South African road signs

Published: 30th January 2009
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Although South Africa is still considered a developing country, it does have an excellent and extensive road network and there are not many dedicated South African road signs that do not follow the international norm set in 1968 in Europe.

As South Africa is a former British colony, the rules of the road closely follow that of the UK but there are exceptions. If you are considering car rental whilst visiting Cape Town, the bush or the Garden Route, it is recommended that you brush up on the general information of the different road sign categories.

According to the Convention on Road Signs and Signals adopted in 1968, there are eight categories of road sign:

  • Danger warning signs are either triangles with red borders, white backgrounds and black symbols or diamonds with black borders, yellow backgrounds and black symbols. South Africa has embraced the former as its warning sign

  • Priority signs simply regulate the right of way and encompass yield and stop signs. South Africa follows the international model closely where a downward triangle with a red border and white background indicates that the driver should yield to oncoming traffic, where a red octagon with white border and letters indicates a stop

  • Prohibitory or restrictive signs are traditionally round with red borders and in the case of South Africa, white backgrounds. A thick, red, rightwards slash across a black symbol indicates the prohibition of the specific activity

  • Mandatory signs are generally round with blue backgrounds and here again South Africa follows the norm to the letter

  • Special regulation signs are rectangular and indicate dedicated rules and regulations

  • Information facilities and service signs are rectangular and indicate the services available en route

  • Direction, indication or position signs are also rectangular and indicate directions. In the vast majority of countries, including South Africa, the background will be blue with white writing

  • Additional panels are sometimes attached to other signs to provide additional information

Information supplied by the Automobile Association of South Africa indicates there are only a handful of prohibitory road signs that are unique to visitors:

  • No entry except for emergency vehicles is indicated on a round sign with a red border and a white background with two thick horizontal black lines in the middle.

  • The no stopping allowed sign is round with a red border, white background with a large black 'S' as the focal point with a red slash running through it.

  • No hitch hikers is a sign circular in shape with a red border and a black figure of a hitch hiker in the middle of a white background. A rightward red slash runs through the black.

  • No abnormal vehicles is indicated by a round sign with a red border and the letters AV in black with a rightward red slash running through the letters.

Once you have brushed up on the finer details of road travel in South Africa, your car hire and total travel experience should be painless and hassle free.

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