The Best Self-Drive Routes for an Affordable Holiday in South Africa

The Best Self-Drive Routes for an Affordable Holiday in South Africa

Interest in self-drive travel in South Africa is up 140% since 2021, yet car hire is double the price in some holiday hotspots since the pandemic. In South Africa, though, the British Pound is currently at an all-time high, meaning now is the time to tick a self-drive holiday in Africa off the bucket list if you’re the adventurous kind.

For this guide, the experts at Drive South Africa have shared with us the best self-drive routes for an affordable holiday in South Africa amidst the cost-of-living crisis.

With prices seemingly heading in just one direction, which is ‘up’, most families are thinking about saving money on upcoming holidays. One answer? Opt for a self-drive approach. The British Pound is currently the strongest it’s ever been in South Africa, too, which makes it the ideal destination to visit in 2023 even more so.

A mother and daughter heading off on an adventure in their car

Self-drive travel can make a holiday to South Africa more affordable and accessible, with various vehicle hire options available to suit any budget. It also allows travellers to explore at their own pace and provides a more immersive experience when discovering the scenery, landscapes, and wildlife along the way, providing flexibility and freedom.

Car rental company, Drive South Africa, has analysed their booking data to establish how the car rental space in South Africa has changed over the last few years, particularly when looking at self-drive holidays. The data showed that overall self-drive travel in South Africa had increased significantly, with a 140% rise in bookings from 2021 to 2022.

Below are Drive South Africa’s top 5 self-drive route suggestions:

A woman standing on top of her car roof holding her arms out in celebration

1. Route 62
Extending from the Western Cape and into Oudtshoorn, Route 62 features breathtaking natural beauty with many idyllic places to stop off and explore along the drive.

The beautiful Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden in Worcester is the perfect picnic place. Set against the backdrop of the Hex River Mountain range, the garden contains a diverse range of succulent species and displays of plants only found in the arid and semi-arid regions of Southern Africa.

Twenty-nine kilometres north of Oudtshoorn are the Cango caves – one of the oldest attractions of the Klein Karoo. Having been visited by humankind since the early Stone Age, the caverns consist of three systems of limestone caverns that are filled with stalactites, helictites, and stalagmites fairyland and make a genuinely breathtaking pitstop on a self-drive road trip.

A happy family of four at the rear of their car

2. The Garden Route
The Garden Route is located on the eastern coast of South Africa, which connects Cape Town with Port Elizabeth and showcases mountainous terrain before reaching the majestic ocean. The route takes approximately nine hours of continuous driving to complete, which makes it a perfect road trip to take over the course of several days.

Near Plettenberg Bay is Monkeyland, an animal sanctuary with a vast dome allowing the monkeys to roam free inside the area. Guests can take a guided tour through the dome, where the guide will point out and inform visitors about the different species of apes running around.

The village of Wilderness lies between George and Knysna along the Garden Route. Although the village is predominantly made of holiday homes, the beaches of Wilderness are endless and a sight to behold – well worth taking a driving break to see.

A couple enjoying breakfast at sunrise

3. The Heritage Trail of the Klein Karoo
Beginning in Port Elizabeth, this route allows visitors to learn more about the country’s rich colonial and anti-apartheid history. The interactive exhibitions at the Red Location Museum offer a great insight into the role of Port Elizabeth in South Africa’s past.

The village of Nieu-Bethesda is only accessible via a drive through the astounding cliff views of the Valley of Desolation. Home to the Owl House Museum, the village still has no tarred roads or mobile phone reception, making it the ideal hidden gem to stop off at and truly disconnect.

Finally, at the end of the route lies the heart of the Eastern Cape’s Frontier Country, Grahamstown. The town is home to 56 churches, the 19th-century Albany Museum in Provost Prison, and some of the oldest natural history collections in the world.

A traveller with is van parked up inside a stone walled area

4. The Cape Winelands
An hour’s drive from Cape Town lies the Cape Winelands, home to stunning scenery, delicious cuisine and world-renowned wines.

Arguably the most famous wine region is Stelllenbosch, with over 300 wine farms in the area, making it an essential spot for first-time visitors and wine lovers. Stellenbosch is also the second oldest town in South Africa and features stunning, preserved architecture.

The town of Worcester is situated between the Hex River and the Brede River on Route 62. Surrounded by striking mountains and located in South Africa’s biggest wine-producing district, the town is ideally situated to explore the wine farms of Worcester and the surrounding areas of Tulbagh, Ceres and Robertson.

5. The Sani Pass
Looking for a more adventurous holiday?

Sani Pass, the gateway from Kwa-Zulu Natal into the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, is a scenic ascent into the mountains. Only 4x4s are allowed on the road by law, and the roads are often closed during the South African winter.

A car driving up a winding road

Starting at the height of 1,544 metres and climbing to a height of 2,876 metres, this is one of the most challenging passes in South Africa, but the spectacular views and local wildlife make it all worth it. The pass can be treacherous and should only be attempted by the most confident drivers – and, most importantly, in the right vehicle.

Andre Van Kets, co-founder and director of the Discover Africa group, says of self-drive holidays, “With self-drive travel up by 140% from 2021 to 2022, there has been a rapid recovery of more than double since Covid-19. We predict 2023 will see a further 30% increase in 4×4, camper, and car rental-based self-drive trips into Southern Africa, especially with airlift growing in the region. Many major airlines have resumed flights to Johannesburg International Airport – where the majority of self-drive trips into Africa commence.”

You can read more travel guides, news and first-hand reviews here.

The Best Self-Drive Routes for an Affordable Holiday in South Africa 2

Editorial Team

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