Safety Tips in South Africa

  • A sign outside Tremisana
    A sign outside Tremisana
    by Gypsystravels
  • Warnings and Dangers
    by CatherineReichardt
  • Warnings and Dangers
    by CatherineReichardt

Most Viewed Warnings and Dangers in South Africa

  • vpas's Profile Photo

    Tips for safe driving

    by vpas Updated Jun 3, 2013

    If you are self driving in SA then please read the following --
    1. Stay a little away/behind trucks and heavy vehicles. Sometimes small pebbles/stones from under their double tyres could hit your windscreen and cause damage to the same.
    2.Keep your glass on the window only slightly ajar and not totally down. This is help you avoid thefts or other problems in signals etc.
    3.Carry a road map and the phone number of your car company for emergencies.
    4.Though there is plenty of food available on the way, the food joints in gas stations are expensive, so if you are on a budget trip, it is better to carry food, water and other essentials.
    5.Never keep luggage that is visible from outside in your car and go away. If you are leaving the car, make sure you lock it and that luggage is not visible from outside.
    6. Better to go in for super cover that covers insurance and windshield and tyre protection.
    7.Do not drive on lonely roads after dark

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  • kenHuocj's Profile Photo

    4th Homeless World Cup - Cape Town 9.25.2006

    by kenHuocj Updated Nov 30, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    You'll enjoy yourselves in Cape Town this week ;-)))

    Suday sept 24th, Heritage Day in South Africa,
    some 500 participants from 48 nations including Afghanistan, Australia to Zambia and Zimbabwe are taking part in the annual Homeless World Cup

    click onto the www.sites for more info,
    you'll be as excited about the annual gathering of street kids
    the're so many tear jerking stories
    the NIKE T short is designed by Ntsikelelo Fiyane who was also present to see his original soccer player figurine made out of rubber go for auction to raise funds for his future. The very same figurine that had just been commissioned for the front of this year’s limited edition Nike Homleess World Cup T-shirt.

    Street Soccer to help KICK OFF POVERTY from - Cape Town Parade opening A great camaraderie develops between the players ttp:// Ex-Big Issue Vendor Ntsikelelo Fiyane, nike artist

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  • GracesTrips's Profile Photo

    Watch Where You Are In Town

    by GracesTrips Written Oct 28, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    You do not want to find yourself in a bad part of town which can easily happen. If you are renting a car, you should find out what areas are best to avoid. Luckily, nothing bad happened to us but we were extremely nervous when we found ourselves in a very poor, conjested township.

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  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    Visit South Africa and live to tell the tale!

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Sep 4, 2012

    Unfortunately South Africa's reputation is such that it's necessary to explicitly address the issue of whether it's safe for visitors.

    If you want an answer in a nutshell, security concerns are real but hugely overstated, and this is an area where media sensationalism has unfortunately coloured public perception in an irresponsible and unrealistic manner. There's no avoiding the fact that our society can be violent, but the vast majority of violence is perpetrated by South Africans on their families, neighbours and fellow countrymen, and tourists are seldom singled out to be the victims of violent crime. The biggest problem that tourists will encounter - in common with most big cities - is petty theft.

    So here are a few simple pointers that will hopefully help you keep safe and allow you to enjoy your holiday without risk to your person or your property.

    1. Don't create temptation. South Africa is a society characterised by a huge divide between the 'haves' and the 'have nots', and if tourists flaunt their wealth and take scant care of their possessions, it's little wonder if people who have very little will seize the opportunity to relieve them of these items. So, don't walk around with your wallet and/or passport hanging out of your back pocket, don't flash expensive jewellery or watches and don't leave valuables lying around in your hotel room.

    2. Stay on the beaten tourist track. Most tourist areas are safe - particularly during the day - but there are areas where it simply isn't sensible to venture as a tourist unless you're with someone local, and wandering around after dark outside the major tourist areas isn't sensible in any big city. Similarly, venturing unaccompanied into a squatter camp or a shanty town is very rarely a good idea anywhere in the world - especially if you have expensive camera equipment hanging around your neck.

    3. Respect people's dignity and ask people's permission before photographing them. 'Township tourism' presents both the tourist and the community with benefits and downsides, so if this is something that you'd like to do, then please go as part of a tour coordinated by a responsible operator registered with the South African Tourism Authority (SATA). If you decide to go into one of the townships, please remember that these are place where people live (not a zoo) and act accordingly. I have a particular problem with tourists who visit deprived areas in search of 'photogenic poverty', which I think is both demeaning and exploitative.

    4. Don't give money to beggars. You may feel guilt ridden that people have so little when you have so much, but giving money exacerbates the problem rather than solving it and simply encourages beggars to be more demanding and aggressive. Many of the beggars you'll see are not genuine: for instance, there is rock solid evidence of rings that rent out drugged-up babies by the day to women who then pose as 'destitute mothers' at robots/traffic lights.

