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Land

Border Crossings

Botswana

There are 15 official South Africa–Botswana border posts, open between at least 8am and 3pm.

Some of the more remote crossings are impassable to 2WD vehicles and may be closed during periods of high water. Otherwise the crossings are hassle-free.

Citizens of most Western nations do not require a visa to enter Botswana. People who do require a visa should apply in advance through a Botswanan mission (or a British mission in countries without Botswanan representation).

Grobler’s Bridge/Martin’s Drift (8am to 6pm) Northwest of Polokwane (Pietersburg).

Kopfontein Gate/Tlokweng Gate (6am to midnight) Next to Madikwe Game Reserve; a main border post.

Pont Drift (8am to 4pm) Convenient for Mapungubwe National Park (Limpopo) and Tuli Block (Botswana).

Ramatlabama (6am to 10pm) North of Mahikeng; a main border post.

Skilpadshek/Pioneer Gate (6am to midnight) Northwest of Zeerust; a main border post.

Swartkopfontein Gate/Ramotswa (6am to 10pm) Northwest of Zeerust.

Twee Rivieren (7.30am to 4pm) At the South African entrance to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Lesotho

All of Lesotho’s borders are with South Africa and are straightforward to cross.

The main crossing is at Maseru Bridge, east of Bloemfontein. Queues here are sometimes very long upon exiting and, on some weekend evenings, entering Lesotho; use other posts if possible.

You need a 4WD to cross at Sani Pass, Ramatseliso’s Gate and Ongeluksnek.

Lesotho Borders

Caledonspoort (6am to 10pm) For crossing between Fouriesburg and Butha-Buthe.

Makhaleng Bridge (8am to 6pm) Near Mohale’s Hoek/Zastron.

Maputsoe Bridge (24 hours) For crossing between Maputsoe and Ficksburg.

Maseru Bridge (24 hours) The busiest crossing; direct access to Maseru.

Nkonkoana Gate (8am to 4pm) Remote 4WD-only crossing near Sehlabathebe National Park.

Ongeluksnek (7am to 7pm) Remote southern post connecting Mphaki and Matatiele.

Peka Bridge (6am to 4pm) Quieter alternative to Maseru Bridge, just north of Maseru.

Qacha’s Nek (8am to 10pm) Connecting Qacha’s Nek and Matatiele.

Ramatseliso’s Gate (8am to 6pm) Remote 4WD crossing between Tsoelike and Matatiele.

Sani Pass (8am to 4pm) Iconic border post near Himeville; 4WD required.

Sephapo’s Gate (8am to 4pm) Quiet crossing near Mafeteng/Boesmanskop.

Tele Bridge (8am to 10pm) Near Quthing/Sterkspruit.

Van Rooyen's Gate (8am to 10pm) Near Mafeteng/Wepener.

Mozambique

Citizens of Western countries should apply in advance for tourist visas at a Mozambican mission. Border visas may be issued to people coming from countries where there is no Mozambican consular representation, but travellers in this situation should check with the Mozambican High Commission in Pretoria (or Mbabane, Swaziland).

Giriyondo Between Kruger National Park’s Phalaborwa Gate and Massingir (Mozambique).

Kosi Bay/Ponta d’Ouro (8am to 4pm) On the coast, well north of Durban.

Lebombo/Ressano Garcia The main crossing, east of Nelspruit; also known as Komatipoort.

Pafuri In Kruger National Park’s northeastern corner.

Namibia

Citizens of most Western nations do not require a visa to enter Namibia for up to three months. People who do require a visa should apply in advance through a Namibian mission. Border posts include the following:

Alexander Bay/Oranjemund (6am to 10pm) On the Atlantic coast; access is reliant on the ferry.

Nakop/Ariamsvlei (24 hours) West of Upington.

Rietfontein/Aroab (8am to 4.30pm) Just south of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Vioolsdrif/Noordoewer (24 hours) North of Springbok, on the N7 to/from Cape Town.

Swaziland

There are 11 South Africa–Swaziland border posts, all of which are hassle-free, including the following. Note that small posts close at 4pm.

Golela/Lavumisa (7am to 10pm) En route between Durban and Swaziland’s Ezulwini Valley.

