Is it safe to travel in South Africa?

I have lived in South Africa all my life and I have visited each of our provinces. I certainly lived to tell the tale and am not at all motivated to move to another country, nor do I fear for my life on a daily basis. There are many news articles that put South Africa in a very bad light; from the politics to the host of wild animals we have. I want to give travelers some advice and peace of mind when travelling to our sunny country and answer the question: Is it safe to travel in South Africa?

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1. The animals

Almost all of our wild animals are located in reserves across the country. The big five is by far one of our most fabulous attractions. That being said, wild animals are not to be underestimated. Listen to your guide. Do not try to tease, play with or feed any untamed animals. If you are on safari do not get out of your vehicle to take a photograph unless you are with a trained game ranger (as if you are on safari in any country). Read up on some animal behaviour beforehand so you know the warning signs of an angry elephant about to charge, for example. If they are facing you and their ears are flapping, you want to slowly remove yourself from the situation. If you don’t mess with the animals, it is already safer to travel in SA.

2. The bugs and other creepy crawlies

Mosquitos – The major cities of South Africa are malaria-free. If you are going to be traveling to the Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga’s low-veld or Limpopo, you should speak to your healthcare provider about prescribing you antimalarial medication before you come.

Spiders – You won’t find many dangerous spiders in the city. In the bush they are more common. Be sure to put your socks in your boots when you take them off. Shake them out before you put them on to avoid surprises. Please don’t kill the spiders, this is their home. They kill the mosquitoes and are a vital part of the ecosystem.

Snakes – We have a beautifully diverse population of snakes in South Africa. One way to stay safe while hiking is to wear rather rugged hiking pants and boots to avoid being bitten and to look where you are walking. Most snakes will slither away when they feel humans coming. Puff adders are much slower moving snakes so they don’t generally move away, so keep them in mind and do not interfere with them. Give them a wide berth and move on.

Bottom line – bring bug spray and leave the critters alone. Read more about the snakes and spiders to look out for here.

3.  Crime

This is probably what inspired you to Google “Is it safe to travel in South Africa?”. The crime rate in our country is high, but not higher than some other countries. The most common crime to affect travellers is pickpocketing and petty theft. This is not to say you are guaranteed to be robbed in South Africa. To stay safe, I recommend not being too flashy. Walk with confidence, know where you are going, plan ahead and if you carry a handbag keep it with you. The crime rates in South Africa have a lot to do with gang-related incidents that are not based in the “touristy” sites.

4. The people

South Africans are generally friendly, they will smile at you if you smile at them. The cashiers will talk to you if you talk to them and the servers are generally very social. However, don’t make yourself a victim and talk to strangers, get in the car with strangers or go to strange parts of town on a whim. Just pre-plan all of your outings and adventures so that you are not taken advantage of. South Africans are not bad people but bad people do exist, not just in South Africa but all over the world. Keep safety in the back of your mind at all times and you will be happy.

5. Transport

Try to use Uber where you can, check that the number plates correspond with the ones in your app. Do not hail a taxi. Plan your trips in advance and also see if your accommodation has a shuttle service.

South Africa offers an abundance of adventure and fun.  I hope this blog has equipped you with the skills to feel it is safe to travel in South Africa. Our country is more than worth the visit and by far the most accessible third-world country. Much like any other destination, if you take the right precautions, you will have a safe and unforgettable trip.

Happy Travels!

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