What You Can Expect from South Africa’s Roads

Published on: 30 March 2015

While the quality of certain South African roads may be questionable, our country actually has quite an advanced infrastructure. In fact, South Africa boasts almost 76 000 km of road, 10 000 km of which are highways and freeways.  Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect.

The Types of Roads

When driving in South Africa, you can expect to find 6 different types of roads. These include the following:

  • Metropolitan Freeways: These are usually identified by the letter ‘M’.
  • National Highway Roads: These are usually identified by the letter ‘N’.
  • Provincial Main Roads: These are usually identified by the letter ‘R’.
  • Gravel Roads/Secondary Roads: These roads are generally surfaced and are identified by a letter only.
  • Urban Streets: Basic roads that can be found in towns and cities.
  • Unclassified roads: These roads can be found in rural areas.

Speed Limits

In South Africa, speeding is considered a serious offence. In fact, if you are caught exceeding the limit by a traffic camera or police officer, you could pay a fine of up to R1400. It really isn’t worth it, is it? Here are the general speed limits to stick to:

  • Residential Areas: The general speed limit is 60 km/h. However, it could vary between 50 and 80 km/h.
  • Open Roads: The speed limit for open roads varies between 80 and 100 km/h.
  • Freeways/Highways/Motorways: The speed limit for freeways, highways and motorways is between 100km/h and 120 km/h.

Be sure to pay attention to the road signs whenever traveling in an unfamiliar area.

Be Aware of Potential Problems

Here are some expert tips for ensuring your safety when driving on our roads:

  • Always keep left and pass right.
  • The drinking limit is a blood alcohol level of 0.05 g per 100 ml.
  • Be extra vigilant when taxis are driving in front of, or next to, your vehicle. These drivers are usually in a rush and so often make unconventional moves when driving.
  • Be very careful of potholes. These dangerous obstacles appear on many roads due to poor maintenance and can cause some serious damage to both your tyres and to your vehicle in general.
  • Always keep your windows wound up and ensure that there are no valuables in sight whenever stopping at traffic lights or stop streets.
  • Check your chosen route for any toll roads or e-tolls. If you will be stopping at a toll, be certain that you have cash or a credit card on you.
  • If you’re a foreigner, don’t get confused if you ask for directions and are told “turn left at the next robot”! South Africans refer to traffic lights as ‘robots’…
  • There are 3 types of fuel available, namely leaded petrol, unleaded petrol and diesel.

While there are indeed a few perils to avoid and be aware of when driving on South African roads, they are generally quite secure as long you remain alert and obey the road rules. Be safe out there!

For more information on what to expect on South Africa's roads, read this article.