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Highways in Southern Africa

Highways in Southern Africa

Old Jun 19, 03, 11:50 pm
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Highways in Southern Africa

I'll be in JNB in mid-July and was thinking about driving to Victoria Falls, through Botswana (via Francistown) on the way there and Zimbabwe (via Bulawayo) on the way back. I am getting conflicting reports about the quality and safety of the highways in these countries. Some people have recommended I get an SUV while others tell me I should be fine in a standard sedan. I don't plan on venturing very far from the main roads on the trip.

Can anyone with recent experience weigh in on this?
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Old Jun 20, 03, 12:38 am
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Sorry! Thought I was in TravelBuzz...

Oh moderator...
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Old Jun 20, 03, 1:51 am
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Roads are generally of a high quality in ZA, however many drivers take unnecessary risks like overtaking on blind corners.

Also, speed limits are usually ignored on the open roads, with speeds of up to 160km not uncommon.

An added worry are the number of people walking along the side of the highways. Don't expect it to be like North America. There are no vehicle-only roads, they are shared with pedestrians.


For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894)
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Old Jun 20, 03, 5:08 am
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Depends on your exact route and when the rainy season starts. Most roads in Botswana are flooded during the rainy season and a 4WD vehicle is required for the height (also be sure to get one with the air intake mounted above the fender, preferably at roof level). During those conditions a normal SUV is not adequate (unless you are willing to add a few weeks to the duration of your trip while you wait for the roads to clear up). Within SA the highways are fine (comparable to secondary roads in the US but with some freeway sections near main cities). The driving is challenging due to the presence of slow trucks doing 20 mph on the highway and erratic driving by others. Remember to drive on the left (you probably want an automatic as shifting with your left hand takes some practice while dealing with traffic). If driving in certain parts of Johannesburg remember than carjacking is a big problem and the law allows you to run red lights if your life is in danger. Some cars take undue advantage of that, so don't be surprised to see red lights being run at will. Crime in your route is not a problem but some parts of Kwazulu-Natal (SE part of SA) are to be avoided unless you have a local guide (a dozen body guards is useful too). Personally I would avoid any area that I had not researched ahead of time (for road and crime conditions). And if you haven't driven off-road before, rethink your trip or do it in convoy (at a minimum rent a satellite phone). Flying into VFA is an option, as is flying into WND.
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Old Jun 20, 03, 7:41 am
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