Question: Hello, I am a visitor from the U.S. and I was wondering if my valid US driver’s license allows me to drive a motorcycle or scooter while I am visiting South Africa?
Answer: First let me say this: The foreign license you want to use must be for the same vehicle you want to ride or drive in South Africa.
For example: You can’t use a Motor Vehicle (Car) License to ride a motorcycle, or a Motorcycle License to drive a car in South Africa.
In short, your Motorcycle License may be used, for a limited period, to ride a motorcycle in South Africa providing your license is in an official South African language, with a photo of yourself including your signature imprinted on the license.
Section 23 of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 provides that a driving license issued in any other country (in other words a foreign license) shall be deemed to be a license for the purposes of driving in South Africa and the period in respect of which the license shall remain valid to drive in SA, shall be as prescribed. This section is supported by Regulation 110(1) which states that a foreign driving license shall be valid to drive in SA if:
(i) The license has been issued in an official language of SA; or (ii) A certificate of authenticity or validity issued in an official language of SA by a competent authority, or a translation of that license in an official SA language, is attached to the license.
(2) The license contains or has attached to it a photograph and the signature of the license holder.
These provisions of the Act clearly permit a person to drive in SA with his/her foreign driving license, provided the license meets the above requirements. The license will be valid for the period that is stated on the license itself (if a time period is listed). In your case, as a visitor to SA, you are certainly allowed to drive with your USA license. The time period for which your license will be valid in SA will be stipulated on your license itself (if any). However, as a regular visitor to SA, it is advisable that you use an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in SA, as this document is easily identifiable by our traffic officials and will prevent you from encountering any possible problems with them. Many car rental companies (as a policy) now require an IDP when renting cars to foreign visitors as this will ensure compliance with their insurance requirements regarding the rented vehicle. However, some car rental companies will easily accept a foreign license as it may not be a requirement in terms of insurance the position is subjective to each individual car rental company.
Different laws apply if you seek permanent residency and want to convert your Foreign License to a South African License.
A side note from me on safety:
Please keep LEFT, and think Kilometres not Miles per Hour, the speed limits are clearly marked on our roads; 60km/h in built-up areas in town or city limits and 100-120km/h on main roads and freeways.
Most of our newer models take 97, 95, or 93 Unleaded Fuel, so please be sure to fill up correctly.
I hope this answers your question, and wish you a happy and safe stay in our lovely country.