Josefdal/Bulembu (8am to 4pm) Between Piggs Peak and Barberton (Mpumalanga); the road is sealed on the South African side, but thereafter a 4WD or car with high clearance is recommended.

Mahamba (8am to 8pm) The best crossing to use from Piet Retief in Mpumalanga. Casinos nearby attract traffic, especially on weekends.

Mananga (8am to 6pm) Southwest of Komatipoort (Mpumalanga).

Matsamo/Jeppe’s Reef (8am to 8pm) Southwest of Malelane (Mpumalanga) and a possible route to Kruger National Park. Casinos nearby attract traffic, especially on weekends.

Onverwacht/Salitje (8am to 6pm) North of Pongola in KwaZulu-Natal.

Oshoek/Ngwenya (7am to 10pm) The busiest crossing, about 360km southeast of Pretoria.

Zimbabwe

Citizens of most Western nations need a visa to enter Zimbabwe, and these should be purchased at the border.

Beitbridge (24 hours), on the Limpopo River, is the only border post between Zimbabwe and South Africa. The closest South African town to the border is Musina (15km south), where you can change money.

There’s lots of smuggling, so searches are thorough and queues often long. Ignore touts on the Zimbabwe side trying to ‘help’ you through Zimbabwe immigration and customs; there’s no charge for the government forms needed for immigration.

Shared Taxi

  • You can travel to/from South Africa’s neighbours by local shared taxi.
  • A few routes go direct.
  • It’s normally necessary to walk across the border and pick up a new taxi on the other side.
  • Long-distance services generally leave early in the morning.

Bus

Numerous bus lines cross between South Africa and its neighbours. It’s the most efficient way to travel overland, unless you have your own vehicle.

Sometimes-lengthy queues are usually the only major hassle. At the border you’ll have to disembark to take care of visa formalities, then reboard and carry on.

Visa prices are not included in ticket prices.

Botswana

Intercape runs daily between Gaborone (Botswana) and Jo’burg (R220 to R330, 7½ hours) via Pretoria.

Shared Taxi

Less safe and comfortable than buses, shared taxis run from Jo’burg to Gaborone (seven hours) and Lobatse (Botswana) with a change in Mahikeng (North West Province). Another route from Jo’burg is via Grobler’s Bridge/Martin’s Drift to Palapye (Botswana; eight hours).

Lesotho

Shared taxis connect Jo’burg and Maseru (eight hours). It’s quicker and easier to catch a bus to Bloemfontein, then continue by shared taxi to Maseru (three hours).

South African bus lines, including Intercape, also link Bloemfontein and beyond with Ladybrand (2½ hours), a few kilometres from the Maseru Bridge crossing.

Leaving Maseru, long-distance shared taxis depart from the rank at Maseru Bridge.

Other possible shared-taxi routes:

  • Butha-Buthe to/from Fouriesburg (Free State)
  • Leribe (Hlotse) to/from Ficksburg (Free State)
  • Quthing to/from Sterkspruit (Eastern Cape)
  • Qacha’s Nek to/from Matatiele (Eastern Cape)

Mozambique

Bus companies including Greyhound, Intercape and Translux run daily ‘luxury’ coaches between Jo’burg/Pretoria and Maputo (Mozambique) via Nelspruit (Mbombela), Komatipoort and the Lebombo/Ressano Garcia crossing (R300, 10½ hours). Passengers must have a valid Mozambique visa before boarding the bus.

Mr Chubby and Cheetah Express run shuttles between Nelspruit (which is well served by shuttles from Jo'burg and beyond) and Maputo. Jo’burg/Pretoria–Maputo can also be tackled in shared taxis.

Namibia

Intercape buses run between Windhoek (Namibia) and Cape Town (R630 to R780, 21½ hours), departing roughly every other day.

Swaziland

Daily shuttles run between Jo’burg and Mbabane.

Shared taxi routes:

  • Jo’burg to/from Mbabane (four hours); some continue to Manzini
  • Durban to/from Manzini (eight hours)
  • Manzini to/from Maputo (3¼ hours)

Zimbabwe

Greyhound and Intercape operate daily buses between Jo’burg and Harare (Zimbabwe; R570, 17 hours), and between Jo’burg and Bulawayo (Zimbabwe; R550, 14 hours), both via Pretoria.

Shared taxis run south from Beitbridge to Musina and beyond.

Car & Motorcycle

  • If you rent a car in South Africa and plan to take it across an international border, you’ll need a permission letter from the rental company.
  • South African car-rental companies typically charge around R500 for cross-border travel to Lesotho and Swaziland, R1500 for Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and R2000 for Mozambique.
  • Most companies permit entry to most neighbouring countries, though some may be reluctant regarding Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
  • Check that the right information is on the permission letter; companies sometimes get it wrong.
  • Taking a car across a border also raises the insurance excess.

Bringing Your Own Vehicle

  • You’ll need the vehicle’s registration papers, liability insurance and your driving licence.
  • You’ll also need a carnet de passage en douane, the international customs document, which allows the temporary admission of motor vehicles.
  • Obtain a carnet through your local automobile association (from about US$300).
  • Drivers of vehicles from outside Africa must typically pay a 50% refundable security deposit of 25% of the vehicle’s value.
  • Cars registered in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia, and driven by citizens or permanent residents of these countries, don’t need a carnet to visit the other countries in this group.

Botswana

The following crossings are passable in 2WD cars:

  • Grobler’s Bridge/Martin’s Drift
  • Kopfontein Gate/Tlokweng Gate
  • Ramatlabama
  • Skilpadshek/Pioneer Gate

Lesotho

Road tax of M30 (or R30) is payable on entering Lesotho. The easiest entry points for cars and motorcycles are on the northern and western sides of the country.

Most of the entry points to the south and east are unsealed, though many are passable in a 2WD, depending on weather conditions. A sealed road runs around the perimeter of the country from Qacha's Nek clockwise to Mokhotlong.

It’s more economical to rent a car in South Africa than in Lesotho. You must have two red hazard triangles in your car in case of a breakdown.

Mozambique

You must have two red hazard triangles in your car in case of a breakdown.

Kosi Bay/Ponta d’Ouro Travelling to/from Mozambique via this border post, you’ll need your own 4WD vehicle. Accommodation options in Ponta d’Ouro (Mozambique) offer transfers if you need to leave your vehicle at Kosi Bay.

Lebombo/Ressano Garcia (Komatipoort) The N4 highway connects Pretoria with this post, joined by the N12 from Jo’burg. The EN4 highway runs southeast from here to Maputo. There are tolls on both sides of the border.

Namaacha/Lomahasha The roads leading to this border post with Swaziland are sealed, and negotiable with 2WD.

Giriyondo It's 95km from Kruger’s Phalaborwa gate to Giriyondo, and 75km further to Massingir, the first major town on the Mozambique side. A 4WD and proof of overnight accommodation in the relevant park are required.

Pafuri Just 29km from Kruger's Pafuri gate, but on the Mozambique side, there is an unbridged crossing of the Limpopo River near Mapai (makeshift ferry during rains) and a rough bush track thereafter via Mabote and Mapinhane to Vilankulo (4WD required). Allow two full days for the journey. Proof of accommodation in Kruger or Limpopo park is required.

Namibia

2WD Highways lead to the Vioolsdrif/Noordoewer and Nakop/Ariamsvlei crossings.

4WD A 4WD opens up more options for crossing the border, including through the Kgalagadi and |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld transfrontier parks.

Swaziland

  • Swaziland’s borders can be crossed in a 2WD.
  • Road tax of E50 payable on entering the country.
  • It’s more economical to rent a car in South Africa than in Swaziland.

Zimbabwe

Entering or leaving South Africa, vehicles pay a toll at the border to use the Limpopo Bridge.

Bicycle

There are no restrictions on bringing your own bicycle into South Africa. Some sources of information:

Cycling South Africa (www.cyclingsa.com)

International Bicycle Fund (www.ibike.org)

Train

The Man in Seat Sixty-One (www.seat61.com) has ideas for train travel throughout Southern Africa.

Mozambique

Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique (www.cfm.co.mz) has a daily train between Maputo and the Lebombo/Ressano Garcia (Komatipoort) border post (US$1, 3¾ hours), where you can cross the border on foot and continue by bus, shared taxi, shuttle or train.

Namibia

TransNamib StarLine (www.transnamib.com.na) connects Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Windhoek with Keetmanshoop and Karasburg in southern Namibia. From the latter, you can catch an Intercape bus across the border to Upington (Northern Cape).