Crime in South Africa, like many other places in today’s world, can be a problem, but all you need to do is take the usual sensible precautions and follow some basic safety rules.
Know where you’re going before you set off, particularly at night, watch your possessions, don’t walk alone in dodgy areas, lock your doors at night.
And, like anywhere else, there are some areas of the major cities that are known to be more risky than others. It is easy to avoid these and still have a good time.
If you cannot avoid such areas, then don’t wear visible jewellery or carry cameras and bags over your shoulder. Limit the amount of money you carry on you and keep mobile phones and wallets tucked away where no one can see them.
Check beforehand that the areas you plan to visit are safe by asking hotel staff or police.
Other sensible advice is not to hitchhike, or don’t accept or carry items for strangers.
Make sure when leaving South Africa or travelling within the country that you wrap your luggage in plastic wrap. There are wrapping stations at most international airports.
Important South African safety advice includes avoiding deserted areas at night; securing valuables such as photographic equipment and wallets on your person; and leaving expensive, flashy jewellery locked in your hotel safe while out and about.
If you intend travelling to malaria areas, take the necessary prophylaxis before you leave home.
When driving a private vehicle, either borrowed or hired, take some simple precautions to avoid car hijackings or “smash-and-grabs”.
As a driver, be on the alert when coming to a halt at traffic lights or stop streets, as well as when arriving at or leaving any premises. Car doors should always be locked, and valuables are better kept in the boot or under the seats.
Plan your route beforehand. Make sure the map you consult is a current one.
When parking at night, choose well-lit or security-patrolled parking areas. Street security guards will usually ask whether they can watch over your car, and in return should be paid a small fee – anything from R5 upwards.
In rural areas, watch out for wild or farm animals – road signage will warn you when you need to take care.
Only use reputable tour operators and travel and transport services. If you’re not sure, ask your hotel to recommend a service provider for you or contact the National Tourism Information and Safety Line on 083 123 2345.
When using automatic teller machines (ATMs) in South Africa, practise the generally accepted safety precautions you would employ when at home.
Never accept an offer from a stranger to help you with your transaction. Be alert and watch that no one steals your card when you turn your back.
If your ATM card is withheld by the machine, approach the bank to release it, or call the helpline number that can be found at the ATM.
When using a credit card in restaurants, ask the waiter to bring a portable credit card machine to your table. If your card is declined, check with restaurant management that the second machine used belongs to the establishment. Report stolen or lost cards immediately.
Never leave your luggage and other possessions unattended. Know where your things are.
Remember to store valuables in the safety deposit box and keep your room locked at all times.
Don’t leave your room keys lying around; rather hand the key in at the desk when you leave.
Dial 10111 from a landline for the police and briefly explain what happened. This call is free from any phone box or landline. If you are using a cellular phone dial 112 and your call will be transferred to the appropriate emergency service.
If you’re in your hotel room, contact the emergency number provided or the front desk.
For further assistance, contact the National Tourism Information and Safety Line on 083 123 2345.
It’s a good idea to travel with certified photocopies of your valuable documents, keeping the originals in a safe place.
If you lose your passport, report the loss as soon as possible to the South African Police Service, as well as to your country’s embassy or consulate in South Africa (alphabetical country listing):
Reviewed: October 2015
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