South Africa is a third-world country with pockets of “first-world” attractions. The country is characterised by inequality; from desperately poor communities to extremely wealthy belts. You will either find yourself in fancy accommodation and shopping mall and state-of-the-art airports in upmarket locations or in rundown places in towns that have been neglected and abandoned by state enterprise.
One moment you’re on a magnificent four-lane highway; the next you’re on a dusty, pot-holed country road. You walk through buildings that glisten with marble and glass features; or you stand in buildings that haven’t seen a fresh coat of pain in decades.
South Africa is exciting, dynamic and vibrant but it also is a country plagued by severe socio-economic problems. Corruption is at the root of many of the problems that impact on the well-being of the country and its people. Corruption sadly robs the people of South Africa with the revenue and resources needed to uplift communities, create jobs and build the nation.
International tourists can be misled into thinking South Africa is safe and peaceful as they rarely experience first-hand the dangerous crime areas of South Africa. Foreign tourists usually arrive at the impressive state-of-the-art OR Tambo International Airport and are taken in luxury vehicles to smart accommodation in upmarket locations. Very rarely will an international tourist venture off the beaten path to areas that are unsafe and dangerous.
Don’t be naïve. Do your research and come prepared. Make safety a priority as you are visiting a third world country and you’re at risk of falling a victim of crime if you aren’t careful.
Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. You’ll have the best holiday or safari tour in South Africa if you follow Moafrika Tours safety tips for international tourists.
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Planning a tour of South Africa?
First question you’ll ask; “is it safe?”
South Africa is safe if you are sensible. But let’s not sugar coat it! South Africa has a reputation for very high crime levels which include rape and murder. The risk to international tourists is low because most violent crime happens in areas that are “no go” zones for tourists.
These are places you stay away from in South Africa - as you would in any other destination in the world.
Use your head, follow these safety tips for South Africa and you’ll have a fantastic, exciting holiday without any major drama.
Make safety a priority
Spend extra money on safety. Without local knowledge, it is risky to travel around South Africa on the “cheap”. Spend more on better accommodation in better areas.
The exchange rate is extremely favourable for overseas tourists visiting South Africa. Splash out for the sake of your safety.
In addition to crime, South Africa is plagued by the AIDS epidemic. If you have a penchant for prostitutes or are careless about who you sleep with on holiday, you could find yourself in deep trouble with a life-threatening disease.
There are also tropical diseases to worry about on a trip to South Africa and the one you should know about is malaria. Find out if the area you plan to visit is a malaria area and what precautions you need to take. Do your research and find out everything you need to know to make sure your holiday to South Africa is not ruined by illness and medical issues
Do a lot of research before you arrive
You can’t “wing it” in a third-world country. Thoroughly research the places in South Africa you’d like to visit and find out everything you need to know before you leave home.
Check booking sites like TripAdvisor and read the reviews carefully. Look for complaints that occur often and are safety concerns.
Ask family or friends who have traveled to South Africa for suggestions and recommendations. If this is your first trip, go for safe hotel options and locations. You don’t want to arrive somewhere and then waste time finding a new place to stay if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Follow online news services in the months before your holiday and check if the area you want to visit is experiencing any problems. Read up on tourist scams and how you can avoid falling victim to a crime.
South Africa experiences periods of unrest, like the latest student protests. These may be peaceful or escalate to become threatening and violent. Unrest and protests are usually isolated to a problem area which you will know to avoid, but it’s unpleasant to encounter anything of this sort
Keep safety in mind when booking flights
Plan to arrive in South Africa in the daytime. That gives you enough daylight hours to get safely to your hotel to book in, and to check out your surroundings before it gets dark.
Pay more for a flight that arrives in South Africa at a decent time and give yourself ample time on your first day in case a problem crops up.
Research transport options before arriving in South Africa
Only the major cities in South Africa have the Uber service and quality taxi options. These include Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban.
Public transport in South Africa is not recommended for international tourists. This includes the local bus service and commuter taxis.
Come prepared for your medical needs
Visit a travel clinic or consult your doctor at home for medical advice on vaccinations needed and tropical diseases such as malaria. Arrive in South Africa with the prophylactics you need if you are going to a malaria area.
Ask your doctor to give you a prescription for any chronic medication you take in case your luggage goes missing or you run out of tablets.
The big towns and major cities in South Africa have excellent medical centres and pharmacies, but quality healthcare in the smaller towns and the bushveld is scarce.
Take out medical travel insurance
Make your health and welfare a priority on a trip to South Africa. Make sure you have travel insurance to cover any medical emergency on your holiday. The major private hospitals will not admit you for a serious medical emergency if you cannot produce proof that you are covered by travel/medical insurance.
Leave your jewelry at home
Do not bring your expensive and flashy jewelry to South Africa. Leave it at home in your safe. Ladies, bring costume jewelry for the evenings if you’d like to doll up your outfit; leave the expensive stuff at home.
Men, buy an inexpensive watch at the duty-free shop on your way to South Africa. Leave your expensive watch at home. If it gets lost or stolen, it’s not a big deal.
Don’t flash cash
Travel with a holiday banking card; preferably a travel credit card. Set up a separate holiday account and use a credit card linked to this account. If your banking card is stolen or cloned; you don’t want the thief to have access to unlimited funds in your primary bank account.
Transfer an amount each evening into your holiday banking card; enough for what you think you will need the next day. For accommodation and car rentals, pay online (EFT). Card cloning at hotels and restaurants is a worldwide scam; reduce the number of times you pay by card at an establishment.
Bring certified copies of all important travel documents
This includes certified copies of your passports, birth certificates for minors and banking cards. Keep these copies in a second small day bag, like a sling bag. Do not keep them in your handbag and never put them in your luggage that goes into the plane hold. Remember to leave certified copies at home with a family member or friend.
Beware of tourist scams
Do your research before leaving home. What are criminals up to now? Card cloning, ATM scams, pick-pocketing… what is new on the street?
Don’t trust people too quickly. Keep your wits about you; even if it’s a friendly waiter at a restaurant or a super helpful receptionist at a hotel.
Be careful about how much you drink on a night out on the town! If you are very tipsy or very drunk, you are vulnerable. Your senses are dulled and you make poor decisions. You risk being followed home, falling victim to a crime and being seriously hurt.
NEED MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA
Moafrika Tours is a leading tour operator in South Africa and has been taking clients to the major destinations and tourist attractions for over a decade. We offer a personalised service that places safety as a number one priority. If you have any concerns or questions about how to keep safe in South Africa, speak to us. Our goal is to make sure you have a wonderful holiday in South Africa and make memories that you will cherish for a lifetime.
Ask us about safe day tours to Soweto, Johannesburg and Pretoria.