If you have plans to take holiday that involves driving around in South Africa before, during or after the 2010 Soccer World Cup,there are some rules of the road you will need to bear in mind – in fact especially during the 2010 Soccer World Cup, because things are going to get pretty hectic around that time.
The first thing about driving in South Africa is, of course, having been part of the Great British Empire until fairly recent times, we drive on the left. When I say 'we', this does not necessarily apply to minibus taxis. See minibus taxis. With a very limited inner-city public transport system in most places other than Cape Town, everyone drives. And they usually drive between 10 and 20 kilometers an hour faster than the speed limit. They slow down just for the speed cameras.
Minibus Taxis Make the Rules of the Road, Okay!
And you may not turn left on a red light here as you can in some other places (that would be right in right-hand driving places). Except of course if you drive a minibus taxi (see above). Stopping at stop streets is generally a good thing, but you have to watch out for errant minibus taxis, who don't have to. The traffic authorities disagree, but the taxi drivers are currently winning that one.
Red traffic lights indicate a stop for everyone except … you've got it, minibus taxis. They get an extra two or three seconds turn across on-coming traffic, or just shoot through. In some areas it is considered cool to slip through behind, so long as you keep really close. If five cars can stick close enough, they can all go through. But you are allowed to be rude to those people.
You are not really allowed to be rude to minibus taxi drivers because they will always win. Always. Some disgruntled drivers try to play chicken with them, trying to stop them pushing in and generally ignoring traffic lanes, and that keeps the panel-beating industry in work. Many other local drivers have little concept of driving lanes and they also help to keep the economy bouyant.
Getting Us To The Job on time
Just remember though, with that lack of transport infrastructure, these taxis are the umbilicus that links the workers to their work, so they are indispensable to the country's economy. And just think of the stressful job they have. So when a minibus taxi breaks all the rules and pushes you out of the way, don't sweat it.
Wave him (or her) in, give a thumbs up and smile, and you'll be amazed at how much they appreciate it because – after all – they're just trying to get the people to work on time. And remember to look out for them at red lights and stop streets. And “shot left”, as we say here (keep left). Enjoy the trip and when in South Africa, do not do as the locals do, and do keep to the speed limits: just don't do in the fast (right-hand) lane or you'll get eaten alive.
General Speed Limits
Speed limits are generally as follows:
60 kilometers an hour (kph) in residential areas
80 kph on major urban arterial roads (sometimes set at 70)
100 kph on open roads
120 kph on freeways and national highways, except where there are potential hazards, usually pedestrians and animals.
Speed limits are almost always sign-posted.
Enjoy the journey and, if you're stuck for good sounds while you're driving around in South Africa, check out our guide to local road music.