Renting a Car in South Africa

Car Hire and Self-Drive Tours in South Africa

Victorian buildings on Govan Mbeki Street.
••• Richard I'Anson/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Renting a car (or hiring a car) in South Africa and touring the country independently is an excellent vacation option, especially for families with children. Below you'll find information about car rental companies, self-drive tours, tips on driving in South Africa, distances between major towns and more.

Why Rent a Car in South Africa?

Renting a car means you can be more flexible with your travel plans.

You can stop at places you didn't know existed (South Africa is filled with incredible beauty) and you can also make a quick exit if a destination isn't quite what you expected. It'll also save you money. Renting a small car with full insurance will cost around 35 USD per day.

South Africa is one of the few African countries where the roads are well maintained and you don't require a 4WD vehicle. Gas (petrol) is readily available at reasonable intervals along the roads and many gas stations are open 24hrs.

A variety of excellent accommodation can be found throughout the country and there's plenty of opportunity to camp at well-maintained sites. You'll find car rental companies represented in every major town, so you don't have to backtrack if you don't want to. With affordable domestic flights, you can easily fly into Cape Town for example, drive to Durban and then fly out from Durban.

Recommended Car Rental Companies

It is sometimes cheaper to book your rental car through a broker, than directly with a car company.

Shop around for rates online and check rates through a tour operator. A good broker website is Car Rental Services.

Major Car Rental Companies in South Africa include:
Europcar South Africa
National Car Rental
Drive Africa
CABS Car Hire
Tempest Car Hire
Imperial Car Rental

Buying a car:
People who are planning to spend more than just a few weeks driving around South Africa may be better off actually buying a car and then selling it back.

Drive Africa has a guaranteed buy back program that will give you a good start on your research into this option.

Tip: When you rent a car make sure it has air conditioning and that you get unlimited mileage.

Recommended Routes

Have 3-4 days?
Check out Cape Town and surrounding areas including Table Mountain and the Winelands.

Drive from Jo'burg to Kruger National Park on the panoramic route which includes Blyde River Canyon and God's Window.

Have 5-12 days?
The Garden Route takes you from Cape Town along the coast to George, Knysna, and Plettenberg Bay. There are several malaria-free private Game Reserves along this route.

Drive around KwaZulu Natal with its excellent beaches as well as the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains.

Have 2-3 weeks?
Drive from Cape Town to Durban along the Garden Route and the Wild Coast, you may still have time to head up to Kruger National Park.

Self-Drive Tours

There are several companies that specialize in organizing self-drive itineraries. They will book your accommodation for you, and usually, you will have a choice as to what type of accommodation you would like. They meet and greet at the airport and facilitate you getting your rental car, they'll provide route maps and other useful information.

This is a good option if you don't have the time to research your itinerary yourself. It's also a good idea to book your accommodation in advance especially during the months of December and January.

Recommended Self-Drive Tour Companies include Self-Drive South Africa ​and Go Self-drive Tours

Tips for Driving in South Africa

Navigate South Africa's roads safely.

  • Driving is on the left-hand side of the road in South Africa (so cars are right-hand drive)
  • Seatbelts must be worn by front seat passengers
  • No cell phone use is allowed while driving
  • Average speeds are 35mph (60km/h) in built-up areas, 75 mph (120 km/h) on the open roads
  • All road signs are in English
  • All distances are in km's
  • A traffic light is called a "robot"
  • Always lock your car when you park it and never leave valuables in the car.
  • "Car guards" will pop up to help keep your parked car safe, a tip of a few rand is expected
  • Don't stop to pick up hitchhikers
  • Keep your windows up and doors locked when you stop at a traffic light, especially in towns and cities
  • You'll need a valid drivers license (if your license is not in English, you will need to get an International drivers license)
  • You have to have had a driver's license for 5 years to rent a car in South Africa
  • Avoid driving at night if you can
  • Many of the roads between big towns are toll roads and you'll need either a credit card or the right amount of cash to pay.

Distances between Major Tourist Destinations

These distances are approximate for the most direct route available.

Cape Town to Mosselbay 242 miles (389 km)
Cape Town to George 271 miles (436 km)
Cape Town to Port Elizabeth 745 miles (765 km)
Cape Town to Grahamstown 552 miles (889 km)
Cape Town to East London 654 miles (1052 km)
Cape Town to Johannesburg 865 miles (1393 km)
Cape Town to Durban 998 miles (1606 km)
Cape Town to Nelspruit (near Kruger NP) 1082 miles (1741 km)

Johannesburg to Pretoria 39 miles (63 km)
Johannesburg to Kruger NP (Nelspruit) 222 miles (358 km)
Johannesburg to Durban 352 miles (566 km)
Johannesburg to Richards Bay 373 miles (600 km)
Johannesburg to Cape Town 865 miles (1393 km)

Durban to Cape Town 998 miles (1606 km)
Durban to East London 414 miles (667 km)
Durban to George 770 miles (1240 km)
Durban to Johannesburg 352 miles (566 km)
Durban to Nelspruit (Near Kruger NP) 420 miles (676 km)
Durban to Richards Bay 107 miles (172 km)