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South Africa Travel Advisory

Travel advisory february 5, 2024, south africa - level 2: exercise increased caution.

Updated to reflect safety consideration when using GPS navigation. 

Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to  crime  and  civil unrest . 

Country Summary:   Violent crime, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles, is common. There is a higher risk of violent crime in the central business districts of major cities after dark.

Using GPS navigation can lead to unsafe routes. GPS navigation may suggest shortcuts through townships as the quickest preferred route but can lead to increased risks of crime.

There have been incidents in which tourists traveling in Cape Town while using GPS navigation apps have been routed through residential areas with high rates of violent crime. The safest approach to return a rental car to Cape Town International Airport is to take the N2 highway and follow signs to Airport Approach Rd ( exit 16 ). Alternatively, request the rental car company to collect your vehicle and subsequently arrange an airport transfer from established taxi companies or established ridesharing services to reach the airport.

Demonstrations, protests, and strikes occur frequently. These can develop quickly without prior notification, often interrupting traffic, transportation, and other services; such events have the potential to turn violent. 

Please see our  Alerts  for up-to-date information. 

Read the  country information page  for additional information on travel to South Africa. 

 If you decide to travel to South Africa: 

  • Research your route in advance, stay on major highways, avoid shortcuts through townships, and avoid reliance on GPS navigation apps.
  • Avoid walking alone, especially after dark. 
  • Avoid visiting informal settlement areas unless you are with someone familiar with the area. 
  • Do not display cash or valuables. 
  • Drive with doors locked and windows closed. 
  • Always carry a copy of your U.S. passport and visa (if applicable). Keep original documents in a secure location. 
  • Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program  ( STEP ) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. 
  • Follow the Department of State on  Facebook  and  Twitter . 
  • Review the  Country Security Report  for South Africa. 
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the  Traveler’s Checklist . 
  • Visit the CDC page for the latest  Travel Health Information  related to your travel. 

Travel Advisory Levels

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10 things to know before traveling to South Africa

Sep 4, 2023 • 9 min read

safe travel in south africa

Make the most of your visit to South Africa with these top planning and preparation tips © Caia Image / Getty Images

Let’s not beat about the bush:  South Africa has a bit of a scary reputation. Much is said about the country’s unenviable crime rate, but so much more can be said about all the things that make this diverse destination so magnificent. You shouldn't let anxiety about possible dangers put you off visiting this amazing African country. 

Huge and diverse, South Africa never stops doling out gifts to the traveler – world-class surf breaks , eclectic local cuisine , mountains to climb, cities to visit , tiny towns to hide away in, desert landscapes to photograph and, of course, plenty of wildlife to watch .

The country’s extraordinary variety is both its biggest draw and its biggest challenge, at least when it comes to planning a trip. Much research is needed to decide where to go, what to do and how long to stay. Visiting for less than two weeks is not ideal – three weeks or more would be a better bet if you can manage so much time away.

With tips to help you plan as well as information on health, safety and etiquette, here's what you need to know for a successful trip to South Africa.

A family walking on a beach in South Africa

1. Carry the relevant paperwork if you’re traveling with kids

If you’re entering or leaving South Africa with a child under the age of 18 , you’ll need to have a few extra bits of paper in your carry-on bag. In a bid to stamp out child trafficking, all minors need to have an "unabridged" birth certificate – that is, one that lists both parents’ names. If only one parent is traveling with the child, you’ll need an affidavit from the other parent confirming that they give consent for the child to travel. The rules keep changing and papers are not always checked, but it’s wise to have the documents at hand just in case.

2. Buy a South African SIM card and use local Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is fairly easy to find in larger cities and more touristed towns, but if you’re planning on wandering far from the main population centers, it’s worth picking up a South African SIM card on arrival at the airport. The card costs just a few rand, but like pretty much everything in South Africa, it does come with a bit of paperwork. You’ll need to “RICA” your SIM card – a fairly simple registration process that requires a photo ID and confirmation of your address in South Africa (a simple booking confirmation will suffice).

3. Carry cash, just not too much

While credit and debit cards are widely accepted, there are still a few places that only take cash in South Africa. It’s best to keep a small stash of notes and coins for purchases at corner stores, buying things from market traders and for the various tips you’ll be expected to give throughout the day (more on tipping below).

Of course, it’s not wise to walk around with large wads of cash on your person, so keep the bulk of your money hidden away in the hotel safe, or withdraw modest amounts from ATMs while you are out and about. Be wary of using ATMs on the street; theft and card scams are common, so it’s best to stick to machines inside malls or banks.

Two women with their arms around each other lean on a car and gaze out at a city view

4. If you really want to see SA, you need to rent a car

There's no sugar-coating it – public transport in South Africa often falls short. Long-distance bus services exist but routes tend to bypass many smaller destinations, and fares can be expensive for shorter hops. Long-distance trains are unreliable, and hitchhiking is most definitely not recommended. If you really want to see the country, you’re going to have to rent a car. Fortunately, there are plenty of fantastic road trips to choose from, and all the big car hire companies are represented in South Africa – just be sure to book ahead, especially if you’re traveling in the November to March peak season .

5. Listen to the locals (but be ready for a little exaggeration)

Local advice is always important, particularly in countries that have a reputation for crime and social problems. In South Africa, the host at your accommodation is a good person to ask about the best bars or restaurants, how to get around and which areas to avoid. Just be aware that there are many awesome attractions found in areas that South African locals – particularly older locals – wouldn’t consider visiting.

Once, while staying in a guest house in suburban Durban, I asked the owner if there were any places to avoid and she replied “The CBD” (city center), which would have cut my sightseeing rather short. South Africans have a tendency to exaggerate the danger posed by crime – it’s almost a part of the national psyche, and a favorite topic of conversation. You might have to do a bit more research to sort out the worthwhile warnings from the sometimes-inevitable scaremongering.

6. Be more cautious when driving in cities

When I first moved to South Africa, there was so much talk of carjackers that I expected to find balaclava-clad people lurking at every intersection waiting to appropriate my vehicle. I remember panicking at the gas station because I had to lower the window to pay, then passing my cash through an inch-high gap before driving away, stressed and sweating.

These days I often drive with the windows down, but I do approach "robots" (the local term for traffic lights) with caution, always leaving a car-length gap in front of me just in case I need to make a quick escape. Be cautious while driving, but not paranoid. Keep your doors locked and be extra vigilant when driving at night, keeping your windows up and your wits about you.

A wine waiter pours wine at a restaurant

7. Be prepared to tip

South Africa has a strong tipping culture. In many customer-facing industries, salaries are low and workers make much of their money from tips. Restaurant staff will expect a top of around 10%, but leaving 12–15% will generate bigger smiles. Drivers never pump their own gas in South Africa; you’ll be expected to pay at least R5 to the person filling your tank, or R10–20 if the attendant also checks your tires, oil or water.

Then there are South Africa’s informal parking attendants. While larger cities and towns have areas with pay-as-you-go street parking, in most places, you can park at the side of the road for free… well, sort of. Ubiquitous car guards will offer to keep an eye on your car while you’re away, and they come in a range of helpfulness levels.

Some will go the extra mile, stopping traffic to help you back out into a busy street. Others are opportunists who approach as you pull out your keys, claiming they were keeping a close eye on your car while you were shopping. Reward car guards according to the service they provide – a R5 coin is the standard thank you but R10 is more appropriate for someone who provided a more useful service.

8. South African English takes some getting used to 

While there are 11 official languages in South Africa, you’ll almost always find someone who speaks English, unless you’re in a remote rural area. There will still be a few local phrases that trip you up. One thing that often baffles foreigners is the (extremely liberal) use of the word “shame.” It’s a versatile word in South Africa. A cute child fell asleep in the car? Shame. A close family member passed away? Shame. Busy week at the office meaning you couldn’t make Friday drinks? Shame. The word is often preceded by the utterance "ag" and followed by the word "man." So the phrase "Ag, shame man" can mean anything from “awww” to “Oh no, that’s terrible!”

Also overused (often in baffling contexts) is the word “hectic.” While it can be used to discuss a particularly busy intersection, it could also be used to describe a ridiculously tall building, a very long line at the bank, an insanely windy day or a particularly large baby being born. In South Africa, hectic doesn’t really mean busy – it usually means "wow."

The lights of Johannesburg at night

9. Expect lots of talk about politics and power outages

Certain subjects are off-limits in every country, but in South Africa, politics is not one of them. Everyone has an opinion on the government’s latest endeavors, whether that’s discussing the abundance of potholes, the latest corruption scandal or – more often than not – the government's failure to provide (electrical) power to the people. You'll very quickly become familiar with the inconvenience of what locals call "load-shedding."

Basically, load-shedding is a never-ending series of planned power outages designed to take pressure off the ailing electricity grid. Cities and towns are split into zones, and depending on the severity of the load-shedding, you might end up without power for anything from two to 12 hours a day. There are eight "stages" of load-shedding, broken up into two-hour slots. Larger hotels won’t be affected thanks to backup generators, but if you’re staying in a guesthouse, hostel or private home, you are bound to encounter load-shedding at some point in your stay.

Many places come equipped with fail-safes such as emergency lights, backup power for fridges and Wi-Fi hubs, and sometimes generators big enough to power the whole property. Your host will likely give you daily updates on when the power will be off, or there’s a handy app – EskomSePush – that has all the details and comes with a handy warning notification.

10. Driving in the emergency lane is standard practice

While greetings, table manners and general day-to-day etiquette in South Africa should largely be familiar, the way South Africans drive can be a bit of a culture shock for visitors. One of the most idiosyncratic rules of the road is “yellow line driving” – many roads are single-lane highways, and enterprising drivers often use the emergency lane (hard shoulder) as a backup.

If you’re on a highway and a driver behind you indicates that they want to get by, you'll be expected to briefly move across the yellow line into the emergency lane to let them pass. If you don’t, you’re likely to find yourself privy to another favorite local driving habit: tailgating. Drivers will usually flash their hazard lights in thanks as they pass, but be aware that obliging drivers aren’t the only thing to be found on the hard shoulder. Always make sure there is good visibility before you pull over, for around the next corner you might find a troop of baboons, a stray cow or a bunch of school kids walking home.

This article was first published May 17, 2023 and updated Sep 4, 2023.

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Is South Africa Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

South Africa

  • South Africa : Safety by City
  • Bloemfontein
  • Johannesburg
  • Pietermaritzburg
  • Port Elizabeth

South Africa is a country located at the southern tip of Africa.

It shares its borders with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho.

It is no exaggeration to say that this country is huge, with many varying landscapes and 11 official languages, and an equally diverse population.

It is the country that boasts the strongest economy on the continent: South Africa is known for its wines and is one of the world’s largest producers of gold.

It is also very influential when it comes to African politics, and in 2010, South Africa hosted the first Football World Cup to be held on the African continent.

Though some may think of typical stereotypes when hearing the words “South Africa”, it is actually completely different than people imagine.

Mainly, it can be said that it is a country consisting of two countries.

On the one hand, it is, without exaggeration, a first world state, especially the major cities such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, and on the other hand it has a staggering rate of poverty, only imaginable in Africa.

It is one of the most unequal countries in the world, where you can see opulence and poverty standing side by side.

  • Warnings & Dangers in South Africa

OVERALL RISK: HIGH

As amazingly fun and exciting South Africa might be, you should be aware of the many dangers that await the unsuspecting tourists. This country has extremely high rates of crime. You should be vigilant and take all possible precautions measures in order to minimize the risk of something going wrong.

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: HIGH

Public transport in South Africa is the scene of many criminal activities. Be aware of criminals waiting around at Johannesburg and Cape Town airports and then following tourists to their accommodation with a goal to rob them. There have also been reports of luggage thefts at the airports. Rails and metro trains are also the locations where assaults and robberies have occurred. If you plan to take the train in Cape Town, always opt for the 1st Class, travel during the day and in a cabin with people. Avoid traveling to Cape Flats altogether.

PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM

Pickpocketing was once a serious problem in this country, but it has been on a decline during the past couple of years. Still, the riskiest locations where you may encounter petty theft are crowded places such as markets, public transport and bus, and train stations.

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

South Africa is often the victim of many natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, storms, and wildfires. One of the bigger floods in South Africa occurred in 2011 killing 91 people.

MUGGING RISK: HIGH

Mugging and robberies are a much bigger issue in this country than petty theft. And though usually, the motive of these incidents is theft, rape is sadly not uncommon at all, so female tourists should be particularly cautious.

TERRORISM RISK: HIGH

There are threats coming from extremists linked to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL), as well as threats from individuals inspired by terrorist groups, including Daesh, who might try to carry out so-called ‘lone actor’ attacks targeting public places.

SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM

There are a couple of popular scams, one of them involving criminals posing as "tourist police" with a goal to rob visitors. They are known to stop tourist buses, saying that they're checking identification and searching luggage. However there's no such thing as "tourist police" in South Africa, so be on the lookout.Then there are so-called "strollers", and they can be anyone from children to junkies. Their only goal is to rob you blind so keep your valuables well hidden.

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM

Though many female travelers went to South Africa and had no problems at all, this country might not be the safest choice for female solo travelers. Be very careful at night and avoid risky situations such as winding-up in deserted and poorly lit streets or finding yourself in an unknown area with strange people.

  • So... How Safe Is South Africa Really?

Though this is a country where there’s so much to see and do, that it’s impossible to fit it all in during one trip, with both breathtaking scenery, rich and luxurious parts of major cities, exciting nightlife and incredible culture, it is a country with a serious rate of crime to watch out for.

Since there are staggeringly poor areas in this country, it is not at all uncommon to hear about muggings and armed robberies in this country.

And though usually, the motive of these crimes is theft, rape also occurs from time to time, which is especially relevant for female visitors.

There have also been reports of food and drink spiking, with victims ending up being assaulted and robbed after the incident.

Traveling by a rented car is also not very safe: there have been tragic instances of foreigners being carjacked and murdered.

However, it’s more important than knowing what kind of crimes tend to occur in South Africa, is knowing the areas and hotspots where they’re more likely to occur.

You should generally avoid townships as they experience a higher crime rate than other areas, and though you shouldn’t steer clear of them at all costs if you have to visit them, do it within an organized tour group.

Caution should also be taken in Johannesburg, both in the city center and in its suburbs, especially at night.

Cape town is another high-risk area, especially after the evening hours.

Avoid the areas of Greenpoint, Salt River, Seapoint, Mowbray, Observatory, and the Cape Flats as there’s higher criminal activity there.

  • How Does South Africa Compare?
  • Useful Information

While U.S. citizens visiting the Republic of South Africa for tourism purposes do not need a visa for any stays shorter than ninety days, along with many other countries, there are some nationals that do need a visa in order to enter South Africa. Make sure your passports are valid for at least 30 days past your planned date of return from South Africa. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need a visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.

South African rand is the official currency in South America. ATMs can be found throughout the country and credit cards are widely accepted.

Since it is such a large country, the climate in South Africa varies from the Mediterranean in the southwest to temperate in the middle part of the country, and subtropical in the northeast. There is a small area in the northwest that has a desert climate. Most of the country experiences warm, sunny days and cool nights.

Cape Town International Airport is the busiest and biggest airport serving the city of Cape Town. It is also the second-busiest airport in South Africa and third-busiest in Africa. It is located approximately 20 km from the city center.

Travel Insurance

Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to South Africa, since it covers not only the costs of medical problems but also theft and loss of valuables.

South Africa Weather Averages (Temperatures)

  • Average High/Low Temperature

South Africa - Safety by City

Explore south africa.

  • 10 Cheapest Places to Live in South Africa
  • 10 Most Dangerous Cities in South Africa
  • 10 Safest Cities in South Africa
  • Where to Next?

okavango-delta-safari-game-drive-botswana

54 Reviews on South Africa

Lay low and be cautious.

This page is one big exaggeration, south Africa is generally very safe to visit but try and avoid walking in the night, do not show any indication of high wealth. just even handling your money in public can make you a victim of mugging, pick pocketing, and robbery. its not that safe of a place for women, sexual assault and rape is on the rise. visiting south Africa is like a gamble, it could go really well or really bad. south Africa is not a great paradise like many think and theirs actually better places to go in Africa to see the nature or go on a safari. being white in this country is a issue too. police will stop you in the streets and demand money no joke. your seen as a walking ATM machine. so lay low and be cautious. i know it might seem bad after all i said but if you lay low and do everything ive said in this paragraph then you can have a great, safe trip to South Africa

Yet another unsafe African country

“visiting south Africa is like a gamble, it could go really well or really bad”

Sounds like a real dream destination to me. Watching my back constantly? No thanks, I prefer Europe and Asia. If one day I should be tired of life…..I come visit Africa (for assisted suicide).

I have lived in Johannesburg for 49 years. I have been a victim of crime twice.

Both times were caused by my stupidity and lack of awareness.

Reading all these reviews is quite sad because most of them are just made-up nonsense.

The police don’t demand money from you, they will accept bribes though, but you are not forced.

If you are hassled then you’ve probably done something wrong.

I would also love to know about these instances of terrorism?

The only time we hear that word is watching the news and always involving European countries.

Most of the people leaving reviews have probably never even been here. Including the person who wrote the review.

This makes more sense because America has more terrorists, murder and crime because of the color of skin not because they did wrong. I would not want to be there it is worst than Cape town 👀👀

SA is Safer than America

Agree. The high risk is way over rated. I have lived in Joburg for 12 years and 25 years in NYC. NYC under Mayor David Dinkin in the 90’s was much worse than Joburg. I have also experienced 1993 World trade centre bombing I worked right across and 9/11/2001I was in Manhattan saw the 2nd plane hit live. I have never experienced that in SA.

No, SA is safer than NYC. NYC is a crap hole, 80% of USA is nothing like NYC, I have lived in America my whole life, and could not be paid to visit NYC. I also lived in Bloemfontein SA and the country is much safer than people who have never been there are reporting.

Well white guy from South Africa who lived with his family in Cape Town, confirmed me high risk of robbery, murder. He was gun pointed 3 times so far. He said South Africa is not safe for the white people.

I agree with you. I’m wealthy from USA and had a great month in SA. We drove and stayed in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Bloubergstrand, Jeffreys Bay, Margate, East London, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria, JoBurg, and Hartbeespoort. What an amazing time. No fears. There are scarier places in the US, especially with all our mass shootings.

I love South Africa

I have lived in South Africa all my life, but I have travelled extensively. Honestly the crime here is not that much different to that of London or New York. Yes you do have to be careful in some areas, just like any big city. The coastline is exquisite, the Big 5 breathtaking and the people incredibly friendly. The police are not all out to get you. Yes crime happens, but often because you are not aware eg bag over chair, easy opportunity. Give it a chance, it’s an incredible country.

You’re a clown and a racist and have probably never been on the continent. I am wealthy from the USA and visited South Africa for a month. Our family drove and stayed in so many places from Cape Town to Durban up to JoBurg. It was an amazing, safe trip. We even went into the ghettos. At noo point did we ever feel nervous!

Skip South Africa

Yeah ok rape not that bad. 😳🤷🏻‍♀️

Follow guidance..skip South Africa..

Choose life.

I will wait

I really wanted to visit this year and then a colleague told me her brother that lives in Joburg recently got robbed because their automatic gate wasn’t working and he left the car to check.

Not looking wealthy and white is probably the best way to stay safe.

