Many of you have been asking me for tips and advice on how to plan a road trip. Honestly, my answer is that there are no specific guidelines on how a road trip should be planned because it is subjected to your interests and traveling style. If you have plenty of free time, you could easily rent a car, have no plans and go wherever the road takes you. So, I’ve centred this piece on how I planned my road trip and hopefully you’ll find it helpful if you’re looking for somewhere to start planning your own adventure!
First of all, this is the route my friend and I wanted to go for when we decided to visit South Africa. For starters, there are plenty of recommended drives and routes from people who have been there done there. National Geographic even has an entire hard cover book called “Drives of a Lifetime”
Therefore, after deciding the route, we went through a list of factors to make the best of our road trip!
We only had 2 weeks for this trip therefore, planning was required to see the most that we can. One important sensible tip that I can provide is to check the distance of the entire route and in between. This is often overlooked but knowing how long the route is can give you a rough estimate of the petrol money you should set aside (petrol can be really pricey in certain countries! The average in SA is between R12 to R13 per ltr). Knowing your drive also allows you to decide whereabouts do you want to have your overnight pit stops. For my trip, we also tried to avoid overnight drives and broke down long distances for obvious safety reasons. We felt that it was kinda dodgy for two Asian chicks to be driving long distances at night in the unfamiliar land. The winter season cut short our daylight as well so we tried to get to our destination just after sundown. It makes it easier to find your location and you can enjoy the scenic route with actual daylight and not headlights! But at the end of the day, if there are more of you and you can afford overnight and longer drives.
Garden Route was absolutely beautiful. Well, Africa is beautiful. We didn’t stick to the route completely but re-routed so that it fits what we want to do. So yes, time, know your route, know how long you gonna take, break down long drives and have pit stops, stay the night if you have to. The longest drive we had was probably 6 hours and the shortest from 1 town to another was about 2 hours.
This really helped us concretise our route. We looked at what we wanted to do and where the activities were before deciding where should we have our overnight stops. Knowing your activities and it’s location can really save time and maximise your route. Also if there are tolls along the way and you have to go back and forth through the toll to get to your activity, that can be avoided if you anticipate it. You can plan to do something on the way to your next destination. Stop longer in the town where there are more stuff to do etc.. Though, note that you shouldn’t overpack your activities as you still want to have the flexibility of switching things around and have room to do new stuff you find along the way, which we did! Also, you never know when you need wet weather programs. Have a rough idea and book those that you have to in advance (and always ask the possibility of swapping it around even though you have booked it, just in case, traffic, weather, time, who knows.) Then leave the rest to fate.
3. BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION
I know many people who will disagree with me and many who will agree with me. I don’t think there would be a major problem if I got to the town and find my accommodation there and then. However, I much prefer the idea of saving time and petrol and knowing I will have a roof over my head that night. You don’t want to get to a town, find that a lot of places are booked out and spend your afternoon driving around looking for a place to stay when you can use the time to do other things! We only had 2 weeks so we really needed to get this sorted out to maximise our time in SA. Plus, if it is peak season AND you are picky about where you stay, you jolly well just pre-book. You can also find decent accommodation near places you want to do your activities or find accommodation that provide deals for things you want to do and save a lot of money! And another reason for booking your accommodation is so that you can find places that allow you to park for free! Parking can be an issue with the cost, and fines if you park illegally. If you have to pay for parking you can estimate how much you gotta put aside as well.
Honestly, this was pretty much all that I considered when I planned my road trip. You don’t want to plan something too much and try to stick to the plan when you’re there and get all frustrated when things don’t work out how you want it to. The best way is just to have a skeletal, have a rough idea and roll as you drive along!
SAFETY TIPS: For safety, this is the advice we got from locals, and some my own.
1. Do what you would normally do at home, i.e. don’t leave your valuables in your car. If you have stuff, place it in the boot or somewhere unseen.
2. Don’t park at dodgy unlit areas
3. Lock your car doors (you’ll be surprised at the number of people who actually forget this)
4. Observe road traffic safety and stick to the speed limit especially areas with speed cams. SA is quite strict with the speed limit.
5. Eyes on the road especially on winding roads (okay maybe for a second or so to marvel at the beauty around then eyes back on the road) I’m serious about this as animals can actually jump out of no-where on to the road in South Africa. We had a couple of them.
6. Don’t drive and take pictures at the same time, pull over, you get better shots anyway.
7. Avoid driving long routes at night.
For everyone out there curious bout my South African itinerary, here you go! 🙂
DAY 1 (29/06)
Arrive into Cape Town international Airport and Drive to Fish Hoek or somewhere around the area.
EST: < 1hr
Activities: Penguins (Boulder Beach), Simon Town
DAY 2 (30/06)
Head to Hermanus
EST: < 2hr
Activities: Whale-watching from land, diving with the sharks
DAY 4 (2/07)
Hermanus to Mossel Bay
EST: < 4hr
Activities: Game reserve, Mussels + Wine
DAY 6 (4/07)
Mossel Bay to Knysa
EST: < 2hr
Activities: Oyster Festival, Sightseeing (Lagoon)
DAY 7 (5/07)
Mossel Bay to Tsitsikamma
EST: < 2hr
Activities: Tenikwa, Tsitsikamma Forest/National, Bungy
DAY 9 (7/07)
EST: < 6hr
Activities: Valley of Desolation, Addo Elephant National Park (slight detour but on the way)
DAY 10 (8/07)
EST: < 4hr
Activities: Ostrich & Cango Caves
DAY 11 (09/07)
To Cape Town
EST: < 5.5hr
Activities: Table Mountain Abseiling, Skydive, Explore the town, Robben Island and getting in touch with our history books
DAY 15 (13/07)
Thats me on the right and my awesome road trip buddy on the left. Now go enjoy your drives and tell me about it! 🙂