    5. Take sensible precautions when driving. Lock your doors once you're inside, don't leave your windows completely open when the car is stationary and don't leave valuables in full view as this simply makes you a target for a 'smash and grab'. Also try not to drive after dark, particularly in unlit areas: here, the risk is not so much one of violence, but rather that you may hit livestock, wildlife or pedestrians on the road.

    6. You are at your most vulnerable when you're lost, so plan your route before you set off and either hire a GPS or bring yours with you from home (with the relevant maps already uploaded) as South African road signage - particularly of street names - isn't the greatest. If you do get lost, don't pull over in a badly lit or secluded area and ask for assistance from complete strangers: rather drive to the nearest petrol station where it's well lit and there are other people around and seek assistance there.

    7. Don't have sex with locals, regardless of their colour, gender or sexual persuasion. There's no sugarcoating the fact that South Africa has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world, and this virus is not a souvenir that you want to take home with you. Even if you intend to use a condom, remember that your intended partner may not be equally enthusiastic at the prospect, and could cut up nasty if you try to insist. Which brings me to my next point: disappearing off to a secluded spot with a stranger also leaves you vulnerable to rape, theft and/or murder and is simply not a sensible thing to do.

    8. Travel with your mobile/cell phone so that you can raise the alarm or call for help should you need it. But of course this strategy only works if you know who to call for help in the first place! At a minimum, I would recommend that you programme in the number of your hotel(s), car rental company and maybe also your national embassy (bearing in mind that it is almost impossible to call an embassy and get past the automated number menus to talk to a real, live person). Many South Africans - myslef included - also programme in a number for ICE (to be used 'in case of emergency') which is usually a next of kin who can be contacted if you're involved in an accident and are rendered unconscious (or worse).

    9. Above all, be sensible and temper your actions with caution and forethought. If something wouldn't be a sensible thing to do in your home environment, then chances are that it's an even worse idea to do it in a strange town.

    As a general rule of thumb, if you exercise the same caution you'd use in one of the developed world's larger cities that you don't know well, then you'll be on the right track.

    Now we've got this negative stuff out of the way, you can get on with the serious business of enjoying your holiday!

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  • DAO's Profile Photo


    by DAO Updated Apr 4, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Travelling to South Africa? Hope you are not afraid of needles! You need some immunizations before you go. At the least I would recommend these for any travel other than on a cruise ship:

    Hepatitis A
    Hepatitis B – for longer stays

    The full list is here of every possibility worldwide, but includes some immunizations you should have had as a child:

    European tick borne Encephalitis
    Hepatitis A
    Hepatitis B
    Japanese Encephalitis
    Meningococcal meningitis
    Yellow Fever

    Yellow Fever - You only need this if you are going into affected areas and staying for a while.

    BE SAFE: See your doctor before you go! I’m no medical expert, just a safe traveller.

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  • DAO's Profile Photo


    by DAO Updated Apr 4, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Some areas of South Africa are in the Malarial Zone. If you visit such an area - PLEASE PREPARE! Malaria can sometimes be fatal and at best may make you regret that you survived. Medicines must be taken weeks BEFORE you come here. There are 4 different species of Malaria and humans can get them all from the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Illness and death from malaria are largely preventable - if you plan ahead.
    While you are here you need to use a repellent spray early in the morning and any periods of darkness, especially at night. We have already lost one VT Member to Malaria. Do not take chances!

    I would suggest you buy repellent with 100% DEET.


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  • DAO's Profile Photo


    by DAO Updated Apr 4, 2011

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    There are a lot of telephone numbers for emergencies in South Africa. I have included the simple guidelines they use nationally to remember:

    Telephone DIRECTORY Enquiries
    (Toll-free on landlines, cellphones & mobiles) 1023
    One thin Policeman - 1
    One that’s really fat - 0
    Three thin Policemen - 111
    1 + 1 = 2
    Automobile Association (Toll-free from landlines & payphones)
    0800 01 01 01
    Automobile Association (Free on all cellphone networks)
    0800 11 19 95

    (Please note - the comments to help you memorise the numbers above are a national campaign, some strange idea by me)

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  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo

    Does your passport have a blank page?

    by Jenniflower Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The information below was taken from the Sunday Times on the 23rd January 2005.


    Two recent incidents where foreign visitors have been turned away from South African airports serve as a warning to all visitors to this country: a valid passport is not enough, you need at least one blank page in it.

    This would probably not affect South Africans returning home but you may wish to warn family and friends travelling on foreign passports.

    Business Day reported this week that Kenny Jacobs, an information technology director, was refused entry to SA on January 5 and locked in a cell before being sent back to the UK for not having enough blank pages in his passport.

