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Great Cape Escapes: Tips for Traveling South Africa by Car

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Western Cape, South AfricaCape Town, South Africa, with its stellar scenery and stirring history, has been getting increased attention as South Africa gets ready to host soccer’s World Cup in the summer of 2010.

But for those who prefer to travel further off the beaten path, the Western Cape countryside offers so much more than just its legislative capital city.

Lynn Langway investigates the great Cape escapes of South Africa.

Tear yourself away from Cape Town for even an overnight or a weekend and discover the delights of three beautiful spots that lie less than two hours away: the whale capital of Hermanus to the southeast, the wine-and-food mecca of Franschhoek to the northeast, and the birds and beaches of Langebaan to the north.

The best way to explore is to take a road trip, as my husband and I did in the fall, when we rented a comfy Honda Civic plus a TomTom GPS from Budget Rent-A-Car.

South Africa, like other former British colonies, drives on the left-hand side of the road. While this can present a challenge, we’d done it before in Australia and New Zealand, so we felt fairly confident motoring along the Cape’s good roads during daylight after a few refresher-runs around Cape Town.

My husband was the designated driver; my job was to map-read and repeat at regular intervals, “remember, we drive on the left.” His driving tips for South Africa:

  • Pause for a second as you approach a roundabout or a stop sign and visualize where you need to go. The wrong reflex can sometimes kick in as you make a turn;
  • Exercise special care while entering or exiting from gas stations and shopping centers, so you don’t wind up on the wrong side of a divided roadway;
  • Be extra alert during right-hand turns. Remember, you are turning across oncoming traffic just as you do with left turns in the U.S. If another lane of traffic is turning beside you, watch out for those cars;
  • It’s local custom for slower vehicles to pull over onto the berm—on the left!—to allow others to pass without pulling into the oncoming lane. The passers then signal their thanks by flashing their lights. We were pleasantly surprised to see even giant trucks do this, though not always large farm vehicles.

Ready to hit the road? Click here to read Great Cape Escapes: Whale Tales in Hermanus, South Africa.

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