Driving Etiquette in South Africa: Tips for a Polite and Smooth Ride

Imagine arriving in South Africa and getting behind the wheel only to find unfamiliar traffic laws, road signs, and driving customs. It can be an overwhelming experience. While driving etiquette has commonalities worldwide, certain practices vary by country. 


As a visitor in South Africa, understanding local customs is key to safe and enjoyable travel. In this blog, we’ll cover tips for driving smoothly across South Africa. From driving on the left side to navigating parking and intersections, read on for insights that will help enhance your time on South African roads.

Drive on the Left Side of the Road

The first key difference visitors will encounter is that South Africa drives on the left side of the road. For those used to right-side driving, this takes some adjustment. Go slowly at first, double-checking your lane position and being extra vigilant when changing lanes.

Give yourself time to get accustomed to accessing your rental car from the right side and shifting gears with your left hand. When passing other vehicles, remember to overtake on the right side now. With caution and practice, driving on the left will soon become second nature.

Understanding Road Signs and Speed Limits

While South African road signs generally abide by international conventions, be sure to take note of speed limit changes in different zones. On highways, general speed limits range from 100 km/h to 120km/h. In urban areas, limits are typically 60km/h unless otherwise posted.

Fines for speed limit violations can be hefty, so be sure to monitor your speedometer. Also, keep an eye out for priority signs at complex intersections. Coming to a complete stop is required before proceeding. Understanding all roadway signs and signals is key to safe and lawful driving.

Passing Etiquette and Practices

When driving on multi-lane roads, slower traffic should keep left while faster cars pass on the right. Use your turn signals when changing lanes and overtaking vehicles. Match the speed of the lane you are entering before merging over.

If driving on a single-lane road with slower vehicles ahead, pass when it is safe to do so, but don’t tailgate impatiently. On two-way roads, only pass if you have clear visibility of oncoming traffic. Allow other cars to pass you and don’t obstruct faster flows. Following these passing etiquette rules helps keep South African traffic moving smoothly.

Parking Tips and Regulations

Understand parking signs and zones carefully to avoid tickets. Know that “no parking” means no stopping at all, while “no stopping” means you can pull over briefly but not leave your car. At coloured parking bays, look for posted time limits. Many cities also have pay-and-display parking; be sure to pay at meters or apps to avoid fines.

When parallel parking, come to a stop alongside the front car about a foot away. Reverse while turning your wheel left until your car is at a 45-degree angle. Then straighten your wheels while reversing into the space. On hills, curb your wheels to prevent rolling. Mastering parking is key to stress-free city driving. 

Driving Safety Standards and Requirements

South Africa requires all drivers to hold a valid driver’s license and vehicles to have up-to-date registration and insurance. Drivers and all passengers must wear seatbelts at all times. Using handheld mobile phones while driving is illegal; always pull over safely to make or receive calls.

The legal driving age is 18 for a regular license and 16 for a learner’s permit if accompanied by a licensed driver. Adhering to all driving laws and requirements ensures your safety and avoids legal issues. Be sure to research them before getting behind the wheel.

Navigating Traffic Circles and 4-way Stops

Traffic circles (roundabouts) are common in South Africa. Enter only when there is a safe gap and proceed counter-clockwise. Always yield to traffic already in the circle. Use turn signals to indicate your exit.

South Africa also has many 4-way stops. Come to a complete stop, then proceed when you have right-of-way. The first vehicle to arrive goes first. If multiple vehicles arrive simultaneously, the one on the right proceeds first. Following these rules prevents dangerous gridlocks.

Overall Defensive Driving Mindset

Practicing caution, patience and courtesy as a driver in South Africa is key to staying accident-free. Be alert for reckless drivers and hazards like animals crossing the road at night. Don’t engage with aggressive drivers; take deep breaths and focus calmly on your driving. The safer all drivers behave, the better the roads are for everyone. See our tips on night driving in South Africa.


Adjusting to South Africa’s unique driving environment takes some preparation and practice for visitors. But learning local etiquette lays the groundwork for an open-road adventure in this spectacular country. We hope these tips give you confidence to explore South Africa’s scenic routes and vibrant cities behind the wheel.


Explore South Africa by renting a car from SANI Car Rental. SANI Car Rental is a South African homegrown car rental company. Vehicles available to rent include compact cars, economy cars, premium cars, people carriers, and SUVs. SANI Car Rental has customers all over South Africa, including at all the major airports, both domestic and international. 

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