4 reasons why travelling in a smart car through Africa is better than a 4×4 MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

Why Traveling in a Smart Car in Africa is Better than a 4×4

Besides saving on fuel costs, there are plenty of advantages to traveling through Africa in a small urban smart car.

Let me share with you what I learned after driving all the way from Cape Town to Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater and back in a smart car:

1. A Small Car Breaks the Ice

One of the funny things about traveling is that we often end up spending more time with people from our own country than getting to know the local culture. We talk about technical details of off-roading, brag about our rooftop tents, and our fancy fridges. But the truth is, the locals are not that interested in all that.

When you travel to a new country, learning from the locals is an invaluable opportunity. These are the people who truly understand the ins and outs of their own homeland, not just passing visitors like me. And one surprising way to engage with locals is by driving a small car.

Driving a small car can be a great conversation starter, especially in African countries where people often prioritize economy. It’s a topic that’s on everyone’s mind, and discussing fuel efficiency can lead to interesting and insightful exchanges. Plus, driving a small car can make you seem less intimidating and more approachable to the locals. Here’s why:

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2. A small car gives you a better approach angle

Something you may not have considered is the cultural significance attached to large 4×4 vehicles in certain African countries. Many locals, particularly in rural areas, associate these vehicles with the colonial era or corrupt officials. They may also be reminded of the extravagant cars used by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which can seem ironic when the aim is to assist those in need.

By driving a small car, you can avoid these associations and instead be seen as someone who values simplicity and practicality. This can help you connect with locals on a more equal footing and foster more meaningful interactions.

Imagine this: I’m out exploring the great outdoors. I’ve got my trusty 4×4 and a group of friends with me. We’ve decided to camp out and enjoy nature, but something feels off. It seems like the locals here don’t really welcome us.

Why is that? Well, it turns out that some people who go camping bring along all the comforts of home. They have fancy RVs with satellite dishes, fridges, and even roll-out kitchen cabinets. It’s like they’ve created a mini home for themselves, right in the middle of nature.

3. A Barrier Between Us

If you drive a big vehicle with a hefty load, the fuzz guarding the roadblocks are more likely to inspect your papers and give your car a thorough search. They have a keen interest in rummaging through big loads. They find the idea of snagging a deliciously chilled South African steak, a bottle of brandy, or at the very least, a pack of quality cigarettes, particularly tempting. Additionally, the fact that you must be well-off to afford such a car increases the likelihood of bribery.

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Conversely, a small car is subjected to fewer stops, and when it is stopped, it’s often just for a laugh or a discussion on fuel efficiency, engine size, mileage, and price. After some time, you begin to catch on to this pattern and, in order to save time, you end up zooming between the police barriers without stopping – something that the narrow smart car is perfectly suited for. Moreover, this behavior doesn’t seem to offend the police officers greatly. They think to themselves, “Hah! Silly folks. They’re such jokers.”

Unfortunately, my smart car is not narrow enough to slip by speed radar.

4. Traveling in a small car is way more interesting

Picture a journey where everything keeps falling into place? Boring; sort of like a Toyota, really.

Traveling with less stuff comes with its own set of challenges, but you quickly realize that all those comforts and guarantees are not necessary. Driving a car that isn’t built for rough African roads increases the chances of it breaking down, especially if you drive recklessly, like my friends Crone and Wild used to do. But your trip becomes more exciting, and when you do end up stranded because of a breakdown, you may spend days in one place. The great thing about this is that you truly get to experience that part of Africa. Most importantly, you get to see the spirit of Ubuntu in action, as there always seems to be someone willing to help.

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