This post is mostly for the inexperienced first-time visitor/driver to the African continent. Always remember that Africa is quite different than any other continent. So be aware that you sometimes need to come out of your comfort zone to survive the continent. Things that seems abnormal on other continents is sometimes quite normal in Africa!
Check your tyres before you drive off. It sounds a bit foolish, but this can safe you some embarrassment if you just walk around your vehicle once to check if all your tyres are still okay and inflated to the correct pressure. Now you are ready to hit the road and enjoy the rest of your trip.
Tyre compressors and gauges at garages, especially in remote locations, are not always correct. Be aware of that. We have a habit of using our own tyre pressure gauge that we carry in our cubbyhole. Part of our standard equipment includes a tyre repair kit and the knowledge of how to use when necessary.
When visiting a sandy location remember that it is way easier to drive early morning when the sand is still cold and hard. When the sand warms up later in the day it gets more difficult to drive and accompanying that fact it also increases your fuel consumption. This is especially an important fact if you have to budget, and carry your own fuel in remote locations. When sand is thick and slow deflate your tyres. It makes a huge difference on your driving ability. It will also let you look like a pro.
Africa is a dusty continent. Drive with your headlights on even during daytime. Doing this you might get stopped by the local police who will tell you that it is illegal to have them on during time. (At this point smile and be nice and say okay sorry and switch it off). Switch them off while standing there, but as soon as you pull away put them back on. This makes your visibility in dusty conditions better to other hectic drivers. This saved us a couple of times on our expeditions in the past!
Gravel roads are in abundance wherever you travel in Africa. There are two things that you should remember when overtaking a vehicle. Due to dust you are not always visible to the driver in front of you (remember the tip on the headlights) and move as far right as you possibly can when overtaking. Drivers are not always in control of their vehicles … Many a time we were taken by surprise on their moves on the road. 😊
Look ahead of you when you are driving and keep your eyes on the road surface. If you see that the road widens at the edges, be sure that you will soon hit a pothole if you are not observant. Changes in the colour of the tar road – becoming more red/white – is a sure sign that there is a pothole ahead.
A night drive can sometimes be challenging as you have to keep a look out for all the of the above as well as stray animals wandering onto the road, because of no fences on the farms.
The long and the short of this is keep your eyes open and be wide awake. We know that African roads are not always on par with rest of the world, but this is part of the charm of the African continent. Everything does not always work as they should. Keep you cool and enjoy the ride!
Also read our post Going solo off the beaten track for more practical advice.