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South Africa and Safety Things You Need to Know

South Africa and Safety: Things You Need to Know

South Africa is a well-known tourist destination. However, many are hesitant to visit because of its safety issues.

Although there are efforts made by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure the safety of various areas in the country, particularly near tourist spots, there are still some areas that are prone to danger.

To know more if South Africa is safe or not, browse through all the details about it below. You can also check out the different ways to keep yourself protected at all times.

Is South Africa safe to live in?

It’s generally safe to live within South Africa’s gated communities and affluent suburbs. These areas tend to have lower crime rates and better security, but they can also be quite expensive.

However, South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world, particularly for violent crimes such as murder, rape, and assault. Crime rates vary widely throughout the country, with some areas being much safer than others.

Why are there so many crimes in South Africa?

Why are there so many crimes in South Africa
Photo by Kat Wilcox from Pexels

As of 2020, South Africa has a Crime Rate of 33.46 according to Macrotrends. However, this rate had an 8.11% decrease from 2019 with it being 36.42 back then.

Among the crimes often committed in this country, the most common include assaults, rape and theft. There are also cases of homicides, scams and pickpocketing.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that these violent acts were the result of certain social issues. Three factors contribute to why there are so many crimes in South Africa:

1. Unemployment

The rise of unemployment rates in South Africa has pushed many of its residents to find other means to live. Some resort to mugging and stealing to have food on their table.

2. Poverty

Because of the high unemployment rate of 33.56% as of 2021, South Africa’s poverty line has worsened. According to Statista, approximately 18.2 million residents have lived in extreme poverty.

3. Inequality

The gap between the rich and the poor in South Africa raises concerns about inequality, resulting in a hostile atmosphere between these two groups. Some resort to violent acts to fight for their rights.

Issues of social exclusion also lead to intentional homicide cases among individuals and different groups of people.

What are the 5 most dangerous places to visit in South Africa?

Generally, it’s best to avoid visiting any place in South Africa at night when you’re alone. You should also bear in mind that crime rates are often higher in townships.

Townships are settlements created based on the policy relating to forced racial segregation, due to racism concerns in the country.

However, this does not mean that there’s not a lot to enjoy around the country. There are many tourist tours that you can participate in, and having a trusted local guide helps maximise your experience as well.

Refer to the list below to learn the top places to avoid visiting in South Africa in terms of safety concerns.

1. Pretoria

Photo by Clayton from Pexels

With a crime index of 81.78, Pretoria is one of the capitals of South Africa that are dangerous to visit. It has a safety index of 18.22, resulting in it being the second most risky city to stay in, after Caracas, Venezuela.

2. Pietermaritzburg

Photo by Clive Reid from Flickr

Pietermaritzburg is a city in the KwaZulu-Natal province which is known for its historical buildings and beautiful parks. However, it has high violent crime rates that often affect taxi drivers and their passengers.

3. Durban

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

Known as the largest city in the KwaZulu-Natal province, Durban has a high murder rate compared to most places around the world. It has a Crime Index of 81 and a Safety Index of 19 as of 2023 by Numbeo.

4. Johannesburg

Photo by Steward Masweneng from Pexels

Johannesburg is the biggest city in South Africa and it ranked the 5th city with a high Crime Index, according to Numbeo. Although it has some areas that are highly secure, there are certain neighbourhoods that experience lots of violent crime cases.

5. Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth
Photo by flowcomm from Flickr

Ranking 11th city in the world with a high Crime Index, Port Elizabeth is the largest city found on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The specific suburbs to avoid in this city are namely Bethelsdorp, New Brighton and Motherwell.

What are the five safest places to visit in South Africa?

Even though there are certain unsafe parts of South Africa, this is not true for all cases. You can still visit the country and have a pleasant time by checking out the different cities below.

1. Cape Town

Cape Town
Photo by Jean van der Meulen from Pexels

Despite the unexpected rise in crime rates in specific districts in Cape Town, it’s still one of the safest cities to visit in South Africa. It has a modern and vibrant atmosphere so it’s famous among many expatriates.

The most popular picks in this city include the Atlantic Seaboard and the Southern Suburbs. They are commonly known to have a safe area and a clean environment.

2. The Garden Route

The Garden Route
Photo by South African Tourism from Flickr

The Garden Route is popularly described as one of the best places to live in South Africa. It’s a popular tourist spot with a 200-kilometre coastline reaching from Mossel Bay to Storms River.

