When I posted that I was heading to South Africa, I got a lot of messages, both from friends and followers, to be careful. Even a few worried friends, accustomed to my habit of traveling alone, called me to make sure I wasn't heading there alone.
It did make me a little nervous, but I had Matt coming with me and pushed the worries out of my head.
The good news is I found South Africa to be quite safe, as long as you are smart. Many people solo travel to the country all the time, even *GASP* girls! You may have to take more precautions than you would in Europe or even Asia, but rest assured, you will be ok.
Here are my top tips on staying safe in South Africa:
- Know where you are going
- Visit places during daylight hours
- Take tour guides to townships
- Don't walk around at night, even in groups
- Don't be flashy - this goes for clothes, jewelry, and phones (!)
- Lock your doors if you rent a car and keep valuables hidden
- Carry a dummy wallet full of cancelled credit cards and a couple of dollar of cash
- Stay hyper aware
Understand, that most of the crime reported in South Africa happen in the poorest regions and in townships. The government understands the income tourism brings and employs many guards to make sure the top cities, the ones you are probably visiting, stay safe.
The most common tourist crimes are robberies. This is why I always suggest having a dummy wallet on you. Most crimes happen near an ATM. Make sure when you take out money you are on a busy street, or in a mall. I opted to take out a ton of cash at the airport because there was a guard standing right next to the ATM. Then I hid the cash throughout various wallets, purses, and clothing.
Car jacking is also reported but at much lower rates. Most cities are too congested to have any real occurrences. Before you make a long drive (like from Johannesburg to Kruger) make sure you fill up so you don't run out of gas suddenly.
When it comes to visiting more remote regions, and especially townships, take advantage of tour guides. Not only do they know the best places to go but they also keep you safe.
As with any other country, use common sense. If you wouldn't walk down a dark alley or street alone normally then don't do it while abroad. You probably wouldn't carry hundreds of dollars in cash on you at home either, so don't do it abroad. And that kind stranger, best to be friendly but not follow him anywhere.
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some books I recommend...
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