driving through Sabi Sand,

There are plenty of places to stop, I remember once stopping to use a toilet in the middle of a town somewhere in Swaziland, well it was the cleanest I have ever seen. You will feel yourself if you are comfortable pulling up or not, there are many road stops set up for tourists just like here. I remember our first ever stop was at a petrol station just out of JoB, we felt a bit uncomfortable because we could see a crowd gathering, next thing the police arrived so we just got back in and drove off. Not a problem. Then further along we found some great food stops where there were dozens of tourist buses and like minded travellers, and now we always stop there.

Our first ever trip was a three week self drive and also done in September, we also went to Sabi Sand and now cant keep away from the place. The weather was fantastic, sunny every day.

Here is a link to our trip report from that one, you may pick up a few more hints...

tripadvisor.com.au/…29073542

Heading back soon for the fourth time, relax and enjoy you will love it. And dont be afraid to ask whatever, better to get advice here than from the naysayers who have never even been.

Buderim, Australia
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3. Re: Self Drive Holiday in South Africa

Many many thanks for the information - we will get onto organising some of the things you mentioned straight away. Especially the list of relevant phone numbers! I have been told before not to leave anything in the car but will have to do so when we are travelling from one place to the next. I now know that we will have to make sure we don't leave the car unattended at any time - might be relays for the toilet stops.

Hope you have a truly wonderful holiday this year. The fact that you are going back speaks volumes more than anything else could about what a great time you must have had.

Again thank you so much for the time taken to type the response.

Buderim, Australia
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4. Re: Self Drive Holiday in South Africa

Hello Sandmans

Thanks also for your reply. I have to say that there are a LOT of naysayers out there - we just have to mention SA and they go into overdrive with every dire warning I can think of.

We are spending five days in Cape Town and will have a hire car there - just a little VW Golf. Is it OK to go out at night, as it will only be the two of us, or do we pick dining options close to where we are staying and get a taxi there and back?

Also, we bought some US dollars to take over but I see we will need to get rand for SA. No problem I will use the US dollars in Botswana. But just wondering what denominations the rand comes in and what is the most useful ie don't want to hand over a large note and find they don't have change.

Sydney, Australia
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5. Re: Self Drive Holiday in South Africa

Just a question to the Sandmans.

We are going to Sabi for the 1st time this year to stay at Inyati lodge .We are now considering renting a SUV for higher ground clearance, also we are driving thru Swaziland from Tembe and read about potholes near Siteki. Last year we have a medium size sedan A Cruze it was automatic. I note there are not many SUV automatics available from Avis, only Toyota Fortuner which seems like overkill, plus I read somewhere they are a popular target for car thieves.??

Any advice re you car rental which and where etc would be much appreciated. I don't want to hijack the Foote's post so maybe private email to me at TA.

Sydney, Australia
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6. Re: Self Drive Holiday in South Africa

Re Rand

The notes are R10,20,50,100,200 and coins R1,2,5 & smaller cents. We bought some Rand thru Travelex Australia before departing or you can order them from your bank. Although with our bank the lowest denomination was R50 hence Travelex, where you can also order foreign currency online. R20 seemed very useful for small purchases. R200 notes for petrol. Coinage R5 and R10 best for car park attendants and petrol station attendants tipping.

Gold Coast...
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7. Re: Self Drive Holiday in South Africa

FooteParty

As for the relays, yes that is what we do, we have never ever left our car unattended when we have the gear in it even though its in the back. My hubby always stays [unless its his turn!] while I go and get the food, drinks, supplies, whatever, even the major food stock up we do before we get to the park, he waits in the car.

We take a good old cheap display folder with us and have all our papaerwork in that in the order we need it, works fantastic. First page is etickets, then acommodation stuff then car stuff and so on. All in order we will need for when we get there and all contact details, insurance papers etc in the back. It is our little bible.

