When we tell people we are going to South Africa, everyone always asks us if it is a safe place to travel. A high crime rate has given South Africa the reputation of being a dangerous tourist destination but most people who visit do not experience any incidents. We have lived in Cape Town for over six months and we haven’t had any issues. South Africa is a fascinating place to visit and we strongly encourage people to go and experience the destination for themselves. Follow our top five tips to keep you safe on the road:

Don’t advertise your wealth:

It is a basic rule– out of sight, out of mind. If a criminal is walking past your house/hotel room/airbnb, and they see a laptop laying out on the bed, what do you think they are going to do? If they walk by your car and see a fancy camera lying on the passenger seat? Do you think they will just walk by and forget about it? Wrong, that camera is as good as gone. Don’t keep your belongings in plain sight. When you are on the street don’t advertise that you’re carrying a smartphone and don’t go flipping through your cash in public. Try to avoid wearing expensive, flashy jewelry or designer clothing. The more wealth you advertise, the more you can become a target. 

Don’t walk around at night:

If you need to get around at night we recommend that you take a taxi (read more about taxi tips here). Even if you are in a big group, it may not be the smartest idea to walk places after dark. Especially, if you are not a local, you are less familiar with the area and you don’t know what areas to avoid after dark. Most muggings and robberies happen at night, so just play it safe and stay away from it all together. We don’t want to scare you away from South Africa–there certainly are plenty of areas where it can be safe to walk at night but you must know the area well. This leads us to our third tip….

Get to know the area:

In any destination you visit you should take some time to learn about the local dangers, but this is especially important in South Africa. Talk to your hotel staff and ask them about safety in the area. They will advise you on where you can walk a night and tell you about areas you should avoid and other safety tips that are specific to the neighborhood. Although there are universal safety precautions you can take, certain areas will require different protocol. Trust the local knowledge and get to know your surroundings.

Keep your cash safe:

It is important to keep cash on you when traveling in South Africa as not every establishment accepts credit card. That being said, don’t carry excessive amounts of cash. We usually carry around 400 ZAR ($28) with us at all times- enough money to buy a few things, but not enough to break the bank if we lost it or if we got robbed. When you are using an ATM make sure no one is watching you.  Never let anyone help you at the ATM. This sounds like common sense but you would be surprised– it happens!. When we were living in Cape Town we knew a very drunk American boy who let someone help him with the ATM one night.  Can you guess how that ended? A drained bank account.

Know how to get help:

It is always surprising to us that people will visit a country and not know the emergency numbers. We admit we have been guilty of this on occasion when we have gone on a short trip overseas. If you think about it, it’s crazy to go to a new country and not to know how to get help. Half of travel safety is prevention but the other half is knowing how to get emergency assistance if you need it.

Here are the emergency numbers you need to know in South Africa (we’ve bolded the most important ones):

112= all emergencies (from a cell phone)
107= all emergencies (from a landline)
10111= police
10177= ambulance
0861 106 417= Table Mountain National Park emergency line (when hiking)

A note about alcohol-

We all want to enjoy ourselves when traveling and discovering new places. By all means feel free to indulge. Kick back, relax and have some drinks. That being said, drunkenness can make you an easy target for crime. People know they may be able to take advantage of you because your judgment is compromised. When we were living in Cape Town, the majority of incidents we heard about occurred when a tourist was intoxicated. Know your limits and stay aware of your surroundings even if you are partying and having a good time.

We hope our safety tips are helpful for your trip to South Africa. We love this country and want to encourage people to visit. If you have additional safety tips, please share them in the comment section below.

Share This
%d bloggers like this: