South Africa is a land of breathtaking natural landscapes and iconic African wildlife. The country is home to an incredible eight World Heritage sites, and houses the “Big Five” safari animals – lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and cape buffalo. While South Africa has many attractions for tourists, it also struggles with a poor reputation for safety and violent crime. What has caused this reputation, and is it warranted?
A nation of contrasts
Anyone at all familiar with South Africa will know the chequered history of the country, which abolished the state policy of Apartheid in the 1990s, driven by famous civil rights campaigns led by Nelson Mandela. Apartheid policies legalised racism, and included provisions for where white people could live, and where black people could live.
While all South Africans are now equal before the law and in society, the same cannot be said for economic equality. South Africa is still a nation of entrenched inequality, and sometimes a short fifteen minute drive is all that separates multi-million dollar beachfront mansions and corrugated iron shanty towns.
This economic divide is the main driver of often-cited violent crime statistics. Realistically though, these numbers have been sharply dropping since the abolition of apartheid, and are heavily skewed geographically to poorer suburbs and towns that are well away from where most tourists will ever venture. It’s also important to remember that South Africa has successfully hosted millions of tourists for some of the biggest sporting tournaments on earth, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as cricket and rugby world cups.
Staying safe in South Africa
Staying safe in South Africa is very much the same as the everyday precautions you would take when travelling to other countries. While violent crime does happen, it’s generally contained to less developed areas between people who already know each other, not random tourists in major cities. In fact, you’re more likely to die hiking Table Mountain in Cape Town than be involved in a violent crime.
Areas that attract high amounts of tourism are generally very safe, especially in major cities. Just like many other countries however, it’s still advised to take some simple precautions to protect yourself from petty crimes.
- Don’t openly display wealth or valuable property. Refrain from carrying phones or cameras in your hand and always keeping an eye on bags and personal belongings.
- Know where you’re going. Major tourist areas are generally considered quite safe, but don’t walk aimlessly. Try not to walk anywhere alone.
- Don’t accept unsolicited “help” from people you don’t know.
- If confronted or robbed, don’t offer any resistance.
Remember that travelling overseas always involves some risk, because there’s always things you just can’t control. You can always have a contingency in place though, which is why travel insurance is so important; it’s there for when the unexpected happens. Travel with the peace of mind that only a good policy can bring you – get a quote today.