All about research

As 70 & 75-Year-old South Africans we still travel extensively around the country – since covid March 2020 probably around 30 000 kilometers of cris crossing the country. Not a single adverse event by sticking to some basic safety rules. The poster above has pointed out a few things and here are some more: Travelling around the country would be a good idea to travel in groups – that ensure that there is help at hand if there are breakdowns. Traveling with a South African is also a good idea, Ask us – we like to travel. We are planning an 8-day flower tour again in August with 8 vehicles ( 18 persons ) and traveling about 3400 kilometers in total. Spend time chatting to South African travel population and you can really have a ball…………………….

The article is exaggerated and so are you a bit. It is not that serious. My family had a wonderful time there last year. We are from USA. My husband makes very good money. We were there for a month and handed out money and all of that with no incidents. We drove around in a beautiful BMW SUV. We never felt in danger. We went to the beach at night during load shedding. It was so much fun. We are looking forward to visiting another month this year.

Be careful and everything will be okay

Thanks for the train tip! We visited South Africa for my colleague’s wedding and now we plan on returning there just the two of us. Johannesburg is a great city, you just have to watch your bags, I’ve seen a lot of suspicious faces around me a lot of times.

Always go with a travel buddy

Whenever I’m travelling alone I do my best to pick safe destinations. Yes, I want to enjoy myself and explore cool places but I also want to make sure I make the flight home safe and well. South Africa sure has its perks but I decided to visit it with my father and it proved to be a very wise decision, he’s way more cautious than me.

I stay in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and just like any other country there are areas to avoid.

All in all, we have a great country, try not to stand out too much and you’ll be fine.

You have to be cautious at all times

I understand that South Africans always get upset when travellers mention they felt unsafe. South Africans naturally behave much more careful than (for instance) Europeans, who are used to live in a safe world and don’t even know what real danger means. If you grew up in South Africa you will never be as careless as a European. Never ever. So they don’t understand what we mean when we say it doesn’t feel safe because if you play by the rules it is considerably safe. I have lived in South Africa for a while and being European I can tell you it is an issue to be white and when you are a foreigner they always try to scam you. It’s just a natural thing. What to me is actually the biggest issue is that you are not free, because you always have to be cautious. Always and everywhere.

As a white person I wouldn’t go to SA as the reported genocide (or rather the lack of deserved coverage for it) is terrifying. First in the world for rape and Joburg is basically a no go zone.

I don’t know why you mention “as a white person,” since it sounds really unnecessary. It doesn’t matter in this country. You’re a target no matter what race you are.

Um? really! oh Wow!

You haven’t heard of People like Malema also know as the Black Hitler of our times or Zuma singing kill white people? Zuma was the President of the country while doing such things.

My friend, you need a big wakeup call.

not really. in south africa and the rest of Africa, having a different skin tone means you stand out. White people are seen as walking atm machines and have a very high chance of getting scammed. Theres also a lot of bad history and a lot of racial tension in SA. Genocide is definitely an overstatement but there is a mass murder streak of white farmers in the country, so avoid staying on farms too.

Dangerous for whites

My buddy grew up in SA and he said the other day, “I’ll never go back. Anyone who says it’s safe is lying.” This is from a white, English South African whose parents still live there, and who has traveled all over the world.

Well, um, Afrikaans ZAs and English ZAs don’t get on. All South Africans (should) know that. The AZA’s see the EZAs as snobby. Some are to be honest. As a AZA I know a few EZAs and some (not all) DO think they are to good to learn the language and DO think they are better then the AZAs. But loads of EZAs are nice and willing to try to learn Afrikaans. Also, I am white, but that’s because my great great someone moved to South Africa from the Netherlands. I have been snubbed, but when I speak Afrikaans they see I’m an AZA and all tension is lost. So yes, I agree that South Africa isn’t safe for EZAs or white people (unless you are a white AZA like I am) because of Apartheid. But you have to understand why.

Jo’burg, City of Gold

Absolutely untrue. I have lived in Johannesburg for 40 years, and have only felt unsafe in run-down areas in the city centre. As a white woman, I have sat and drawn street life in many suburbs in this beautiful city. Our people are friendly, and you are no more at risk than in any other big city.

I am white and feel safe. I have lived in the UK for 13 years and at a times felt more unsafe there at times as here. I have been back for 6 years and will never go back, I will never love anywhere else than here. J1it is what you make of it. Just be sensible people no matter where you are. There’s no utopia but SA is damn well the closets you will find to it.

South Africa is a great country, with great people. Just be sensible like you would anywhere else.

Depends Where You Go

It’s a huge country with varying degrees of safety. Some cities you’ll feel watched, others you’ll feel like a local. So it really depends on where you’re going. Just like many big countries it’s not just one simple thing. Imagine judging the USA based on LA. So be sensible and you’ll be okay. There are over 10 million tourists each year so it’s really not that bad. The beauty on the other hand will take your breath away

Totally agreed… Couldnt have said it better…

Terrible country!

When I traveled to this country 2 years ago, well, it was horrid. The people are terrible. The police is terrible and scared of the people, therefore no control over them. The food is great. The scams are high. The rape is high. The murder rates are always high. Communicating with anyone is terrible. The hygiene and sanitation is terrible. Petty crime is high. Someone can easily walk into a store and hold you up while others just casually stare at you as if it’s a daily occurrence, without helping you in any way. This country is crappy and it’ll tear itself apart within a few decades if nothing improves. Don’t waste your time coming here. You’ll probably never come back, but, if you do, you’ll be scarred or realize just how awful a country and its people can be. Please, please, PLEASE DO NOT listen to the reviews that say this is even an OKAY country to visit!! It isn’t!

Whites The problem with most african countries is that white people stand out in a crowd, and are seen as a walking atm. we are more likely to get scammed. Now in south Africa, there’s extreme racial tension, plus the history of apartheid. So you will be treated very poorly.

Very dangerous

After reading reviews here and confirming the accuracy. I’ll never set my foot on this stinkhole called South Africa.

Have you even been to the country?

How can you say that South Africa is very dangerous if you haven’t even set foot in the country?

Wise choice!

The supporting looters and lootenants of Jacob Zuma have risen up in mass riots, looting and murder nationwide. This is because of the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma as of July 2021. The danger level is very high up to level 4. DO NOT come here because the infrastructure is being destroyed. Electricity and other services have been destroyed by the mass terrorist riots.

Would a 63 yo white woman need to be concerned about rape?

You could be 100 year old lady or one month old baby rape is happens no matter the age.

South Africa was my home since birth love the country it have recently emigrated to the UK its very unsafe the racism is rife the energy sucks and you have to live behind security bars and cameras and alarms it’s stressful the poverty is awful no government support nothing works it breaks my heart to see it go this way as it’s such a beautiful country but has no support for the poor as it’s totally unequal

Country is kind of rough right now

People can go their entire life in SA without being the victim of a crime obviously, but that doesn’t change the fact that the homicide rate (36.4/100,000) was literately higher than Pakistan (4), Afghanistan (7), Syria (1), Iraq (10) and the US (5), and Yemen (7) combined in 2020.

I have traveled here three times and spent probably 1/3 or so of my time staying in townships, 1/3 in hotels in cities, and 1/3 doing the usual tourist safari stuff, so have seen a bunch of the country. Generally: some parts are totally safe, but most of the country is fairly safe during the day and a big no-go at night. A lot of bad stuff has happened in SA’s history and the economy hasn’t been in great shape in recent years. There are other amazing countries nearby where you can get off the beaten path and be a lot more free to explore the beauty of the cultures and places- Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique and others

It Depends on How Much You Know as Well as Where You Go

As someone living in South Africa, and reading the mixed reviews, I do just want to add a little. Is South Africa safe? It entirely depends on where you are, what you are doing, and your understanding of the culture. I often drive in Pretoria, but because of my knowledge, I never go to the CBD or major city areas. I always travel during the day and stay over at night. There will always be a small risk of getting mugged, assaulted etc, but that generally happens to people who are not paying attention, traveling around at night, and not watching their surroundings. Is it exhausting? Yes and no, you get used to it. And here are some top tips if you do want to visit South Africa:

Do not use Taxis, use Uber Do not have your phone or valuables out in public, or headphones Go in a group if you can Never have your phone visible inside your vehicle either Always check the reviews of the places you are staying If you can, make connections with trustworthy (hear me now, trustworthy) South Africans in the area, and find out which places to avoid and which places to visit. It’s even better if you can travel with a local friend because they will practice common sense and safety for you. I myself know the top spots which is great to visit and the top spots where I never go Don’t dress like a tourist. What do I mean by that? Dressing normally will allow you to actually blend in from the crowd. Because South Africa is such a diverse nation, it’s a lot easier to blend in than you think

Understand that South Africans are mixed cultures and races, but as a whole, in shops, malls, and entertainment areas, you will find a lot of South Africans to be very friendly and helpful. There is a whole lot of bias, stereotypes, and myths as well as an exaggeration that does run in the country. Yes, it has its issues and gender-based violence is one of them. Each and every country does have its fair share of problems. But don’t let this stop you from visiting if you want to visit. Just do a little more research, follow the tips and advice from people, and overall you should be fine.

Don't Live in Fear BUT Don't Underestimate Danger

I’ve spent a total of a year of time in the country, spread over a number of trips. I’ve known many locals and have heard their stories. Most of these locals were white and quite well off. I’ve spent in time in all the major cities, and I’ve self-driven most of the country.

The truth is, it is a dangerous place. It is perfectly safe for you… until it is not. It can all change in a moment. It really is just a matter of luck to some extent. I have personally known people robbed at gun point in very upmarket areas, people car-jacked, people suffering home invasions. It is common, it simply is. There are many videos posted online of these types of events. It looks like the wild west in many of them.

As a tourist employing a high degree of common sense and situational awareness, you’re likely to enjoy a few weeks vacation there and return home happy, intact, and with some terrific memories. However, there is no denying the fact that the odds against that, though still relatively low, are much higher than if you spent your vacation in Tokyo.

One personal story… I was last there two years ago, just before the world lost it’s mind. We had the new experience of being stopped by the police one evening. We were returning from dinner in an upmarket area of Cape Town. There were several police officers just standing at the side of the road, waiving SELECTED vehicles over. We met the criteria, and were waived over and told that, due to a very minor infraction, the car would have to be seized and we would have to be taken to the station. It was clear from the theatrics employed that this was simply a ruse to extract a bribe. We held fast and agreed to the proposed legal consequences if that was must happen. Once the 3 officers realized that no cash was coming their way, they simply allowed us to go on our way.

Would I return… likely. It will depend on how much more poor and desperate the average citizen is in the wake of the changes brought by the last 2 years. If tourist infrastructure is permanently lost, it may make the few tourists who do go stand out in an unwelcome fashion.

A nice country to visit

While there are certainly some cities (but especially areas within some cities) that are unsafe, I can’t say that I agree that South Africa, overall, is an unsafe country. Does it have it’s share of crimes, pickpocketing, muggings, rapes and so on? Yes, it does. But you can generally keep on the safe side by just paying attention, avoiding going out at night alone and avoiding particular areas which you should learn about before traveling anywhere, not just SA.

I don’t think this country can be added to HIGH when it comes to terrorism risks. Yes, something bad can happen here as it can happen across the world but adding a HIGH red sign to it doesn’t seem fair. If this country is high then what about other places that have to deal with the threat of terrorism on a daily or weekly basis?

From personal experience and from other people’s experiences I can say that Johanesburg is pretty safe. Yes, the Police can take bribes (I’ve had it happen) but it’s nothing I haven’t seen in other cities I’ve been in Europe, Asia, etc. It can happen all around the world. The Police is made of people and some of them will take bribes. But that doesn’t mean the police are hostile or doesn’t do its job. Overall, they seem to be doing a good job of keeping things safe.

I don’t agree that visiting South Africa can be a gamble. If you learn about the bad places in each town and avoid them, pay attention to your surroundings, don’t go out alone at night and mind your own business, you will be just fine. The South African people are generally friendly, hospitable and welcoming and their culture is wonderful. Just ask around for people that have been in this country and most will have good things to say.

Is it safe travelling with a group of tourists? There will be a local guide. After reading the bad reviews I feel like cancelling the tour.

Overall : safe enough

There are no damn terrorists in south Africa bro… WTF IS WRONG WITH U GUYS

They are racists. SA is amazing!

Been there, it was safe and friendly

SoWeTo and Johannesburg has been very safe and very plessant to visit, and I (if it really matters) are a white person. The most friendly people in the world is in SA, and I would gladly go back anytime.

Visit South Africa.

I am South African and have been in South Africa for 23 years. It breaks my heart that people who haven’t ever been to South Africa warns other people not to visit. Yes South Africa isn’t the savest country to visit, but it also isn’t as unsafe as people make it out to be. We have beautiful beaches, so much culture and some of the best food you will ever have. South Africans are some of the most welcoming and loving people you will ever meet. If you do your research well, visit the right places at the right time (for example not walking alone after dark in an unsafe neighbourhood) travel in a group, being aware of what’s going on around you etc. your chances of getting robbed, or feeling unsafe is very scarce. I have visited other countries and there is not one I will ever exhange for South Africa.

Beautifull but risky country

Both of our tour guides who lived their entire life in SA told us they wouldn’t come here for a visit. They told us that white people are fleeing the country. You see so many “for sale” signs in cape town suburbs, and one guide told us it is because external investors are closing their buisnesses in SA. That says it all. To be honest, we only started feeling very unsafe in Cape Town, but throughout our trip in garden route, you do feel the tension. As someone else said, there are many other places to visit.

I met a white, Afrikaner lady online in 2016. I am a white, American male male, and I moved from Arizona to Bloemfontein SA to be with my lady, where we got married. Whoever these people are, (probably Europeans) dogging this country have no idea what they are talking about. I arrived at airport in Joburg and drove alone in rental car to Bloemfontein. I made 1 stop in Joburg for snacks, and one stop in Kroonstadt for a break. I never once felt unsafe, everyone was very friendly, struck up a conversation at both places with black folks, no issues. I lived in Bloemfontein for 1.5 yrs, but visited Kimberley, Kuruman, Cristiana, Scweizer-Reneke, Vryburg and Bulfontein, never had a problem in these places. We walked at night, we went out at night, the boogie man did not rob us. I would tell everyone, stay out of the high crime districts, shop, work, play and relax in the safe parts of the towns you visit, and you will have my experience. The people of SA are great. We are now (2022) married, living in AZ, but retiring in Upington. That is how bad I think it is. If Europe is so great, stay there!

I have lived in SA my entire life, and believe this summary, as sad as it is, is more accurate than not. Travellers need to practice common sense and never let their guard down. Yes, SA is unsafe, but in most parts of the world, locals will take advantage of people they can see are lost or overly trusting. Make sure you book your tours with reputable companies. Never use a taxi, rather Uber or use Bolt or rent a car. Try to park in designated parking lots. If you do go out at night, make sure you’re travelling in a group. Women should not travel to SA alone. If you wish to explore informal settlements, limit your adventures to Soweto, and again, only through reputable travel agencies. Try to stay out of central business districts in Johannesburg and Pretoria. And never flash cash or use your phone in public.

Great country but be careful

I have visited South Africa over 20 times as my wife is from Durban and myself from the UK. I would say that SA is one of the most beautiful country’s that I have been to. I mostly stay in Durban area as we still have some family there , all others have left due to political restrictions and danger and crime rate. Every member of my family has been a victim of crime from home invasions to mugging and car jacking . I have seen this get worse as the years have gone on. You need to be extremely vigilant when travelling and always keep car doors locked and windows up. Be careful at road junctions and traffic lights. I never walk streets at night and only in groups in day time. I never wear jewellery and only carry essentials with my money on a pre paid debit card. All this being said SA has some fantastic places to vist with breath taking scenery especially the Drakensberg and garden route from Durban to Cape Town . Game parks also a definite recommend . My main advice would be plan routes carefully and use reputable travel companies and you should have a great time.

South Africa is worse than the US on every crime metric. Rapes, robberies, stabbings, shootings, kidnappings, car-jackings, you name it, so I don’t blame people for their caution. You lead the world or are top 5 in most of these statistics.

One of the highest in the world for rape, robbery, murder by gun, murder by knife, murder overall, carjackings, etc.

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Article Contents

  • Overall Risk
  • Transport & Taxis Risk
  • Pickpockets Risk
  • Natural Disasters Risk
  • Mugging Risk
  • Terrorism Risk
  • Women Travelers Risk
  • Weather Averages (Temperatures)
  • User Reviews
  • Share Your Experience

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South Africa

Latest update.

Exercise a high degree of caution in South Africa due to the threat of violent crime.

South Africa

South Africa (PDF 811.22 KB)

Africa (PDF 1.68 MB)

Local emergency contacts

National emergencies.

Call 10111.

Fire and rescue services

Call 10177.

Call 10111, or go to the nearest police station.

Advice levels

Exercise a high degree of caution in South Africa.

  • ​​​​​ National elections are scheduled for 29 May. Protests and large gatherings can occur anywhere in South Africa at any time. Avoid protests, demonstrations or large demonstrations.  Use major roads where it's safe to do so and verify that alternate routes recommended by your GPS are safe prior to travel. Monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities. 
  • Crime and violence are serious issues across South Africa, including murder, rape, assault, food and drink spiking, robbery and carjacking. South Africa experiences more crime during its rolling blackouts (load-shedding). Be particularly alert in major city centres and township areas and when travelling after dark. Crimes in South Africa often involve the use of weapons. 
  • There’s a threat of kidnapping across South Africa, pay attention to your personal security.
  • Terrorism is a threat worldwide and can occur anywhere at any time. Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places and follow the advice of local authorities. 
  • Opportunistic criminals also target travellers at the approaches to Kruger National Park, including Numbi Gate, and at the Lebombo/Komatipoort border. Criminals have also been targeting tourist vehicles at the approaches to Pilanesberg National Park and Sun City Resort.
  • Criminals target travellers and their bags at airports and on public transport. Vehicles parked or stopped at intersections are also targeted. Criminals have posed as fake tourist police to extort and rob tourists.
  • ATM and credit card fraud are common. Criminals wait near ATMs to rob people who have withdrawn cash. Be aware of your surroundings, and only withdraw small amounts. Keep your credit card with you at all times.
  • Respect local wildlife laws. Only use professional guides or tour operators. Follow park regulations and advice from wardens. Don't swim in lakes and rivers due to the risk of wildlife attacks and disease.

Full travel advice: Safety

  • HIV/AIDS infection rates are high in South Africa. Take steps to reduce your risk of exposure.
  • Malaria and other insect-borne diseases, such as filariasis, are common. Make sure your accommodation is insect-proof. Use insect repellent.
  • You must present a yellow fever vaccination certificate if you're over one year old and travelling from a country where yellow fever is widespread. 
  • Private hospitals are generally better equipped than public facilities. Medical evacuation is your only option in remote areas.

Full travel advice:  Health

  • Drug offences carry severe penalties, including long jail terms.
  • Dual nationals must enter and exit South Africa on their South African passport. Penalties for travelling on another passport include fines, refusal of entry and jail.

