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Self-drive holidays give visitors the freedom and flexibility to take their holiday at their own pace rather than sticking to a rigid itinerary.
Self-drive is not advisable in many parts of Africa unless guests are experienced off-road 4x4 drivers. But where it is, it can offer not only the freedom of the open road but a more affordable way to get around, often seeing more along the way and meeting the locals. In some countries self-drive is almost the norm for most visitors; here are some of our favourite self-drive destinations.
South Africa is the most obvious with its thousands of miles of excellent tar roads, and even in the remoter areas, well graded corrugated roads make it by far the most popular self-drive destination in Africa. The National Parks and some of the Game Reserves have a good network of roads and facilities for the more independent visitor, with fuel stations and rest camps designed for those arriving under their own steam. Many of the private game lodges that are in reserves and concessions that don't have graded tracks and trails will often have a pick-up point where guests are met and transferred into the camp. We can arrange 4x4 rental and even camping equipment and camper vans, meaning that the more off-the-beaten-track areas, such as the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, can be accessed with the right advice.
Namibia also has a comprehensive road network and whilst some of the roads are not tar, or have a few potholes along the way, it is possible to get around most of Namibia without a 4-wheel drive; although again, for the more intrepid, we can arrange this. With distances so vast and so much less habitation, there are different considerations for Namibia than South Africa and greater caution is required, but this is again the most economical way to get around under your own steam.
Botswana does have tar roads but many of the more famous game viewing areas are only accessible by 4x4 or not at all if not on an organised trip. However, the tar road that runs all the way down the panhandle and onto Maun and eventually Kasane makes combining Namibia, Botswana and even Zimbabwe very easy. Safaris using 4x4s and taking the route the mobile safaris take are also possible, but more specialist advice and training are needed.
Zimbabwe is once again opening up to international visitors and the road infrastructure is still good, if not a little under maintained. In the 1990s, 20% of all self-drive holidays we arranged were to Zimbabwe and with availability of petrol not being the issue it was, this is a great way to meet some of the friendliest people in Africa.
Zambia also has a good network of roads but outside the main towns and cities, these are often poorly maintained and car rental is expensive. Therefore the cost advantages rarely outweigh the inconveniences. We would be happy to talk through the possibilities here, but as a rule we recommend fly-in safaris.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, but it has a pretty decent network of roads meaning that most of the country's attractions are accessible by standard saloon car. However, the roads are in a fairly poor state of repair in some areas, so expert advice and the right choice of vehicle are needed.
Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda all have good tar roads between the main towns and cities, but to get on safari, visitors really need a 4x4. Unless experienced, we don't often recommend this option. Car rental is expensive and it can be more affordable to hire a driver/guide with a specially adapted 4x4.