A road on the Garden Route
Pixabay
  • The coronavirus has changed travel, and road trips are no exception.
  • It is not yet clear just how busy South Africa's roads will be during traditional peak travel time, but you don't want to take chances in public spaces.
  • And some establishments you're used to relying on may simply not have made it through the economic crisis.
  • Here's how to survive a festive season road trip in South Africa during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Airports are ghost towns, hotels stand empty, and travel agents have shut up shop.

But the coronavirus pandemic has not only affected airlines and cruise ship companies. The threat of transmission, and the economic devastation of lockdown, has changed even the traditional South African road trip over the festive season.

Just how many South Africans will take to the roads in December and January is not clear. There is less money to go around, so staycations and day trips are expected to be big, but long holidays (for schools as well as employees at companies eager for them to take accumulated leave while things are sluggish) and being long starved of company could act as a contrary force.

See also | It can be cheaper to drive – in a rented car– than fly out of Joburg this Christmas

But with real and present concerns about the current rate of transmission in South Africa, you don't want to take any chances in public spaces.

Here's how to survive a festive season road trip in South Africa during the pandemic.

Pack your own hand soap...

Despite an initial enthusiasm for hand hygiene, some of those responsible for the management of South African public toilets have fallen back into bad habits, recent anecdotal evidence suggests – and you may be met with empty soap dispensers.

If you like to wash off the residue of hand sanitiser every so often, throw a conveniently-sized bottle of hand soap into the car. And a reasonably large bottle of water, and you won't even need a bathroom for that necessity, at least.

...and padkos

Recommendations for travellers in various parts of the world, and in various forms of transport, now include packing your own food. Doing so reduces several areas of contact in one swoop, and also leaves you safe from the uncertainties that come with a pandemic.

Phone ahead to see what's open (and if it still exists)

From food outlets to hotels, many businesses you relied on during previous trips may not have survived. Others are subject to sudden staff shortages, or closure at short notice due to cases of infection.

If you are going to rely on an establishment to serve you, and if there are not alternatives nearby, double-check it is operational close to your departure.

Consider getting off the highway – for drive-thru and bathrooms

If you can't, or don't want to, pack all the food for your trip, consider a detour into a major town rather than sticking to the highway rest stops – just plan ahead. If you know where to go, most routes will offer a town or two with a drive-thru option. In others you may be able to get a kerbside pickup.

And, if all else fails, fast food chains say their in-town locations tend to be quieter than those on the highways, which means less crowded bathrooms too.

Rather double up on drivers and skip overnight stops. Or camp

Accommodation establishments, large and small, have gone to great lengths to reassure potential customers that their cleaning regimes are a match for the coronavirus. But experts still recommend that you take personal responsibility for cleaning any space you use, because risks remain, and that is painful when you just want to sleep over.

Another option is to put enough drivers into the same car to safely drive without stopping for the night.

If your logistics or passengers just won't allow pushing through, there's a coronavirus-safe, and fun alternative: camping. (Just remember to be careful in shared bathrooms.)

Whatever you do, don't skip the safety breaks

Covid-19 has killed more people in South Africa than are likely to die on the roads this year, but driving in a car still puts you in mortal danger.

To mitigate the danger of fatigue, you should still stop every two hours, or 200km, for a rest break, the AA recommends. You can do so anywhere safe, not only at a crowded petrol station.

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