Can you drive across Africa? How to make it work

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Can you drive across Africa? Yes, you absolutely can. But you need to know what you’re doing.

How to see Africa overland

Africa is such a vast continent that it’s easy to feel small when even asking the question: can you drive across Africa? But while jumping in your car and clocking up mile after mile is a challenge, you’ll be surprised by how rewarding such a self-drive safari can be.

In fact, self-driving through Africa is a thing today, and the most popular route travels between Kenya and South Africa.

Personally, I’ve driven overland through Namibia, Botswana and Morocco, sometimes with my husband, sometimes alone. But you can bind together even more countries and spend months doing it to really make the most of a road trip in Africa.

Elephant standing at the river edge in Kenya

Is it safe to drive through Africa?

Africa is a large continent and the rate of violent crime varies from region to region. There are also some no go places at the moment due to ongoing conflicts. This is why it is important to establish a route in advance by researching and choosing the African countries that are considered safe.

The states in southern Africa are more popular due to their lower violence rates, but there are also many states in East Africa, on the West Coast, and even in North Africa that will welcome you.

However, it’s best to always be aware of your surroundings, no matter where you are driving.

Tips for Overlanding in Africa

Police Checkpoints

Border crossings are usually one of the areas where you are less likely to experience corrupt police officers, as the critical mass of security / police / border officials means they don’t tend to try their luck. 

Police checkpoints are commonplace in Tanzania and Kenya but most of the time they just wave you through.


 If you do get stopped the usual scam is not having “car insurance” for the country. Always check in advance and make sure that you have the right paperwork with you.

Signs and Speed Limits

There are very few traffic lights, relatively speaking, and if there are power cuts they will be off anyway. However, the signs you need to pay attention to are the speed limits.  Getting pulled over for speeding is a legitimate way to pick yourself up a fine.

 The main cause of road accidents once into Botswana and north is hitting animals on the road, this is why our first rule for safety is ‘don’t drive at night.’

Jordan - woman lost in the desert with broken down car
I would recommend against driving into the desert alone…

How Do You Get Your Car to Africa?

If you are bringing your own car from Europe, the easiest way is to do this is to take the ferry from Spain to the Spanish territory of Ceuta, which is surrounded by Morocco. You can then drive south from there, although bear in mind that the traditional Cairo to Cape Town route is currently closed due to geopolitical conflicts.

A better idea would be to ship your car to one of the main ports like Cape Town in South Africa, Walvis Bay in Namibia, Alexandria in Egypt, or Mombasa in Kenya and fly yourself to meet up with your vehicle.

Another option would be to buy a car in Africa and sell it once your drive across Africa is over. It sounds a bit extreme, but it’s actually a great option if you don’t already own a car to drive through Africa.

Finally, of course, you can rent a car, although this really only works for shorter drives since the one way pick up fees for a north to south route can be astronomical!

Kilimanjaro Peak Group Photo in Africa
On the peak of Kilimanjaro: just one of the many adventures you can have if you drive across Africa

7 Reasons to drive across Africa

Driving across Africa is quite an undertaking and it may not be for everyone.

If you love travelling in comfort, then it would be easier to book a tour. But if you are ready to trade ease for a more authentic experience, then a massive African road trip is for you.

Here are ten reasons to drive across Africa:

To Create Memories that will Last a Lifetime

Driving across Africa is not an easy gig. You will be looking for petrol stations, shops, or a place to eat. Your car may breakdown, and you may need to come up with ingenious ways to get it working again. Plus, some places to stay may not be what you expected.

But you’ll be driving through several countries with your partner, family, or best friend, taking in spectacular views as part of an epic road trip.

Imagine how many stories you’ll have to tell your friends when you get home. This is something you simply cannot experience if you take the easy path.

To Make a Difference

While your African road trip takes you along the open roads of several countries, this local way of travel helps to bring tourist dollars to local communities rather than big corporations.

To Explore some of Africa’s highlights

This is the best part of your adventure! You will be passing through some of the best places to visit in Africa in only one trip.  

Want to cross the Okavango Delta in Botswana ? Add it to your personalised route on Google Maps.

With the right plan in place, an African road trip can bring you face to face with almost anything.

This lion on safari in Kenya is a great example of the diversity of African wildlife

To Experience the Diversity of African Wildlife

Driving through Africa will give you a unique chance to see giraffes, elephants, zebras, antelopes, leopards, and hippos in their natural habitat. Not to mention ostriches and lions.

To Witness Achingly Beautiful Sunsets and Clear Night Skies

You will be able to drive at your own pace and stop every time you feel you need to spend more time in one place. You’ll witness the sunset in the most amazing places on earth, and you can even camp out in the complete quietness of a park and gaze at the stars before you doze off after an exhausting day.

Tip: While you can set up camp almost everywhere in Africa without permission, it is safer to pick a designated campsite for your overnight sleep.

To Uncover the Flavours of Africa

Each stop along the way is an opportunity to explore something new.

Try a bobotie or the Kenyan ugali with a spicy sauce. Jollof rice is also very popular and easy to pack and take with you on the way. For dessert, we recommend the delicious malva pudding.

To Make Lifelong Friends

Nothing bonds people better than travelling together over a long distance.

You’ll help each other if you get stranded on the side of the road or get lost and need to find your way back to the main road. This kind of epic adventure offers you a one-of-a-kind chance to meet people who have the same passions as you and you’ll create lifelong friendships.

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