One of the most asked questions people ask before planning a trip to Cape Town is, “Is South Africa safe?” People want to know if South Africa is safe to live, if Cape Town is safe to visit, if hostels in South Africa are safe to stay in and if they rent a car to tour the country, how dangerous will it be?
Not only have many of female friends asked me about safety in South Africa, but even my Dad, my Uncle and many male friends my own age seem to think it’s the most dangerous place on earth. Sure, South Africa DOES have it’s problems and a few minutes wandering down a street in Johannesburg at night and you’ll know about them all too soon, but in general I find South Africa to be a very safe country. If you just stay street smart, as you would anywhere when travelling solo, you will honestly be fine. As always, try not to go places on your own especially late at night.
Is South Africa Safe? The Low Down
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Solo travel safety
Don’t walk around with too much flashy jewellery as you will definitely be a target. I stayed at an amazing hostel in Joburg, loved every moment and had no troubles. During my stay, however, two separate guys who went wandering around by themselves got robbed just around the corner! Lucky they only had small amounts of cash and no cards on them, but two guys getting robbed in one night is pretty scary. Like I said though, if you stay street smart and keep out of trouble, backpacking South Africa really is very safe!
Places to avoid: While most people tend to ask “Is South Africa safe?” what they should really be asking is “Where in South Africa A lot of the high crime rates happens in South Africa’s townships, where the majority of people often live under the poverty line. You can do organized tours of townships, or go there with a local friend, or even stay the night in Soweto where you’ll find one of South Africa’s best hostels, but apart from that, it is not recommended to wander by yourself into townships. Central bus stations in big cities can also be a very dangerous place at night and are best avoided.
It’s also important to make sure your belongings are safe so be sure to go with the perfect travel backpack, many of which now come with extra security options to keep stuff safe.
South Africa is notorious for the high rate of carjackings and robberies, so keeping your car and belongings safe is very important. While most of these incidents take place late at night, and mainly in Johannesburg, you can be at risk anywhere so better to be safe than sorry. While doing a road trip around South Africa should be on everyone’s bucket list, be sure to plan your journey in advance and try not to drive after nightfall. Always make sure all doors are locked and never leave belongings on show in the back seat – lock them into boot instead. If they see anything, they will be more tempted to smash the window and take whatever else they can find. Luckily South Africans take security very seriously and there is very good gated security or security guards at most hostels and hotels.
Need tips for doing a solo safari to Kruger? Read our self-drive post from a qualified safari guide!
There is one particular scam, no doubt popular all over the world, that has been going strong in South Africa for well over a decade. It simply involves a man, or in my case a woman, coming up and talking to you while you try to use the ATM. They will distract you, note your pin number and then get your card. Sometimes they will snatch it from you, other times they have something in the machine that keeps your card. You will think the machine swallowed it, then they’ll come back, get your card and withdraw every last penny. Don’t let ANYONE near you!!
Wildlife in South Africa
All I can say is…those baboons aren’t as cute as you think!! Seriously though, there are many wild animals in South Africa to be aware of. There are up to 4 breeds of poisonous snake, baboons and monkeys that will at best bite you and at worst give you rabies, not to mention the likes of lions and sometimes angry elephants. Best advice I can give you is to treat them with respect and keep your distance! It’s important to be prepared for your trip – this safari packing list should help with that.
For more info on the best places to go on safari or hiking, check out this post about the main National Parks.
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