Staying safe in South Africa: Common sense rules

discoverafrica 08 February 2018
Part of the South Africa Safari Collection
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Despite Africa’s reputation for being dangerous, we have to admit to ourselves that danger exists everywhere in the world. With such huge economic disparities and inequality between social groups, the gap between the rich and poor creates situations of desperation, the perfect recipe for crime. In today’s world, this is an unfortunate reality and is not limited to third world countries. The best way to go about travel in a foreign country involves relying on your common sense.

While on safari, you’ll enjoy the luxury of having an intimate and safe camp or lodge to enjoy for the duration of your stay. It is often the period between locations that leaves people vulnerable to crime. If you’re going to be in a big city before or after your safari, it’s worth taking note of a few points that will keep you safe during your journey of a lifetime.


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Make your African safari one to remember

Planning makes perfect

Familiarise yourself with your itinerary and make sure that you have all your contacts stored for your trip. One of the benefits of travelling with the help of a reputable safari company is having a go-to contact in case of emergencies. Don’t be afraid to contact the company whenever you need to; this is part of the service. Missed flights, stolen luggage and all manner of incidents can usually be resolved quickly and efficiently. In addition, copies of your important documents should be kept on your person at all times, as well as a list of emergency contacts (such as your parents, boss or spouse) that may be necessary should something happen to you.

Do your research

South Africa is a big country, separated into nine provinces, each with distinct landscapes, languages and cultures. Get involved in researching your destination before you arrive. Google Maps is a fantastic way to get the lay of the land so that you’re a bit more orientated when you arrive. The manager at your accommodation will be able to offer you information and contact numbers for emergency services as well as the local police. This is vital information that can be very empowering should you run into trouble. Wherever you go, make sure your hosts are aware of where you will be going and with who.

It is also helpful to make yourself aware of the law in South Africa. While we enjoy one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world, a brief search on behaviour that might be considered unlawful in South Africa but is perfectly normal in your country is certainly useful.

South Africa is home to big, cosmopolitan cities like Johannesburg. The same rules for staying safe in your country apply here too.

Be aware of your surroundings

Travelling to a place that you’ve never been before is such an invigorating experience, and is part of the reason why most people desire to explore the world. However, being aware of your surroundings goes a long way in preventing crime. Take note of other people’s behaviour. Typically we get a ‘gut’ feeling about something, a person or a place. Listen to this instinct; it’s not simply unscientific nonsense, it’s a vital tool in most species’ survival.

In airports and public spaces where there are crowds, observe your immediate surroundings. Is your luggage unattended? Are your belongings not fixed to your person? Are you distracted by someone like your mobile? These seem like small, unimportant details, but this is what potential criminals are looking for. If you notice this first and correct it, you’re already one step ahead.

Use social media to keep in touch

Globalisation has meant that we’re connected all the time, no matter our location. Social networks and apps make staying in touch an instant thing so use this to your advantage. Use geotags in your posts, images and updates. This not only gives your family and friends peace of mind as to your whereabouts but could provide authorities with crucial information in worst-case scenarios.

Don’t be flashy  

Keep the majority of your cash and other valuables (including important documents like your passport) at your lodgings. Almost all will have safes available. If you are carrying cash, don’t flash it around. Make sure you take only what you need when venturing out and be wary when drawing cash from an ATM.

Enjoy group travel

Avoid travelling or exploring on your own, especially in big cities at night. If you are approached by someone and feel uncomfortable, make your way to the nearest public space such as a restaurant or shop or ideally at the nearest police station. South Africans are helpful and friendly people who will always assist without question. As our guests, we are obligated to help you out in any way we can and will always do so without question.

The key to an enjoyable safari in South Africa is pretty much about conducting yourself as you would in any big city. Remember that awareness and planning are the first steps in preventing unfortunate situations. We recommend having a look at Health 24's detailed list of national emergency contacts that you can retrieve easily or print out for safe keeping.

If you have any questions relating to safety on safari in South Africa, please email us at or give us a call on +27 422 3498.

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