    Before that, US hedge-fund guru Jack Schwager was refused entry on similar grounds. 'It's the most exasperating run-in I've had with bureaucratic stupidity and rank indifference in my entire life,' said Schwager in an e-mail to his South African colleagues, for whom he was to host two education conferences."

    UPDATE May 2006: Please read the tip below. Further precautions are being taken now. Please check with the South African Home Affairs Office prior to travelling.

    South African flag
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  • africaking's Profile Photo

    Night time

    by africaking Updated Apr 4, 2011

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Regarding trains/ public transport in Cape Town, serious crimes commited on trains in Cape Town at night, unadvisable to travel especially alone. During the day, just be very aware.

    If you happen to travel by car, the unwritten rule is to not stop at red lights at night time, if all roads seem clear, then go straight through the red, as people have been known to get car-jacked.

    go, go,GO!!!!
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  • africaking's Profile Photo

    Bags etc.

    by africaking Updated Apr 4, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Whilst driving in your car in South Africa, please remember not to keep valuable items on car seats or in view, as it has been known that opportunist thieves will smash the window whilst you are stopped at the lights.

    If wandering out and about, keep a good solid grip of your handbag etc., if you don't, you might find your bag attached to a running persons arm.

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  • nitche's Profile Photo

    Robbery in Durban

    by nitche Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    When you are on a visit in Durban.
    If you are going to the beach, take a cab insted it dosent cost much.
    Its safer to go with a large group of people.
    Dont cary around a lot of money.

    If you get robbed, give the robbers what they whant do NOT try to fight them, your life is worte more than money or a camera.
    Dont expect any help from your fellow citisens.

    A robbery can take place at any time in the day.
    I know what I'm talking about. I did get robbed in Durban last time I was there, in the middle of the day in a crowded street.

    If you discover that somebody is following you try to get in to a store, many stores have security guards witch could help you.

    Another way to lose people who are following you are to run across the road, but be aware before you do this so you won’t get run over by a bus or a car.

    A beach in Durban

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  • Personal Safety (Theft/Muggings)

    by AideenQ Written Mar 12, 2011

    We did not personally encounter any crimes, but our concierge and our tour guide constantly reminded us about the need for personal safety. We kept the car door locked, did not wear any attractive items - jewellery, bags, etc. We only took taxis recommended for us by the hotel. We did not take any side streets. We stuck to the main areas after dark.

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  • Krumel's Profile Photo


    by Krumel Updated Feb 9, 2011

    A few days after arriving in SA I started to get what I thought was a cold, with a headache and a sore throat. A gurgling solution from the pharmacy didn't really help, and things got a bit worse rather than better when I also got a chesty cough. When decongestant didn't do the trick either, I was finally fed up and went to see a GP. Her diagnosis was - hayfever! I was very dubious, seeing that I frequently suffer from hayfever at home, with a runny nose and itchy, swollen eyes, and I had none of those symptoms now. However, the doctor said that due to the very different fynbos vegetation in South Africa my reaction could also be very different. Anyway, so she gave me an injection and some tablets to take for a couple of days, and I wandered off, still very doubtful. Not for long though. About an hour later the symptoms started to disappear, and I was right as rain for the rest of the holiday - making sure to take my antihistamin tablets every day!

    So if you are prone to hayfever and travel to South Africa in spring, make sure you take your hayfever tablets with you and be aware that it may manifest itself with different symptoms than what you're used to.

    Fynbos, the culprit... Fynbos landscape

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  • HispanicYob's Profile Photo

    Sharing this info from my S.A. friend

    by HispanicYob Written Oct 20, 2010

    I was warned about this from my friend Marinell before I arrived into the country. Don't have anybody help you with your luggage, because you will be expected to pay them. If I didn't know this, I would've fallen into the same trap. THIS DID NOT HAPPEN TO ME because I was aware when I got into O.R.Tambo Int'l. before hand. otherwise it might have. It also helps to have friends there who will help you if need be. :) So if someone approaches, just decline and lug all your stuff with you.

    O.R. Tambo Johannesburg Int'l Airport
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  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    Update on R200 notes (and how to avoid them)

    by CatherineReichardt Written Oct 7, 2010

    Further to my earlier warning about fake R200 notes in circulation, the Reserve Bank has issued new R200 notes. However, these are very similar in design to the old notes, and I'm not going to bother running through the subtle changes that have been made as it is unlikely that a tourist would be able to pick up the differences.
    Banks claim that because the new notes have been issued and their systems have been used to eliminate fakes from their system ("trust us, we're a bank ..."), customers have no right to refuse being issued with legal tender. Thus, my previous suggestion that you refuse to accept R200 notes because you are afraid of being issued with fakes will probably not work. I would therefore suggest that a better way to avoid being given R200 notes would be to ask that you be issued with smaller denomination notes (R100 for example) because they are more convenient to use - this is true, as R200 is the biggest denomination we have, and smaller operators (such as artists at markets) will often struggle to provide change for a large note.

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