Full travel advice:  Local laws

  • You don't need a visa if you're visiting South Africa for tourism purposes for up to 90 days. In other cases, you'll need a visa. Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. Contact the nearest embassy or consulate of South Africa for the latest details. 
  • If travelling from Namibia to South Africa, you'll need at least two blank pages in your passport.
  • Major routes can be subject to protest activities, often with little or no warning. Exercise caution and stay informed when planning travel and driving.
  • Before you travel by road, check for any disruption on your route. Use major roads where it's safe to do so and verify that alternate routes recommended by your GPS are safe. There have been instances of travellers being rerouted by their GPS through unsafe areas.
  • Rolling blackouts can affect both land and air travel. Confirm with your airline or travel provider.

Full travel advice:  Travel

Local contacts

  • The  Consular Services Charter  tells you what the Australian Government can and can't do to help when you're overseas. 
  • The  Australian High Commission in Pretoria  can provide consular help to Australians in South Africa.
  • To stay up to date with local information, follow the High Commission’s social media accounts.

Full travel advice:  Local contacts

Full advice

Civil unrest and political tension, demonstrations and protests.

Protests and large gatherings can occur anywhere in South Africa at any time. Services may be disrupted. Avoid areas affected by protests, demonstrations or large public gatherings. 

Before you travel by road, check for any disruption on your route and use major roads where it's safe to do so. Verify that alternate routes recommended by your GPS are safe. There have been instances of travellers being rerouted by their GPS through unsafe areas. Follow the advice of local authorities. Monitor local news, radio, and social media for updates.

To protect yourself if you encounter a protest or local tension:

  • monitor local media and other sources for updates, including advice on curfews imposed by authorities
  • don't attempt to cross protester roadblocks, as this could provoke a violent reaction
  • plan for interruptions to phone and internet services
  • avoid areas affected by protests or unrest
  • contact your airline or tour operator to confirm arrangements before you travel
  • follow the instructions of local authorities.

If you're near a demonstration, leave if it's safe to do so.

There have been reports of protesters damaging property belonging to bystanders. Avoid taking photographs or video footage of demonstrations and protests.

More information:

  • Demonstrations and civil unrest

Crime and violence are serious issues in South Africa.

Crime rates in South Africa are significantly higher than in Australia and often involve weapons.

Criminals continue to target tourist vehicles along the approaches to Kruger National Park, including Numbi Gate. Avoid Numbi Gate if possible, only travel in daylight hours, stay on main roads, and be aware of potential criminals in the vicinity of all gates and park approaches.

Armed criminals have been targeting tourist buses along the approaches to Pilanesberg National Park and neighbouring Sun City Resort, including near Lekgalong. If you can, avoid the R556 and use alternative routes available on the N4/R565 via Rustenburg. Travel in daylight hours and be aware of potential criminals near all gates and park approaches and when travelling through small towns.

Police in South Africa deal with a high volume of aggravated crime. Their resources are stretched. You may not get the level of service you would in Australia, especially for less serious crimes such as theft and fraud.

The South African Police Service doesn't have a 'Tourist Police' force. Criminals have posed as 'Tourist Police' to extort and rob tourists, including stopping tourist buses to check proof of identity and search luggage.

Crime at airports

Crime in and around airports can occur.

Criminals have robbed arriving passengers, following them from the airport to:

  • foreign currency exchange facilities
  • tourist accommodation

Theft from luggage also occurs. To avoid this, don't place valuables in checked-in luggage.

Police officer impersonation

Criminals may pose as police officers to extort or rob you. You may also be at risk of being kidnapped. Criminals use ‘flashing blue lights’ on plain vehicles and fake IDs to stop you or force you out of the vehicle.

If you’re suspicious, do not stop and continue to a place of safety.

For more information see the 'Kidnapping' section under ' Safety '.

Other crimes

Crime in South Africa includes:

  • food and drink spiking
  • mugging, robbery  and theft, sometimes with weapons and violence

Robberies involving violence can occur at shopping centres. South Africa experiences more crime during its rolling blackouts (load-shedding), including at shopping centres. Be alert at all times.

Assaults and robberies on local commuter and metro trains happen:

  • between Johannesburg and Pretoria
  • in Cape Town

Theft from hotel rooms and guest houses does happen, including within game parks.

Criminals have stolen bags and backpacks from public places, including restaurants and bars. Be alert in all public spaces.

To avoid theft:

  • don't leave luggage and valuables unattended
  • place your luggage and valuables in safekeeping facilities

Crime rates are significantly higher after dark.

To protect yourself against crime, avoid travelling to:

  • central business districts
  • townships, unless with an organised tour run by a reputable company
  • isolated beaches, lookouts and picnic areas

Crime involving vehicles

There have been arson attacks on cargo trucks to block roads in South Africa. Check local media for reports of attacks and avoid these areas. 

If you encounter an attack, don't intervene, don't take pictures or videos, and leave the scene as soon as it is safe to do so.

Thieves posing as vendors or beggars target cars:

  • on highways off-ramps
  • at intersections
  • at traffic lights

'Smash and grab' thefts from vehicles and carjacking are common, particularly:

  • on major routes
  • at major intersections
  • during traffic congestion

Cash-in-transit attacks target armoured courier vans, sometimes using automatic weapons, creating a significant risk of death or serious injury to anyone nearby. Avoid driving alongside, parking next to, or being a pedestrian next to cash drops at banks and other venues.

Criminals also place debris on roads to stop vehicles. Don't stop to clear debris.

Road spiking occurs on South African roads, where criminals place spikes on roads to damage vehicles and force motorists to pull over.

To prevent theft when travelling by car:

  • keep doors locked and windows up, even when driving
  • keep valuables out of sight
  • avoid driving after dark
  • maintain situational awareness and stop at designated areas such as petrol stations
  • if followed by a suspicious vehicle, go to a police station, petrol station or alert a security company

Attacks against hikers

There have been a number of attacks against hikers by criminals on hiking trails and in national parks and reserves. These have included Lions Head, Signal Hill and Table Mountain near Cape Town.

To prevent attacks when hiking:

  • hike in groups
  • advise friends, family or your accommodation provider where you are hiking and how long for
  • be alert to your surroundings and circumstances.

Crime involving cash and credit cards

ATMs in major cities are common. ATMs in rural areas are less common.

ATM and credit card fraud is common. Criminals use skimming devices to copy your card details onto a blank card.

Criminals wait near ATMs and rob people withdrawing cash.

Criminals use spotters to identify victims who have withdrawn cash or made expensive purchases. Be aware of your surroundings.

To protect yourself against cash and credit card crime:

  • only withdraw small amounts of cash at ATMs
  • refuse offers of help at ATMs
  • keep all ATM and credit card payment slips secure
  • keep your credit card in sight at all times when using it

Don't use ATMs that open onto the street. Only use ATMs in controlled areas, such as:

  • shopping centres
  • inside service stations

Scams are common.

Don't be fooled by scams. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

If you're a scam victim, don't travel to South Africa to try and get your money back. The risk of assault is too high.

Fake internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes operate from some African countries. These typically take place on internet dating sites or chat rooms.

Someone you meet online may ask you to send money so they can travel to Australia to visit you. As soon as the scammer receives the money, they end their relationship with you.

Some may ask you to travel to Africa to meet them. When you arrive in Africa, they may kidnap, assault or rob you.

Report fraud and scams to the Commercial Crimes Unit of the South African Police Service in Johannesburg on +27 (12) 743 0148 or +27 (11) 220 4052

Cyber security

You may be at risk of cyber-based threats during overseas travel to any country. Digital identity theft is a growing concern. Your devices and personal data can be compromised, especially if you're connecting to Wi-Fi, using or connecting to shared or public computers, or to Bluetooth. 

Social media can also be risky in destinations where there are social or political tensions or laws that may seem unreasonable by Australian standards. Travellers have been arrested for things they have said on social media. Don't comment on local or political events on your social media. 

More information:   

  • Cyber security when travelling overseas  

Power shortages and rolling blackouts (Load-shedding)

Rolling blackouts (load shedding) are occurring throughout South Africa, which are affecting private residences, businesses, municipal lighting, traffic lights, and hotels. 

Blackouts can also affect water availability, internet connectivity, mobile phone network coverage, fuel availability, residential security features, and food supply. 

Power outages can potentially increase crime; for example, traffic jams due to power outages provide opportunities for smash-and-grab crime. Residences can be targeted when lights are out, and security systems are not functioning. Ongoing conditions have led to increased protests and demonstrations, and in some cases, civil unrest, throughout the country.  

Be prepared for issues that may arise from blackouts: 

  • have a communications plan for when there is no or limited power (landline locations, external mobile phone battery/power banks, additional charging cords, hard copies of important numbers).
  • maintain several days’ worth of non-perishable food, drinking water, and other essential items, including medicine and first aid supplies. 
  • store torches, batteries, radios and basic tools in quick-access locations.  
  • identify safe areas around the city, including hotels, hospitals or police stations that may not lose power. 
  • monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities. 

Terrorism is a threat worldwide. An attack could happen anywhere and at any time.

  • Consider likely terrorist targets and the level of security provided, including places visited by foreigners, such as shopping centres.
  • Always be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
  • Report any suspicious items or activities to the police.

In July 2020, ISIL (Daesh) issued a warning via its digital newspaper that its fighters would start attacking Western gas interests in Mozambique 'sooner or later' and also warned it could conduct attacks in South Africa because of South Africa's involvement in anti-ISIL operations in Mozambique. 

In October 2022, there were reports of terrorists planning an attack in Sandton, Johannesburg.

To reduce your risks:

  • take official warnings seriously
  • monitor the media for threats

If there's a terrorist attack:

  • leave the affected area immediately if it's safe
  • avoid the area afterwards in case of more attacks.

Kidnapping occurs across the world with political, ideological, and criminal motives. Foreigners, including Australians, have been kidnapped overseas whilst travelling. Kidnappings can happen anywhere, anytime, including in destinations that are typically at lower risk. 

There's a threat of kidnapping across South Africa. Foreigners have been kidnapped in the past. Kidnappings are generally for financial gain or motivated by criminality. Scammers may kidnap you to seek a ransom for your release.

If, despite our advice, you travel to an area with a high risk of kidnapping, our ability to provide consular assistance in these destinations will be limited. 

To reduce the risk of kidnapping: 

  • always be alert to your personal security and surroundings 
  • get professional security advice for travel in locations with a heightened kidnap risk 
  • check your accommodation has appropriate security measures 
  • avoid isolated locations, particularly when travelling alone 
  • vary your movements and don’t set patterns
  • notify family or friends of planned travel and share your location 
  • avoid talking about your money or business affairs 
  • use ATMs in public places and during daylight hours 
  • avoid giving personal details to strangers online or over the phone 

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it doesn't make payments or concessions to kidnappers. Ransom payments to kidnappers have funded further terrorist attacks and criminal activity. Paying a ransom to terrorist groups will likely break Australian counter-terrorism financing laws. 

See the 'Crime' section under ' Safety ' for more details.

More information:  

Adventure activities

Wildlife safety.

Respect local wildlife laws. Maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife.

Only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators.

Follow park rules and the advice of wardens.

Swimming safety

Be cautious about swimming in lakes and rivers due to the risk of wildlife attacks or waterborne disease.

Climate and natural disasters

Flooding, landslides, bushfires, tsunamis, severe weather.

If a  natural disaster  happens:

  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof place
  • keep in touch with your friends and family
  • ask your tour operator if tourist services at your destination have been affected.
  • Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System

Travel insurance

Get comprehensive  travel insurance  before you leave. 

Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won’t pay for these costs.

If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.

If you're not insured, you may have to pay many thousands of dollars up-front for medical care.

  • what activities and care your policy covers
  • that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away.

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition. 

See your doctor or travel clinic to:

  • have a basic health check-up
  • ask if your travel plans may affect your health
  • plan any vaccinations you need

Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.

If you have immediate concerns for your welfare or the welfare of another Australian, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or contact your  nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate  to discuss counselling hotlines and services available in your location.

  • General health advice
  • Healthy holiday tips  (Healthdirect Australia)

Medications

Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

If you bring restricted medication or don't have the right documents, you could:

  • be arrested
  • have your medication confiscated

This includes countries where you don't leave the airport.

If you intend to bring medicine, check if:

  • there's a limit on how much you can take
  • whether you need any certifications

If your medication is illegal in South Africa, ask your doctor in Australia about alternatives.

Take enough legal medicine so you remain in good health on your trip.

Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:

  • what the medication is
  • your required dosage
  • that it's for personal use

Health risks

Yellow fever

If you're travelling from a country where yellow fever is widespread, you'll need a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter South Africa. This doesn't apply to a child aged under 1 year.

If you can't show proof of vaccination, authorities may not let you enter.

You can't get vaccinated when you arrive.

The rate of  HIV/AIDS  infection in South Africa is very high.

Take steps to reduce your risk of exposure to the virus.

Victims of violent crime, especially rape, should seek immediate medical help.

Insect-borne diseases

Malaria  is present in parts of South Africa, especially:

  • remote areas in the far north
  • remote areas in the east
  • Kruger National Park

The 90km area along the border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe is a designated malaria risk zone. Some areas nearby may have a malaria risk during the year.

Other insect-borne diseases, including  filariasis , are also prevalent.

To protect yourself from disease:

  • make sure your accommodation is insect-proof
  • use insect repellent
  • wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing

Take medicine to prevent malaria if travelling to an area where it's common.

Cholera  mainly occurs in rural areas. More serious outbreaks can happen from time to time.

To protect yourself against cholera:

  • avoid ice cubes
  • avoid raw and undercooked food, such as salads
  • be strict with your hygiene habits if you travel in rural areas
  • drink boiled water or bottled water with sealed lids

Tap water in major cities is generally safe to drink.

  • Infectious diseases

Other health risks

Waterborne, foodborne and other infectious diseases are prevalent.

Diseases include:

  • drug-resistant  tuberculosis
  • Rift Valley virus
  • bilharzia (schistosomiasis)

Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.

To protect yourself from illness:

  • avoid contact with animal tissues or blood when visiting farms or game reserves
  • only drink pasteurised or homogenised milk
  • don't eat raw meat
  • don't swim in freshwater
  • avoid contact with dogs and other mammals

If you're bitten or scratched by an animal, get medical help immediately. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or diarrhoea.

Medical care

Medical facilities.

The standard of medical facilities in South Africa varies.

Public medical facilities are generally low standard compared with Australia. Private hospitals are often better equipped.

Many regional hospitals only provide basic facilities.

There's no shared healthcare agreement between Australia and South Africa.

Before admitting you, hospitals usually ask for:

  • confirmation of medical insurance
  • up-front deposit for services
  • public hospitals will treat foreigners for free, but the level of care varies.

In remote areas, air evacuation to a major city is sometimes the only option in an emergency. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

Decompression chambers are located at:

  • St Augustine's Hospital, Durban
  • Milpark Hospital, Johannesburg
  • Eugene Marais Hospital, Pretoria

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our  Consular Services Charter . But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

If you're detained or arrested, you need to ask officials to tell the Australian High Commission in Pretoria. 

  • Arrested or in prison

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include long prison sentences.

  • Carrying or using drugs

Commercial surrogacy

Get legal help if you're visiting South Africa for commercial surrogacy.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you’re overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.

  • Staying within the law

Dual citizenship

You can't enter or exit South Africa on an  Australian passport  if you're an Australian-South African dual national.

If you try, you may be:

  • turned away from border points
  • jailed for up to 12 months

If you're unsure if you will be treated as a South African dual national, check with:

  • the South African Department of Home Affairs
  • the nearest South African embassy or consulate.
  • Dual nationals

Visas and border measures

Every country or territory decides who can enter or leave through its borders. For specific information about the evidence you'll need to enter a foreign destination, check with the nearest embassy, consulate or immigration department of the destination you're entering. 

Visa-free travel for short stays

You don't need a visa if you're visiting South Africa for tourism purposes for up to 90 days. In other cases, you'll need a visa.

Leaving and re-entering South Africa won't automatically give you another 90 days.

Check South Africa's immigration rules about:

  • overstaying visas
  • working in or migrating to South Africa
  • changing your visa status
  • extending your visa by travelling to a neighbouring country and attempting to return
  • South African Department of Home Affairs

Other formalities

South African dual nationals can’t enter or leave South Africa with a foreign passport. See  Laws

South African authorities:

  • don't accept  provisional travel documents
  • do accept Australian emergency passports

Travel with children

Children travelling on a valid passport with one or both parents are no longer required to present a birth certificate, parental consent letter and other supporting documentation. However, this is a requirement for other situations, such as unaccompanied minors travelling (under the age of 18) or legal guardianship.

To check the requirements for other situations, such as legal guardianship or unaccompanied travelling minors, visit the South African Department of Home Affairs. 

If travelling from Namibia to South Africa, make sure you have at least two blank pages in your passport.

Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you’re just transiting or stopping over.

Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.

You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.

The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport’s expiry date before you travel. If you’re not sure it’ll be valid for long enough, consider getting  a new passport .

Your passport must have at least 2 completely blank pages to endorse your entry permit on.

If your passport doesn't comply with these requirements, authorities may stop you from boarding.

Lost or stolen passport

Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.

Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.

If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:

  • In Australia, contact the  Australian Passport Information Service .
  • If you're overseas, contact the nearest  Australian embassy or consulate .

Carry copies of a recent passport photo with you. You may need to replace your passport while you're overseas.

  • South African High Commission in Australia

Passport with 'X' gender identifier

Although Australian passports comply with international standards for sex and gender, we can’t guarantee that a passport showing 'X' in the sex field will be accepted for entry or transit by another country. Contact the nearest  embassy, high commission or consulate of your destination  before you arrive at the border to confirm if authorities will accept passports with 'X' gender markers. 

More information:  

  • LGBTQIA+ travellers  

There are limits to how much money you can bring into South Africa. Foreign nationals can enter with a maximum of either:

  • 25,000 Rand (ZAR)
  • foreign currency equivalent to $US10,000

You may have to declare the amount of money you're carrying when you arrive or leave.

Local travel

Power Shortages and Rolling Blackouts (Load Shedding)

Rolling blackouts (load shedding) occur throughout South Africa, affecting traffic lights and causing road congestion and delays. It may also affect other modes of travel, such as air and rail travel. Check with your airline or travel provider.

Public transport

Avoid using minibus taxis. Ask your accommodation host or tour guide for advice about using public transport.

Book local transport through a reputable provider.

  • Transport and getting around safely

Taxis and rideshare services

Tensions between metered taxis and rideshare drivers can escalate to violence.

Be careful:

  • around train stations
  • when travelling to and from airports

Avoid catching a rideshare service that is close to a metered taxi.

Driving permit

To drive in South Africa, you must:

  • have a valid Australian driver's licence, and
  • be at least 18 years of age

Driving without the correct licence can affect your insurance.

If you move to South Africa, you can swap your Australian driver's licence for a South African licence. You must do so within the first 12 months of your residency. Contact the issuing road authority if you're requested to obtain a verification of your driver's licence to convert your licence. 

If you're going to ride a motorcycle, check whether your travel insurance policy covers you. Always wear a helmet.

Use extreme caution on roads.

Road travel

There have been arson attacks on cargo trucks across South Africa. These attacks can cause damage to infrastructure, road closures and lengthy delays. Before you travel by road, check for any disruption on your route and use major roads where it's safe to do so. Verify that alternate routes recommended by your GPS are safe using verified sources. Monitor local news, radio, and social media for updates. There have been instances of travellers being rerouted by their GPS through unsafe areas. Follow the advice of local authorities. 

