South Africa Safety: How safe is traveling in South Africa really?

"How safe is South Africa actually?"A question that we asked ourselves again and again before the trip and that is certainly of great interest to you.

After almost two months we can now say: Everything is not so bad! Provided you follow a few simple rules and know how to behave.

So in this post, we'll explain general behavior and safety tips, reveal how safe South Africa is in certain areas, and tell you about our personal experiences.

Note: Our text refers only to places we have visited ourselves. Like Cape Town, the Garden Route or the Kruger National Park.

More posts for your South Africa planning:

Our experiences before and during the trip

We want to say one thing right away: we were not scared once during our trip through South Africa, we were not robbed, we were not threatened and we were not shot either. Hard to believe, or? :D

After two months in this beautiful country, we feel that South Africa is very safe. Much safer than the media, parents, friends or any acquaintances would have you believe. Mind you all people who have probably never been to South Africa before.

As so often, we heard stories about theft, robbery or other crimes beforehand. Always someone knew someone who had problems in South Africa.

Already while telling we could only shake our heads every time. Either the stories were completely exaggerated from the beginning, only half true or the victims themselves were to blame.

The only thing you need in South Africa not to get into trouble is this: common sense. If you travel through South Africa consciously and with a smile on your lips, then you will definitely not be shot! ;)

With the right South Africa credit card you can save a lot of money and withdraw money for free. How it works? We explain it to you here!

The crime rate in South Africa

Nevertheless, we do not want to and will not talk up anything. South Africa is still a country with a very high crime rate, big problem and by far not comparable to Germany.

The income gap is gigantic and the gap between rich and poor is frightening and sad at the same time. While in the inner cities people live in luxury apartments with pool and sea view, millions of people outside the townships still have to fight for survival in corrugated iron huts.

Without money. Without work. Without perspective.

And exactly in these Town Ships, where the dark-skinned South Africans were banished during Apartheid, a large part of the serious crimes takes place. Yes, gang wars, drug smuggling and also murder are part of it here.

As our landlord in Cape Town said so aptly to us: "Such a Town Ship is already a tough area!"

Because the Town Ships are outside, serious crimes within the cities are much rarer and tourists are hardly ever affected.

South Africa Security - One of the many townships around Cape Town

Safety of some areas

So, now that we have told a lot of general information, we want to go into more detail about the individual corners of our South Africa trip.

Security in Cape Town

A few years ago Cape Town was considered much less safe than today. That has changed a lot in the meantime.

This is partly due to the money that is flushed into the city's coffers by the ever increasing tourism and partly due to the numerous security patrols and police patrols in the city center.

We ourselves found Cape Town to be very safe. And as already described above, a large part of the evil crime takes place outside the Town Ships.

Cape Town is more known for petty criminals like pickpockets or small drug sellers, who sometimes chat you up discreetly from the side in the evening. So in the end nothing else like in other big cities of this world.

Therefore, just leave your pockets empty and carry your backpack on the front. Alternatively, you can choose a backpack that is difficult to open. For example this one: Tatonka Storm*

Beggars in Cape Town: Beggars belong to Cape Town like Table Mountain. So don't be surprised if you are asked for money in the city center more often. Here applies: The more insecure you seem, the more persistent they remain.

Often a friendly and at the same time very decisive "Sorry, no cash" is enough." out to be left alone again.

More about the right way to deal with beggars in South Africa, we have written under the general behavior and safety tips below.

Travelling at night in Cape Town: Compared to other corners of South Africa, Cape Town is now much safer at night.

We were often in the evening a little longer in the city and then walked a few blocks to the bus stop. Completely without any problems.

But this does not mean that the city is safe in the dark. The probability of becoming a victim of a robbery is definitely higher at night than during the day.

For this reason, we have always kept to a few simple rules of the game in the dark, which we also tell you below in the behavioral tips and with which we have managed very well.

In addition, there are a few corners that are particularly safe at night, because that's where the nightlife is and there is always something going on. For example the Long Street, Bree Street, Kloof Street or also the Loop Street. Here you should only watch out for pickpockets.

The view of Cape Town from Signal Hill

Safety on the Garden Route

Without any ifs and buts, the Garden Route is not only one of the most beautiful, but also one of the most prosperous corners of the country. Small, clean cities, big houses, new cars, expensive restaurants.

To be honest we felt here from the standard of living rather like in Europe and not like in Africa. This is also reflected in the security. Several hotel owners told us directly upon arrival: "Even if it is dark you can walk outside without any problems."

During our road trip along the Garden Route we had no worries and it seemed to be the safest part of our South Africa trip. But this does not mean that we felt unsafe in the other corners. ;)

The only thing that reminded us again and again of the poverty and problems of the country, were some smaller Town Ships at the edge of the highway.

The village of Stilbaai on the Garden Route

Security in Johannesburg

We can't say much about Johannesburg itself, because we didn't get the chance to explore the city in detail. But one thing is for sure: Johannesburg is a completely different place than Cape Town.

