Visiting and staying in South Africa, like any other country in the world, requires, in the part of the traveler, background research in advance and following the necessary safety precautions to ensure a worthwhile experience that is both enjoyable and safe.
And while this country is usually feared for its increasingly high crime rates, familiarizing oneself with the place and strictly taking note of these safety tips can keep travelers who intend to stay in South Africa safe:
Before setting foot safety tips
- Familiarize yourself with the place. Make sure to research and plan your route well in advance. Be updated with the latest news and happenings in the country and make sure to always carry with you a detailed, up-to-date map of particular places you wish to see. Save contact numbers of essential agencies and government offices in advance.
- Pack bags and luggage carefully and make several copies of your valuable documents such as passport, other valid IDs, and debit or credit cards.
- Bring your own set of medical kit in case of an emergency where you won’t have the luxury of time to buy from drugstores.
Arrival and Hotel safety tips
- Keep in mind that tourists are frequent targets of crime and the airport is precisely where fugitives will start with.
- Be very cautious when walking around and outside of the airport and do not accept transportation offers from unauthorized people. Make sure you get an official taxi that works for the airport.
- When you arrive at your designated hotel, ask hotel staff the safest routes to travel when going out and back the hotel and take note of the local dangers around the area.
- Always keep your door locked and only entertain authorized hotel staff. Leave your valuables in the safety deposit box, and again, make sure to bring copies of your passport all the time.
Traveling with private vehicle
- When driving, keep the doors locked every time and do not drive with the windows open. Keep your tank full as much as possible because gas stations are rare in some places. Visibility of valuables inside the vehicle also increases the risk of robbery and carnapping so make sure that it is either kept in the trunk or well-hidden under the car seat. Always bring your driver’s license with you.
- Remember to park in well-lit areas and streets that have car guards roaming around to check on your vehicle once in a while. Trust only those people with an official ‘bib’ that authorizes them to work as car guards and be cautious of con artists. Be sure to give them a tip.
- Do not stop at strangers asking for help especially in open roads and be mindful of possible “roadblocks” that criminal gangs set up to lure motorists. Just drive past through them and report them to the authorities. Be aware of carjacking hotspots in areas you are visiting and stay alert while driving through or in those areas. Take into consideration aggressive driving of some of the locals. Make sure you have the police emergency hotline: 10111 and other related emergency hotlines.
Traveling via commute/walking
- Refrain from wearing flashy and expensive clothes and accessories and limit the amount of cash you carry with you. Try to distribute your money in different pockets whether in your pants, shorts, or inside the bag and wallet.
- Do not make it look too obvious that you are a tourist and refrain from checking your map in public. Do it discreetly and only when necessary.
- Avoid going into central business areas at night or anywhere isolated and secluded where most crimes are known to occur. Avoid doing this even if you are in a group.
- Bus and taxi rides are predominantly safe but be sure to watch over your possessions all the time. Always take taxis at night, especially when traveling alone.
- If you plan to visit towns, make sure that you are in a group and are escorted by a guide. If you get to visit Safari, be very mindful of the guide’s instructions as you are entering a territory that is full of wild animals.
Follow and keep in mind these safety reminders to make your travel and stay in South Africa not only meaningful and satisfactory but safe and secure. Do not let your fear refrain you from visiting and discovering the cultural beauty that South Africa has to offer. It is as safe as you make it.