If you’re not from SA and reading this I would like to start off by saying that most South African drivers don’t even acknowledge Zebra crossings. You would think we would be emotionally connected to them because of the name but it’s almost the oppisit. Most of the time we don’t care that they exist. We sometimes don’t even care if you’re on them. I have nearlly been hit by a car while in the middle of a zebra crossing in sleepy Stellenbosch. So, don’t take for granted that zebra crossing work here as they probably do in your country. Look both ways before crossing the road and don’t assume a driver will stop for you.
Ok, now that’s I’ve finished my public service announcement I’d like to talk about driving in South Africa. I know from experience that our traffic or driving is not the worst in the world (Egypt and Thailand were pretty scary to me) but since you might be inclined to hire a car here I think it’s worth noting that difference regions have different styles of driving.
Jo’burgers are an impatient bunch. We drive quickly and we make decisions quickly. We will hoot if you don’t pull off from an intersection fast enough or will swear at you if you hog up the middle lane on the highway. You’ll prbably get stuck in traffic somewhere along the line. It will suck and make you late unless you left early for your appointment. There is a certain predictability about it though so once you’re used to it you should be ok.
Cape Town on the other hand is less aggressive but not predictable. People weave on the highway and cut you off. They will change lanes around you. They will drive slowly then quickly. It’s all rather haphazard. Because it’s generally quieter you probably won’t have an accident but keep your eyes open and your reflexes sharp.
Durban is very relaxed. It’s fairly nice if you’re on holiday. Not nice when you’re there for work. People take their time. And you don’t need zebra crossing in Durban, people just cross the road when they want where they want and they have full faith that you’ll stop. Not because you’re a friendly Durbanite but because you’re probably just going slow enough to avoid the inevitable squash and pending law-suit. They walk by faith
The Free State is relaxed. But there you have to watch out for two completely opposite things: 1) The slowest tractor of combiner of harvester EVER and the 2) the fast asshole who thinks that a country road with no shoulder is an appropriate place to put his foot flat. No matter that you can’t see ahead due to windy roads and may crash into an unsuspecting tractor. I’ve seen the crash site of such an encounter and my heart still aches for the poor tractor driver.
The Eastern Cape will have you dodging donkies, horses, children, tractors, drunkards, goats and everything else inbetween. There are also asshols drivers who go too quickly. We warned.
Take note that there are minibus taxi’s EVERYWHERE. They are a force which abide by their own law. They are a pain in the butt but they serve a very important purpose in a country where publi transport failed the majority of people miserably so what can you do. Here are some tips to deal with them. Try not drive behind them, they will at some stage stop without warning. No warning and they won’t care. The key is to watch the pedestrians on the side of the road. If they suddenly throw up a hand signal slow down or change lanes. The taxi is going to stop right where they are staninding RIGHT THERE. I blame the commuters for being too lazy to walk to the taxi stop. If you’re in a pinch though and need to change lanes urgently though look for the nearest taxi. They will generally give you a gap when you need it. They’re generally good people trying to make a living. Try remember that when you see red when you’ve been forced to stop suddenly.
Ok, so those are some things to discover. Driving in SA is an adveture all it’s own so just take a deep breath and drive. Be safe