3. Port St. Johns

Port St. Johns
Photo by garethphoto from Flickr

Although it’s a small town with around 6,500 inhabitants, Port St. Johns is a generally safe place to visit. 

Compared to other cities, their crimes only reached up to 456 incidents per 100,000 residents and 2,800 incidents of property crime per 100,000 people.

It’s situated on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The most popular tourist destinations in this town include the First Beach and Silaka Wildlife Reserve with majestic green mountains and breathtaking clear waters.

4. Cape St. Francis

Cape St. Francis
Photo by Leoa’s Photography from Wikimedia Commons

Apart from being a safe city to live in, Cape St. Francis is dubbed as one of the best surfing spots across South Africa. It’s often visited by tourists because of its pristine beaches.

Compared to Port Elizabeth, it has a more quiet and less risky environment which is perfect for a peaceful retreat. You can find this seaside village between Port Elizabeth and Storms River which is at the end of the Garden Route.

5. Upington

Photo by South African Tourism from Flickr

Known as the second biggest city in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, Upington is a safe place to visit because of the three police stations in the area.

It has a reliable and efficient police force that’s praised all over the region. Moreover, it has a small population of approximately 75,000 inhabitants.

What are the dos and don’ts when visiting South Africa?

Currently, tourist arrivals in South Africa have increased. With the different promotions and affordable options available, this is a good chance to visit the country.

However, it’s important for any tourist, whether it’s your first time or not, to be wary of your actions when you travel to another country. Read through the different dos and don’ts you should take heed of for the best experience.

1. Do stay alert at all times.

Since South Africa is known to have a high crime rate, it helps to stay alert to your surroundings at all times. Refrain from wearing any ostentatious displays of wealth to not catch the eye of interested onlookers.

If you find the need to ask for directions, go to the nearest local police station or consult your Google Maps to avoid being tricked by nefarious individuals.

2. Do show respect to all traditions and practices of the country.

Although you don’t necessarily need to study all the traditions and practices of South Africa, it’s important to show respect for their customs. This means wearing conservative clothing when required.

If you have a tour guide, pay close attention to what they’re saying to show that you are interested in learning more about the country. South Africa has a diverse culture and a unique history so it’s worth knowing all about it.

3. Do make an itinerary to make the most of the experience.

Do make an itinerary to make the most of the experience.
Photo by cottonbro studio from Pexels

Regardless of how long you plan to stay in South Africa, it’s more convenient to have an itinerary planned beforehand. 

Remember that the nation has lots of things to offer with its pristine beaches, majestic mountains and special wildlife so you wouldn’t want to waste any of your time.

With a clear itinerary, you can make the most of your day without missing any important details. Pro tip: put together the landmarks that are close to one another so you can visit them all in one day.

4. Don’t wander alone at night.

Despite the critiques on the safety in South Africa, it’s fairly safe to explore the country during daylight. However, it’s best to avoid wandering at night, especially if you’re alone since streets are mostly isolated and unexpected situations are likely to happen.

5. Don’t openly criticise anything you see during your visit.

When you find something interesting during your tour, refrain from making any form of critique that may offend locals. It might rub them off in a bad way if you say anything unnecessary about anything related to their people, culture and environment.

Be sensitive to the current state of affairs in the country too. Topics like politics, racism and violence are best to not be broached about, unless for very private conversations.

6. Don’t forget to give tips.

Don’t forget to give tips.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Tipping is common in South Africa. It’s usually around 10% of the total bill.

For example, when you are riding a taxi, you can include a tip apart from the price of the fare. You can negotiate with the driver about this amount if you want.

What are the safety precautions to take in mind when living in South Africa?

To ensure your safety while staying in South Africa, here are some precautions that you should take note of.

  • Withdraw money from an ATM inside a bank or business establishment.
  • Lock your car doors and keep your valuables in a safe place.
  • Subscribe to good health insurance.
  • Be extra careful when driving yourself around the place.
  • Research more about the place you’re planning to go to.

Frequently Asked Questions about South Africa

The communities in South Africa are accommodating to new people, as long as you make an effort to connect with them too. It’s safe to live in this country while taking into account looking out for yourself.

Practice safety precautions at all times and make genuine relationships with the people around you so you can better adjust to your new environment. You should also consider reading more about the country to see if it’s worth the move or not.

Read through helpful guides to ensure your safety in South Africa by having a trusted home security system and finding the best schools for your children for a more seamless move.

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