It is fair to say that we were both reticent about a self drive in South Africa. Whilst we have done self driving holidays in the US, Jordan and Costa Rica before, the thought of navigating Jo’Berg filled me with dread.
We needn’t have worried. It was a pleasure driving in South Africa. Once you are on the main routes and highways you could be driving in any country. The speed limits are sensible, everything is well signposted and in English, and the traffic signals are nothing out of the ordinary. Sure, it got busy in the few towns we passed en-route from Jo’berg to Punda Maria (Northern Kruger), but nothing that business and usual city driving doesn’t prepare you for.
The rest stops and petrol stations are plentiful and well equipped on the main highways and reminded me a lot of the ones in France. I would recommend stopping at these opposed to ones in towns and side roads, as they can be cleaner if you need to use the facilities / they have rest facilities. We failed to do this, and after leaving the highways it was 3-4 hours before we found a place with a (male) toilet that the petrol stations owners would even recommend we use!
The roads are not overwhelming busy, but there are lots of police, especially around toll gates, so watch your speed and drive carefully. There are a lot of toll gates, so ensure you have lots of change with you before you set off.
It took us about 7 hours to travel from Jo’berg airport to Kruger’s Punda Maria gate. In hindsight we left way too late and cut it very fine for gaining entrance to Kruger before the gates shut for the day. This aside, the most complicated part of the journey was navigating the many flyovers and exits from the airport. Just ensure you know which road you need to take / have a sat nav before you leave the airport and you’ll be fine.
Tambo airport is not located near Jo’berg city, and the route we took from the airport did not take us anywhere near the city…it was plain sailing. The return journey took us into the city outskirts past malls and housing estates, where roadworks caused some congestion, but nothing out of the ordinary. Just ensure you leave plenty extra time to get to your destination in case of roadworks or traffic.
If you want to stock up on provisions before reaching Kruger, I would advise you do so in the towns and cities en-route as there is very little outside the park gates.