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How safe is it for a woman travelling on her own around South Africa?
Go...but be aware of your surroundings, don't go anywhere out of the ordinary, make sure that there are always people around you. South Africa is a safe place and it's a dangerous place but then so is any city in the world! I am an ex South African that lives in Australia. I lived in South Africa (Joburg) for 31 years...loved it and I travel back whenever I can. South Africa is beautiful!! I have read all the above blogs and agree with most...but what most don't say is that you can get yourself into trouble by going to the wrong place and that can happen in most major cities. Do some research and you will be fine. Travel safe and you will be fine...LOVE SOUTH AFRICA
I have lived and travelled in many countries in Africa, Europe, the Americas and Asia, so would like to give a comparative perspective. South Africa is simply more risky in terms of crime against the person than any country I have experienced with exceptions of some undergoing a war at the time. This is a plain fact, there is a lot of denial in South Africa and many have little experience of living in other countries or of the comparative crime figures and so do not appreciate how far from the norm South Africa is. This is not to say South Africa is not worth visiting , it does have some beautiful landscapes, it is easy to travel into and out of and an English speaker will be able to communicate in most areas of the country (you may struggle in rural areas but someone will usually be on hand and friendly and willing to help). In reference to an earlier post, the police are hopeless but no less so than many other African countries, it is just thrown into contrast by the high violent crime rate and theft. If you are looking for "off the beaten path, see what comes along, sample the confusing local culture" kind of trip then do not do this alone in South Africa (further North in Africa, South America, Cuba or Southern/ East Asia would be a better bet). If you want to see the sights in the guidebook and use tour operators to sort out the itinerary and transport then you'll be fine.
edited July 2012
Once again I'll disagree. South Africa is among the best backpacking destinations in the world because of its great value for money and tourist-friendly infrastructure. Websites like www.coastingafrica.com are a great resource for looking up budget accommodation and planning meandering routes.
I've taken many spur-of-the-moment trips, and even run into some difficulties, and have always found people willing and eager to assist. The police in South Africa are much better than many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and whatever their faults they take crimes against tourists very seriously.
It's always a good idea to have a basic plan for itinerary and accommodation when you travel (this
South Africa travel guide
can help), but remember that backpackers and hotel staff have a vested interest in keeping you safe, and usually have the best advice on which areas of the city to avoid.
My family and I (my husband and two children, ages 5 & 7) have booked tickets to Cape Town (5 days) and then onto Kruger for 5 days. We are flying to both destinations via Jo-berg. We are coming from one of the lowest crime rate States in the US (we don't lock doors etc..). After reading these posts, I am ridiculously scared and having a lot of regret in booking this VERY expensive family trip. My children are huge animal lovers and we know everything about the BIG 5 but never seen them in person. I have been dreaming of traveling to South Africa for years, but after all our plans are in order, now I am fearful that I'm taking my children into a bad environment. Am I being a negligent mother bringing my precious family to a city where the murder/rape rate is so high? We have scored the internet about the crime (probably not a good idea). My husband is having nightmares of having to defend his family against criminals. I'm not sure what to do? We will be out thousands of dollars at this point to cancel but this message board has vastly differing opinions regarding safety. Any thoughts from others would be greatly appreciated.
Many thousands of tourists travel to Cape Town and Joburg every year without incident. I come from a similar place in the US originally, but have lived in South Africa for nearly a decade and would not hesitate to tell anyone in my family to come visit. South African expats especially love to bang on about how the country is unsafe, corrupt, and a generally terrible place, but those of us who are here love it for what it is. If you follow some very common-sense guidelines, you'll have no trouble:
-Listen to the locals (hotel staff, etc) as to where you should and should not go.
-Avoid walking around at night (exceptions are tourist-friendly places like the
V&A Waterfront in Cape Town
-Do not wave around expensive cameras and jewellery when out in public (you can definitely take pictures with nice cameras, but put them in a bag when not in use).
Please don't cancel your trip, you'll have a wonderful time and come back with amazing memories of an unforgettable trip! Feel free to ask any specific questions you might have, I'll do my best to help you.
Thank Anya K. I feel much better knowing that you live there are are fine. I know we will be careful and not go out at night or near the townships. We are experienced travelers but haven't really travelled much these past 10 years. Its so different with children because you start to think about safety in a whole different way. Thanks for your advice.
I am shocked at some of the comments coming from South Africans! Thanks Anya K and DavidF and others who have commented and assured tourists that it is safe to visit our beautiful country.
I grew up in one of the most violent residential areas in Cape Town, Mitchells Plain, which is actually considered a township and not a "regular" residential area. I have never felt that my life was in danger. MOst of the violent crimes in our townships are related to gang violence and drug abuse, these do not affect tourists. The common crimes tourists should be aware of which occur in Cape Town are petty crimes such as pick pocketing and possibly "smash and grabs". The smash and grabs occur at traffic intersections in or around townships and mostly occur when a female is alone in her car and has something clearly visible like a handbag or cellphone on the front or back seat.
Walking around in tourist hot spots are definitely safe. If you dont plan on going into a township then you will be perfectly fine, chances of getting robbed are almost non-existant at tourist hotspots. You should be concerned about pick-pocketing in the CBD so keep your valuables safely packed away in your backpack or travel bag.
Hiking alone is not a good idea no matter what country you are in so hike in groups, there have been a number of incidences where tourists have been robbed while hiking alone...robbers will generally approach you and ask for your money and cellphone. Easiest way to avoid this is hike in a group, dont carry loads of cash on you, dont flash your cellphone out and about, but like I said...in a group you would be perfectly fine. If you are ever faced with a situation like this its best to just hand over what they ask for and move along...in fact a fun way to solve it would be to keep some small cash somewhere LOL like R10 or something so if they approach you that's what you hand over LOL, its not a traumatic experience at all if you handle it properly and stay calm of course.
Most tourists want to see our townships and I would say the best way to do so is to go with a local person. Especially in Cape Town. Walking around in a township is fine actually especially if you're in a group, most of the people and kids in townships find tourists super interesting LOL and they will stare at you and talk to you and want to pose for photographs haha. A lot of the people who live in our townships barely ever get out of the township especially kids, which is why they are so fascinated by tourists, I have met people who have never seen the ocean yet they live 10min drive from it, people who have never seen the city yet a taxi is R10 to the city and a train even cheaper. If you're with a local person you'll have a blast of a time and they'll be able to take you to all the interesting spots. Sometimes it could be sad to see how most of the people in our townships live but overall its an eye opener and definitely a fun and exciting, colorful culturally diverse trip for a tourist.
All very good points, thanks Zoobizkit! Many tourists do want to have some experience of a township, so the safest way is to find a local guide or go with a tour group.
edited June 2013
Anya K ,i agree with you that South Africa is among the best backpacking destinations in the world
because of its great value for money and tourist-friendly
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