In this guest post for Expat Bookshop, Barbara Bruhwiler, author of Guide to Johannesburg, talks about road safety in South Africa.

Getting behind the steering wheel of your rental car is a short procedure these days. You arrive at the counter of the car rental company, hand over your credit card, get a car key in return, and sign a few documents. And off you go.

In South Africa, I would recommend you get to know you rental car a bit before you press the accelerator pedal. The thing is you might find yourself in a situation of needing the spare wheel at some point in time, and the jack and the other tools for changing a tyre. And as they are usually cleverly hidden by a nerd automobile engineer, it may be a good thing to ask the rental company staff where they are tucked away.

I can talk from considerable experience in this matter because in the first years we lived in South Africa, we managed to get a puncture fairly regularly when we travelled. The culprit for it was almost always a pothole. These are like mushrooms: in the rainy season, they appear, to join the ones from last year and the years before. And like mushrooms they are juicy. Some of them can double up as a warthog’s bathtub.

Another thing you need to know about potholes is that they often lurk in the shade. Which makes them difficult to see in sunny South Africa because your eyes have yet to adjust from the blinding sunlight. And then it’s too late, boom, you hit one.

Thankfully there is a trick how to avoid potholes: When you’re on a road you don’t know, it is beneficial to drive a bit more slowly and try to look far enough ahead. But better even is to follow a local driver who will most probably know where to swerve or go slow.

But potholes are not the only ones responsible for punctures in South Africa. There is also quite a bit of dirt on the roads: bits of wire, old screws and nails, as well as pebbles and little pieces of rock that have been swept onto the street by the heavy rains. It is not always easy to understand why, in my opinion, but these screws and nails tend to end up in your tyre instead of being squashed flatly into the ground when you drive over them. The good thing about them is they only cause a slow puncture, giving you time to fix the problem before you have to haul out your jack and spare wheel. Help for this kind of situation is easy to find: pull into the next petrol station, where the attendants are more than happy to squash a piece of rubber into the hole and pump up your tyre again. If you pay them something between 50 and 100 Rand you will leave them smiling and you’re good to go again. And hopefully, you’ll also be smiling behind your steering wheel, because it may as well have been the first time in your life that you had a car problem fixed for less than 10 US Dollars.

Barbara Bruhwiler lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two children. She is an internationally successful author of five books. One of them is the Guide to Johannesburg, a handy reference guide full of practical, useful information and advice for expats moving to or living in Johannesburg.

Read more about Johannesburg here.

Buy your copy here.



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