Do you need to drive a four wheel drive (4WD) vehicle in order to fully explore South Africa?
Are the roads & options so limited that only Land Cruisers, Nissan Patrols, Toyota Hilux’s, etc. will do?
And what about travellers who are on a strict budget?
I believe the best way to explore our beautiful country is with a campervan. Here’s why:
Roads: The main roads and highways throughout the country are generally well maintained & in good condition. There are very few roads in South Africa where you would need a 4WD. Even in the self-drive National Parks and safari areas such as Kruger or Hluhluwe, the roads are good and a 2WD can adequately cope with the odd bit of off-road. Many of the major main road are toll roads, in order to help maintain them in their present good condition. Tolls range from a few Rand to over R50, and you can pay either by cash, or some toll booths will take Visa or MasterCard credit cards. The toll roads are clearly signposted, and give you plenty of warning, so that you can get your money ready.
However, if you do not feel like parting with any money, you can always take the alternative route which will be signposted as a non-toll road, but in general this will be longer. Of course there are always exceptions, with pot-holes, animals, pedestrians, etc. being the usual road hazards to look out for.
It’s always important to do a little planning before a trip, so here’s a handy online site that you can navigate: https://aa.ensighthq.com/on-the-road/online-maps/
Camping sites: South Africa is blessed with some of the best camping sites on the planet, with numerous camping and caravanning sites situated in or near popular nature reserves, wildlife parks, famous landscapes, tourist attractions, tour routes, and the gorgeous coastline that stretches to the horizon.
There are basic camp sites, where visitors come to enjoy the serenity of the outdoors without the hustle and bustle of city life. Some of these have electricity and ablutions available, while others are more basic, which are a little more than just a clearing in the bush. On the other side of the spectrum, there are luxurious tented camps, where tents stand on raised platforms and boast king-sized beds, inviting linen, mosquito nets, and electricity. Affectionately dubbed “glamping”, this is a real treat for those that want to enjoy the camping experience with a touch of the glamour and convenience that comes with modern living.
This map provides you with all the most important camping sites that you may need: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=13eNr8QsUNVmwnbC98cIhqaLbBZo&ll=-33.10805922146169%2C18.11312087133797&z=12
Petrol Stations: Fuel or the ability to re-fuel your vehicle plays a large role in preparing for a long trip. Luckily, there are a myriad of petrol or diesel stations dotted along the main roads, highways, towns & even some remote locations throughout the country.
These stations usually have amenities such as a convenience store, bathroom facilities, ATM’s or the basic services of refreshment for before or during your trip. The need to therefore stock up on everything from water to toothpaste is thus not required.
Sasol, Shell, Engen, BP & Caltex are the most popular petrol stations in the country. (Click on each to find your nearest station)
Roadside Assistance: When you’re planning a trip, one of the last things you think of is what if I have a flat tire or my vehicle breaks down? When you’re in the middle of nowhere with your 4WD vehicle, the chances of receiving help let alone trying to contact anyone via mobile for support is remote. If you are lucky & do manage to call someone the waiting time for that person to arrive can be long & an expensive exercise which could scupper your adventure.
Luckily, roadside assistance is offered throughout the country & an agent or a mechanic can lend a hand when required within a reasonable time frame. Various vehicle companies offer this service such as the AA & ER24.