Especially in the dark you should not be seen as a tourist outside and caution is advised.

Even when we wanted to walk to the supermarket after our arrival in South Africa, the hotel staff told us that we should rather take a cab or UBER. Mind you during the day.

However, the hotel was also located in the airport area, which didn't seem very inviting to us in general. How it is in the city center itself we can not say.

Maybe someone here has some experience and can say something about it in the comments. :)

How safe is a rental car round trip?

South Africa is the perfect country for a trip with a rental car. But is that safe at all? Absolutely! Especially if you take two important points to heart:

  1. Do not leave things in the car. Not even an empty water bottle, garbage or anything else. Additionally, open the glove compartment. So possible burglars see quickly that nothing is to get and go on.
  2. Avoid driving in the dark. It may not always work out, but it should not become a habit either. If you drive in the dark, always lock the car from the inside.
  • In South Africa you have to drive on the left side of the road. This was a bit unusual for us in the beginning, but after a short period of getting used to it, it worked out surprisingly well. Nevertheless, it is something completely different than driving a scooter on the left.
  • Take your time when driving and rather look three times in each direction before you drive on.
  • South Africans themselves have proven to be very disciplined drivers, who mostly obey traffic signs, red lights and speed limits. We somehow did not expect this.
  • But you should watch out for the big white 9-seaters that transport many locals to work. The drivers are really insane on the road.

Important note: In South Africa there is no end to speeding! There even Germany is really humane against it and the penalties are also not exactly without.

Sara with our rental car in South Africa

How dangerous is the wildlife?

Another topic that is just as much a part of safety in South Africa is wildlife.

In no other country have we seen so many large and also dangerous animals as here. On a safari you can not only see lions, buffalos, hippos and co. but also the underwater world has a lot to offer with whales, dolphins, seals and also white sharks!

But is it all safe? Yes, in any case! Safaris or adventures on and under water are totally safe. Provided you follow the rules that are explained by the respective ranger.

The probability that suddenly a lion or a crocodile crosses the highway is also 0%. Even the bigger national parks are completely fenced off. Only wild monkeys we have often seen on the highway.

Bathing in South Africa: Great white sharks and bathing? Is that possible at all? Jain! There are special places where bathing is not dangerous and places where you should not go into the water.

At large and well-known beaches there are also very often "shark guards" who watch the sea and immediately sound the alarm if they discover a shark.

However, we also have to say: South Africa is not a bathing resort. At least not the Garden Route and also most of the corner around Cape Town.

The beaches are beautiful, but the sea is cold as hell (around 15 degrees most of the time) and usually very rough with strong waves.

A crocodile in the Kruger National Park South Africa

Useful equipment against thefts

Even if the security in South Africa is much better than its reputation, small thefts can of course not be excluded. To protect you as much as possible, here are some useful recommendations:

    – Especially if you stay a lot in hostels or normal hotels without a safe, the Pacsafe is a faithful travel companion that protects important things from thieves. – Perfect hiding place if you are traveling with some extra cash. – Also like the money belt a very good money hiding place. Especially not to be seen under a sweater. for your backpack or a locker in the hostel.

General behavior and safety tips

As promised, we have now briefly and crisply written a few behavioral and safety tips that will be helpful to you on a trip to South Africa.

A large part of these "rules" we got directly on the spot from the South Africans themselves.

General tips:

  • If you are begged, friendly but crisp with "Sorry, no cash!" answer and walk on unperturbed.
  • If a beggar gets a bit more annoying and doesn't leave your side, just go to the next public building or to one of the many security patrols in the cities. At the latest then you will be left alone.
  • Even if it is hard: You should not give money even to children. They either have to give the money to their parents so they can buy drugs or the kids buy some for themselves.
  • Always carry only a little money in your wallet and hide the rest in a money belt or rather go to the ATM more often.
  • It's better to carry your backpack on your front in the big cities. Long fingers are common and your wallet or smartphone will be gone faster than you can turn around.
  • Do not show expensive valuables such as jewelry or watches in public.
  • Don't be a tourist and only bring out your big reflex camera if you really want to take pictures.

At night:

  • Don't hang around in dark, lonely corners.
  • Do not let any insecurity show.
  • Look for lighted streets where there is something going on.
  • At least always travel in pairs.
  • Do not take unnecessary time, but walk quickly to your destination.
  • Listen to your gut feeling! If something does not seem kosher to you, turn back.

Note: Even if it is sometimes difficult to stay firm with the problems of many people in South Africa, it does not help to give money. This will be "reinvested" by most in other unpleasant things.

What we did about it: If there was food left over, we had it wrapped and gave it to the next beggar.

South Africa Safety – Our Conclusion

Do not let your parents, friends or acquaintances intimidate you. If you follow a few simple rules and travel through South Africa with your eyes open, you will most likely be fine.

In return, you can expect one of the most fascinating, diverse and beautiful countries on earth!

Do you have any other tips and info about safety in South Africa? Or do you have another question? Then just write us a comment!

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