You know the funny thing about the warnings, when you say you are going to Thailand or Bali, how many people ever say 'oh is that a bit dangerous'. Yet how many Aussies have died there over the years !

BTW we are same age as you and also have travelled a bit which I do believe helps.

As said we only went to places close to the hotel for dinner, in CT we stayed about a 3 minute drive from the hotel and I was fine with that, just keep an eye out going to the car like you would at home. We sort of planned our places to stay so that we had somewhere to eat without going out and so on. In Cape Town we stayed in an apartment/hotel which was great, we could just order room service if we wanted but had a full kitchen.

We have always found ordering our cash via the bank online to work well. We use Westpac, usually they seem to be the best value. and they always provide a good mix of denominations. We keep the big notes like 50s and 100s for petrol, ranger tips, tolls etc. and small stuff for other tips as we go around. When you get to the airport buy something like a bottle of water to get some extra small notes. no problems there.

Are you going via Perth [SAA] or Sydney [qantas] ?

Edited: 28 May 2013, 06:05
Gold Coast...
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8. Re: Self Drive Holiday in South Africa

Hi Nooee

Happy to post here in case it helps Footeparty, you are welcome to pm me though if you want, just send details.

We hire from Avis and always an SUV. The two main reasons are the fact that we can get 2 suitcases, 2 large cabin bags plus handbags/camera bags all in the back and hidden by the luggage cover. Other reason is the higher clearance. On our first trip when we got to St Lucia we found something was hanging off underneath we think from the unmade potholed roads we went through outside Sabi. The friendly garage guy fixed it for us no issues but we hate to think what could have happened on a lower car. Hubby has many times said ''glad we have the higher clearance'' when we are going through potholes or water across the unmade roads. We also self drive in Kruger so we like the height for comfort and game viewing, never mind the elephant dung that little cars hit.!

Automatics...can't help there sorry have never asked, they are like hens teeth.

We book ahead online through Avis, you must use their International Visitors rate ,we find it great value and includes the waivers. Our next trip we booked same again and it is around $1500 for just over three weeks, much better value then here. Usually get an Xtrail, Kia Sportage or similar.

Usually on here it is recommended to use a third party broker, but we have never found it any cheaper and like dealing direct with Avis. Plus you do not pay a thing before the rental, I believe some charge a deposit which we do not like.

As for Inyati well I am sure you will love it. We have passed by there many times and it is in a great location, shares the same traversing as where we stay. {Dulini}.

Last trip we sat in the river outside Inyati and had a great time with a large herd of elephants, the teenagers were playing up and trumpeting at us. Wonderful. Have also seen eles strolling on the lawn there, drinking from the lodges water tank near the buildings.

Buderim, Australia
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9. Re: Self Drive Holiday in South Africa

Thank you both so very much. Yes we did find all the extra information useful so no need to worry about "hijacking" our forum question. We are happy for all information we can get.

We booked a Toyota Fortuner as the X Trails are too cramped for my hubby. Hope it isn't too much of a target for thieves! We also like the higher clearance and will be driving down many dirt roads - or so Google Earth tells us.

We also are staying at the Exeter Dulini Game Lodge in Sabi Sands. What is your opinion of this place? Have heard new owners have just taken over. Also as there is not much to do during the day would we have time to drive to Blyde River Canyon NP and back within our free time one day?

Just had a thought. We plan to stock up on alcohol in Durban for the rest of the trip (we are actually staying at Umhlanga Rocks). Is there a best place to get all we need? Will be our belated honeymoon so want some champagne. Is it worthwhile to buy a little esky in Durban? Will we be able to buy ice along the way?

My hubby would like to know if you have been to the Okavango Delta in September. What is the weather like? Do we need warm clothes. There is such a strict weight limit on the light plane flight to our resort that we need to have the barest of basics.

Buderim, Australia
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10. Re: Self Drive Holiday in South Africa

Sorry, forgot to say that we are travelling via Sydney with QANTAS. What is the trip like??