Road conditions are generally good but can vary, especially in rural areas.

Hazards in urban and rural areas include:

  • excessive speed
  • poor driving skills
  • difficult conditions
  • pedestrians and animals straying onto roads, especially at night
  • drunk driving, especially at night

People have been attacked travelling on alternate and secondary roads to Cape Town International Airport. When travelling to or from the Cape Town International Airport:

  • remain on the M2 or N2 highways if safe to do so
  • avoid detours through Borchard’s Quarry Road leading to Nyanga
  • Airport transfers are available

You're more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in South Africa than in Australia.

  • Driving or riding

Emergencies

Depending on what you need, contact your:

  • friends and family
  • travel agent
  • insurance provider

National emergencies                                                                      

Medical emergencies.

Always get a police report when you report a crime.

Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Consular contacts

Read the  Consular Services Charter  for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australian High Commission, Pretoria

292 Orient Street Arcadia Pretoria, South Africa Phone: (+27 12) 423 6000 Fax: (+27 12) 342 8442 Email:  [email protected] Website:  southafrica.embassy.gov.au Facebook:  Australian High Commission in South Africa Twitter:  @AuHCSouthAfrica

Check the High Commission website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.

24-hour Consular Emergency Centre

In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:

  • +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
  • 1300 555 135 in Australia

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18 South Africa Safety Travel Tips You Need To Know Before Visiting

Chloe Smulian

  • Written by Post author: Chloe Smulian
  • Post last modified: Updated on April 2, 2024

Llandudno beach in Cape Town is safe for tourists to travel to South Africa

A comprehensive guide on safety tips to know when travelling in South Africa – written by locals.

The first questions people ask us when we say we’re from South Africa are: ‘Is it safe to travel to South Africa?’ , ‘Is South Africa dangerous to visit?’ or ‘Is it true there’s violent crime in South Africa?’.

Our answer usually starts along the lines of, ‘Yes, but…’ and then we start rattling off a list of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’t’s’. We soon started to realise how relative the topic of safety is and how everybody’s safety tolerance is different.

With this in mind, we thought it would be useful to share a comprehensive list of safety travel tips you need to know when travelling in South Africa.

Is It Safe To Travel To South Africa in 2024?

Yes and you don’t need a black belt in karate to visit South Africa.

South Africa does have a high crime rate. But there’s so much more to this beautiful country that everyone should experience it at least once in their lifetime. We want you to have the best experience possible and that includes giving you all the safety tips you need to take the stress out of your travels.

We’ll start with some general safety travel tips that are relevant no matter where you visit in South Africa. Then we’ll get into more detail around specific topics like road safety, getting around and solo travelling.

General Safety Travel Tips For Tourists in South Africa

Keep your dress code simple: don’t be flashy.

We don’t mean you shouldn’t rock your outfits in South Africa. By all means, rock it and look good! Just limit wearing flashy or expensive looking items like jewellery and watches when walking in public areas.

If you prefer to have them on you instead of in the hotel safe, wear it under your clothing so it won’t draw too much attention.

Avoid walking with overhead earphones, cellphones and cameras hanging around your neck so you don’t draw unwanted attention. Keep these in your bag when you’re not using them, especially when visiting more remote areas in South Africa.

The idea is to not draw attention to your valuables. Always keep it low key where possible. That way you’ll look less like an unknowing tourist.

dressing simply with no jewellery is a good safety tip when travelling in south africa

Keep Your Valuables Close

Always leave valuables like cellphones and wallets in your bag and not on restaurant tables. It’s safer and you’ll be more sociable.

Instead of hanging handbags on the chair behind you, put it right next to you or right under your feet so you always have an eye on it.

Limit Walking Around City Centres

This is a difficult one to explain to most people we meet. Only because when you travel to New York, Sydney, Hong Kong , London or Berlin , one of the highlights is walking around the city centre right?

Well in South Africa it’s different. The city centres are generally not safe for walking around. This is especially true when you don’t know where you’re going.

inner city of johannesburg is not safe to walk at night

There are of course some areas in the city centre where it is safe to wander. But it’s better to err on the side of caution unless you’re with a local friend who is familiar with the area.

Cape Town’s city centre is relatively safer compared to the city centres of other places in South Africa. But only walk during the day and avoid walking down quiet streets at night.

Love street art tours? Check out this 2 hour guided street art tour in Cape Town .

If you’re in Johannesburg, you can also explore Maboneng in the city centre. Go during the day and on the weekend if possible. It’s a great, vibey place to chill with locals.

If you do want to experience the city centre of Johannesburg without worrying about safety, join a 1 day guided tour of Johannesburg . It’s a 8 hour tour where you’ll see the city centre of Johannesburg, the Apartheid Museum and visit the famous Vilakazi Street in Soweto, the largest township of Johannesburg.

Or if you’re visiting Durban, go on this half-day Durban City Tour along the Golden Mile.

When in doubt if an area is safe for walking, ask your hotel reception. They’ll be more than happy to advise you.

We loved staying at Kensington Place in Cape Town. It’s a stunning boutique hotel that is centrally located close to the main attractions of the city.

view of table mountain from a boutique hotel in kloof nek cape town

What’s the craze with Cape Town? Decide for yourself if it’s worth the hype. Check out our Cape Town in 1 minute video to find out.

Walk in Groups and Explore During The Day

Okay… The title sounds like a line out of ‘The Walking Dead’, we won’t lie. But just humour us and avoid walking anywhere alone. It’s always more fun in groups and if it’s just the two of you, that’s fine too.

Explore and wander in the day, and reserve the evenings for dining out at one of the many fabulous and delicious South African restaurants.

If you’re up for a night out, it’s safe to go hang with locals in a bar or nightclub. Just grab an Uber to your destination so you can skip the walking.

Bonus Tip: South Africans are one of the friendliest people in the world. Don’t be surprised or scared if someone says ‘hi’ or ‘hello’. Feel free to greet them back and continue on your way. But be wary if they randomly ask you for the time. Some opportunists like to use this trick to check out what watch or cellphone you have.

Pay by Card, Not Cash

Cash is king, but you don’t want to have large sums of money on you when travelling in South Africa. Whether it’s foreign or local currency, it’s safer to leave most of it in your hotel’s safe and only carry what you need for the day.

South Africa is pretty card friendly at most places, so leave most of your ZARs (South African Rands) on your debit or credit card. Just keep R300 (€18 worth) cash on you for tipping and small purchases.

view of cape town from table mountain

Bonus Tip: It is customary to tip 10% of the bill at restaurants where you are served your meals. At most restaurants, you can add the tip directly to your bill, pay for it using your debit or credit card and your lovely waiter will receive the tip.

If your bank charges you expensive fees for paying by card, you should consider getting another bank travel card. We pay zero bank fees for card payments AND cash withdrawals when we travel. Plus, we can buy foreign exchange anytime, anywhere at the lowest exchange rate.

It’s the only travel bank card we use. The cherry on top? It’s free to sign up. Find out how in our 7 Honest Reasons Why Revolut Is The Best Travel Card guide. Use our referral link to get the bank card sent to you for free and save yourself €5.

Withdrawing Cash from ATMs

You can always draw your ZARs at an ATM in South Africa if you didn’t bring any with you.

When making cash withdrawals, it’s safer to use ATMs that are inside shopping malls or petrol stations rather than the ones standing vulnerably outside. Double check your surroundings before making cash withdrawals and put your money away before leaving the ATM.

Avoid drawing and carrying large sums of money with you as much as you can. You don’t want to become an easy target.

And if you don’t already know, never allow strangers to help you at ATMs unless you need help and that person is a bank employee.

Revolut Card: ATM With Free Cash Withdrawals in South Africa

If you’re using Revolut , you get free cash withdrawals in South Africa from FNB (First National Bank) and Nedbank ATMs in South Africa.

Standard Bank and ABSA will charge you R50 (around €3) per withdrawal.

Safety Travel Tips for Driving in South Africa

Public transport is very limited in South Africa. Besides the MyCiti bus network in Cape Town and the Gautrain in Johannesburg and Pretoria, you’ll pretty much need to rent a car or Uber around for everything else.

Depending on where you’re visiting in South Africa, it may be more convenient and cheaper renting a car.

search for car rental options in south africa

Do You Need an International Driver’s Licence to Drive in South Africa

You only require an International Driver’s Licence to drive in South Africa if your driver’s licence is not in English. If you have a UK driver’s licence or any other driver’s licence that is printed in English, you won’t need one.

Just make sure that your driver’s licence has a photograph of you and your signature for it to be valid in South Africa.

Although this is what the law says, traffic law enforcement often overlook this and usually allow non-English driver’s licence as long as they are printed in the Latin or Roman alphabet. Our advice? If you want to have a pleasant and incident free time exploring sunny South Africa by road, make sure you adhere to all their laws.

Simply get your International Driver’s Licence and the only worry you’ll have, is having to choose one of many South African famous dishes to try (the ‘pap, chakalaka and wors’ is an excellent choice), and how to master the ‘Gwara Gwara’ on the dance floor. Just remember to buckle up and bon voyage!

road safety tips for travelling around south africa

South Africa Road Safety Tips Whilst Driving

  • Keep your doors locked whilst driving.
  • Keep your windows closed, especially when stopping at traffic lights. If you must open for air, the opening should be small enough so that a person can’t stick their arms in.
  • Don’t leave valuables like cellphones, wallets and bags visible whilst driving. Keep these in the car trunk where possible. If you need your cellphone for GPS, put it in a compartment where it won’t be too visible.
  • At traffic light stops, it’s quite common for street hawkers and vendors to approach your car asking for money or selling goods. Some even provide a service to wash your windscreen or windshield. Just give them a friendly wave and say no. They usually won’t hang around if you’re polite.
  • If you do choose to support them by giving them money, have some spare change close by. It’s better not to pull out your wallet right there and then, especially when you’ll need to wind down your window.
  • It’s safer not to drive at night. Rather take an Uber and you’ll be able enjoy your evening with a few drinks.
  • Never pick up hitchhikers or strangers you don’t know.

South Africa Road Safety Tips When Parking

  • When leaving the car, double check that you’ve locked the car by pulling on the car door handle. Car jamming or otherwise known as blocking the lock signal from your car remote is quite common in South Africa.
  • It’s quite common for car guards to look after your car when parking. You can normally identify them by their reflective jackets. Say hi and tell them you’ll tip them when you’re back. You can tip anything between R2 – R5. It all depends on you. It’s better to have the tip in your pocket or hand so you don’t have to whip out your wallet.
  • Always put all your items (jackets, shoes, bags) in the car trunk or boot when it is parked. You don’t want to come back to a broken window.

Taking the Bus (Public Transport)

Public transport options like the  MyCiti bus and Gautrain are safe to take. Just keep an eye on your valuables and don’t leave them unattended.

There’s also the mini-vans or what South African’s lovingly call ‘taxis’. The South African version of ‘taxis’ are not the conventional taxis that travellers are familiar with.

There’s no formal bus stands or stations and no way of identifying what route that bus takes except by hand signals. It is definitely a local and authentic experience. But as you can tell, it’s quite complex and we don’t recommend it unless you’re with a South African friend who is familiar with the process.

cape agulhas the southern most point of south africa

If you’re travelling regionally across South Africa using bus services like Greyhound , those are safe to take too. Before buying your ticket, check where the Greyhound bus station is. Most of the time they are located in the city centre which like we said earlier, isn’t the safest.

If it is indeed in the city centre, get an Uber to drop you off directly at the Greyhound bus station and go inside to wait for the bus.

Uber in South Africa

We’ve mentioned Uber a few times already. Not only is it safe, it’s also affordable and convenient. Just make sure you check that the number plate matches the car and the driver is the gentleman or lady you see in the photo.

This hasn’t happened to us before but if it’s not, report it on Uber and cancel the trip.

Safety Tips for Travelling by Train

We used to have cars when we lived in South Africa, so we’ve personally never taken the regional train before. But it is possible and it’s safe too.

For the regional trains, make sure you get your own cabin so it’s easier for you to look after your luggage.

For the short day trip trains, it’s best to travel during the day only.

railway tracks in south africa and whether it is safe to take the train

Regional Train Options in South Africa

  • The Shosholoza Meyl takes you between Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London.
  • South Africa’s famous Blue Train has routes from Pretoria to Cape Town and Pretoria to Kruger National Park.
  • Rovos Train is another luxury option. Besides travelling regionally you can even go to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania or Walvis Bay in Namibia.

Bonus Tip: If you just need to get from A to B, then flying may be a cheaper option than taking a regional train. The train is a great option if you have time and want to experience the majestic and scenic landscape of South Africa. But this unique experience comes at a cost.

Short Day Trip Train Options in South Africa

  • The Cape Metro Rail in Cape Town. We’ve taken the Southern Line to explore False Bay and Simon’s Town before. The trains could do with some TLC but it’s safe. Travel during the day and keep bags and valuables to a minimum.
  • The Gautrain is great for getting to and from Johannesburg airport and between Johannesburg and Pretoria.
  • The Umgeni Steam Railway for day trips in Kwazulu Natal.
  • The Atlantic Rail takes you between Cape Town and the Winelands region.
  • And finally, the Ceres Rail which goes between Cape Town and Ceres.

top thing to do in south africa is exploring the winelands outside cape town

Safety Tips for Beaches in South Africa

If you’ve ever heard of The Garden Route, you’ll know we have some of the most breathtaking beaches in South Africa. Most beaches are safe to explore and like we’ve said for the umpteenth time, go during the day.

When chilling out on the beach, it’s best to always have someone watch your belongings. You may think that no one will take your sunglasses or sneakers, but they can grow legs if you’re not careful.

For valuables like cellphones and keys, keep them wrapped in a T-shirt or cardigan and hide it under your beach towel for safekeeping.

Save Me For Later

pinterest save safety tips for south africa travel

Safety Travel Tip for Safaris in South Africa

Going on a safari is one of the top bucket list things to do when visiting South Africa. Safaris normally take place in private or national game reserves, so it’s generally quite safe. The only thing to be aware of are wild animals. But we’ll let your safari guide give you the details on that.

Bonus Tip: Make sure any wildlife organisation or sanctuary you’re visiting in South Africa is ethical before visiting. Not sure what to look out for? Read our 7 ways to tell if you’re visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary for tips and warning signs.

Visiting Townships in South Africa

Going on a township tour is a must if you want to understand the history of South Africa. It’s also a great way to support local businesses and the local community.

guided tour bus in front of soweto tours in johannesburg south africa

Some townships may not be the safest places to visit even if you’re a local. So the best way to experience a township is to join professional guided tours. We love supporting self-made, local entrepreneurs, but it’s important to apply caution when choosing a tour company.

You don’t want to just follow any Tom, Dick and Harry into the township when safety is a concern. So here are some reputable township tours you can go on:

  • Cape Town Township Cultural Tour (3.5 hours)
  • Township Cycling Tour in Cape Town (4 hours)
  • Cape Town Township and Robben Island Combination Tour (4 hours)
  • Half Day Guided Tour to Cape Town’s Townships (3 hours)
  • Johannesburg Soweto Half Day Tour (5 hours)
  • Johannesburg Soweto Guided Cycling Tour (2 hours)

Safety Tip for Hiking in South Africa

If you love hiking, you’ll love it even more in South Africa. It’s generally quite safe to hike. Just apply safety travel tip #1 (don’t be flashy) and #4 (walking in groups and explore in the day) and you’ll be fine.

Keen to include some hiking during your trip? Make sure to read our top 5 hiking trails in Drakensberg guide .

If you’re travelling with family and have children, we’ve also written a family-friendly guide on hiking the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa .

If you’re travelling solo or would prefer safety in numbers, there are a couple of guided hiking excursions available in Cape Town:

  • Table Mountain Hike via India Venster Route (4 hours)
  • Table Mountain Platteklip Gorge Hike (4 hours)
  • Cape Town Lion’s Head Sunrise or Sunset Hike (3.5 hours)
  • A family-friendly option: Gentle guided walk around Kloof Nek with beautiful mountain and ocean views.
  • The Skeleton Gorge hike from Kirstenbosch Gardens (3.5 hours)
  • The famous Table Mountain Kasteelspoort Hiking Trail (4 hours)

Cycling in South Africa

South Africa has some of the most scenic cycling trails in the world. Why else would people travel all the way to Cape Town for the The Cape Argus or Cape Town Cycle Tour?

When it comes to cycling in South Africa, it’s not crime you should worry about but rather bike accidents. There are no cycling lanes in South Africa and motorists are generally not considerate enough to cyclists. So it’s up to you to cycle more defensively.

This is particularly true when faced with South African minivans or ‘taxi’ drivers. They’re usually too busy rushing people from place to place and will often break a driving rule or two. Cycle extra defensively when these taxis are in sight.

llandudno beach in cape town is safe for tourists

Camping in South Africa

Camping is a popular activity to do in South Africa, not just for tourists but for locals too.

To camp safely, make sure to stay overnight at a campsite. The carefree van life of stopping on the side of the road for the night is NOT safe to do in South Africa.

Safety Tips for Solo Female Travel in South Africa

Yes, South Africa’s got a bad rap, especially for female solo travelling. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

If you follow all our tips in this guide, stay in hostels that are not located in the city centre and go on guided tours so you’re not alone, you’ll have a fabulous and safe time in South Africa.

woman standing in front of colourful houses in bokaap cape town

LGBTQ Travel in South Africa

We are proud to say that South Africa is the most LGBTQ-friendly country in Africa. It’s also the first country on the continent to recognise same-sex marriage.

The only places to be a bit more mindful in terms of public displays of affection no matter what type of couple you are, are in townships and in Muslim-predominant areas like the Bo-Kaap in Cape Town. It’s more of a respect rather than safety thing.

bokaap colourful area in cape town with bright walls

Essential Travel Tips For Travelling Safely in South Africa

That was a lot to absorb, so here’s a quick summary:

  • Keep valuables out of sight where possible, on person and in your car.
  • Limit walking around the city centres in South Africa and if you do, walk in a group and during the day.
  • Pay by card and keep small amounts of cash on you.
  • Take an Uber instead of driving at night.
  • Always go on a guided township tour with reputable companies.
  • Hike in groups of 3 or more when exploring South Africa’s beautiful landscapes.
  • When camping, stay overnight at a campsite and not on the side of the road.
  • Never pick up hitchhikers.

Where to Travel Next after South Africa?

We hope you found our safety travel tips in South Africa useful. As always, if you have any questions or need some advice, we’d love to hear from you.

If you’re exploring the African continent, make sure you read our other African Travel Guides :

  • The best beaches in Zanzibar  (Tanzania)
  • Everything you need to know to  drive in Mozambique

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Is It Safe in South Africa?

safe travel in south africa

Mark Meredith / Getty Images

South Africa is often perceived as a dangerous destination due to its high rate of violent crime. In some areas—especially large cities—poverty is rife, and as a result, muggings, break-ins, and petty theft are common. South Africa also ranks highly on global statistic roundups for rape and murder. However, thousands of tourists visit the country every year without incident, and the rewards of doing so are generous. If you exercise caution and avoid certain areas as a tourist, you'll be treated to pristine beaches, rugged mountains , and game-filled reserves . South Africa's diverse cities are rich in both history and culture, and its people are some of the most hospitable in the world.

