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Johannesburg, Kruger National Park

Is it safe for two women to drive from Johannesburg to Kruger?

Hello - I'm visiting South Africa for the first time this summer with my mother.  We are beyond ecstatic to go on a safari at Kruger.  I'm considering renting a car for us to drive to Kruger as it's cheaper than flying and I haven't found good bus options that'll take us to our lodge.  Any advice on whether this is a bad idea?  Particularly from a safety / feasibility perspective?  I believe the drive is about 6 hours, but would like advice on that as well.


13 Answers

top answer by

Driving to the Kruger National Park is an easy enough drive. Ensure you aren't driving through early morning or late at night, as there tends to be misty conditions. There are also a fair number of trucks on the roads for the first 3 hours or so.

There are multiple gates to enter the Kruger, and each has a slightly different route. That said, if your lodge isnt too far from the southern park of the park, it is often lovely to enter the park at the bottom and drive through (again be aware of time, as gates close around 6.30 -7pm).

But, in terms of worrying about driving up - really not an issue. Perfect roads up to Nelspruit, Malelane etc.

Just avoid goign through Numbi Gate (road currently under construction with detours).

Hope this helps and have a blast!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Kruger National Park (amusement park)
7 thanks

answered by
David from San Francisco

I did this with my wife and it is an easy drive, very pretty in parts.  That said, you're right to be a little cautious.  I'm not saying its too dangerous but you will read a handful of horror stories of carjackings.  If you do drive, don't stop on the side of the road for any reason (we were told).  There are well known scams to get you to pull over including throwing large objects at your car from freeway overpasses.  And when you stop for gas at a rest stop, they'll have guards with semi-automatic there is some risk.  But again, no issues on our end at all.  Its probably very rare that something does happen.  But taking a shuttle with a group and an experienced driver might give you piece of mind.  Just something to think about.

7 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Mercia from South Africa

You are in for a treat!  Yes, renting a car is the most practical thing to do.  

Safety: you will be using a National road which is busy and has lots of roadside filling stations with shops, restrooms, restaurants and automatic teller machines. It means help is always fairly close should anything go wrong.  Ask you car rental company about road side assistance.  The one thing you do need to be careful of is the condition of the road.  There was very heavy rainfall - causing potholes -  and stretches of the road were being repaired when I went to Kruger in 2 months ago. 

Having a car also means you are set for driving yourself inside Kruger National Park too.  There are opportunities for night rides in game vehicles with specialist guides, and you should try to do that.  But during the day it is great to move around at your own pace, watch as long as you want....move when you are ready. 

On the way from Johannesburg to Kruger you will pass through coal mining country - not so pretty but mining is deeply embedded in our history.  Beyond the coal-lands is some of the most beautiful countryside.  You will leave the 'highveld' and descend into the 'lowveld'.  You might want to stop at the Sudwala Caves on the R539 just before Nelspruit.  Nelspruit is a large town and you will have an opportunity to stock up on whatever you need. There are some roadworks here that will have you in a stop-go for a while.  You could travel via Barberton to avoid the delay though this road is narrower. 

If you enjoy driving and taking in the sights, consider picking up a book about Geology.  The formations you will see especially in and around Nelspruit are awesome (and the only reason to fly would be to see them from the air)

Depending on what time you arrive, and if you feel up to a 6 hour drive to Kruger, you could overnight in the quaint town of Cullinan, Gauteng.  That gets you beyond the morning traffic of the city (ready to set out to Kruger) but is also not really far out of the way.  There are some restaurants, a diamond mine to visit with a museum....and you hop back onto the N4 Highway to Kruger.  

If you feel up to the drive straight off the plane, consider sleeping over at one of the many places along the way (probably closer to Nelspruit) so that you can begin your game viewing bright and early. (Remember it is winter now and the sun sets around 5:30pm and then the light is poor for game viewing, and you dont want to rush to the camp.  Speed limits in Kruger are strict, and low).  Watch the gate opening hours, and do try to get there early as people queue to be let in.  The gate lets batches of cars in at a time so that people have time to space out a bit and enjoy the game.  The first camp with have a sighting board where you can look what people have seen.  Alternately try a free app called Kruger Park Fieldnotes in which you add your own sightings too with a GPS location - great one!

