Southern Africa is a vast area encompassing South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. It offers a range of climates, settings and cultures, each of which adds to the overall quality of your visit and it has become one of the 'bucket-list' destinations globally.
Exploring this incredible region can be both rewarding and challenging, and without doubt, it is regarded as one of the most incredible motorcycle destinations worldwide. The region has thousands of kilometers of good paved roads and unlimited off-road opportunities, and it simply calls to be explored on a bike.
But having said this, it also poses risk and a bevy of administrative, safety, social and cultural challenges for visitors. Cross-border travel involves separate and sometimes costly visa and transit processes, and the rural nature of a large part of the region requires attentive and above-average motorcycling skill to ensure your personal safety and enjoyment. As is the case in many parts of the world, localised criminality and intermittent unrest can result in certain areas being avoided by visitors, but in general communities across the region welcome and encourage tourism.
The following provides some relevant information to help you plan your ride and travels through the area. We welcome any updates, reviews and comments on our list in order to provide the most comprehensive advisory service to visitors and locals alike.
The accommodation sector in the region is robust and competitive. In the urban centres, you will find accommodation of world-class standard, but rural areas and outlying villages may offer only rudimentary accommodation and facilities. Book ahead wherever you can, but take care when judging your accommodation only by photo's on the web!
Unlike the EU and other economic regions, there is no uni-visa for this region and each country has its own visa and entry requirements. Ensure that you have the prescribed documents and fees before trying to cross into another country in the region, and check your requirements before departure.
Southern Africa has a well-developed communications infrastructure. A number of cell phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas.
In some regional destinations, cell and even landline coverage is often not available in remote areas, so for travelers planning prolonged visits to these areas, satellite phones are recommended.
Southern Africa is well-known for its long sunny days, with most of the region experiencing summer rainfall, and areas such as South Africa's Western Cape, which experiences winter rainfall. The high-lying areas of the interior can be chilly in winter. Seasons are generally:
Spring: September, October, November
Summer: December through February
Autumn: March, April, May
Winter: June through August
In South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana, the South African Rand is accepted at almost all retailers. However, if you are travelling to other countries in the region, it is advised to carry US Dollars and to convert these to the local currency whenever possible.
Fuel and Repair Facilities:
Fuel is freely available almost everywhere, and this can be purchased using 'Petro-cards' in South Africa, but with cash in other countries in the region. 95-octane petrol is the standard for motorcycles in the region, but in some areas only 93 octane may be available. Prices vary according to country and even regions within countries, so check this before departure.
Repair facilities exist across the region for most vehicles and motorcycles. In urban areas, these could include branded dealerships and agencies, while in rural areas, expect anything.
Health & Medical Services:
The region is prone to Malaria and Yellow Fever and visitors are advised to receive appropriate pre-visit treatment or inoculations as advised by your Travel Clinic. In South Africa, Malaria is mostly limited to the eastern and north-eastern parts of the country (Limpopo; Mpumalanga; Kwa Zulu Natal). Water quality is generally good in urban areas but drinking water from open sources in most countries is not advised.
South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and the urban areas of other countries in the region have excellent medical facilities and emergency services, but these vary to degrees in rural areas in each country. Emergency medical evacuation services are available across the region at a cost.
There are as many languages and dialects as there are communities across southern Africa. English is spoken in most countries in the region, but a knowledge of Portuguese is helpful in Mozambique; Afrikaans is spoken in large parts of rural South Africa (11 official languages) and Namibia, while German is a widely used language in Namibia.
Using common sense and taking basic safety precautions works anywhere. Keep valuables locked away and don’t wear expensive watches or jewellery, flash expensive cameras, or walk in deserted areas. When motorcycling, be aware of people and vehicles around you and if in any doubt as to the safety of a particular area, avoid it or leave it as soon as you can. If in doubt, ask a guide or at your accommodation for safety guidelines.
Roads across the region vary from paved highway to sand and gravel routes, but all major centres and most tourist areas are well serviced by good quality paved surfaces. In some areas, road maintenance can be problematic and potholes and poor surfaces should be expected.
We drive on the left-hand side of the road in the region, and road signs and traffic signals are generally no different to those in other international destinations. Speed limits are enforced in most countries, and as a guide these range from 120kph on motorways and national routes, to 80kph in rural areas and 60kph in urban areas. Always consider the road, weather and traffic conditions and adjust your speed accordingly. If you are a 'speed junkie', note that speed fines can be expensive and that any speed over 160kph results in immediate detention by the traffic authorities.
Although roads are well marked, you will find unmarked routes - so use your common sense and remember that animals, wildlife and livestock rule! Be aware of this and also be aware of sudden obstacles and detours.
Speed law enforcement is actively undertaken in the region using radar and even time/distance calculations. NEVER try to offer a bribe to a traffic officer or policeman when stopped. It's not worth the chance that you have met the only honest official in the country!
Service and Tipping:
This is a very hospitable and friendly region, and while service levels may vary from urban to rural areas and from store-to-store, you will experience genuine warmth and friendliness in almost all cases. Gratuities are not generally included in your bill (check with the establishment concerned) and it is expected that you will 'tip' at least 10% in most places.
If you are dissatisfied with the service you receive, raise it with the owner or manager of the facility before leaving. Often, this helps avoid unpleasantness and it helps improve service in general.
Visitors to the area will be faced with a number of taxes and service charges depending on the country being visited. Generally, VAT is applicable on most purchases in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and other countries in the region, and road taxes and additional service charges are applicable in some countries. Check before you travel.
Fuel and Repair Facilities
Health and Medical Services
Service and Tipping