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How safe is South Africa?

Travelbuddies translating
Langebaan, South Africa
West Coast National Park, South Africa

South Africa was ranked as the 17th most-watched country for travel on TikTok out of 193 countries in 2021. Interestingly, South Africa received 40 million views, more than popular destinations like Greece, which received 37,8 million, and Turkey, which received 37.6 million.  Unfortunately, South Africa is also regularly in the news for its high crime rate and tourists are often alarmed by these headlines. We often get asked how safe is South Africa.

Bernie lives in Johannesburg and has a holiday home in Cape Town. I have recently also purchased a property in Cape Town due to my love for South Africa and its people. I hope to spend much more time in this beautiful country as I grow older. I have only had good experiences in South Africa, and in the 15 years I have been visiting this country, I have never been a victim of any crime. Together, we have prepared this article for you to answer some of your questions about safety in South Africa.

Click here to see the general safety measures that you should follow.

Table of content

What are the reasons for the high crime rate?

You can’t compare South Africa with Europe. South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world. This has been attributed to several factors, including high poverty levels, social inequalities, unemployment, social exclusion and the normalisation of violence.  It may be argued that the wealthier population lives in the cities and gated communities, while the poor population (majority) lives in what they previously referred to as townships. These people suffer many hardships due to their circumstances. The rising poverty is crushing their opportunities, and neighbours are often murdered here for a few rands. Needless to say, very rarely do tourists become victims of such crimes.

 

Safety in Cape Town

Cape Town is often perceived as being safer than Johannesburg. However, according to the 2022 report released by Statista, Cape Town is ranked high among the most dangerous cities in the world, followed by Nelson Mandela Bay and Durban. Noteworthy is that Johannesburg doesn’t appear in the top 50. Nevertheless, you can be relatively safe on the streets during the day. The safest areas are major shopping streets and tourist areas. 

There is a high-security presence in the following areas of Cape Town:

  • V&A Waterfront
  • Bo-Kaap
  • Sea Point
  • Green Point
  • Clifton
  • Camps Bay

You should be especially careful on Longstreet, Cape Town’s party street. Petty theft is on the order of the day here. If you would like to visit a township, we recommend that you do this with a reputable tour company. Don’t feel brave walk around alone on Table mountain. There are often crime incidents.

 

Another word of caution, when you land at Cape Town International airport and you do not want to take a rental car, rather order an official Uber or taxi. Do not accept transport offers from drivers waiting outside the airport building. We always advise travellers to take night flights to ensure you arrive before sunset at the airport.   

 

Franschhoek, South Africa
Franschhoek, South Africa
V & A Waterfront, Cape Town
V & A Waterfront, Cape Town
Clifton, Cape Town
Clifton, Cape Town

Safety in Johannesburg

It is highly recommended in Johannesburg to take guided tours and never to walk alone at night. Guided tours have the advantage of learning a lot about the country and its people without worrying about your safety.

 

Like in most metro areas, there are parts of Johannesburg that you should be a bit more cautious about than in other places. 

These include:

 

  • Maboneng
  • Braamfontein
  • Constitution Hill

 

If you are travelling by car, you should be especially alert at intersections, as these are often the scene of high-jacking and smash-and-grab incidents. Criminals target the car or its.

 

Johannesburg airport is fairly safe, although we recommend landing here during daylight. Follow the same rules regarding Uber and taxis as for Cape Town International airport.

Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg
Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg
Mall of Africa, Johannesburg
Mall of Africa, Johannesburg

Safety in Durban

The same safety measures apply to Durban as to Johannesburg and Cape Town. The only difference for Durban is that you should be particularly cautious when visiting the Durban Marine Parade and the harbour area. Ushaka Marine World is safe and provides a great day‘s outing. The beaches are regarded as very unsafe, particularly during high season, although police presence has increased over the last couple of years. You can safely visit the neighbouring towns of Umhlanga, Umdloti, Zimbali and Balito. Most of the North coast towns are fabulous and safe.

Safety on the roads in South Africa

Driving in South Africa is much easier than you think. In contrast to Europe, there is traffic on the left, but you get used to this quickly. South Africans do not always obey the rules of the road, so you must be vigilant while driving and always expect anything to happen. You cannot depend on your right of way. Be extra vigilant when driving at night! It isn’t easy to spot people or animals walking on the streets. 

Also, avoid stopping unnecessarily for long periods at stop streets and look around you at traffic lights. Keep your distance from the car in front of you so you can step on the gas and drive away if you need to.

 

Umhlanga, South Africa
Umhlanga lighthouse, South Africa
Durban Beach, South Africa
Durban Beach, South Africa
Marine Wold, Durban
Ushaka Marine World, Durban
Tradouw Pass, South Africa
Tradouw Pass, South Africa

Conclusion

Although South Africa has a high crime rate, it is still the most beautiful country, offering you experiences like no other. From pristine soft sandy beaches to an exquisite game lodge in unprecedented locations.

These safety tips ensure you can enjoy South Africa without becoming a victim of petty crimes. By just being street smart, you can avoid most of the unpleasant experiences and enjoy an unforgettable time in South Africa. 

We encourage you to come and enjoy this wonderful country with its friendly and helpful people. Even though we have not fallen victim to any major crimes in South Africa, we are always alert and take precautions where possible. 

These recommendations should be followed in South Africa and in most countries and metropolises

Please check the website of the  Foreign Office of your country for the latest safety information before you travel.

We hope to hear about your amazing trip to South Africa and that this article helped you prepare for an unforgettable South African holiday. We wish you a wonderful time.

Your travel buddies

Petra and Bernie

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