Travel Advisories

The U.S. Department of State declared a Level 2 travel advisory for South Africa   in 2018. This means visitors should "exercise increased caution," in this case due to "crime, civil unrest, and drought." In particular, the advisory warns about the higher risk of violent crime in the central business districts of major cities after dark. Travel advice from the British government   echoes this warning, while also citing past incidents where visitors have been followed from Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo Airport to their destinations and then robbed at gunpoint.

Is South Africa Dangerous?

Certain parts of South Africa are more dangerous than others. For instance, game reservations (i.e. safari destinations) tend to be safer than big cities and remote, isolated places. A 2020 report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council   (OSAC) revealed that the U.S. had "assessed Pretoria, Johannesburg , Cape Town, and Durban as being CRITICAL-threat locations for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests," but also noted that U.S. citizens are not often singled out for criminal activity.

The report named armed robbery as the most prevalent "major" crime in South Africa. To avoid being targeted, dress casually, without designer labels and flashy jewelry, and keep your valuables close to your body. If you plan to hire a car , never leave valuables visible on the seats and park in areas protected by licensed car guards.

Is South Africa Safe for Solo Travelers?

Some travel experiences, like guided tours and safaris, are perfectly conducive to solo travel, but wandering around the cities of South Africa alone is not recommended, especially for women. It has one of the highest rates of rape in the world, although the OSAC report   said that foreigners are not specifically targeted.

Alone or not, visitors should avoid walking through the poor parts of South Africa's urban areas, especially at night. Always be aware of your surroundings and travel in groups whenever possible.

Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers

South Africa has some of the most progressive LGBTQ+ laws in the world. It was the first ever jurisdiction to provide constitutional protection to the LGBTQ+ community, in fact, and welcomes refugees from all over who flee from less accepting countries. Same-sex relationships are legal and common in this country, with LGBTQ+ communities traditionally congregating in bigger cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg. However, in more conservative areas (especially remote townships), being openly LGBTQ+ can lead to discrimination and crime. In the Black community especially, homosexuality is still frowned upon.

Naturally, LGBTQ+ travelers are safer expressing their sexuality openly (barring any graphic PDA) in big cities where it's more prevalent. If you experience a hate crime while visiting South Africa, you should report the incident at the nearest police station or call 08600 10111.

Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers

Speaking of the Black community, BIPOC travelers are less likely to stick out among locals than Caucasian travelers, seeing as Black Africans make up the bulk of this country's population. According to the last census   , recorded in 2011, 79 percent of South African nationals identified as Black African whereas about 9 percent identified as white. Only 2.5 percent identified as Indian or Asian. The 2017 Reasons for Hope report by the South African Institute of Race Relations   showed that 60 percent of surveyed nationals said that tensions between ethnic groups had "improved" since 1994. Still, race relations in South Africa have been described as toxic.

BIPOC travelers are safer when they travel in groups and in populated, tourist-friendly areas versus remote or crime-laden neighborhoods. If you are targeted by violent racism while visiting South Africa, you should report the incident at the nearest police station or call 08600 10111.

Safety Tips for Travelers

South Africa may not have a favorable reputation for its safety, but tourists can take certain precautions to reduce their risk of being a target for criminal activity.

  • Visitors can call the South African Tourism Helpline at 083 123 6789 (or 1-800-593-1318) to arrange for a reliable taxi or get information on activities and transportation.
  • There is a common misconception that predators like lions and leopards roam freely throughout the country, but in reality, game is usually confined to protected reserves. Staying safe on a safari is simple: listen carefully to the advice given to you by your tour guide or ranger, don't venture into the bush at night, and stay in your car on self-drive safaris .
  • Venomous snakes and spiders typically avoid confrontation with humans, but it's always a good idea to be aware of where you're putting your hands and feet.
  • Most cities, parks, and reserves are malaria-free , but if you plan to visit more remote, northern parts of the country, be sure to bring along the necessary prophylactics to avoid getting the mosquito-borne disease.
  • Authorities recommend hiking only in groups and away from isolated areas.
  • Do not carry large sums of money with you and what you do carry, keep close to your body in a zipped bag ( not your back pocket). Crossbody bags and money belts are good options.
  • South Africa is notorious for its ill-kept roads and alarmingly frequent traffic accidents. Rural roads, in particular, are often unfenced and dotted with livestock, so try to limit driving to daytime hours to avoid unexpected obstacles.
  • Avoid handing over your passport to (or allowing it to be photocopied by) car hire companies or hotels as a form of security.
  • The South African Police Service (SAPS) can be reached at 08600 10111 or just 10111 in the case of an emergency.

U.S. Department of State . "South Africa Travel Advisory."

GOV.UK . "South Africa Foreign Travel Advice."

Overseas Security Advisory Council . "South Africa 2020 Crime & Safety Report." March 3, 2020.

Statistics South Africa . "2011 Census in brief."

South African Institute of Race Relations. " Reasons for Hope ." February 2017.

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Is It Safe in Africa?

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South Africa Traveler View

Travel health notices, vaccines and medicines, non-vaccine-preventable diseases, stay healthy and safe.

  • Packing List

After Your Trip

Map - South Africa

There are no notices currently in effect for South Africa.

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Check the vaccines and medicines list and visit your doctor at least a month before your trip to get vaccines or medicines you may need. If you or your doctor need help finding a location that provides certain vaccines or medicines, visit the Find a Clinic page.

Routine vaccines

Recommendations.

Make sure you are up-to-date on all routine vaccines before every trip. Some of these vaccines include

  • Chickenpox (Varicella)
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis
  • Flu (influenza)
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR)

Immunization schedules

All eligible travelers should be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines. Please see  Your COVID-19 Vaccination  for more information. 

COVID-19 vaccine

Active cholera transmission is  widespread  in South Africa. Cholera is rare in travelers.  Certain factors  may increase the risk of getting cholera or having severe disease ( more information ). Avoiding unsafe food and water and washing your hands can also help prevent cholera.

Vaccination may be considered for children and adults who are traveling to areas of active cholera transmission. The following areas do not have active cholera transmission: Cape Town, Durban, Kruger National Park, and Port Elizabeth.

Cholera - CDC Yellow Book

Hepatitis A

Recommended for unvaccinated travelers one year old or older going to South Africa.

Infants 6 to 11 months old should also be vaccinated against Hepatitis A. The dose does not count toward the routine 2-dose series.

Travelers allergic to a vaccine component or who are younger than 6 months should receive a single dose of immune globulin, which provides effective protection for up to 2 months depending on dosage given.

Unvaccinated travelers who are over 40 years old, immunocompromised, or have chronic medical conditions planning to depart to a risk area in less than 2 weeks should get the initial dose of vaccine and at the same appointment receive immune globulin.

Hepatitis A - CDC Yellow Book

Dosing info - Hep A

Hepatitis B

Recommended for unvaccinated travelers younger than 60 years old traveling to South Africa. Unvaccinated travelers 60 years and older may get vaccinated before traveling to South Africa.

Hepatitis B - CDC Yellow Book

Dosing info - Hep B

CDC recommends that travelers going to certain areas of South Africa take prescription medicine to prevent malaria. Depending on the medicine you take, you will need to start taking this medicine multiple days before your trip, as well as during and after your trip. Talk to your doctor about which malaria medication you should take.

Find  country-specific information  about malaria.

Malaria - CDC Yellow Book

Considerations when choosing a drug for malaria prophylaxis (CDC Yellow Book)

Malaria information for South Africa.

Cases of measles are on the rise worldwide. Travelers are at risk of measles if they have not been fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to departure, or have not had measles in the past, and travel internationally to areas where measles is spreading.

All international travelers should be fully vaccinated against measles with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, including an early dose for infants 6–11 months, according to  CDC’s measles vaccination recommendations for international travel .

Measles (Rubeola) - CDC Yellow Book

Dogs infected with rabies are commonly found in South Africa.

Rabies is also present in some terrestrial wildlife species.

If rabies exposures occur while in South Africa, rabies vaccines are typically available throughout most of the country.

Rabies pre-exposure vaccination considerations include whether travelers 1) will be performing occupational or recreational activities that increase risk for exposure to potentially rabid animals and 2) might have difficulty getting prompt access to safe post-exposure prophylaxis.

Please consult with a healthcare provider to determine whether you should receive pre-exposure vaccination before travel.

For more information, see country rabies status assessments .

Rabies - CDC Yellow Book

Recommended for most travelers, especially those staying with friends or relatives or visiting smaller cities or rural areas.

Typhoid - CDC Yellow Book

Dosing info - Typhoid

Yellow Fever

Required for travelers ≥1 year old arriving from countries with risk for YF virus transmission; this includes >12-hour airport transits or layovers in countries with risk for YF virus transmission. 1

Yellow Fever - CDC Yellow Book

  • Avoid contaminated water

Leptospirosis

How most people get sick (most common modes of transmission)

  • Touching urine or other body fluids from an animal infected with leptospirosis
  • Swimming or wading in urine-contaminated fresh water, or contact with urine-contaminated mud
  • Drinking water or eating food contaminated with animal urine
  • Avoid contaminated water and soil

Clinical Guidance

Schistosomiasis

  • Wading, swimming, bathing, or washing in contaminated freshwater streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, or untreated pools.

Avoid bug bites

African tick-bite fever.

  • Avoid Bug Bites

African Tick-bite fever

Chikungunya

  • Mosquito bite

Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic fever

  • Tick bite 
  • Touching the body fluids of a person or animal infected with CCHF
  • Avoid animals

Rift Valley Fever

  • Touching blood, body fluids, or tissue of infected livestock
  • Mosquito bite

Rift Valley fever

Airborne & droplet

Avian/bird flu.

  • Being around, touching, or working with infected poultry, such as visiting poultry farms or live-animal markets
  • Avoid domestic and wild poultry
  • Breathing in air or accidentally eating food contaminated with the urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents
  • Bite from an infected rodent
  • Less commonly, being around someone sick with hantavirus (only occurs with Andes virus)
  • Avoid rodents and areas where they live
  • Avoid sick people

Tuberculosis (TB)

  • Breathe in TB bacteria that is in the air from an infected and contagious person coughing, speaking, or singing.

Learn actions you can take to stay healthy and safe on your trip. Vaccines cannot protect you from many diseases in South Africa, so your behaviors are important.

Eat and drink safely

Food and water standards around the world vary based on the destination. Standards may also differ within a country and risk may change depending on activity type (e.g., hiking versus business trip). You can learn more about safe food and drink choices when traveling by accessing the resources below.

  • Choose Safe Food and Drinks When Traveling
  • Water Treatment Options When Hiking, Camping or Traveling
  • Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene | Healthy Water
  • Avoid Contaminated Water During Travel

You can also visit the Department of State Country Information Pages for additional information about food and water safety.

Prevent bug bites

Bugs (like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas) can spread a number of diseases in South Africa. Many of these diseases cannot be prevented with a vaccine or medicine. You can reduce your risk by taking steps to prevent bug bites.

What can I do to prevent bug bites?

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Use an appropriate insect repellent (see below).
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
  • Stay and sleep in air-conditioned or screened rooms.
  • Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.

What type of insect repellent should I use?

  • FOR PROTECTION AGAINST TICKS AND MOSQUITOES: Use a repellent that contains 20% or more DEET for protection that lasts up to several hours.
  • Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin)
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD)
  • 2-undecanone
  • Always use insect repellent as directed.

What should I do if I am bitten by bugs?

  • Avoid scratching bug bites, and apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to reduce the itching.
  • Check your entire body for ticks after outdoor activity. Be sure to remove ticks properly.

What can I do to avoid bed bugs?

Although bed bugs do not carry disease, they are an annoyance. See our information page about avoiding bug bites for some easy tips to avoid them. For more information on bed bugs, see Bed Bugs .

For more detailed information on avoiding bug bites, see Avoid Bug Bites .

Stay safe outdoors

If your travel plans in South Africa include outdoor activities, take these steps to stay safe and healthy during your trip.

  • Stay alert to changing weather conditions and adjust your plans if conditions become unsafe.
  • Prepare for activities by wearing the right clothes and packing protective items, such as bug spray, sunscreen, and a basic first aid kit.
  • Consider learning basic first aid and CPR before travel. Bring a travel health kit with items appropriate for your activities.
  • If you are outside for many hours in heat, eat salty snacks and drink water to stay hydrated and replace salt lost through sweating.
  • Protect yourself from UV radiation : use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, wear protective clothing, and seek shade during the hottest time of day (10 a.m.–4 p.m.).
  • Be especially careful during summer months and at high elevation. Because sunlight reflects off snow, sand, and water, sun exposure may be increased during activities like skiing, swimming, and sailing.
  • Very cold temperatures can be dangerous. Dress in layers and cover heads, hands, and feet properly if you are visiting a cold location.

Stay safe around water

  • Swim only in designated swimming areas. Obey lifeguards and warning flags on beaches.
  • Practice safe boating—follow all boating safety laws, do not drink alcohol if driving a boat, and always wear a life jacket.
  • Do not dive into shallow water.
  • Do not swim in freshwater in developing areas or where sanitation is poor.
  • Avoid swallowing water when swimming. Untreated water can carry germs that make you sick.
  • To prevent infections, wear shoes on beaches where there may be animal waste.

Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection that can be spread in fresh water, is found in South Africa. Avoid swimming in fresh, unchlorinated water, such as lakes, ponds, or rivers.

Keep away from animals

Most animals avoid people, but they may attack if they feel threatened, are protecting their young or territory, or if they are injured or ill. Animal bites and scratches can lead to serious diseases such as rabies.

Follow these tips to protect yourself:

  • Do not touch or feed any animals you do not know.
  • Do not allow animals to lick open wounds, and do not get animal saliva in your eyes or mouth.
  • Avoid rodents and their urine and feces.
  • Traveling pets should be supervised closely and not allowed to come in contact with local animals.
  • If you wake in a room with a bat, seek medical care immediately. Bat bites may be hard to see.

All animals can pose a threat, but be extra careful around dogs, bats, monkeys, sea animals such as jellyfish, and snakes. If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, immediately:

  • Wash the wound with soap and clean water.
  • Go to a doctor right away.
  • Tell your doctor about your injury when you get back to the United States.

Consider buying medical evacuation insurance. Rabies is a deadly disease that must be treated quickly, and treatment may not be available in some countries.

Reduce your exposure to germs

Follow these tips to avoid getting sick or spreading illness to others while traveling:

  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, clean hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Try to avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home or in your hotel room, unless you need medical care.

Avoid sharing body fluids

Diseases can be spread through body fluids, such as saliva, blood, vomit, and semen.

Protect yourself:

  • Use latex condoms correctly.
  • Do not inject drugs.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. People take more risks when intoxicated.
  • Do not share needles or any devices that can break the skin. That includes needles for tattoos, piercings, and acupuncture.
  • If you receive medical or dental care, make sure the equipment is disinfected or sanitized.

Know how to get medical care while traveling

Plan for how you will get health care during your trip, should the need arise:

  • Carry a list of local doctors and hospitals at your destination.
  • Review your health insurance plan to determine what medical services it would cover during your trip. Consider purchasing travel health and medical evacuation insurance.
  • Carry a card that identifies, in the local language, your blood type, chronic conditions or serious allergies, and the generic names of any medications you take.
  • Some prescription drugs may be illegal in other countries. Call South Africa’s embassy to verify that all of your prescription(s) are legal to bring with you.
  • Bring all the medicines (including over-the-counter medicines) you think you might need during your trip, including extra in case of travel delays. Ask your doctor to help you get prescriptions filled early if you need to.

Many foreign hospitals and clinics are accredited by the Joint Commission International. A list of accredited facilities is available at their website ( www.jointcommissioninternational.org ).

In some countries, medicine (prescription and over-the-counter) may be substandard or counterfeit. Bring the medicines you will need from the United States to avoid having to buy them at your destination.

Malaria is a risk in some parts of South Africa. If you are going to a risk area, fill your malaria prescription before you leave, and take enough with you for the entire length of your trip. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking the pills; some need to be started before you leave.

Select safe transportation

Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 killer of healthy US citizens in foreign countries.

In many places cars, buses, large trucks, rickshaws, bikes, people on foot, and even animals share the same lanes of traffic, increasing the risk for crashes.

Be smart when you are traveling on foot.

  • Use sidewalks and marked crosswalks.
  • Pay attention to the traffic around you, especially in crowded areas.
  • Remember, people on foot do not always have the right of way in other countries.

Riding/Driving

Choose a safe vehicle.

  • Choose official taxis or public transportation, such as trains and buses.
  • Ride only in cars that have seatbelts.
  • Avoid overcrowded, overloaded, top-heavy buses and minivans.
  • Avoid riding on motorcycles or motorbikes, especially motorbike taxis. (Many crashes are caused by inexperienced motorbike drivers.)
  • Choose newer vehicles—they may have more safety features, such as airbags, and be more reliable.
  • Choose larger vehicles, which may provide more protection in crashes.

Think about the driver.

  • Do not drive after drinking alcohol or ride with someone who has been drinking.
  • Consider hiring a licensed, trained driver familiar with the area.
  • Arrange payment before departing.

Follow basic safety tips.

  • Wear a seatbelt at all times.
  • Sit in the back seat of cars and taxis.
  • When on motorbikes or bicycles, always wear a helmet. (Bring a helmet from home, if needed.)
  • Avoid driving at night; street lighting in certain parts of South Africa may be poor.
  • Do not use a cell phone or text while driving (illegal in many countries).
  • Travel during daylight hours only, especially in rural areas.
  • If you choose to drive a vehicle in South Africa, learn the local traffic laws and have the proper paperwork.
  • Get any driving permits and insurance you may need. Get an International Driving Permit (IDP). Carry the IDP and a US-issued driver's license at all times.
  • Check with your auto insurance policy's international coverage, and get more coverage if needed. Make sure you have liability insurance.
  • Avoid using local, unscheduled aircraft.
  • If possible, fly on larger planes (more than 30 seats); larger airplanes are more likely to have regular safety inspections.
  • Try to schedule flights during daylight hours and in good weather.

Medical Evacuation Insurance

If you are seriously injured, emergency care may not be available or may not meet US standards. Trauma care centers are uncommon outside urban areas. Having medical evacuation insurance can be helpful for these reasons.

Helpful Resources

Road Safety Overseas (Information from the US Department of State): Includes tips on driving in other countries, International Driving Permits, auto insurance, and other resources.

The Association for International Road Travel has country-specific Road Travel Reports available for most countries for a minimal fee.

For information traffic safety and road conditions in South Africa, see Travel and Transportation on US Department of State's country-specific information for South Africa .

Traffic flows on the left side of the road in South Africa.

  • Always pay close attention to the flow of traffic, especially when crossing the street.
  • LOOK RIGHT for approaching traffic.

Maintain personal security

Use the same common sense traveling overseas that you would at home, and always stay alert and aware of your surroundings.

Before you leave

  • Research your destination(s), including local laws, customs, and culture.
  • Monitor travel advisories and alerts and read travel tips from the US Department of State.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) .
  • Leave a copy of your itinerary, contact information, credit cards, and passport with someone at home.
  • Pack as light as possible, and leave at home any item you could not replace.

While at your destination(s)

  • Carry contact information for the nearest US embassy or consulate .
  • Carry a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp; leave the actual passport securely in your hotel.
  • Follow all local laws and social customs.
  • Do not wear expensive clothing or jewelry.
  • Always keep hotel doors locked, and store valuables in secure areas.
  • If possible, choose hotel rooms between the 2nd and 6th floors.

