Although as a country South Africa is vast, it is relatively easy to drive around. South Africans drive on the left hand side of the road, and all signposts are written in English. It is law to wear a seat belt at all times, and using a mobile phone when driving is prohibited.
Speed limits are usually clearly indicated. Generally, speed limits on highways are 120km/h, those on major roads outside built-up areas are 100 km/h, those on major roads within built-up areas are 80km/h and those on normal city/town roads are 60 km/h. But beware – in some areas the posted speed limits may change suddenly and unexpectedly.
Some of the main roads have only one lane in each direction, especially where they are far from urban centers. When driving on such a road, after passing a truck or other slow-moving vehicle that has moved onto the hard shoulder (often marked by a yellow line) to let you pass, it is customary to flash your hazard lights once. This is considered a “thank you” and you will most likely receive a “my pleasure” response in the the form of the slow vehicle flashing its headlights once. Bear in mind that it is both illegal and dangerous to drive on the hard shoulder – although many people do.
The roads within South Africa, connecting most major cities, and between its immediate neighbours are very good. There are many national and regional road connecting the cities and larger centres, including the N1 running from Cape Town through Johannesburg and Pretoria up to Harare, Zimbabwe, the N2 running from Cape Town to Durban, which passes through the world-famous Garden Route near Knysna, and the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg.
In many rural areas you will find unpaved "dirt" roads. Most of these are perfectly suitable for a normal car, although a reduced speed might often be advisable. Extra caution is required when driving on these road, especially when encountering other traffic - windscreens and lights broken by flying stones are not uncommon.
Whilst it is not yet compulsory, more and more drivers are adopting the practice of driving with their headlights on at all times. This greatly increases their visibility to other road users.
If your driver's licence is in any of South Africa's 11 official languages (e.g. English) and it contains a photo and your signature integrated into the licence document, then it is legally acceptable as a valid driver's licence in South Africa. However, some car rental and insurance companies may still insist that you provide an International Driver's Permit.
It is generally best practice to acquire an International Driver's Permit in your country of origin, prior to starting your journey, regardless of whether your licence is legally acceptable or not.