We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

how safe is renting a car as a tourist

Level Contributor
180 posts
10 reviews
Save Topic
how safe is renting a car as a tourist

I am being bombarded with negative opinions about my preference to hire a car and drive myself.

To clarify, we expect to stay at a hotel in Sandton and have plans to visit Lion and Rhino Park, Lesedi Cultural Park, Bush Babies Sanctuary and Maropeng.

I am a white male, with a wife and two kids. I'm a Police officer, a trained response driver and have driven in Thailand, Malaysia and the US.

Not only can I use a GPS, but I can read a map!

I've never been keen on using a tour company to provide transport, I don't mind taxi's but the freedom of driving yourself always seems a relief.

Am I being wholly reckless in thinking about driving my family around this city?

Phillipians 4 Four
City Tours, Cultural Tours, Private Tours, Sightseeing Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours
MoAfrika Tours
Sightseeing Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours, Safaris, Multi-day Tours
Cape Town
Level Contributor
10,235 posts
Save Reply
1. Re: how safe is renting a car as a tourist

Interested to know who is bombarding you with negative opinions about renting a car and driving. It is certainly not travellers on TA who have actually done it. Do a search in the forum and order by date to get current opinions. You will find that driving to all the places you list is just like driving around any US city - lots of freeways. With the big advantage to you that we drive on the left and road signs are basically the same as the UK. As in US cities there are areas, as a visitor, you wouldn't go. But these are areas you wouldn't go to anyway!

I used to commute to Joburg about once a month for 3 or 4 days. Always had a hire car and never had a single problem. Do I know anyone who saw crime on the streets of Joburg? Yes. But so I do in London, Birmingham and Liverpool - all cities that I have lived in for extensive periods

Level Contributor
180 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: how safe is renting a car as a tourist

The wife's company are really keen on us using a tour company, very concerned about us driving.

A friend of my sister visits his company HQ in Johannesburg several times a year, he has never driven his own car, always provided with a driver 'they'd never let me drive myself, you could so easily end up in the wrong place'.

I completely agree with you about the UK. I worked in Handsworth for 8 years. I'd never suggest the wife and kids go for a walk around there at night, but driving through it down the main road to Birmingham has no risk.

3. Re: how safe is renting a car as a tourist

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This post has been removed at the author's request. The author may repost if desired.

Posts on the TripAdvisor forums may be edited for a short period of time. Once the edit period has expired, authors may update their posts by removing and reposting them.

To read more about editing your posts, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/help/how_to_edit_your_posts

Removed on: 10:49 am, April 19, 2014
Brisbane, Australia
Level Contributor
450 posts
105 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: how safe is renting a car as a tourist

Hire a car!

I'm a youngish white male (skinny, not at all intimidating) and have been driving around this city for over a year, even into places locals don't go, by myself in a brand new car. Not once had an issue. I've even driven through places I shouldn't and been ok. Only use the GPS when I am going to a new area. Otherwise its very easy following road signs etc.

Whilst car jackings do happen occasionally you are more likely (almost certain) to run into a policeman trying to "fine" you for something ridiculous!

Many large companies still have an antiquated view of Johannesburg. A friend of mine who is also an expat here has it written into his contract that he is not to go into central Joburg! Which is just silly! Some of the coolest places in joburg are in the central area!

Edited: 7:57 am, April 09, 2014
York, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
103 posts
31 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: how safe is renting a car as a tourist

We visited SA for first time this year and hired a car. Our trip was Capetown to Port Elizabeth so no experience of J'burg. However I can relate to experiencing being bombarded with advice from people telling me they were very worried about us and couldn't believe we were self driving. All I can say is we were sensible and locked all valuables in the boot and took the same precautions we would in any big city in the world.. The only time we had cause for concern was at traffic lights in Stellenbosch we do believe we would have suffered from a smash and grab incident if we had not made sure no valuables were on show. We had locked everything away however and our doors and windows were locked so the suspect moved on. We were actually in SA for a month and that was the only time we felt there could have been a problem. We had a great time. I realise we didn't drive in J'burg but I thought you may find it helpful to hear that our friends and family felt exactly the same about our travel plans and had me really worried but I had a fabulous trip.

Johannesburg, South...
Destination Expert
for Johannesburg
Level Contributor
5,638 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: how safe is renting a car as a tourist

I wonder who has been bombarding you with nonsense?

Probably people who have never been here, or, perhaps, people who let 20 or more years ago, and never been back!

The most dangerous thing you are likely to encounter is the minibus taxis.

Their drivers are a law unto themselves, watch out for them to do something stupid.

Otherwise you should be as safe as anywhere in the world, and maybe safer than in many.

Edited: 12:16 pm, April 09, 2014
San Jose, California
Level Contributor
1,741 posts
76 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: how safe is renting a car as a tourist

South Africa is a lovely country to rent a car and explore on your own.

We are a family of four (parents and two kids 10 and 12) that visited SA last July, and for 3 weeks, we drove ourselves all over along the major tourist routes.

They have very nice roads, great signage along the highway. Everything is in English! The other drivers on the road were polite, people followed the traffic rules. Their highway system is pretty simple and straight forward. We encountered very little traffic, and parking space is easy to find even in major cities.

We also had to drive on the "wrong" side of the road for the first time in SA. You wouldn't have this challenge.

I highly recommend renting a car when traveling in SA.

Suffolk, United...
Level Contributor
350 posts
228 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: how safe is renting a car as a tourist

12 months ago we had the same reactions and best thing we ever did was to ignore them. We went to the western cape in February, our kids have long flown the nest and we have just booked another self drive to Johannesburg, Kruger, panorama route and the drakensberg next year. My only regret is that it's 11 months away! We delayed visiting SA for so many years because of these unfounded opinions in England and it's really frustrating. I can only speak of the W Cape so far but driving was incredibly easy and self drive is by far the best way to see such a wonderful country

Bingham, United...
Level Contributor
19 posts
5 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: how safe is renting a car as a tourist

Hire a car, get outside the cities and you will love driving again, the roads are in the main are great, and you can drive AND enjoy the views/talk to members of the family, you are not gripping the wheel starering at the brake lights of the car in front. my wife and i are 76 & 80 we self drive every where we are lucky enough to go to S.A. every year for about 6-8 weeks beautiful country, people, cheap food and drink fill you boots

Level Contributor
180 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: how safe is renting a car as a tourist

Thank you all, the wife has come round to agree its the best way forward.

The tour company that had quoted ( at the request of wife's firm), provided a price for transport and admission to Lion +Rhino in the morning then Lesedi in the PM, it was 2600 rand per person, £611 for something we can do ourselves for about £130 plus a £25 for a car.