Self-drive Checks To Make Sure Of Before You Leave
Self-drive Checks To Make Sure Of Before You Leave-Any self-drive trip or safari is an adventure on it’s own. You must however be prepared in all aspects to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey
Too much driving
Usually people plan to drive way too far in one day. Other times they plan a hectic trip which has them driving too far and way too often.
We don’t mean that it is not physically possible, more that it is no longer enjoyable and becomes a chore and very tiring – something you are really trying to avoid when on a self drive holiday or vacation!
Sometimes it takes the form of being too ‘gung ho’ about the types of roads you are comfortable driving on. See Tip 3.
The Namibian car rental companies have some horrendous statistics on how many rental car drivers have an accident on their roads because they are not used to the driving conditions.
Have a look at our recent blog on good adventurous self drive safaris in South Africa to get some ideas of what we DO recommend.
Choosing an unsuitable car because it’s cheaper
Our standard entry car is a Group C. This is a 1.6 Toyota Corolla or similar. It is not uber-powerful but it’s fine for tar roads and easy trips which is the norm for most of our self-drive routes.
However if you are planning to do a self-drive safari holiday in South Africa or Namibia with quite a few kilometres on gravel, you may want to look at a high clearance vehicle?
You rarely need a 4×4 in South Africa – believe us – but if you are trying a more adventurous self drive safari in Namibia, especially in the summer rainfall months, we recommend a 4×4 for extra peace of mind.
Being more adventurous than you should be, or are happy with
Most of South African roads are tar but we do have a fair number of gravel back roads, especially in the safari areas.
Gravel roads vary from being pretty good – but still much more tiring to drive than tar roads – to seriously challenging. If you haven’t had/much experience of driving on gravel roads, don’t be too ambitious.
Similarly consider how comfortable will you feel in unfamiliar territory? How comfortable will you feel driving in a very remote area or driving through small African towns? For many, this is EXACTLY what they want. But make sure you pick the trip that’s right for you.
Similarly the reality is that if you break down in a remote area, assistance may not be able to get to you immediately. They will need to bring a replacement vehicle from the nearest depot which could take a few hours. You need to be comfortable changing a wheel. We also recommend that you travel with food/water in case you are stranded for a few hours in the heat of summer. Some clients think we are exaggerating but people have got into serious difficulties after being stranded (for example Namibia) with no food or more importantly – WATER!
Note: This is very rare but as the boy scouts say… Adventurous self drive
Not having a clear sense of where you are going (aka not using a tour operator)
If you are planning a more adventurous self drive holiday or safari, you need to be more prepared. The GPS coverage on your rental car may not work in remote areas, or it may be distinctly suspect. So you need to have a good road atlas or directions (not just the one from the car rental company) AND know exactly where you are going.
We would argue, of course, that having the assistance of a tour operator is invaluable here. They can assist you with driving distances and specific directions to your overnight stay. They can also give you tips about the journey.
Don’t just reply on the GPS in South Africa. It can be seriously flawed, especially in the safari regions!
Driving after dark
Of course we plan our self drive safaris in South Africa so that you get to your overnight stop by the late afternoon. Occasionally a late arriving flight might scupper this but that’s the general rule of thumb. However it’s a self-drive trip. So we cannot force you to depart at a specific time.
If people get to a hotel late eg 7 or 8pm, it’s usually because they only set off in the mid afternoon!
Invariably this leads to longer driving times as you drive much more slowly on unfamiliar roads at night. Sometimes they find it harder to find the hotel as road signs or landmarks are not so clearly visible.
If you realize that you will be arriving late, it’s always a good idea to ring. Tell the hotel what time to expect you and where you are now. Then no one will worry about you.