Healthy Travel Packing List

Use the Healthy Travel Packing List for South Africa for a list of health-related items to consider packing for your trip. Talk to your doctor about which items are most important for you.

Why does CDC recommend packing these health-related items?

It’s best to be prepared to prevent and treat common illnesses and injuries. Some supplies and medicines may be difficult to find at your destination, may have different names, or may have different ingredients than what you normally use.

If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. If you need help finding a travel medicine specialist, see Find a Clinic . Be sure to tell your doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. Also tell your doctor if you were bitten or scratched by an animal while traveling.

If your doctor prescribed antimalarial medicine for your trip, keep taking the rest of your pills after you return home. If you stop taking your medicine too soon, you could still get sick.

Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. If you become ill with a fever either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after you return home (for up to 1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the doctor about your travel history.

For more information on what to do if you are sick after your trip, see Getting Sick after Travel .

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COVID-19: travel health notice for all travellers

South Africa travel advice

Latest updates: Editorial change

Last updated: June 4, 2024 08:03 ET

On this page

Safety and security, entry and exit requirements, laws and culture, natural disasters and climate, south africa - exercise a high degree of caution.

Exercise a high degree of caution in South Africa due to the significant level of serious crime.

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General elections are scheduled for May 29, 2024. Demonstrations could occur before, during and after the elections.

Demonstrations can occur anywhere in South Africa and sometimes on short notice.

Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

Nationwide power shortages or rolling blackouts, referred to as load shedding, are still occurring regularly. They are occurring numerous times a day and for multiple-hour stretches. They are expected to continue through 2023 and into 2024.  

Though the potential for a nationwide blackout is low, the associated risks are high, including a nationwide loss of power for days or weeks.

South Africa has already experienced blackouts for up to 12 hours in a 24 hour period. Increased demand for power during the coldest winter months of June and July means that blackouts could last longer. Expect a dark and cold winter.

An official schedule of the planned blackouts provides advance notice of the shortages. However, they can also occur with very little notice. 

Blackouts could increase the risk of criminal activity in affected areas, which could in turn lead to opportunistic theft and prolonged outages.

Blackouts can affect the following services and businesses:

  • telecommunications and security systems
  • stores and food supply
  • hotels and other accommodations
  • banks and ATMs
  • gas stations
  • public lighting and traffic lights

Interruptions to water supply occur occasionally and can be lengthy in some areas, causing considerable inconvenience.

If you’re in South Africa:

  • be prepared for extended power outages
  • make sure you always have a complete emergency kit on hand, including several flashlights
  • always carry a cell phone, power banks, chargers and a list of emergency numbers handy 
  • keep a sufficient supply of water, food, medication and fuel on hand for several days
  • keep your travel documents up-to-date
  • monitor local media
  • follow the instructions of local authorities

Useful links

  • List of planned blackouts  - Eskom, South African electricity public utility
  • Get Prepared - basic emergency kit

Violent crime

South Africa has a very high level of crime. Crime is the primary security threat to travellers.

Violent crimes, including rape and murder, occur frequently and have involved foreigners.

Muggings, armed assaults and theft are also frequent, often occurring in areas that are popular among tourists. Carjackings, robbery and assault also occur.

Armed robberies at shopping malls occur. To minimize the risk of personal assault if confronted by an armed individual:

  • immediately comply
  • avoid making sudden movements
  • avoid resisting or antagonizing the assailants
  • avoid eye contact with your assailant

Crime significantly increases after dark in major city centres and townships. After dark, avoid the areas of:

  • Hillbrow and Yeoville in Johannesburg
  • Sunnyside in Pretoria
  • the beachfront and Victoria wharf in Durban
  • Cape Town downtown hotels to the waterfront

Crimes of opportunity

There is a high risk of pickpocketing. You should not carry your wallet in your back pocket.

Do not show signs of affluence, display money or carry valuables such as laptop computers or cameras.

When at restaurants or bars, do not leave your bag under your chair or table or hung over the back of a chair; keep it on your lap.

Ensure that all your bags’ zippers, straps and fasteners are closed and secure, and be aware of people behind and around you.

Criminals are known to target people who appear distracted and are not paying attention to their immediate surroundings.

If you believe that you are being followed, go directly to a police station.

Crime in and around airports

Passengers have been followed upon arrival at airports and then robbed either on their way to or once they arrived at their final destination. There are also reports of theft from checked luggage.

Some areas around Cape Town International Airport are less secure. There are reports of an increased risk of attack on secondary roads near the airport.

When travelling to and from an airport:

  • stay on highways and main roads
  • avoid shortcuts
  • if you are using a GPS, make sure that the itinerary avoid townships and secondary roads
  • plan your trip in advance and verify your travel itinerary with a trusted local source
  • consider arranging an airport transfer

On the road

Be vigilant at vulnerable points such as:

  • traffic lights
  • yield signs
  • highway off-ramps

Smash and grab incidents are frequent. This is when car windows are broken and valuables such as handbags are taken while cars are waiting at junctions.

  • Park in well-lit areas
  • Do not pick up strangers
  • Ensure that vehicle doors are locked and windows are closed at all times

Hotel theft

Theft from hotel rooms and guest houses is common. Never leave your windows or doors open or unlocked, even when you are present.

  • Check the level of security at guest houses, hotels, lodges, backpacker lodges or any accommodation before making bookings
  • Don’t leave luggage and valuables unattended; place them in safekeeping facilities
  • Don’t open the door to anyone without taking necessary precautions. If someone claims to be a member of staff, verify with the reception prior to opening the door

Police officer impersonation

Criminals may pose as police officers to extort or rob tourists. There are reports that criminals use fake IDs and flashing blue lights to stop cars with the intent to rob the passengers or steal the vehicle. 

If you face this situation:

  • do not stop your vehicle
  • put on your hazard lights and continue to the nearest police station or secure location

There is a threat of kidnapping across South Africa. Foreign nationals have been kidnapped in the past. Kidnappings are generally for financial gain or motivated by criminality.

Scammers could kidnap you to extort money from your loved ones in exchange for your release.

  • Be wary of online romance, employment and money scams
  • Never accept an invitation to travel to an unfamiliar location
  • If you think you've been scammed, do not travel overseas to get your money back

Demonstrations

Demonstrations can occur anywhere across the country and sometimes on short notice. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.

Mass gatherings (large-scale events)

Cases of attempted fraud are frequently reported in South Africa. Do not give personal or financial account information to anyone.

Don’t attempt to use ATMs that appear damaged or defective, or are in isolated or poorly lit areas. Don’t accept any offer of assistance with your transaction. If suspicious at any time, cancel your transaction and use another ATM.

  • Pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others
  • Use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
  • Avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
  • Cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
  • Check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements

Overseas fraud

Reserves and hiking trails

There have been attacks on hikers and tourists at reserves, hiking trails, including Table Mountain, Lions’ Head, Signal Hill and other tourist attractions and their parking lots.

Avoid the Numbi Gate entrance to the Kruger National Park, as well as the R538 road leading to it due to an increase in criminal activity in the area, including the murder of a foreign national in October 2022.

  • Hike in groups and take all appropriate precautions
  • Avoid isolated picnic areas and beaches
  • Don’t stop at deserted roadside resting places on national roads

Spiked food and drink

There have been incidents of food or drink being drugged and tourists robbed when unconscious.

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

There is a threat of terrorism. Terrorist attacks could occur at any time. Individuals who may be inspired by terrorist groups may carry out “lone actor” attacks targeting public places, including where foreigners gather.

Targets could include:

  • government buildings, including schools
  • places of worship
  • airports and other transportation hubs and networks
  • public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners

South African authorities have successfully disrupted planned attacks and made arrests related to terrorism offences. Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places.

Regional unrest

Xenophobic attacks, primarily targeting refugees or immigrants from other African nations, related demonstrations, looting and outbreaks of violence occur. This type of unrest could occur in any region of the country and with little warning.

Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities at all times.

Townships and rural areas

Avoid townships and informal settlements if you are unfamiliar with them, except when travelling with organized tours provided by a reputable company or in association with an experienced local organization.

Wildlife viewing

Wildlife viewing poses risks, particularly on foot or at close range. Be aware of the threat of monkeys and baboons overwhelming sightseers in their search for food. They are known to get very aggressive.

  • Always maintain a safe distance when observing wildlife
  • Only exit a vehicle when a professional guide or warden says it’s safe to do so
  • Only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators
  • Closely follow park regulations and wardens’ advice

Water activities

Coastal waters have unpredictable wave and currents patterns, which can be dangerous. Shark attacks have been reported in several areas, including in KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.

  • Follow the advice and warnings of local authorities
  • Be cautious when swimming in lakes and rivers because of the risk posed by wildlife

Water safety abroad

Telecommunications

Cellular phone reception is generally good in major towns and cities but can be intermittent in rural areas. Extended periods of rolling blackouts are impacting internet connectivity and cell phone networks.

Always carry a cellular phone in the event of an emergency. If using your own phone, ensure that it has international/roaming capability for use while in South Africa.

Road safety

Fatal road accidents are common in South Africa.  Accidents occur especially in wet conditions, as roads can be very slippery. Traffic lights are frequently out of order. GPS navigation systems may suggest the most direct route but not the safest.

  • Observe the recommended following distances
  • Avoid undertaking overland travel after dark
  • Treat all intersections with malfunctioning traffic lights as a four-way stop
  • Verify your travel itinerary with a trusted local source, such as your hotel, your travel agent or local police, before driving

Road conditions

Driving can be dangerous due to:

  • insufficient lighting
  • pedestrians crossing major highways
  • wild animals and stray livestock on the road

Driving habits

Drivers do not always respect traffic laws, especially at night. Drivers often drive at excess speed and ignore traffic signs. Drinking and driving is common.

Drivers are often aggressive toward pedestrians and fail to yield the right of way even on marked crosswalks.

Travel on foot is inadvisable in most areas. If walking is unavoidable, use only brightly lit, busy streets in popular tourist areas and maintain awareness of your surroundings.

If you choose to drive in South Africa:

  • always drive defensively
  • plan your trip in advance, especially if you are visiting a rural area
  • avoid travelling after dark
  • choose a vehicle with a robust central locking system, lockable fuel tank cap and vehicle alarm
  • use a reliable rental company offering 24-hour emergency service and ensure that you have the contact details for the service

Public transportation

Avoid using public transportation.

Tourists have been mugged and assaulted in and around bus stations. Avoid the central bus station in Johannesburg.

Train services are slow and several serious accidents in recent years have raised concerns over safety standards.

Violent attacks have occurred on commuter and metro trains between Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as on commuter trains in Cape Town. Don’t travel by train, especially second or third class.

The Gautrain between O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as the Blue Train and Rovos Rail, are, however, safe for tourists.

Taxis cannot be hailed in the street. Ask your hotel to arrange a taxi and ensure that you prearrange transport for your return journey.

Sit in the rear of the vehicle and keep windows up and doors locked at all times. Keep valuables out of sight and place bags by your feet. Negotiate the fare with the driver in advance. Avoid using minibuses and unlicensed taxis.

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

Information about foreign domestic airlines

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.

We have obtained the information on this page from South African authorities. It can, however, change at any time.

Verify this information with the  Foreign Representatives in Canada .

Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.

Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.

Regular Canadian passport

You may also be denied boarding at the point of departure if you don’t have enough blank pages for the visa. If you plan to visit neighbouring countries and return to South Africa, ensure that there are sufficient visa pages in your passport for those countries’ visas and those of South Africa.

Passport for official travel

Different entry rules may apply.

Official travel

Passport with “X” gender identifier

While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

Other travel documents

Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

  • Foreign Representatives in Canada
  • Canadian passports

Tourist visa: not required for stays up to 90 days Business visa: not required for stays up to 90 days Student permit: required Employment permit: required

Canadians don't need a tourist visa to enter South Africa. However, upon arrival, immigration officials will issue a temporary residents visa (TRV) for up to 90 days. Check the expiry date of your TRV to ensure you don’t overstay.

If you overstay without authority, you may be forced to pay a fine upon departure and/or can be refused entry for up to 5 years.

Serious offenders may be arrested before departure and detained until their court appearance. In such cases, visitors may face a very substantial fine and be deported at their own expense.

South African visas - South African Department of Home Affairs

Changing or extending your visa

Some foreigners travelling to South Africa have not gone through the correct channels to obtain, change or extend their relevant visas. This has resulted in arrest and detention due to fraudulently issued visas.

While in South Africa, you must go through regional or district offices of the South African Department of Home Affairs for information on visa requirements and issuance.

Regional travel

If you leave and re-enter South Africa, even for a short time, you will not automatically be given an additional 90-day visitor’s visa. An immigration official can deny you re-entry into South Africa. The immigration officer can also allow you to enter for a limited time only.

If you wish to extend your stay, contact the South African Department of Home Affairs 60 days before your visitor’s visa expires.

South African Department of Home Affairs contact information

Work or study

If you intend to work or study in South Africa, you must apply for the relevant visas prior to your arrival; otherwise, you risk being refused entry and may be returned to your point of origin. You cannot change the type of visa once in South Africa.

Other entry requirements

You must be in possession of a return or an onward ticket. Without one, you may be required to deposit the equivalent of a fare home with customs. The money will be refunded after departure from South Africa.

Residence permit

If you reside in South Africa, you must have valid residence permit in your passport each time you enter and leave the country.

Dual citizenship

Dual citizens must enter or depart South Africa using their South African passport only.

For further information on dual citizenship, contact the High Commission for the Republic of South Africa in Ottawa.

  • Children and travel

Minors traveling to and from South Africa must have a valid passport and may be subject to additional requirements.

You must produce a long form birth certificate when travelling with children under the age of 18 to neighbouring countries. The long form birth certificate must be in English or translated into English.

Contact the nearest South African mission abroad or visit the South African Department of Home Affairs website, before travelling, to verify the latest requirements.

  • Entry regulations when travelling with children  - South African Department of Home Affairs
  • Travelling with children

Yellow fever

Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).

Relevant Travel Health Notices

  • Global Measles Notice - 13 March, 2024
  • COVID-19 and International Travel - 13 March, 2024

This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.

Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.

Routine vaccines

Be sure that your  routine vaccinations , as per your province or territory , are up-to-date before travelling, regardless of your destination.

Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.

Pre-travel vaccines and medications

You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary. 

Yellow fever   is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.

Country Entry Requirement*

  • Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country   where yellow fever occurs.

Recommendation

  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
  • Contact a designated  Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre  well in advance of your trip to arrange for vaccination.

About Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada * It is important to note that  country entry requirements  may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest  diplomatic or consular office  of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.

There is a risk of hepatitis A in this destination. It is a disease of the liver. People can get hepatitis A if they ingest contaminated food or water, eat foods prepared by an infectious person, or if they have close physical contact (such as oral-anal sex) with an infectious person, although casual contact among people does not spread the virus.

Practise  safe food and water precautions and wash your hands often. Vaccination is recommended for all travellers to areas where hepatitis A is present.

Malaria  is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that is caused by parasites spread through the bites of mosquitoes.   There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this destination. 

Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic before travelling to discuss your options. It is recommended to do this 6 weeks before travel, however, it is still a good idea any time before leaving.    Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times:  • Cover your skin and use an approved insect repellent on uncovered skin.  • Exclude mosquitoes from your living area with screening and/or closed, well-sealed doors and windows. • Use insecticide-treated bed nets if mosquitoes cannot be excluded from your living area.  • Wear permethrin-treated clothing.    If you develop symptoms similar to malaria when you are travelling or up to a year after you return home, see a health care professional immediately. Tell them where you have been travelling or living. 

In this destination, rabies is commonly carried by dogs and some wildlife, including bats. Rabies is a deadly disease that spreads to humans primarily through bites or scratches from an infected animal. While travelling, take precautions , including keeping your distance from animals (including free-roaming dogs), and closely supervising children.

If you are bitten or scratched by a dog or other animal while travelling, immediately wash the wound with soap and clean water and see a health care professional. In this destination, rabies treatment may be limited or may not be available, therefore you may need to return to Canada for treatment.  

Before travel, discuss rabies vaccination with a health care professional. It may be recommended for travellers who are at high risk of exposure (e.g., occupational risk such as veterinarians and wildlife workers, children, adventure travellers and spelunkers, and others in close contact with animals). 

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.

Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.

  Hepatitis B is a risk in every destination. It is a viral liver disease that is easily transmitted from one person to another through exposure to blood and body fluids containing the hepatitis B virus.  Travellers who may be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) are at higher risk of getting hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Prevent hepatitis B infection by practicing safe sex, only using new and sterile drug equipment, and only getting tattoos and piercings in settings that follow public health regulations and standards.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.

Before travelling, verify your destination’s COVID-19 vaccination entry/exit requirements. Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.

 The best way to protect yourself from seasonal influenza (flu) is to get vaccinated every year. Get the flu shot at least 2 weeks before travelling.  

 The flu occurs worldwide. 

  •  In the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs from November to   April.
  •  In the Southern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs between April and   October.
  •  In the tropics, there is flu activity year round. 

The flu vaccine available in one hemisphere may only offer partial protection against the flu in the other hemisphere.

The flu virus spreads from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Clean your hands often and wear a mask if you have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

Safe food and water precautions

Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.

  • Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
  • Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
  • Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs. 

Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.

The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Typhoid   is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.

Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.  

There is a risk of schistosomiasis in this destination. Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease caused by tiny worms (blood flukes) which can be found in freshwater (lakes, rivers, ponds, and wetlands). The worms can break the skin, and their eggs can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, flu-like symptoms, or urinary problems. Schistosomiasis mostly affects underdeveloped and r ural communities, particularly agricultural and fishing communities.

Most travellers are at low risk. Travellers should avoid contact with untreated freshwater such as lakes, rivers, and ponds (e.g., swimming, bathing, wading, ingesting). There is no vaccine or medication available to prevent infection.

Insect bite prevention

Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:

  • Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
  • Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
  • Minimize exposure to insects
  • Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed

To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.

Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.

There is a risk of chikungunya in this country.  The risk may vary between regions of a country.  Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.

Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that can cause fever, pain and bleeding under the skin.  In some cases, it can be fatal.  It spreads to humans through contact with infected animal blood or tissues, or from the bite of an infected tick.  Risk is generally low for most travellers.  Protect yourself from tick bites and avoid animals, particularly livestock.  There is no vaccine available for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.

Rift Valley fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can be fatal. It is spread to humans through contact with infected animal blood or tissues, from the bite of an infected mosquito, or eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from insect bites and avoid animals, particularly livestock, and unpasteurized dairy. There is no vaccine available for Rift Valley fever.

Animal precautions

Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may increase your chance of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.

Closely supervise children, as they are more likely to come in contact with animals.

Person-to-person infections

Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette , which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:

  •   washing your hands often
  • avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
  • avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) , HIV , and mpox are spread through blood and bodily fluids; use condoms, practise safe sex, and limit your number of sexual partners. Check with your local public health authority pre-travel to determine your eligibility for mpox vaccine.  

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care professional.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)   is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

High risk activities include anything which puts you in contact with blood or body fluids, such as unprotected sex and exposure to unsterilized needles for medications or other substances (for example, steroids and drugs), tattooing, body-piercing or acupuncture.

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities and supplies are widely available in large cities but can be expensive. Medical facilities are limited in remote areas.

