If you have decided to volunteer your time and join a humanitarian mission in Africa, then you may decide to rent a car for a period of time. This is a good idea if you need to travel between villages or if you need to drive a long distance. Car rentals can be acquired in Africa, just like in other countries. Before you start booking your rental though, you should understand a few important facts about driving in Africa.
You May Need An International Drivers License
If you live in the United States, then you very likely have a state issued drivers license. Class D non-commercial licenses are the most common, and this license allows you to drive all across the country. However, many other countries do not recognize the US license as a valid one that allows you to drive outside of the US. Many countries in Africa recognize an international driving permit though. South Africa, Algeria, Botswana, Central African Republic, and Malawi are a few examples of countries that recognize it. If you are traveling from country to country in Africa, then it is wise to contact the embassy in each country to see what type of license they accept.
If you require an international driving permit, you will need to fill out an application and submit passport photographs. You will also need to pay a small fee and present your US drivers license. There are a few different businesses that process applications for the permits, including AAA. You can also send in paperwork for a permit through the US Departments of State. Make sure to get your permit several months in advance. You typically can apply six months before you plan on traveling.
Once you arrange for the permit, you should also purchase an international car insurance policy. This policy will protect you and any passengers in the event of an accident or theft. The minimum insurance coverage needed will vary depending on the country you are in. Speak with your insurance carrier and provide the details of the countries you will be visiting when buying your policy.
You Need To Time Trips Carefully
If you want to drive a vehicle in Africa, then you should know that you will need to drive on the right side of the road in some countries and on the left in others. Make sure that you are well aware of the proper lane to drive in well before you rent your vehicle. Also, plan out your trips so you drive during the day and not in the evening or at night.
Night driving, especially in more rural areas of Africa, can be quite dangerous. Most roads are poorly maintained dirt varieties that can be difficult to navigate without painted road lines or distinctive lanes. These roads may also have large potholes or they may become flooded during the rainy season. Also, most roads do not have street lights or any other form of illumination.
Along with the dangers of poorly maintained roads, some rural areas do not have a police presence. This may mean that thefts and illegal driving activities may be more frequent on the roads. To ensure safety, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to drive during the daylight hours.
While driving during the day is ideal, police that are active in the area may set up roadblocks in the region during daylight hours. This allows the limited police force to check for proper licenses and driving infractions. You should be aware that you may come across a roadblock. If you do, then have your license, proof of insurance, and safety gear available for inspection. Some countries require you to carry certain items like reflectors or hazard triangles. Ask your car rental company about these things in advance. If you do not have them, then you may need to pay a fine.