Guest Post: South Africa hitchhiking essentials

Advantages of hitchhiking in South Africa

A lot of folk are willing to go out of their way to help you get to your next best spot for hitching, will give you tips on what to look out for or even, if it’s getting late, host you with the promise to take you to a hitching spot in the morning.

I happened to stop the owner of Hillcrest wineries in the middle of nowhere. As it was late in the afternoon he offered me to spend the night at his olive farm where we hiked a mountain, barbecued, drank wine and the next day he took me two hours further north on my way to Namibia.

Borders are painless, I didn’t experience any difficulty and they’re quite friendly and happy to assist. The country itself is breathtaking. If you’re into nature and landscapes, South Africa, especially the Western Cape peninsula is stunning.

As for prices currently, $1 AUD = 10 Rand. Again, I can only compare based on beer (an Aussie’s gotta drink) so pints in Oz are about $8-10 AUD where as in SA they average 18-22 Rand – about two bucks. I think it’s pretty cheap in SA.

Finally, I never came across a bad road in SA. It feels very European in its road standards.South Africa hitchhiking essentials: South Africa - The Nomadic Diaries (4)

Disadvantages of hitchhiking in South Africa

Sometimes you might be dropped in areas where local folk will be waving money to persuade drivers to stop for them. If you’re on a budget and someone stops for you, you must clear the air and explain that you can’t afford to pay for a ride.

If you do get a ride, you might be crammed in a car that is overloaded with baggage and people. And it’s not uncommon to sit in the back of a pick-up truck (just have something warm cause the wind is cold) and have a kid plonked on your lap.

Then again, it’s part of the adventure.

I have yet to encounter police corruption but then, I have yet to have dealings with police in Africa. Some say they are corrupt. I guess it just depends on the vibe you get from the officer.

Hitch-hiking spots tend to be easily reachable. I was pretty lucky to hitch straight from False Bay (a suburb) as I was walking my way to a service station. Had a sign for the N7 and someone stopped. In general, I think it’s relatively easy with a friendly ride or grabbing public transport to a service station.

Types of roads

The roads in SA are pretty good. South Africa, having been colonised by Europeans is pretty European for an African nation. The main highways are smooth riding but the drivers here do like to push the pedal to the metal.

There are 362,099 km of roads in South Africa of which 73,506 km is paved. There are 4 road classifications: national routes (connecting major cities), provincial routes (connecting smaller cities and towns to the national route network), regional routes (connecting smaller towns to the route network) and metropolitan routes (important inner city roads).

South Africa hitchhiking essentials: South Africa - The Nomadic Diaries (10)

South Africa hitchhiking essentials: National route road sign South AfricaNational Routes (N) form the fastest and most efficient way to get around the country. There are 18 N roads in total and the speed limit is 120 km/h (75 mph). Hitchhiking on them is illegal.

South Africa hitchhiking essentials: Provincial route road sign South AfricaProvincial routes (R) are numbered 21-99 and fill in the gaps that the National Routes don’t cover. Road quality varies from motorway quality to gravel roads and the speed limit is usually 100 km/h (60 mph). Hitchhiking on them is a grey area.

South Africa hitchhiking essentials: Regional route road sign South AfricaRegional routes (R) are lesser provincial roads with a speed limit of either 60 km/h (35 mph) or 100 km/h (60 mph) depending on how urban the road is. Hitchhiking on them is legal.

South Africa hitchhiking essentials: Metropolitan route road sign South AfricaMetropolitan route (M) are major inner-city roads with a speed limit of 60 km/h (35 mph) unless otherwise states. Hitchhiking on them is legal.


Road map of South Africa

South Africa hitchhiking essentials: road map of South Africa


Handy Hitch-hikers Phrases

‘Lekker’ – Awesome. Like no worries, you can answer it to anything really.
‘Bukky’ – a pick-up truck \ ute
‘Mora-mora’ – Good morning
‘Lekker shlop’ – Good night
‘Baai’ is like ‘very’. So you if something was really good, you can say, ‘Baai lekker’.
‘Danki’ – Thank you
‘Aweh’ (pronounced: ‘Ah-wee’) – is slang for ‘hello’ (Usually between the younger generations)
‘Braai’ – Barbecue (and they love to barbecue)
‘Yessis’ – it’s used like ‘Oh my god’ or ‘Holy spaghetti, Batman’. i.e: Yessis, the surf was lekker.

South Africa hitchhiking essentials: South Africa - The Nomadic Diaries (2)

South Africa Border Crossings

South Africa neighbours 6 different countries Namibia (to the north-west), Botswana & Zimbabwe (north), Mozambique (north-east), Swaziland (east) and Lesotho (which is completely surrounded by the RSA).

South Africa – Namibia

There are six border crossings between Namibia & South Africa

  • The principle border crossings are located at Vioolsdrift (South Africa) – Noordoewer (Namibia) which links the South African city of Cape Town to Namibia and Nakop (South Africa) – Ariamsvlei (Namibia) which connects eastern South Africa to Namibia.
    I came through Vioolsdrift on the N7 on the SA side. In Namibia it becomes the B1 the main highway of that country, but it seems that that is where all the trucks come through.

South Africa – Botswana

There are thirteen border crossings between South Africa & Botswana

  • The most important border crossing is located at Pioneer Gate (South Africa) – Skilpadshek (Botswana) which connects Johannesburg to the main A2 highway in Botswana. It is the most popular route for truck drivers travelling between the two countries.
  • The other major crossings is located at Ramatlabama which is situated 30 km south if the Pioneer Gate / Skilpadshek crossing and lies on the 18 / A1 highway crossing.

South Africa – Zimbabwe

There is one border crossings between South Africa & Zimbabwe

  • The only border crossing between the two countries is the Alfred Beit Road Bridge. On the South African side the bridge marks the end of the N1 Highway which passes through the major centres of  Pretoria  and Johannesburg. In Zimbabwe,  the road divides, with the A6 running to Bulawayo and the R1 to Masvingo.

South Africa – Mozambique

There are four border crossings between South Africa & Mozambique

  • The main border crossing can be found at Lebombo (South Africa) – Ressano Garcia (Mozambique) which marks the end of the N4 Highway in South Africa and the start of the EN4 in Mozambique. The crossing connects the major towns of Nelspruit (South Africa) and Maputo (Mozambique).

South Africa – Swaziland

There are ten border crossings between South Africa & Swaziland

  • The busiest border crossing is at Oshoek (South Africa) – Ngwenya (Swaziland) which straddles the N17 HighwayMR3 main road. It is especially busy during the holidays so expect long queues to pass through.

South Africa – Lesotho

There are ten border crossings between South Africa & Lesotho

  • The easiest place to cross is at the Ficksburg Bridge (South Africa) – Maputsoe (Lesotho) border crossing. Failing that, try the Maseru Bridge checkpoint. Both crossings are 24h (the only ones that are).

map of South Africa border crossings


South Africa hitchhiking essentials

South Africa hitchhiking essentials: The Animal - Simon's travel companion

written by: Simon (The Nomadic Diaries)

Tired of society’s rinse ‘n’ repeat lifestyle, Simon has decided to dedicate the rest of his life to hitch-hiking the globe without flying or using money. Instead, he barters for food and board and adventures. Life is one shot. Go live it.

Check out his blog at:

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