Is South Africa safe?

Is South Africa safe? Public safety initiatives have been implemented in large cities to help curb crime | Credit: The CapeTowner

Crime rates are high but as a rule not directed specifically at tourists. The main crime hotspots areas are probably the CBDs of the three largest cities (Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban) but an element of risk exists everywhere. That said, the overwhelming majority of visitors have hassle-free holidays and so should you if you follow the commonsense do’s and don’ts below:

  • Before you leave home, make sure you have a scan or other electronic version of all important travel documents, in case they are lost or stolen. Carry copies of these scans on all suitable devices, as well as emailing them to yourself.

  • Make sure your luggage can easily be padlocked; this won’t prevent a determined thief from slashing it open, but it is a strong deterrent to casual light fingers.

  • Never leave cash, mobile phones, electronic devices and other valuables lying around openly in your hotel room, and where possible show your passport and other important documents, as well as spare cash and cards, in a hotel safe.

  • Avoid displaying expensive jewellery, cameras, laptops or large amounts of cash in urban areas.

  • Avoid walking around towns after dark. If you do, there is safety in numbers, and it is always advisable to stick to busy and well-lit streets.

  • Be very alert around ATMs, especially in quiet areas and after dark.

  • Self-drivers should always keep their car doors lock and windows closed in urban areas. When leaving the car parked in transit, lock all valuables in the boot.


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If no other assistance is at hand, call a medical emergency service. The government-run emergency number for ambulances in South Africa is 10177. Private 24-hour national emergency and ambulance services include ER24 (084 124), which is linked to a private network of 50-plus MediClinic hospitals, and Netcare 911 (082 911). The police flying squad can be reached at 10111.


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