Africa Guide
Guide to Africa

Driving in Africa

Some countries may require you to have an International Driving License - check the requirements with the embassy in your country or your car hire firm.

Try to avoid driving at night it can be very dangerous in Africa. Roads are often poorly lit, not in good condition and some other drivers have a tendency to drive without their lights on.

In many countries, and particularly in rural areas, roads are often poorly maintained and it's not unusual to come across large domestic animals such as sheep and cattle.

Africa is immense, there is very few police in remote areas - drunk drivers are not uncommon and be very watchful for drunk pedestrians.

Ensure you know all the legal requirements for driving a vehicle in the country you are travelling to. Laws vary from country to country, some countries require you to always carry hazard triangles, have reflectors (a white sticker on your bumper), wear seat belts etc... whilst others do not.

When travelling through Africa it almost a certainty that you will come across a road block, if you do not abide by the laws then sure enough and you will be fined - this can be costly! Ignorance is not an excuse.

If stopped at a roadblock, be courteous and responsive to questions asked by persons in authority. At night, turn on the interior light of the car. Make sure that the person you are dealing with is actually an official and ask them for their identity card. If they cannot provide it - do not pay any fines - ask to be taken to the local police station.

In areas of instability and unrest avoid travelling at night.

Ensure that your passport is stamped when crossing borders, if not, then you will have a huge problem when you come to leave the country.

If you are hiring a car make sure that it is from a reputable firm who will be able to supply you with back up in the areas you intend to visit, in case of vehicle breakdown.

Make sure that your vehicle hire allows you take the vehicle to all the places you plan to visit.

Always read and be fully aware of what the vehicle insurance covers you for. I did hear a story of some unfortunately person, who had their hire car damaged by an elephant in a game reserve and they were not covered on the vehicle insurance provided.

If you are planning to travel across Africa in your own vehicle then you need to be fully prepared, make sure you take plenty of spares as many places in Africa will not have stock.

In many countries, and particularly in rural areas, roads are often poorly maintained and it's not unusual to come across large domestic animals such as sheep and cattle.

Some countries will require you to have a Carnet de Passage for your vehicle - this is to stop you selling it without paying the customs duty that is due on the sale

Spare parts are heavy and can be bulky - so it all depends on how much space you have. If you are limited on space your prime consideration should be: What parts can you do without; you can probably fix a broken spring or drive for quite a while with a missing damper, but can you still get to where you are going if the fuel pump breaks or if you don't have a spare tyre.

Below are some essentials for you to consider:

Spare Parts

Various nuts, bolts, washers
Spark plugs/injectors, condenser, points, rotor arms
Electrical connectors, various fuses, spare bulbs and wire
2 x Fan belts
Fuel Pump and fuel filter
2 spare tyres, 3 spare tubes, tube puncture kit
Fuel tank sealant
Superglue, silicon sealant, Epoxy putty
Electrical tape, Duct tape
A good supply of Heat resistant Adhesive Tape is a MUST for fixing a whole host of problems from broken exhausts to leaky water pipes as well as tears in upholstery and body work damage.
Various lengths of cord, both fibre and electrical can have a similar 1001 uses.
Cable ties, small and large
Siphoning hose
break fluid
oils (engine, gearbox, transfer boxes, etc.)
Spare 12v battery


A comprehensive toolbox containing screwdrivers, Vice grips, Pliers (short and long nose), Socket set, open ended spanners, Saw, blades and knife, Shifting spanners Scissors, 'Tullen' cutters, Wire brush or steel file, Blowtorch and cartridge.
High lift jack
Jumper cables
Tyre levers
Sand Mats (if planning on travelling through the Desert)

not forgetting.... a good workshop manual

Always have a good map with you and stop often to ask the locals your exact position, even if you have a GPS and know how to use it. The locals know the area and will offer you tips and information on road conditions free of charge. Take some cheap ballpoint pens or writing books with you to hand out to helpers- if you need to.

Always have extra fuel and water with you. You can use empty 2-litre soda bottles. They are lying around all over and are strong, easy to handle and easy to store away. You must have at least 2 litres of water per person and 20 litres of extra fuel. Put it away in your vehicle and forget about it. If your vehicles has a large fuel tank and is capable of doing 700 km plus a tank, it would not be necessary. Fill the fuel tank at every available station.

If your vehicle gets stuck in the sand, before digging it in too deep, try letting a little air out of your types which will give them a wide traction spread - you do not need high tyre pressure when travelling in sand.

Plan a proper itinerary and give it to friends and family - stick to this itinerary. If you must change it, immediately notified them via SMS, satellite phone or Internet when and how you plan to change the itinerary. Make specific appointments to contact them. If not - they must notify the authorities.