Public and private health facilities require an up-front cash deposit for services, guarantee of payment or confirmation of medical insurance before commencing treatment.

Air evacuation may be the only option when faced with a medical emergency in remote areas.

Decompression chambers are available in many hospitals.

Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.

Travel health and safety

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a   travel health kit , especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You must abide by local laws.

Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad .

Penalties for using, importing or exporting drugs are severe and may include lengthy imprisonment.

Drugs, alcohol and travel

You may not import or take in-transit any firearm or ammunition without a temporary export and import or in-transit permit issued by the South African Police Service. 

Dual citizenship is legally recognized in South Africa.

If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of South Africa, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements .

Travellers with dual citizenship

International Child Abduction

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. The convention applies between Canada and South Africa.

If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in South Africa, and if the applicable conditions are met, you may apply for the return of your child to the South African court.

If you are in this situation:

  • act as quickly as you can
  • contact the Central Authority for your province or territory of residence for information on starting an application under The Hague Convention
  • consult a lawyer in Canada and in South Africa to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
  • report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children's Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre

If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.

Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country's judicial affairs.

  • List of Canadian Central Authorities for the Hague Convention
  • International Child Abductions: A guide for affected parents
  • The Hague Convention – Hague Conference on Private International Law
  • Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
  • Request emergency assistance

Traffic drives on the left.

You may use your valid Canadian provincial driver’s licence in South Africa, however, an international driving permit (IDP) is strongly recommended.

It is extremely difficult to obtain car insurance for car rentals or to purchase a car without an IDP. Insurance companies and rental car agencies often require proof of a South African driver’s licence or an IDP to honour an insurance claim, even when such proof was not requested at the time the policy was secured. An IDP must be obtained in Canada before travelling to South Africa, as it cannot be obtained locally.

If your licence is in French, it is advisable to obtain a translation into English and carry it with you.

Foreigners driving a rental car across any border into neighbouring countries must obtain a permit from the Cross-border Road Transport Agency prior to arriving at the border crossing. Failure to do so may lead to arrest and/or a fine.

It is illegal to carry gasoline in portable containers.

  • Obtain a permit  - Cross-border Road Transport Agency
  • International Driving Permit

The currency is the South African rand (ZAR).

Canadian currency can be easily exchanged at major banks and foreign exchange counters. A passport and additional identification is required when undertaking foreign exchange transactions.

Foreigners are permitted to enter South Africa carrying a maximum of ZAR100,000, or US$10,000 or its equivalent in foreign currencies. Customs forms are not required to be completed, but random customs checks are conducted.

Rain Storms

The climate varies from region to region. Storms and flooding can occur throughout the country and at various times of the year. Flash storms can occur in Gauteng and North West provinces from November to April. There are heavy rains along the south coast from June to September and the Western Cape receives heavy rainfall between May and September. Dirt roads can become hazardous during these periods. After heavy rains, do not attempt to cross low-lying river bridges by car or on foot, as there have been fatalities linked to people being washed down river. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

Veld (bush) fires are common during dry seasons. They are very unpredictable and extremely dangerous. They can spread very quickly and travel at speeds of 60 km/h or more, due to high winds. Stay clear of active fires and always verify local conditions with relevant authorities before going on bush walks, particularly during the dry seasons.

The Western Cape Province, including Cape Town, can experience periods of prolonged drought. Local authorities may impose water use restrictions. You could be fined if you do not comply with these restrictions.

Useful links:

  • Information on water restrictions  – City of Cape Town
  • Water restrictions explained –City of Cape Town  

Local services

In case of emergency, dial:

  • police: 10111 or 10112 from a cellular telephone
  • medical assistance: 10177
  • firefighters: 10111 or 10112 from a cellular telephone

Consular assistance

South Africa, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia

For emergency consular assistance, call the High Commission of Canada in South Africa, in Pretoria, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.

The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.

If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.

Learn more about consular services .

Risk Levels

  take normal security precautions.

Take similar precautions to those you would take in Canada.

  Exercise a high degree of caution

There are certain safety and security concerns or the situation could change quickly. Be very cautious at all times, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.

IMPORTANT: The two levels below are official Government of Canada Travel Advisories and are issued when the safety and security of Canadians travelling or living in the country or region may be at risk.

  Avoid non-essential travel

Your safety and security could be at risk. You should think about your need to travel to this country, territory or region based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with the region, and other factors. If you are already there, think about whether you really need to be there. If you do not need to be there, you should think about leaving.

  Avoid all travel

You should not travel to this country, territory or region. Your personal safety and security are at great risk. If you are already there, you should think about leaving if it is safe to do so.

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Home » Africa » Travel Safety

Is South Africa Safe for Travel? (Insider Tips)

The megadiverse country that is South Africa has an abundance of wildlife roaming its national parks. Combine this with some stunning road trips, a whole load of colourful culture, some world-famous wineries and surf spots, and we have a true wonderland here!

There is, however, that old chestnut of South Africa’s reputation for crime and it is a big deal in this African nation. Not just isolated in townships or rural areas, tourists have been known to be the victim of crime even in big cities and around popular attractions.

Visiting can be a scary prospect, and for many people, this puts them off. That’s why we have created this guide to staying safe in South Africa – it’s 100% possible to visit and have an awesome time, it just takes some getting used to… and a little insider knowledge.

Our guide is filled to the brim with information about visiting the Rainbow Nation including what to watch out for and what sort of places you should avoid. We’ve even got some tips for solo female travellers in South Africa so all things considered we’d say we’ve got you covered on your trip to this cool country.

safe travel in south africa

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How Safe is South Africa? (Our take)

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South Africa has a lot going for it: vast wilderness, miles upon miles of coastline, great surfing, good food (and wine), as well as some great cities to visit to soak up some culture. Don’t forget that wildlife: this is a biodiverse wonderland!

However, this multicultural nation is not without its troubles; there is a high level of crime in South Africa, as well as poverty. Tourists should definitely take care when visiting the country, that’s for sure.

Much of the crime that occurs in South Africa happens in townships and isolated areas. Depending on where you’re staying in South Africa , it can be more or less dangerous. That being said, incidents involving tourists have happened in recent years in popular spots around Cape Town and other areas once considered as “safe”.

There’s a whole lot of stuff to talk about when you talk about the safety levels going on here, so let’s delve into the details of exactly how safe South Africa is…

There is no such thing as a perfect safety guide, and this article is no different. The question of “Is South Africa Safe?” will ALWAYS have a different answer depending on the parties involved. But this article is written for savvy travellers from the perspective of savvy travellers.

The information present in this safety guide was accurate at the time of writing, however, the world is a changeable place, now more than ever. Between the pandemic, ever-worsening cultural division, and a click-hungry media, it can be hard to maintain what is truth and what is sensationalism.

Here, you will find safety knowledge and advice for travelling South Africa. It won’t be down to the wire cutting edge info on the most current events, but it is layered in the expertise of veteran travellers. If you use our guide, do your own research, and practise common sense, you will have a safe trip to South Africa.

If you see any outdated information in this guide, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below. We strive to provide the most relevant travel information on the web and always appreciate input from our readers (nicely, please!). Otherwise, thanks for your ear and stay safe!

It’s a wild world out there. But it’s pretty damn special too. 🙂

Is South Africa Safe to Visit

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South Africa, despite the crime, brings in high levels of tourists year on year. People are drawn here to explore the country’s culture, wildlife and natural beauty.

To put that into numbers, 3.5 million people travelled through the country in 2017 alone. The travel and tourism industry supports over 10% of the jobs in the Rainbow Nation, making it a vital part of what makes South Africa tick.

Tourism, in fact, is very important, especially when you look at the high levels of unemployment and poverty, mixed with inequality. It’s certainly worth tourists’ time: South Africa has 8 UNESCO-approved attractions, for a start.

Crime, however, is also very high. That said, since 1995 the murder rate has virtually halved from 67.9 per 100,000 (1995) to 35.2 per 100,000 (2018).

This year, in 2019, an average of 605 houses each day have been burgled per day; phones, jewellery, and electronics are often the target.

When you look at the Global Peace Index for 2019 though,  South Africa comes in at 127 out of 163 countries analysed. This may seem low, but consider this: the United States is at 128.

South Africa certainly has its fair share of troubles. There is a high level of crime, which can and does pose a risk to visitors; however, at main tourist destinations, crime is comparatively low.

The police in South Africa aims to protect tourists – in fact, tourist police patrol popular spots. Generally, the most violent crimes take place in townships, on the fringes of major cities, well away from your big museums and Garden Routes. That, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be vigilant at all times.

Regular protests, demonstrations and strikes occur across the country. These can happen at short notice and can also become violent, with roadblocks disrupting traffic, too; needless to say, you should steer clear of these.

Nature can be a threat to your safety: we’re talking everything from beach conditions to following exactly what your guide says on safari (wild animals are wild for a reason) and protecting yourself from the heat.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

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SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

22 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to South Africa

There’s a high level of crime in South Africa, but it’s best not to be paranoid. Plenty of people travel here and spend months backpacking through South Africa with no issues at all; just keep things in perspective and be aware of your surroundings. Yes, you’re going to have to be cautious, and vigilant, so here are some travel tips for South Africa to keep in mind and make sure your trip runs as smoothly as possible.

  • Be very careful of your surroundings at ATMs  – there are many, many scams surrounding ATMs
  • Try to avoid wandering around city centres at night – there’s a higher risk of theft here
  • Don’t look flashy  – the richer you look, the more likely you are to be a target
  • Leave valuables and travel documents in a safe place in your room – a safe, obvious as it sounds, is a good idea
  • Don’t leave valuables lying around on tables  – cameras, wallets: they could be gone in an instant
  • Be careful of dangling handbags  – opt for a money belt (more on that later)
  • Consider carrying a decoy wallet  – or small stash of cash to hand over if you are mugged
  • Take the advice of locals  – if someone says such-and-such a place is unsafe, it’s likely that it is very much unsafe
  • Do not walk around looking like you’re lost  – vulnerable tourists are more at risk, so try to look confident
  • Be wary of your bag in airports and transit hubs  – keep it close to you
  • Don’t walk anywhere after dark in cities (especially by yourself) – cab, walk in a group, Uber: anything
  • Pick up a local sim card   – it’s worth the money to have one of these, for the data alone
  • Drugs are openly used, but…  – there are heavy penalties for possession, so don’t get involved
  • Stick with groups and to popular trails when hiking – people have been attacked even on Table Mountain
  • Be careful in quiet areas – again, there’s safety in numbers
  • Avoid remote areas after dark – everything from viewpoints to picnic spots and isolated beaches, are no-go at night
  • Steer clear of protests, marches, demonstrations  – it’s just not good to get caught up in these
  • Carry a copy of your passport  – to show authorities/police if they need to see it
  • Don’t buy any prohibited animal products  – ivory, rhino horns, anything from endangered species; you’ll be (rightly) prosecuted if caught
  • Listen to your guide on safari  – getting too close to wild animals, or veering off where you should be going, can be deadly
  • AIDS is an epidemic in South Africa  – this is the biggest HIV epidemic in the world. Take the obvious precautions
  • Research your accommodation thoroughly  – make sure your room is safe, lockable, secure

South Africa, obviously, has some issues. It is better to be aware of things going on in the country than to be shocked by them; the information isn’t there to scare you off, it’s here to ensure you have as safe a trip as possible. The most important thing is to avoid being by yourself in remote or isolated areas, city or countryside, as this is when you’ll be most at risk. Other than that: be vigilant!

Losing your money whilst you’re travelling anywhere in the world isn’t fun; not only will it mean you miss out on a night or two of fun, but it could also mean not being able to pay for accommodation, or even cutting a trip short.

In South Africa, where crime levels are relatively high, you may be worried about having your money stolen – not an uncommon thing to worry about when visiting this country. The solution, however, is simple: wear a money belt.

money belt

The Pacsafe Money Belt is our best bet. It’s affordable, it looks and acts like a belt, and it’s sturdy – what more could you ask for out of a money belt!

Where many other money belts can look obvious to would-be thieves, bulging underneath clothes, it’s the simplicity of the Pacsafe Money Belt that we love: it looks just like a belt and acts like one too.

The only difference is with this belt is that there’s a hidden zipper pocket where you can stash your cash. This means that, even if you have to throw down a dummy wallet, you still walk away with a secret cache of money in this awesome little belt.

The best ideas are often the simplest, and this is definitely the case with the Pacsafe Money Belt: a solid option if you’re looking to keep your money safe in South Africa.

Is South Africa safe to travel alone

There’s nothing quite like travelling by yourself. Having only yourself to rely on, it may be challenging, but the rewards you reap from pushing yourself and doing new things far outweigh the bad parts of solo travel. It’s all about doing things for yourself – and it’s awesome.

Travelling by yourself in South Africa isn’t always the safest option, but it is a fun country to travel solo in. It’s well-trodden, it’s pretty straightforward, and lots of people do it. Here are some solo travel tips for South Africa to keep as safe as can be.

  • Know when you should join a tour. Hiking by yourself, or travelling by yourself at night, is not a good idea. So, if you’ve got an overnight trip to make, or feel like getting out into the wilderness that South Africa is so famous for, then consider booking yourself onto a tour. Do your research, though, and make sure you’re with a reputable company and guide.
  • Listen to locals and ask questions on where it’s safe to go, what you should be doing, and what you should be avoiding. Local people are the ones who have the vital insider knowledge that you need in this country.
  • Another good local source is social media; for example, there are Facebook groups for organising group hikes and other communal meet-ups. It’s in these kind of online groups that you’ll be able to ask advice for solo travel around the country, too. Hit up the South Africa National Parks website for information on joining hiking groups for destinations such as Table Mountain.
  • Try to keep a low profile: solo travellers, or just people by themselves, are more of a target for crime in South Africa than anyone in a group.
  • With this in mind, try to blend in; wearing shorts and t-shirt whilst everyone else is in jeans will make you stand out like a sore thumb, so take note of what everyone around you is dressing like.
  • Travel light. This is crucial if you don’t want to feel (or actually be) vulnerable when getting off buses, trains and navigating airports. The more you have, the more it’ll weigh you down, and the more conspicuous you will look as a tourist.
  • Don’t party too hard. Be careful in terms of drinking too much and avoid recreational drug use; we’re saying this so that you avoid hurting yourself or being a victim of crime, which can happen more easily when you’re intoxicated.
  • Keep your phone charged. All of your practical information, including maps, will be on this. Being without your phone in a part of a town that doesn’t feel all that good is something that won’t help you at all, so make sure it always has a battery. Speaking of which, make sure you always have emergency numbers stored in your phone (write them down in case your phone goes missing).
  • Make sure you know where your bank cards, passports and your money is – and don’t keep them all in one place. Losing everything all at once isn’t just not fun: it can be pretty serious. Being alone means you won’t have a friend or family member to help you out with cash if you need it.
  • Let people know your plans; even if they change last minute. Tell friends, family, new travel buddies, what you plan to do in the next few days because, at the end of the day, it’s better for someone to know where you are and what you’re doing than no one knows. Don’t go off-grid, is what we’re saying.

Solo travel in South Africa is not as difficult as you may think it is. This is a well-trodden, much-visited place, with plenty of other travellers to meet up with along the way.

However, there are definitely times when you’ll need to watch out for your safety a lot more than if you were travelling in a group. You’ll need to keep your wits about you, try to blend in, not look like a vulnerable tourist (i.e. a target) and keep your valuables well hidden.

Other than that, it won’t be the easiest place in the world to travel solo, but if you’re up for the challenge: enjoy!

South Africa safe for solo female travellers

Just as South Africa isn’t 100% safe for solo male travellers, likewise it isn’t 100% safe for solo female travellers. There’s more to deal with as a woman, with old fashioned attitudes, sexist behaviour, and high levels of sexual assault and violence against women in the country.

It goes without saying that as a woman in South Africa, as a solo traveller, you’re going to have to be pretty careful; that’s not to say it’s not doable – it totally is – but exercise caution. Our tips for solo female travellers in South Africa are here to help your trip go as well as it can.

  • Do not walk alone at night by yourself – especially in urban areas. This is not a good idea for any sort of traveller, but that goes doubly for females.
  • Avoid situations where you are isolated and by yourself. Stay in busy places and don’t take taxis alone.
  • Do not go hiking by yourself; it’s not recommended at all for a woman to do this. If you do want to go hiking, the minimum number of people in your group should be 3.
  • Don’t just book the cheapest accommodation. You have to research it, read the comments, and see for yourself if it’s appropriate for solo females. If it’s more expensive but secure and well-reviewed, it will be worth the money.
  • The same goes for guides. You will want to go on a tour with reputable guides; check online for reviews from other female travellers and ensure that the reviews are good.
  • Be aware that there is a high level of sexual assault and violence against women in South Africa. If you’re travelling across the border to Lesotho, know that patriarchal values are strong and women are often oppressed and harassed.
  • As a solo female traveller, it’s best to find other women to travel with on public transport. The risks are reduced if you’re travelling together with other people; try to find at least two other women, or a mixed group of people, to travel with.
  • Make sure you carry your mobile phone with you at all times. This is obvious, but it means you’ll be able to contact people in an emergency, use maps, or simply look at the reviews of a restaurant you’re interested in.
  • It’s best to dress modestly, covering up skin more than revealing it. This will help you avoid too much attention. Our South Africa packing guide details exactly what you should bring with you and what to wear during your trip.
  • If you’re planning on staying in an urban area, like Johannesburg, for example, you should consider buying pepper spray or enrol in a basic self-defence class.
  • Careful of your drinks (and food) when you’re out and about; spiking of food and drink does occur, so try your best not to leave them unattended.
  • Don’t disclose details to strangers: whether you’re in a relationship or not, where you’re staying, what your travel plans are – people you’ve never met don’t need to know all this stuff about you.
  • For insider advice, ask for tips from local women on online communities such as Facebook group Girls Love Travel; they’ll have the most up-to-date information on just how safe it is for solo female travellers in South Africa.

The prospect of visiting South Africa by yourself, as a woman, isn’t great. This is definitely a far cry from travelling solo in Thailand, so we wouldn’t recommend this as a solo destination for females who haven’t had experiences travelling in more challenging parts of the world.

There’s no real way to sugar-coat it. But we reckon the best way to do it is to stay in very well-reviewed, social hostels – hotly tipped by other female travellers, preferably – where you can meet other people to continue your travels around the country with.

Other than that, the other way to experience South Africa as safely as possible would be to join a tour, making sure (of course) to check out the reviews and that the company is reputable. Other than that, stay safe and have an amazing time!

Is South Africa safe to travel for families

Although it might not be the normal place to go for family holidays, or even anywhere near the top of the family destinations in the world, it’s still an awesome place to go.

There is a whole plethora of national parks, an abundance of beaches, whale-watching to experience, safaris to embark on, and a handful of good museums to learn a thing or two, as well.

Places such as Cape Town offer up a top family destination. Here you will find everything from good hotels and other family-friendly experiences, to shopping centres, and easy places to eat. If you’re planning your trip to the Western Cape, you may want to check out our Cape Town safety guide!

Durban, on the other hand, has its beaches; whilst the Western Cape has the stunning Garden Route.

South African people are welcoming to children and much accommodation, and hotel rooms can cater to families. There’s even camping, cabins and beach chalets all over the country; you’ll even find places to stay in South Africa’s national parks, such as exciting wildlife lodges.

