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Anouk Zijlma

Is It Safe to Travel to South Africa?

By July 14, 2008

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south africa crime  xenophobia safety south africa The question of safety while traveling in South Africa is often the first thing that pops into someone's mind when planning a trip there. Recent news concerning the spate of violence against foreign immigrants hasn't helped South Africa's reputation as a high-crime state. In fact it led to travel warnings being issued by several governments including the US State Department.

While most of the violent crime is restricted to the Townships many of my South African friends (who do not live in the Townships) have also been the victims of violent crime. But you're much less likely to be the victim of crime as a tourist, staying in a lodge or guesthouse and enjoying a safari.

I just returned from a week in South Africa and felt perfectly safe. Naturally, you have to take care in the big cities not to flaunt your jewelry and cameras. It's not a good idea to walk around alone at night, nor is it smart to carry around large wads of cash. And precautions that you may be unused to when driving a car, like keeping your windows shut and doors locked at traffic lights, become second nature after a while.

South Africa's National Tourist Board and many tour operators do their best to keep tourists as safe as possible. There's even a National Tourism information and Safety Line at 083 123 2345 where you can report incidents and get help if you're the victim of a crime. You can also call this number to find out if you are in doubt as to the safety of a particular area or attraction. The police are trustworthy in South Africa -- it's just that they're ill equipped to deal with the volume of crime. If you see police patrolling an area it'll be quite safe.

South Africa is such a beautiful country, the issue of safety should not stop you from enjoying a visit there -- that would be a crime.

Thousands Protest Attacks Against Immigrants, May 2008 -- © Getty Images/John Moore/Staff

November 28, 2008 at 4:12 am
(1) An expat South African says:

Obviously you haven’t read all the newspaper reports that show the number of tourists killed. There’s a reason South Africans are fleeing the country in droves. 1/3 of South Africans are expat, i.e. living outside of South Africa.

February 5, 2009 at 2:25 am
(2) Bob says:

South Africa is a perfectly safe place. People need to take the normal precautions and you will never have to worry about crime.

May 21, 2009 at 4:35 pm
(3) Juni says:

It is extremely unsafe for tourists, especially Americans who are known to have cash, wedding rings, iPhones, computers, etc… To get robbed here is not like in other countries; they will just walk up and shoot you. Use common sense at all times, and don’t trust your things left alone in your room (no matter how expensive and five-star you think it is.). Otherwise, it is a beautiful place unlike any other on earth.

July 27, 2009 at 7:37 am
(4) Byron says:

South Africa is rife with crime. Do not be fooled, as a visitor here you are in danger. Do not display cel phones , jewelery or money, if you do you will be robbed. Our police force is totally inadequate to cope with criminals. Crime is violent, and your life will be in danger. Stay at home and watch the soccer from the safety and comfort of you lounge.

September 17, 2009 at 11:39 am
(5) Anna says:

South Africa is potentially dangerous. Take common sense precautions. Be alert. I am a grandma who have lived here for 70 years. Recently I went on holiday by myself in my small camper van. I drove up to Crookes Corner where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique meet and back – 5 500 km. Coped with broken petrol pump on enginewith friendly help from locals. Never felt threatened and had a ball.

January 14, 2010 at 3:35 am
(6) Nick says:

Absolute rubbish!
I am a white South African, and have been living in this country for 32 years. Yes we have crime, but please show me a country in the world where there is no crime. I have travelled the world and you will not find a place on this planet that is more diverse, more beautiful, more spectacular than South Africa.

Just as with other cities across the globe you need to be wise. Don’t walk around alone at night in dodgy areas & deserted beaches; don’t attract criminals by flashing jewellery and cash in unsafe areas…just be smart.

For the fact that Americans or any toursist for that matter aren’t welcome…please grow up and get your facts straight and please don’t compare South Africa to other African countries. The continent is diverse and every country has its own pleasures and problems. If a ‘white’ drug addict kills a black tourist in France, would you then not travel to Italy because of Xenophobic attracts ‘in the area’.

Book your travel through a reputable travel agency and come and experience our natural splendour (beaches, bushveld, wildlife) ; sport (you name it, we’ve got it) Diversity (Modern Metropolitan to rural simplicity) . If you don’t visit South Africa due to a fear for crime you will be doing yourself a grave injustice!

May 2, 2010 at 8:31 am
(7) Liz says:

I agree with Nick. Absolutely right! Like this is just rubbish. Every country has its own crimes. So why is S.Africa any different?? Be it America, Europe, Asia etc.. There’re PLENTY of inhumane crimes, murders, rape crimes etc. There’s basically horrific crimes everywhere, so its just not fair to point out S.Africa like that. I think the ONLY place that has NO crimes at all would be the North Pole.

