Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning South Africa is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
South African law does not require an international driver’s license for U.S. citizen tourists who are licensed to drive in the United States and who are in South Africa for less than six months. A valid driver’s license from any U.S. state or territory that has the signature and photo of the driver is valid to drive in South Africa for stays of less than six months. However, while South African law does not require an international driver’s license, insurance companies for both long-term residents and rental car customers often require proof of a South African or international driver’s license in order to honor an insurance claim, even when such proof was not requested at the time the policy was secured.
Unlike the United States, where traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road, traffic in South Africa moves on the left, and the steering wheel is on the right-hand side of the car.
Deaths from road accidents are more than twice as high in South Africa as they are globally. According to published reports, the high incidence of mortality in these collisions is due to a combination of poor driving, limited enforcement of traffic laws, road rage, aggressive driving, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Travelers should use caution at all times when driving, and especially avoid nighttime travel outside major cities. Road conditions are generally good in South Africa; however, excessive speed, poor lighting on rural roads, and insufficient regulatory control of vehicle maintenance and operator licensing have resulted in an increasing number of traffic fatalities. Drivers should also take care to avoid pedestrians crossing roads or major highways.
Traffic lights are frequently out of order. Please treat all intersections with malfunctioning traffic lights as a four-way stop.
Travelers are advised to carry mobile phones. Please note that texting or talking without a hands-free unit while driving is a violation of South African law. U.S. mobile phones may not work in South Africa, but rental mobile phones are widely available and may be rented from kiosks at major airports. The nationwide emergency number for the police is 10111, and the nationwide number for ambulance service is 10177. It is not necessary to dial an area code when calling these numbers.
Pedestrian Safety: Take extreme care when crossing streets. Collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians are all too common on South African roadways. Pedestrian deaths occur regularly, including four cases involving U.S. citizen victims since 2008. Drivers are often aggressive towards pedestrians and fail to yield the right-of-way, even in marked crosswalks. NOTE: The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria and Consulates General in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban are located on busy city streets, and visitors should exercise caution when walking to and from these facilities.
You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.