I think you can tell that safety is not an overriding concern.  Be sensible.  Lock you car. Carry your handbags and cameras close and tight.  We are generally a warm and welcoming people but there is no harm in a little pragmatic attention to your own safety. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Kruger National Park (amusement park)
  2. Johannesburg (city)
  3. Nelspruit (city)
  4. Barberton (city)
  5. Cullinan (city)
  6. Sudwala Caves (attraction)
7 thankscomments (1)

answered first by
Markus from Kreuzlingen

The drive is VERY easy, we did that 2yrs ago. Half of the way is highway, later a very good road. We did a half-way stop at Blyde River Canyon Lodge, which should be a great and scenic place (though we had terrible weather). Make sure to visit Pilgrims Rest on your way towards Kruger National Park.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Blyde River Canyon Lodge (hotel)
  2. Pilgrims Rest (attraction)
  3. Kruger National Park (amusement park)
7 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Karisa from Atlanta

Yes, it is safe.  My husband and I did the drive last year.  Make sure your rental car is in tip top shape, as you will drive through shanty towns with signs that read "no stopping, high hijacking area."  It was unnerving... especially having a flat tire!  But driving is a much more economical way to get there than flying.  Check out my South Africa posts on my blog

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answered by
Muzi from Johannesburg

I know that does shuttle transfers from OR Tambo International Airport to Nelspruit, however have no idea about connection from Nelspruit to Kruger National Park. Driving from Johannesburg to Kruger for two ladies is pretty safe if you take common safety measures like not stopping in isolated areas on your way to Kruger.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. OR Tambo International Airport (attraction)
  2. Nelspruit (city)
  3. Kruger National Park (amusement park)
  4. Johannesburg (city)
5 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Bessie from Boston

Hi Julia,

You will be safe and have a great ride. We actually drove in way past midnight, of course there was no traffic but there are sections with two-way traffic that could have been of concern. Nothing happened. drive safe and enjoy the views.

4 thanks

answered by
David from Cape Town

Hey Julia,

Yes, it would be safe for you and your mom to drive from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park.   You will be driving on the left (same as the UK, opposite to the USA).  My suggestion would be to hire an SUV type vehicle.  These are more expensive than the standard vehicles, but you will have higher clearance for when you are in the park.  You do not require a 4x4.

Hope you have a great trip!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Johannesburg (city)
  2. Kruger National Park (amusement park)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Oran from Johannesburg

Hi Julia,

The drive is very safe as well as spectacular at certain parts. In South Africa, the key is awareness. Lock doors and don't have your handbag on the backseat. When at traffic lights, be aware of your surroundings. This might sound scary to you but in reality its precautionary. The only thing I would say is a no-no is to stop in the middle of nowhere where there are no roads. But if an interesting sign for a lunch spot is off the beaten track, feel free to follow it. I hope that helps!

2 thanks

answered by
Marla from Scottsville

We did this last summer.  I would URGE you not to drive on the interstate at night.  No one has really posted here about the "Mozambique Taxis." (That's what people told us they were called).  They are hugely over stuffed trucks/campers/trailers hauling items back to Mozambique.  The problem is a lot of these vehicles aren't in good shape.  We saw several broken down, and one was broken down, in the middle of the highway, with no lights on at all.  How we didn't plow into it going 70MPH, I'll have no idea.  All 4 of us agreed we would never drive on that road again at night.  We asked locals about it and they told us it was very common, and a lot of accidents result from these breakdowns.

That said, in the daytime, when you can see, it's fine!!  Also, when driving yourself, pay EXACT attention to the speed limit.  We got two tickets before noon our first day driving.  Be warned that you can't go over the speed limit AT ALL!!!

Driving in Kruger Park is fantastic!  We had no negative issues at all.

Have a great time.  I already can't wait to go back!!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Mozambique (attraction)
  2. Kruger Park (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Talia from Johannesburg

It's perfectly safe. I have done the drive myself. However the drive is longer than 6 hours. My family and I usually take the drive over 2 days and stay over-night on the way. 

1 thanks

answered by
Gerrie from Polokwane

Driving up to Kruger is a breeze.  It's pretty much highway all the way (N4 National Road).  It will be really safe for 2 women to drive there, no need to worry about your safety.  Be vigilant of trucks and heavy vehicles though.  A part of the road before you reach Nelspruit will consist of a mountain pass where conditions can be a bit misty in early mornings or rainy weather.  Just take it slow!

Oh and there are a couple of toll gates along the N4, so be sure to take cash in Rands with you, about R200 should be more than enough (not sure what the total cost will be nowadays)

All GPS devices should be able to take you straight from JHB to any of the lodges in the area surrounding Kruger.

Renting a car is a nice option, because then you can drive yourself through the park as well if you don't feel like going on organized game drives.  Lots of freedom!

answered by
Jamie from Danbury, Connecticut

A bus would be safe enough, provided that you are vigilant, but a rented car wouldn't be much more expensive and would allow you to drive within the Park to get to your lodge. The drive is 6 hours from Johannesburg, and the roads can get a bit dodgy at times but should be fine in your summer season (our winter season - dry season, so no rain and hopefully fewer potholes!). Many of my foreign friends and colleagues have driven the trip themselves, and then repeated it multiple times - You would be set to go!

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