Tourism safety in South Africa – is it safe?
If you’re concerned about tourism safety in South Africa, take comfort in the fact that there are some practical things you can do to mitigate the impact of crime while you’re travelling around the country.
As many locals will tell you, it’s all about being cautious and remaining constantly aware of your surroundings. Follow this advice and you’ll make life-long memories while you experience our beautiful landscapes, wildlife offering and fascinating history, while meeting captivating people from a mix of cultures.
It is easy to discover the numerous reasons why South Africa features at the top of many tourism bucket-lists and sees huge numbers of repeat visitors. A happy visitor is a repeat visitor, and South Africa enjoys a high percentage of these. Keep in mind that millions of tourists visit South Africa without incident every year.
Like many cosmopolitan destinations, however, South Africa grapples with crime. These are largely not targeted at tourists and do not occur in areas that are frequented by tourists, although there are exceptions and tourism safety in South Africa is our utmost priority as the tourism industry.
The media frequently highlights South Africa’s reputation for crime and corruption. These reports often do not provide a balanced perspective and can exaggerate the situation. We, therefore, do not recommend that perceptions be based on such news reports. Rather, consult your agent or tour operator for a more accurate picture of what is happening on the ground.
In most cases, common sense prevails, and you should take the same precautions you would when travelling in any foreign country or city in the world. A properly planned itinerary with a reputable tour operator with a proper tourism safety protocol will also help to mitigate any risks and, if an incident does occur, ensure you are swiftly assisted by experts and local authorities.
If you are travelling solo, planning well and knowing how to get around is key to ensure that you make the most out of your visit and stay safe. It is advisable to inform someone from your accommodation of your plans. Most importantly, do not venture anywhere isolated. If you do not consider yourself to be very travel-savvy, there are several tours you can join that will offer peace of mind, as well as convenience.
Never let your guard down
Tourists are often targeted when they travel because they are unfamiliar with the area and their body language shows this. In many cases, they may let their guard down more easily than when at home and forget to remain aware of what is going on around them as they attempt to navigate unfamiliar territory. With tourism safety top of mind, it’s essential to remember where you are and how to behave when visiting South Africa.
Remain alert and you should be able to avoid falling victim to opportunistic crime for the duration of your stay, regardless of whether you’re travelling alone or in a group.
Other general tips to help you stay safe:
- Do not venture into unknown or isolated areas. Have a clear plan as to where you are heading. Make sure to have the name and contact details of your accommodation on hand.
- Keep your head up when you’re walking around town and be aware of your surroundings. Do not walk around at night.
- Always keep your belongings close to your body. Keep your handbag or backpack securely closed and do not hang it off the back of your chair when sitting at a restaurant or bar.
- Do not call attention to yourself by displaying expensive items e.g. flashy jewellery or electronics. Do not carry large amounts of cash. Leave your valuables in a safe at your hotel, if possible.
- It is OK to use your phone or camera but be discreet and stay alert e.g. don’t walk around with headphones in or while texting, etc. on your phone.
- Be aware of common pickpocketing scams. If someone approaches you and attempts to step into your personal space or direct your attention elsewhere, simply walk away. Do not worry about appearing rude.
- It is always preferable for you to withdraw cash at an ATM in a more secure location such as a hotel or shopping mall. Avoid using ATMs on the street or at night.
- If you hire a car, be sure to park in safe, well-lit areas and do not leave anything visible in the car. Check that all of the doors are locked before you walk away.
- Follow the traveltosouthafrica.org information site to stay up to date on current events in the country that may affect your trip.
South Africa Tourism Safety Tip - What do I do in case of an emergency?
There are three phone numbers you should have handy, should an emergency arise when you are in South Africa:
- 10111 is for any emergency that requires police response and can be dialled from anywhere in the country.
- 112 can be dialled on any cell phone, whether you have airtime or not, and will transfer you to a call centre that will connect you to the nearest emergency service.
- 10177 is for medical emergencies the require an ambulance response.
Guests booking through reputable tour operators and staying at reputable hotels, lodges etc. will always be able to contact the relevant points during their stay. These organisations are well equipped with the necessary means to assist in the case of medical and security emergencies. We also encourage guests to always travel with travel insurance.
For more helpful tips for travel to South Africa, click on the links below: