How to stay safe in South Africa
Updated: Jul 14
South Africa is often perceived as a dangerous destination due to its high rate of violent crime. In this blog post I will share my tips on how to stay safe in South Africa because contrary to popular opinion, it is a perfectly safe country to visit as long as you follow a few basic precautions.
My tips to help you stay safe in South Africa:
Know where not to go
Though crime rates in townships are higher, staying safe does not mean avoiding them altogether. The best time to visit them is during daylight hours, with a local guide who lives in the area and knows the lay of the land. This can be arranged through online tour guides or by contacting the tourism board.
Johannesburg's Soweto district, for instance, has walking, cycling, and even bus tours. It welcomes tourists because of the money they bring in.
Use common sense
In addition to car break-ins, carjackings are also common in big cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Keep your doors locked while driving and keep everything out of sight, including sunglasses, phones, bags, and wallets. If your car is parked and unattended, it should not display anything of value or that looks like it might be valuable, including cheap sunglasses.
Trust your instincts
It also helps to be hyper-aware. As you walk, be aware of your surroundings, look in all directions, and make it a point to keep your head up and to keep your eyes open.
Never walk alone on the pavement; stick close to families.
If someone appears to be paying you too much attention, smile and say "hello" or enter a shop with other customers for safety in numbers.
If you've got it, don't flaunt it!
You can become a target by wearing jewellery, designer clothing, and taking out your phone/camera in public. Bringing expensive jewellery away with you is not recommended in the first place, but if you do have expensive items like a camera, keep them hidden. Make sure you never carry your passport around with you.
Foreigners are more likely to become targets for petty theft if it appears that they are lost. Take your phone out when at home or in a cafe and put it away when not in use.
No walking at night
Walking rather than taking public or private transportation is a common way for people to become targets in cities. Pickpocketing can occur even in a group, but it’s much more likely to happen when walking alone. Avoid walking alone, especially at night. Get an Uber or ask a friend or partner for a lift home.
Stay safe in South Africa by using common sense when in public