Driving is an extreme sport in South Africa. The highways we traveled were in good condition, but South Africans drive FAST. My husband was pulled over on a two-lane highway for driving too slow in the right (their passing) lane. He was going over 60 m/h and we thought he was being stopped for speeding. We waited to tackle "city" driving until we acclimated to driving on the left side of the road. Most South African highways are in good condition, but many are single lane with wide shoulders. You are expected to pull over to the shoulder to allow fast moving cars to pass you, so keeping an eye on the rear view mirror is a good idea. The shoulders are also used around villages for walking, carts, picking up passengers and some times pedestrian animals. You must be alert and able to see well so we rarely drove after dark.
We both started out driving, but after our second day I left the driving to my husband. A good navigator (that was me) is a must since I think most South African signs assume you already know where you are going and are there only to confirm that, "yup, this is the place you turn right NOW!" It takes a little getting use to driving on the left side of the road, but harder is shifting. My husband kept grabbing the door handle. Our first car was a manual transmission and it was the last! We rented from AVIS, which had good road maps in their magazine. We also came to South Africa with maps and excellent directions to every Guest House we stayed at. We bought more maps with more details of cities when we had trouble finding the Port Elizabeth Airport.
For city slickers, dirt roads may be a challenge, but both my husband and I grew up in the US SW and learned to drive on dirt roads. Being the dry season where a lot of the dirt roads we drove on were located was a big plus. I don’t know how I would feel about those same roads in the wet season.
South Africa is a large and varied country, so driving gives you the opportunity to see and appreciate the scenery of some of the regions. On the other hand, because South Africa is so large we also flew to cover more territory.
Areas we toured by car were the South African Cape from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, Kwazulu Natal region north of Durban, Pilansberg area northwest of Johannesburg, Northern Drakensberg mountains east of Kruger and Kruger National Park.
A good Web site for planning car routes is
Travel Routes .