Driving Yourself in Africa
Driving Yourself In Africa Can Often Be An Adventurous Undertaking...
Make sure to rent your car from a reputable company that has been in business for some time and get full insurance coverage from the car rental company.
Most car rental companies in Africa will not let you take their cars into other countries, if you plan to do so make sure that your contract states that this is allowed and that the car rental insurance covers it. You may need to specify countries.
Find out what their vehicle replacement policy is in case your vehicle is not functional anymore at any stage of your trip.
Most of the rental cars will not have an automatic transmission, so for some this might be an issue. If you are not comfortable driving with a stick shift make sure to familiarize yourself with it prior to your trip.
Make sure that you have at least one full good spare tire in the car and check the overall condition of the car and the spare. If you intend on traveling off road, long distances or remote areas, make sure to have at least two good spare tires... A couple of cans of tire filler can be also a great saver.
Make sure that all the fluids of the car are topped off.
In the first 10 minutes of driving, really pay attention to the way the car handles and what the engine sounds like. If it does not feel right, return it for another vehicle.
Always carry plenty of extra drinkable water in the car, this can be used for the car or for yourself if stranded.
If you do not need a 4x4, I would not recommend getting one unless you are familiar with driving them.
Driving on dirt roads can be delicate, keep your speed down. It is easy to loose control on dirt or gravel roads. In many countries, and particularly in rural areas, roads are often poorly maintained.
Beware of pot holes, they are not always easily seen and you never can anticipate the size of the hole just by looking at it. I have seen what appear to be small holes collapse into giant holes that have engulfed the entire front end of a car (this happens especially during and just after the rainy season).
I would advice anyone unfamiliar with Africa to avoid doing self driven trips at any time during the rainy season if you will traveling on unpaved roads.
It's not unusual to come across domestic animals such as sheep and cattle or game, this is the number one cause of death on the road in Africa, especially at dusk, dawn and at night. Stay alert, always use your seatbelt and avoid traveling at these times whenever possible.
Make sure to get several road maps. From personal experience I know that the inaccuracy of maps in Africa is probable.
Rent a satellite or cell phone for your own safety and well being. It is relatively inexpensive and a good insurance policy.
Share your stories, tips and recommendations from your own travels in Africa or post your questions.