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Safety and Travel Tips for Driving The Garden Route

Updated: Jan 28

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A road trip down South Africa's famed Garden Route was a complete surprise on our backpacking trip through Africa.


As we were making our way from Nairobi to Cape Town, fellow travellers kept mentioning how 'the Garden Route is not to be missed' – and so we decided to follow their advice, rejig a few things, and tail on a 1-week Garden Route itinerary!



Beautiful beach on the Garden Route
There are some beautiful beaches along the Garden Route

 

What is the Garden Route?


The Garden Route is one of the great road trips of the world. It stretches for 124 miles through the Western Cape of South Africa, between Mossel Bay and Storms River. There are countless scenic back roads and pit stops to enjoy, and the Garden Route really shows off why this region of South Africa has one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.



The Cape Town coast
The Cape Town coast

 

Car Rental in Cape Town


While there are some public and tourist bus links in this region, they are limited, and hitchhiking is not a safe alternative (unlike in Zambia). The best way to truly experience the Garden Route is to rent a car.


Did you know that renting a car is super cheap in South Africa?


We rented a vehicle from First Car Rental in Cape Town, this was £15 a day - including full insurance! Now imagine splitting that between 4 passengers!? A 1-week Garden Route itinerary does not need to break the bank.


UK citizens do not need an international driver's license to rent a car in South Africa, just your passport and a credit card.


There are so many things to do in Cape Town – it is definitely worth spending a week here before or after your road trip down the Garden Route. Beautiful hikes? Check! Amazing beaches? Check. Incredible food and wine? Check, and check!


From Cape Town, you can break up the 4-hour drive to Mossel Bay by spending some time in the wine farms of Stellenbosch and Franschoek. The wine in South Africa is so cheap, and so delicious (and that's coming from a qualified Sommelier!)


 

Some Safety Tips for Driving in South Africa


South Africa has a bad reputation for petty and violent crime, more so than most of the other countries in Africa, believe it or not. I have been to South Africa twice and have never had any issues, but here are some precautions whilst driving the Garden Route...



Safety Tips for Driving The Garden Route



1. Do not drive at night


You can negate a huge amount of risk in any situation whilst travelling if you do not stay out late. When driving The Garden Route we always planned well so that we would reach our destination and check in before sunset.



2. Keep car doors locked at all times, even when you're driving


Whilst we did not experience this, I have seen numerous reports of people being carjacked or robbed whilst they are in traffic, including at border crossings and petrol stations.


Keeping your doors locked and windows closed whilst stationary is much safer, however, if you are being robbed DO NOT RESIST. Another safety tip for driving The Garden Route is to leave a big enough space between yourself and the car in front so that you are not jammed in if something does happen.



Hiker in Plettenberg Bay
Hiking in Plettenberg Bay

3. Do not keep any valuables in the vehicle


I don't think you could keep valuables on display in many places, but in somewhere like South Africa where the police struggle to control crime, someone could break into your car for something as basic as a lighter!



4. Only park where there are car park attendants


Most businesses we saw in Cape Town and along The Garden Route had parking attendants, this included shopping malls, supermarkets, and petrol stations. We always tipped them something like 20ZAR (80p) to watch our car, especially as often our big backpacks were in the boot.



5. Do not pull over to take photos on secluded roads


This is a safety tip for driving The Garden Route that you may not have considered.


Pulling over to take photos of scenic spots on secluded roads not only makes you vulnerable but also makes you stand out as a tourist. This means you are a walking target, as people assume you have not only that fancy camera but all of your luggage (valuables) and cash in the car. There have been reports of people being robbed and murdered in these situations in South Africa in recent years.



Knysna The Garden Route
Knysna - A beautiful stop along the Garden Route

6. If Google Maps starts directing you into a township (you will know them when you see them) – ignore it and stay on the main road.


There have been issues with Google Maps taking shortcuts through townships near Cape Town airport - where obliging tourists have quickly been robbed, and in some cases, killed. Although Google has said they have stopped doing this in Cape Town, it is still a safety tip worth bearing in mind.



7. Dress like a peasant


Maybe it goes without saying, but do not wear expensive jewellery, and keep your smartphone out of sight at all times – iPhones are especially coveted – Do not look rich!



8. If police try to pull you over on a quiet road, keep driving


Do not pull over, but instead put your hazards on so they know you see them, and have them follow you to a busy petrol station or similar place with CCTV coverage.


Police in South Africa must show you their ID if you ask for it, they are allowed to search your vehicle and your person, but women are allowed to ask for female police officers to search them. If there are no female police officers there, the police must call in and request one.



I Dream of Mangoes at Mossel Bay - the start of the Garden Route
Mossel Bay - the start of the Garden Route

 

This list is not meant to scare you, but you should take these safety tips for driving The Garden Route seriously, and these precautions will quickly become second nature. As I said before, I have been to South Africa twice and have not had any issues.



Other Travel Tips for Driving The Garden Route


It takes 6 hours, give or take, to drive from Cape Town to Storms River – which is where we will assume you are starting and ending your Garden Route Itinerary.


I would recommend choosing 2 or 3 locations to lay your head and making day trips from there.


We chose the fantastic Holt Hill in Plettenberg Bay – this was our favourite place along the Garden Route. Plettenberg Bay is a beautiful beach community with amazing coastal hikes and only good vibes.


We also stayed at Santos Express in Mossel Bay - this is a train that has been converted into a budget hotel, right on the beach! Both of these accommodations were under £20 per night.


There are some stunning scenic roads if don't mind taking your time and coming off the N2 – our favourite was the Seven Passes Road – which links the towns of Knysna and George.


Food and drink along The Garden Route is fantastic and cheap – I will SO miss those massive goblets of quality wine for £1!


And my final travel tip for driving The Garden Route – I don't want to tell you how to live your life, but please do not ride ostriches in Oudtshoorn. I know it sounds bonkers and a right laugh, but they are not built to carry the weight of a human and it really hurts them.



 


Not sure what to pack for your trip to South Africa? Check out my article:




 


I Dream of Mangoes on top of Table Mountain
On top of Table Mountain

 

Thank you for reading my article: Safety and Travel Tips for Driving The Garden Route. If you enjoyed the read, please consider subscribing to my blog where I post articles once every week about my current travels around the world.


For more South Africa inspiration, check out my post: Planning an Independent & Budget Safari to Kruger National Park.


Happy Travels

xx



START PLANNING YOUR NEXT TRIP



 

Disclosure:
I Dream of Mangoes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. That being said, I only link to products I use and love.

2 Comments


Guest
Jan 16

Great tips thanks :)

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Replying to

You're so welcome :)

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