June 19, 2010 at 12:13 pm
(8) Mike says:

I travel to South Africa every year, and I have never had a problem, even when i have gone to the townships…. you just have to take the normal precautions that you would in any big cities in the world

February 1, 2011 at 2:10 pm
(9) Bubba says:

Need help, daughter wants to go to S.A. for study this summer
should I let her go?

February 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm
(10) goafrica says:

I would say of course you should, many students study in South Africa every year from the US and other countries. The best thing to do is talk to her study adviser, find out about the University she’s attending, talk to students who have done a similar program, and go from there.

February 1, 2011 at 10:25 pm
(11) Paula D. Ward says:

I am a Middle and High school teacher in the US. I have a friend who lives in Durban,moved from the US, a retired captain in the Fire Department. He has helped me to believe that Durban would be a good place for me to live for a time, teach, as well as sing, and see this country. I have so, so many questions about living there, Visa’s, taxes, maintaining two residences, traveling, driving, and experiencing the food. I would eventually like to establish some importing of American products and services to this place. I have no idea what to do or how to get started. The information you get here varies from one side of the ruler to the next. HOW do you get in touch with people who live there, have had a variety of experiences and who will tell you the truth about the country, the government, and how to be safe? I love my friend, but he seems to be so open-minded, so positive, that I don’t feel I am getting the ‘real’ deal.

July 16, 2011 at 8:21 am
(12) John C says:

I laugh at the comments here suggesting that SA is not unlike other countries regarding crime. True, crime happens everywhere but even more so in SA. I suggest you research the number of: murders; rapes; and assaults experienced by SA on a daily basis. Many areas such as the Durban beachfront have been ruined by the crime.

August 8, 2011 at 3:53 am
(13) Annette says:

South Africa is very, very unsafe and not worth waisting your money or time on a long flight just to get ripped off or even mugged, or raped or better still murdered fro R10.00. I have just returned here for a bried time after 25 years – the place especially Johannesburg HAS GONE TO HELL AND GETTING WORSE BY THE DAY. This country should once again be sanctioned untill the Government members stop robbing the poor and the citizens of this once beautiful country. Aparthied is now called Black Empowerment, as a black person -yes I am black – i experienced such rascist remarks from other blacks in the country and Africkaaners. South AFrica is the new Zimbabwe going down rapidly – just wait till that fool called Malema gets in. THANK YOU FOR FREEDOM AMERICA. Never again will i set foot in that place and I will never promote it in my travel company.

August 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm
(14) david says:

Sadly, South Africa has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Under the ANC government, criminals know that they can commit the most horrendous and violent crimes with impunity – and they do, daily. In the last month alone, 56 police have been murdered by criminals.I have lived in Cape Town for 27 years and it is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Unfortunately enjoying its natural beauty is becoming more difficult. A walk up Lion’s Head or Table Mountain is no longer just a pleasurable outing but a venture fraught with danger. Muggings, rapes and even murders are commonplace. I truly believe that things will get much worse in years to come. Yes, South Africa is a worthwhile destination, with much to offer the tourist. But visit it at your peril.

February 6, 2012 at 7:33 am
(15) Talia Harrison says:

Just like when traveling anywhere in the world, the main thing to remember is be sensible and aware at all times. If possible, have someone from the local area’s you will be visiting let you know about danger hot spots or areas that may recently have become “out of bounds” for whatever reason – political uprising, zenophobia etc at the time of your visit and then avoid these areas. http://www.africa.com/south-africa/travel2#t5 has an interesting link to the U.S Department of State’s consular website which has a number of other useful safety tips.

May 9, 2012 at 11:13 pm
(16) Kate says:

I have lived in South Africa long ago and would love to take my mother on holiday, but I am very concerned about the crime. Much of it does not appear in the South African media. For example, a family was shot and killed outside a national park a few weeks ago and there has not been a single mention of it. There seems to be a huge surge in anti white feeling “Kill the Boer”, yet I love the wildlife and the Cape. We recently lost my father and it would be so wonderful to visit The Kruger and then a nice hotel in the Cape. Any thoughts? I was last there five years ago and the first thing I noticed was the electric fences and armed response signs!! So please. Has it deteriorated recently with this anti white talk? Should we go?

May 17, 2012 at 11:44 pm
(17) Dyls says:

I lived in sa for 18 years and got robbed twice in dodgy areas but id rather be there than anywhere else because we dont have mind controlling helmets on by the government. Viva sa viva anc viva isixhosa (i am white)

June 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm
(18) Kimmi says:

My friend & I are both female Asians and we hope to go Cape town next month if safety is not an issue. We plan to rent a car to go around caoe town, followed by the garden route, east cape and back. I really need to know if this travel is safe. Thanks!