Certain areas are off-limits for solo vehicle. Do not take a chance on this. If you are unsure about a specific route, rather ask advise ahead of your tour. Speak to others that have travelled that particular route. If you must enter that particular area - go to the last point of "civilization" and ask the locals for more information. It is best if you can wait till you can join up with another vehicle or group going into the area.

If you break down, do not leave the vehicle - it is easier to spot a vehicle than to spot a person. If you must leave it, write a proper report of your situation and your plan - give as much detail as possible. Leave it on the seat or dashboard where anybody can read it. If possible - leave somebody at the vehicle whilst others goes on a scout - always decide beforehand exactly where the scout would go and stick to the agreement.

Always make a fire and keep it burning - have lots of leaves or wet branches to put on the fire. Smoke will always draw attention in remote areas. People will see it from miles away and will sent somebody to investigate - they all fear uncontrolled veld fires. Burn the spare-wheel after you have deflated it to make a lot of thick, dark smoke.

Your vehicle has at least 20 litres of water under the bonnet and in the engine. With proper planning, you can utilize that to survive.

Remember that more people die of cold than of heat - take proper care at night. Do not discard your warm jacket or sweater during a hot day, even in the midst of summer, it can be very cold during the early morning hours. Do not sit in the vehicle when it is hot; move into the shade of a rock or tree close by. Keep something on your head - an opened magazine during the day, if you do not have a hat. Rap a towel or any piece of cloth around your head at night - the head is where the brain-box is situated and needs special care.

Look at the animals and insects. Most of them need water every day and you can determine where it is by observing them - especially at sunset and during the first 3 hours after sunrise. If you do not know how to distil water from liquid, wet a cloth and wipe your cheeks with it. Wait 15 minutes and if you see no rash or experience any discomfort, wipe your whole body. Your skin will absorb a lot of moisture. You can even roll in the liquid or wet all your clothing with it.

Do not drink liquids with alcohol in it. This will cause your body to loose a lot of fluids. Rather heat the alcoholic liquids to allow the alcohol to evaporate - then drink it. You can even open the can or bottle and let it stand open for a few hours. Keep your bladder as full as possible at all times - restrict yourself to urinate. This will prevent your body from dehydration so quickly.

Keep a small, hard stone in your mouth. This will cause the glands to secrete spittle and your mouth will not feel so dry. In this way, you can fool your thirst a bit.

In the desert, many of the plants are succulents with thick, watery leaves. Watch animals to determine what they eat and follow suit. What ever you decide to chew on, first smear a bit of the plant on your cheeks and wait 15 minutes - see for a rash or any feeling of discomfort. If none - chew some of it. Do not swallow it but spit it out and wait another 15 minutes. Wait for any discomfort in your mouth. If none - chew the plant properly and swallow it - wait another 15 minutes before the rest of the group is allowed to also chew the plant.

Urine is a very good anti-septic fluid, use it to clean bruises, bites or scratches

Blow the horn/ hooter of your vehicle early in the morning and late at night. Sound carries very far and the dogs will hear it from miles away. The locals will come to investigate. Blow the horn/hooter for about 10 seconds and wait a minute of so. Repeat about 20 times.

Tune the radio to any station you can find and listen to it. The radio uses little current but the contact with the outside world will keep your spirits up. Stay calm and think. Talk a lot to your companions and plan together. If all else fails.... pray.

Desert Survival Tips: Kindly provided by Koos Greeff

left and right side of road driving in African countries

Algeria drives on the right
Angola drives on the right
Benin drives on the right
Botswana drives on the left
Burkina Faso drives on the right
Burundi drives on the right
Cameroon drives on the right
Cape Verde drives on the right
Central African Republic drives on the right
Chad drives on the right
Comoros drives on the right
Congo, Democratic Republic of drives on the right
Congo, People’s Republic of drives on the right
Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) drives on the right
Djibouti drives on the right
Egypt drives on the right
Equatorial Guinea drives on the right
Eritrea drives on the right
Ethiopia drives on the right
Gabon (Gabonese Republic) drives on the right
Gambia drives on the right
Ghana drives on the right
Guinea drives on the right
Guinea-Bissau drives on the right
Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) drives on the right
Kenya drives on the left
Lesotho drives on the left
Liberia drives on the right
Libya drives on the right
Madagascar drives on the right
Malawi drives on the left
Mali drives on the right
Mauritania drives on the right
Morocco drives on the right
Mozambique drives on the left
Namibia drives on the left
Niger drives on the right
Nigeria drives on the right
Réunion drives on the right
Rwanda drives on the right
São Tomé and Príncipe drives on the right
Senegal drives on the right
Sierra Leone drives on the right
Somalia drives on the right
Somaliland drives on the right
South Africa drives on the left
South Sudan drives on the right
Sudan drives on the right
Swaziland drives on the left
Tanzania drives on the left
Togo drives on the right
Tunisia drives on the right
Uganda drives on the left
Western Sahara drives on the right
Zambia drives on the left
Zimbabwe drives on the left
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