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Author Topic: Driving and/or hiring driver in South Africa  (Read 13527 times)
nerdasaurus
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« on: April 05, 2012, 11:36:12 AM »

I need some advice on driving in South Africa. I'll be there this summer for about a week, with a colleague who's experienced in driving on the left. That's not the issue, though. I'm more concerned about safety issues driving to one of the places I need to go, a secondary school in one of the townships outside a major city. I've been there before, but under the auspices of a very strict program with a driver hired for the visits. Has anyone hired a driver to visit places like this? How did you find this person? Did you wait until you were there, or make arrangements early? Any suggestions are most welcome.
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Don't make me get the flying monkeys!
ls410
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Posts: 498


« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2012, 11:51:17 AM »

I would contact the major tour/safari companies and see if they offer this service (companies in other African countries do).  They would probably be more expensive than going with an independent person once you're there but they will be licensed and insured and you'd likely have a better quality vehicle.  I would be sure to have something in writing that states what you have paid and what that money includes - gas, police fines, police bribes, etc.  The last thing you want is to be in an argument with a driver at a gas station about who is paying for the tank.
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bash217
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« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2012, 3:39:18 AM »

You should try to make local contacts through the school or local department of education who can help with your transport. What region is it? Potential dangers for getting yourself there will be (a) no signage/impossible directions, (b) stressful driving conditions (such as heavy foot/animal traffic and dangerous potholes, and (c) being lost and scared if this is a township outside a major city, depending on the region. With great directions, you can probably do it yourself, but you should make sure you have a good car with high clearance (which can be expensive or unavailable for hire). Good drivers can be hard to find; South African educationalists are not the most prompt and professional in my experience. If you are on your own for this, you are probably going to be fine, really. With a bit more information I might be able to give you more advice as I've worked in a few different regions there.
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nerdasaurus
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Posts: 277


« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2012, 9:54:26 AM »

Thanks for the advice, you two. This is an urban area (outside Pretoria) so large-animal impediments are unlikely, but it's been really tough to get e-mails, letters, and calls returned/connected. This worries me about making appointments and not just showing up on a school's doorstep unannounced. I hope that from on the ground I will be able to get more things done, but I'm trying to keep expectations reasonable. Any other suggestions are most welcome.
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Don't make me get the flying monkeys!
bash217
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Posts: 186


« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2012, 11:01:33 AM »

If I were you I'd get the best instructions possible and a few road maps and hire a nice car. Some areas outside Joburg might be sketchy for the uninitiated (and if you don't run into cows, you will definitely run into potholes). In a township area, people are not going to be on email often, and it is not a normal method of communication even for administrators. If you call someone on their mobile, they will answer.

I can say a lot more about this and may have some contacts if you want to message me.
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secundem_artem
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« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2012, 11:57:23 AM »

I have rented cars and driven in South Africa on several occasions.  It's doable, but has its challenges.  Car rental is expensive by American standards and rental agencies do not always have adequate maps.  Driving on their large national roads is not too big a deal but be aware that most of them are 2 lanes in most places.   As such people routinely swing out and pass into oncoming traffic.  The local convention is that the oncoming car and the car being passed will move over to drive on the paved shoulder, effectively creating a 3rd center lane in which the overtaking car can pass safely.  It works but it's kinda scary.  Second issue is driving in the cities.  These are large, crowded urban cities with heavy traffic.  Getting into an accident is both quite possible and depending on who you hit and their disposition, could turn into immediate demands for reparations (if you are white and foreign, trust me, an accident is going to be your fault).  Third, unless you are traveling with somebody to read a map for you or have an international GPS with you, just trying to figure out where to turn, which lane to be in, how far it is to your next turn off etc is going to be difficult.

I'd recommend trying to get one of the locals you will be working with to either offer to drive or suggest how to engage a local driver.  If your local contacts are from the townships and don't have cars, they can probably give you the name of a cousin or brother in law who has one and will drive for a fee.  I will drive in South Africa if I'm part of a group, but by myself, I would rather have a driver.
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In my opinion, Secundem_artem is precisely correct. 

I think secundem_artem, rather, has hit the nail on the head.
jlgower
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Posts: 8


« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2012, 2:42:41 PM »

I usually ask the hotel where I am staying if they can recommend a local driver. That has always worked for me in South Africa.
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