September 26, 2012 at 8:36 am
(19) Cathy says:

Me and my partner are planning to go to SA in Feb 13 to do a small safari at the Kruger & then proceeding to do some scuba diving in Mozambique. Could anyone please give advise on the best way to get from the airport to hotel in Johannesburg. If via taxi, are they all trust worthy? Also are there any hotels that are known to provide transport to & from the hotels. Any safe highly recommended accommodation would help also. I can’t wait to visit this beautiful place but after hearing stories I’m starting to get very concerned. Thanks :)

September 26, 2012 at 11:18 am
(20) goafrica says:

There are shuttle companies, taxis and a train service from the airport into town. You will have no problem finding reliable transport to your hotel. If you are still concerned, find out what hotel you are staying at and just e-mail them for advice on the quickest way to get there. Some hotels do provide their own transport to the airport, or have preferred shuttle companies. I have some hotel recommendations here: http://goafrica.about.com/od/southafrica/tp/joburghotels.htm

October 13, 2012 at 10:48 am
(21) Cathy says:

My daughter is determined to go to SA – Port Elizabeth area to do some volunteering at a sanctuary and I am concerned for her as she is 18 and never really travelled on her own before let alone SA! How safe is it for girls travelling on their own?

October 16, 2012 at 9:02 pm
(22) Alastair says:

I have been to South Africa twice. I am from Scotland my wife is South African. She comes from Johannesburg. The first time we went a trip to Durban and got mugged at the beachfront it was very scary.
However we went back and went a trip to Capetown we had a great time but were very careful in everything we did and stayed in our hotel after sunset.
Also in Johannesburg you have check where you go. I have been to the USA and there is crime there also crime in Scotland indeed all over the world but South Africa has a big problem. However it is also a magnificent country Capetown was amazing.

October 19, 2012 at 3:53 am
(23) Latani says:

Its sad to hear that people still think s.africa is hell, each and every country has its own problems, as for the murder rates, countries like Russia and France are on top of the list, i have been to South Africa for 6 years, all the crimes that have experienced are common, arm robberies for one.

Most of these crimes are committed by other African National who immigrate illegally into the country (guys from Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland) but its a very beautiful country and i would personally rate it more higher than Russia.

as for townships being most violent especially towards white people is false, i have seen most of white people living in Soweto, especially in Diepkloof and Protea, you just have to be careful and smart like when you are anywhere in the world, do no flash around your things.

and i have been merged twice in London, and none in s.Africa, am also looking to in S.Africa. the people are so respectful, i was shocked to be called a”brother” by a complete stranger, the vendors at the traffic lights always make me laugh with their selling and marketing tactics in Johannesburg.

Some and enjoy the beauty if South Africa

October 29, 2012 at 11:09 am
(24) kathy says:

a close friend of mine needs to go to SA for about 3weeks, not too sure which part, is that safe to travel around the towns or would it be safer to stay in the city itself. I’m worried for him:

December 4, 2013 at 9:38 am
(25) Melanie says:

I would NEVER EVER go to South Africa EVER again! NEVER! Not even if you paid me to go to South Africa. I just will NEVER go there again.

It is the most dangerous place in the world. There were five robberies in the road where I was staying, the last week that I was there, and three of those were violent with gunshots and screaming.

The feeling of fear that grips you constantly when you are in South Africa is horrible. Avoid South Africa like the plague. It is too dangerous.

January 2, 2014 at 8:22 am
(26) Nicola says:

My husband and I have booked to go in February. We are going to the Kruger and driving up the panoramic route. We will stay at the Kruger for a week before flying to Cape Town. We are meeting the mother of a friend who will be showing us around. However, I am having a wobble about our safety and wondering whether I should cancel. Any advice would be gratefully received

January 2, 2014 at 6:58 pm
(27) goafrica says:

Dear Nicola,

I just returned from a wonderful trip to South Africa, we spent 5 days in Cape Town and then rented a car and drove around the Garden Route for 10 days. We felt quite safe, had an incredible time, everyone we met was friendly and helpful. We took a tour around the Langa Township which was excellent, the kids never felt worried about anything, and nor did we. Driving was easy, roads were fine, enough petrol stations everywhere etc.

January 29, 2014 at 4:31 am
(28) LINDA says:

It would seem that the comments from individuals saying how crime is no greater problem in S Africa than elsewhere are in serious denial or are the minority 1% who have not had the lives turned upside down by the evilness in yes a beautiful country but the barbaric element living there certainly are not. I am South African and it broke my heart leaving my home country. I had to because my husband was brutally killed and shot 13 times in front of my son who was at the time only 10 years old. We had to leave to try and come to peace after this heinous and terrifying ordeal. 11 Years later we still haven’t and doubt that we ever will. Let’s hope all the individuals in awe and wonder do everyone a favour and go out and buy a newspaper.

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