Note, however, that some wildlife lodges have a restriction on children under 12 years of age.

If you’re thinking about going on safari, these kinds of activities are best for older children; it can be very hot and the hours involved can be taxing. Kruger National Park might be a better one for smaller children, with activities geared towards little ones.

Make sure you plan your trip if you want to travel around the country and not just stay in one place: the distances can be huge and take much longer than you thought.

If you’re travelling outside of major towns, it can sometimes be difficult to find what you may consider to be simple supplies – things like nappies, baby food and milk, for example.

You should make sure that your children (and you) are up to date with vaccines needed for South Africa. Be extra careful about entering into malaria-prone areas; cover up against bites, bring mosquito nets (just in case), use repellent and burn mosquito coils where possible.

When you are travelling with children under 18 years of age, you have to show an unabridged birth certificate (or UBC) as well as their passport; you should be particularly careful if you’re just one parent travelling with a child. This is supposed to combat child trafficking.

Other than that, South Africa is going to be a blast as a family. Just make sure you keep your children close to you when you’re walking around cities and be aware of any potentially risky situations – both in cities and rural areas.

Is it safe to drive in South Africa

South Africa offers up some pretty amazing road trips. The Garden Route, obviously, is one of these.

Having your own wheels means you can veer off from the main tourist bus routes and see what this spectacular country has to offer… But that doesn’t mean it’s always safe to drive in South Africa.

In 2018, 12,000 people died on the roads in South Africa; it doesn’t have the best road safety records. And then there are things to worry about, from varying road standards to outright hijackings.

You should definitely pay attention to your surroundings, even when driving (not just in traffic jams). Robbery from cars is commonplace, so ensure that your windows are wound up and your doors are locked at all times.

You will be particularly vulnerable in a car: at night time, when you’re parked and ready to go/get out or stopped at traffic lights. Stick to main roads and well-lit areas after dark; thieves have many different methods to get a vehicle to stop, or pull over.

Do not, whatever you do, pick up hitchhikers and/or strangers.

On the road, you should be aware that overtaking on the hard shoulder, or on single-lane roads, is normal behaviour for other drivers, especially trucks. People often ignore rules, like giving way to the right on a roundabout, or speed limits.

Motorists often drive quite aggressively (taxi drivers are renowned for this). People overtake without enough room to pass; expect people to flash their lights, or drive right up to the back of your car, to signify they want to overtake.

Drink driving is not uncommon – don’t do it, just be aware that some people may be driving under the influence. If someone is driving extra erratically, give them all the space they need. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Lots of highways cover the country – these are mainly in good condition. Outside of big towns, however, you can come across un-sealed roads; be especially careful driving on these after or during heavy rains as they can get washed away.

Also in rural areas be careful of hazards in the road, from children to wild animals.

Parking can be an issue, especially certain neighborhoods in Johannesburg. There are often people called “parking guards” who will look after your car for you in big towns and cities; approved parking guards often (but not always) wear high-visibility jackets. Make sure you pay them when you’re done parking and about to leave.

One important point to finish with: if someone wants to carjack you, let them. These people are usually armed and people have been killed for simply not handing over the keys. For more information check out DriveSouthAfrica.co.za.

Uber is available in South Africa. It’s been there for 5 years.

It’s popular – and there are a number of different cities it can be used in; specifically, that’s Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban and Port Elizabeth.

Be aware, however, that there have been tensions between Uber drivers and metered taxi drivers – especially outside transit hubs and airports. Not just the drivers but also passengers have been harassed by the drivers of metered taxis.

Uber often reports where, if there is any trouble, this is taking place, so check the app. It’s best to be aware of this regardless.

Uber is safe in South Africa though, and the benefits apply: know your driver, read reviews, track your journey, pay in-app. What’s not to like?

Using taxis in South Africa requires some precaution.

Private taxi companies can be found in large cities and big towns, and are – generally – one of the safest ways to get around South Africa. This is especially true after dark.

You can find taxi stands in busy, popular areas, such as outside big hotels, shopping malls, and other attractions.

Rates will vary across the country and between cities, the average being about 10 Rand per kilometre.

The safest way to get a taxi, however, is to phone for one. It’s safer because you’ll be more likely to get a better quality vehicle than the ones waiting at the taxi ranks.

Ask your accommodation for the number of a reputable company. You can also ask at a restaurant, bar, or other establishments for them to call you a taxi. Always wait inside for your taxi.

Shared taxis are an option in South Africa, running all around the cities, into suburbs, and across to neighbouring towns; they’re very local, but are not for the faint-hearted. Away from big transit hubs and tourist destinations, shared taxis may be the only form of public transport that you can actually get.

These range from cars to minibuses; find information on them on TaxiMap.co.za – this will show you routes, fares and other important information.

There are some safety precautions to consider when using a shared taxi, however. The conditions of the vehicle are often not very good, the driving standards are poor, and there are frequent accidents.

Pickpocketing, as well as harassment, are not uncommon when you’re in a shared taxi. There are certain routes that shared taxis take that should definitely be avoided, especially after dark: Exploring central Cape Town , in daylight hours, is usually fine but is best avoided at night.

Travelling on shared taxis with bags and luggage not only means that you take up precious seats, but it also puts you at risk, too.

Some tips for using minibus-style shared taxis:

  • When you get on, pass your money forward to the driver’s assistant (sitting to next him, usually)
  • If you do have luggage, sit on the first row, behind the driver
  • If you’re on the folding seat by the sliding door, it’s your job to open and shut the door each time it stops to let people on
  • When you want to stop say “Thank you, driver” – not “stop”

To sum it up in a few words, taxis in South Africa are safe – for the most part. Just be sure to avoid shared taxis at night and, if in doubt, get establishments to call a taxi for you.

Is public transportation in South Africa safe

Public transport in South Africa varies, to be honest. It depends on where you want to go, what you want to do, and your budget.

First of all, there are buses.

Inside cities, such as Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Durban, there are city buses; these, obviously, work just like city buses in urban areas all around the world. However, for safety reasons, the best ones to use are MyCiTi (Cape Town) and the People Mover (Durban).

If you do want to use the bus, it’s a plus if you’re a budget: the routes are extensive and the fares are cheap. However, the running hours can be quite limited.

If you want to get on a bus between cities, then you have a few different options.

The major cities are linked with bus lines that vary in safety. Safety Lines, as you might be able to tell by the name, is safer (and pricier) than other companies. No matter what firm you choose to go with, however, you should always be careful if you’re heading on an overnight journey by bus and watch out for your belongings; sit as close to the driver as possible.

You can buy bus tickets up to 24 hours in advance at bus offices, supermarkets and at Computicket Travel. Computicket is actually a pretty good way to go because you can use a foreign bank card to book, and there are multiple bus companies on offer for you to choose from.

There are also backpacker shuttle buses, one of the more famous being Baz Bus. This kind of hop-on, hop-off service is often the safest and most convenient way to go, especially for solo travellers. It does the rounds at hostels, picking up and dropping off travellers; book online or through your hostel. However, these are more expensive (of course), but they can work out much more convenient.

If you don’t want to take a bus, there are always trains.

Trains in South Africa are a scenic, much more comfortable way to travel than by bus. They take a lot longer but are worth it for the views alone. There are all sorts of options, with things like dining cars and showers onboard. Obviously, this sounds pretty pricey – and it can be, in comparison.

Note: the economy class of a train is not as safe.

Book tickets for the trains up to 3 months ahead of time, both online and at train stations. Hit up The Man in Seat 61 for his well-trusted, insider tips on train travel.

Metrorail Suburban Railways, in larger cities from Cape Town to Durban, should be avoided; these have high levels of crime and it’s basically not worth it, as you won’t be needing to use them. Grab a taxi if you do need to go anywhere these trains go.

Public transport is safe in South Africa, it’s just important to be vigilant and aware of your belongings – especially if you’re on a cheaper service and/or are travelling overnight.

Is the food in South Africa safe

South Africa’s food reflects its diverse population and history, with Malaysian, Indian, French, Dutch, and British influences at work, along with its indigenous population making a mark too. All of this adds up to a whole lot of different stuff on offer for your stomach.

There are loads of tasty titbits to try out. From Cape Malay curry, and the South African mainstays of chakalaka and pap, all the way to biltong and baboti, so here are some foodie tips to help you eat your way around this country like a pro – and safely, too!

  • Make sure your food is cooked through and, whatever you do, avoid eating meat rare. A nationwide issue with hepatitis A can mean rare meat isn’t a good idea.
  • Be careful eating seafood. This is often people’s downfall when travelling anywhere in the world and, trust us, you do not want to get sick from seafood. Make sure it’s fresh; if it tastes, or smells, not right, then just leave it.
  • Though it isn’t always possible, try to only eat food that has been made in sanitary conditions. If you can’t verify that, then at least make sure it’s been cooked fresh and hot in front of you. If you can’t verify that, steer clear.
  • When eating food from street stalls or local places, try to check out how they’re preparing the food to see if it’s being done in a sanitary way.
  • Top tip: go to places that are busy with locals. This is a good way to ensure that it’s a safe place to eat: if locals are going there regularly, the chances are high that it won’t be something that will make you ill.
  • On road trips, train journeys, or other long trips, make sure to stock up on snacks just in case the things along the way aren’t foodstuffs you enjoy, or that look unsanitary.
  • Practise good hygiene. Things like washing your hands, especially when you’re been exploring a dusty city all day, will definitely go a long way to making sure you aren’t the one making your stomach feel bad.
  • In more rural areas, be especially careful about fresh fruit and vegetables. Ensure they have been washed in clean water before you eat them and only buy things you can peel and cook yourself; pre-peeled is not a good idea.

There is so much tasty food to try out in South Africa. From the Indian curries, to the South African oddity that is bunny chow. Also not forgetting the traditionally al fresco braai – a type of barbecue – with its boerewors (“farmers’ sausage”), foodies will have a field day here.

A word of advice: don’t dive into everything straight away. Chances are you won’t be used to the food here, so go slow at first. To be on the safe side, take some anti-diarrhoea medication and, whatever you do, avoid ice cubes in drinks. Food in South Africa is safe for the most part though!

Water is a contentious issue in South Africa, especially in Cape Town, because of severe droughts.

However, water is safe to drink in South Africa – however, that only really goes for urban areas. Drinking water from taps should be done with caution, if at all, in rural areas – especially where there has been, or is currently, drought.

A lot of people choose to drink bottled water; this is probably best to do if you are travelling with small children.

Boiling tap water vigorously for 1 minute (at least), and then letting it cool, should make it safe. If your accommodation has a water purifier, then use that. Make sure you make an effort to reduce plastic usage in the world, and bring your own refillable bottle!

Is South Africa safe to live

This is a very broad question.

Many parts of South Africa are not safe, at all, to live in. There are huge disparities between “rich” and “poor” neighbourhoods; very high crime levels and a risk of theft mean there are places you just shouldn’t wander.

However, South Africa is – and can be – safe to live in. Chances are you won’t be choosing to live in a township (lucky you). Many from the South African middle classes, both black and white, choose to live in gated communities. These usually come with private security, armed guards, high walls, electric fences. This sort of thing is bound to make anyone feel safe.

It matters in what city exactly you live, too: Johannesburg is different to Cape Town.

Living day to day, however, will have to mean changing your mindset slightly. It’s a matter of being more careful with how you get around, how you dress, what you carry, where you go. Living somewhere, just because of the time involved, will mean that you are more likely to come into contact with crime than simply visiting as a tourist.

Expat website, InterNations, ranked South Africa as second as the “most dangerous place to live” (2019) in a survey, ranking countries based on crime, quality of life and political instability. To put that into perspective, however, the UK ranked 12th – between Mexico and Egypt – so take that with a pinch of salt.

Many people, however, live in South Africa : expats and local people. Clearly it’s a safe place to live – but it depends where you do it.

You may miss the freedom that you get in other countries, the freedom to simply walk where you want to walk, drive at any time, and not have to worry about your security at all times. You may feel like you’re living in a bubble and you’ll have to get used to that.

Your housing situation should be your number one priority after choosing exactly where in the country you want to live. The most important thing is doing your research: a lot has been written by locals and expats alike living in South Africa, so see what they’ve got to say on the matter, and ask the necessary questions.

At the same time, you have access to South Africa’s amazing nature and wildlife at any time you feel like seeing it. There are definitely plus sides to living here; it’s all a matter of adjusting to a different type of lifestyle.

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Healthcare in South Africa is pretty good – but only in major cities, and mainly only private.

There are many private hospitals and clinics in many of the country’s urban areas. If you find yourself in need of urgent treatment, you should definitely head to a private hospital.

The healthcare at private facilities is of an excellent standard, whereas at public hospitals the situation can be marked by underfunding and overcrowding.

If you need to see a healthcare professional, it is advised that you do extensive research before you see someone. Make sure you choose a good facility.

Be very careful about things like blood transfusions; in South Africa, HIV is real risk. If you’re worried, BloodCare.org.uk is a site where you can find out about safely screened blood.

Be aware that some places may want you to pay upfront either before a consultation or even before admission to a hospital, so make sure you have medical travel insurance – and some funds.

In areas that are more rural… You are not likely to come across reliable medical facilities. Some locals may suggest traditional medicines to you, or for you to go and see a healer called a sangoma (female) or inyanga (male). We can’t vouch for either of these; the best way is to go for Western medicine, so get yourself to a big town or city at your earliest convenience.

You will also be able to find pharmacies in big towns and cities, where you can pick up a variety of medication (just make sure it’s in date); be careful of medicine sold in local markets, however.

Check out your embassy’s website for doctors and clinics, ask at your accommodation, or get in touch with your travel insurance provider for a list of recommended hospitals and healthcare facilities.

South Africa is a diverse nation with 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.

Most locals are multilingual as the school curriculum requires students to learn at least three languages. During the Apartheid regime, schools mostly taught in Afrikaans hence its one of the most spoken languages, followed by English and Zulu. 

Welcome – Welkom

Hello – Hallo

Sorry – Jammer

Please – Asseblief

I don’t know – Ek weet nie

How are you? – Hoe gaan dit met jou?

No plastic bag – Geen plastiek sak

No straw please – Geen strooi asseblief

No plastic cutlery please – Geen plastiek eetgerei asseblief

Where are you from? – Waarvandaan kom jy?

Excuse me – Verskoon my!

How much is this? – Hoeveel kos dit?

How much is a beer? – Hoeveel is ‘n bier?

Here are some quick answers to common questions about safety in South Africa.

Is South Africa dangerous to visit?

Your safety in South Africa depends on where you’re staying and what you’re doing. As long as you use your common sense, do some research and stay away from the no-go areas, you should have a trouble-free trip.

Which is the safest city in South Africa?

Cape Town is statistically the safest city in South Africa. While there are no-go areas and safety issues, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about getting into trouble. Use your street smarts and stay alert!

What should you avoid in South Africa?

Avoid these things in South Africa: – Avoid wandering around city centres at night – Don’t look flashy – Don’t leave valuables lying around on tables – Avoid being careless when walking around and using public transport

Is South Africa dangerous to live?

While it’s not as safe as Europe, South Africa can be safe to live in – but you’ll need a lot more precautions. Having security cameras and guards is standard in expat communities and highly recommended. Your safety will also depend on where you’re living.

Final thoughts on the safety of South Africa

South Africa: people say it and automatically think of crime. That’s unfair, but not an unexpected reaction. Crime in South Africa gets talked about a lot, both outside and inside the country. It’s more than just a “big deal” but a deep-rooted problem with resulting issues for a society that serve to deepen a divide between rich and poor, a disparity that stems back, you could say, to the country’s Apartheid-era divisions.

The country, though affected by its past, is not its past. However, things are definitely looking up. Once known as the murder capital of the world , that “accolade” has since been passed around the globe, leaving South Africa as a country where tourists are welcome, and much safer than they would have been 25 years ago. Things change, and this nation, like many others, is gradually finding its feet.

As a tourist? Chances are you’ll be totally fine in South Africa. It takes some careful planning and research about where you stay, what you do – and some not-so-careful common sense stuff like not walking around certain areas after dark – but you’re fortunate enough to not live day-to-day in a dangerous township, lucky enough to afford to even take a trip to South Africa. Bear this in mind and act sensibly: you’ll be fine.

safe travel in south africa

Lerato Bambo

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All the info on this site is mostly accurate. I would be careful of taking a local minibus taxi which is different to a taxi cab, if your accommodation is outside of the city. Taking an taxi cab or uber is the best alternative. And then always do thorough research on the area you will be staying in, as I live in Cape Town and I love my city and my country, but we have our issues, which country doesn’t. We have a lot of great areas and also a lot of really bad areas, so you have to be really vigilant. If uncertain, a tour guide or trusted local would be best to show you around initially. Oh and by-the-way…our food and wine, is really world class. Come taste and see. I hope this helps.

Thanks that was really helpful for planning

By far the most informative and comprehensive info I’ve read on the ins and outs for travel safety in South Africa !

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Joanne Owen

written by Joanne Owen

updated 22.05.2024

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Planning a trip to South Africa but unsure about safety? Read on for the answer to that all-important question — is South Africa safe? – to make your trip safer and more rewarding.

Crime-prone areas in South Africa

Safer areas in south africa.

  • Pre-trip tips for staying safe in South Africa

Getting around South Africa safely

Staying safe on safari, safety considerations for solo female travellers, travel ideas for south africa, created by local experts.

Cape Town and Garden Route - a luxury guided tour

7 days  / from 4800 USD

Cape Town and Garden Route - a luxury guided tour

Cape Town and the Garden Route have it all - a fascinating culture, safaris, chocolate and wine tasting, and much more. Discover the coastal city of Cape Town and the Peninsula before heading out to the Garden Route with Knysna and Mossel Bay, where you'll experience some game drives.

The Cape Peninsula and Safaris in Kruger and Pilanesberg

15 days  / from 4000 USD

The Cape Peninsula and Safaris in Kruger and Pilanesberg

Wildlife in South Africa is still truly wild, a fact that you'll be able to discover in this fascinating two weeks trip. Enjoy whale watching in Cape Town and first safaris in Aquila before heading up north: the famous Kruger and Pilanesberg national parks with all its wildlife await.

Explore the North of South Africa: Sun City and Madikwe game reserve

7 days  / from 3000 USD

Explore the North of South Africa: Sun City and Madikwe game reserve

For those short on time, staying close to Johannesburg may make sense. On this trip, you'll arrive and depart in Johannesburg and then transfer to the theme park Lost City before continuing to Madikwe for a few days of game drives to spot plenty of wildlife.

Like many popular tourist destinations around the world, South Africa presents a paradox of incredible experiences — from safaris and wine-tasting, to adventure sports and enriching cultural activities — alongside some safety concerns.

It’s fair to say South Africa’s crime rate is higher than that of many other popular tourist destinations. For example, in comparison with Canada, Australia and most European nations, where tourists can feel relatively secure pretty much anywhere, South Africa requires more vigilance.

However, for wider context, millions of tourists visit South Africa safely each year and enjoy incredible crime-free experiences. 

As with any travel destination that has a nuanced safety profile, the key lies in preparation and staying aware. It’s all a question of taking sensible precautions that’ll enable you to enjoy a safe and — in all likelihood — unforgettably rewarding trip.

stairs-johannesburg-south-africa-shutterstock_1208264443

Johannesburg, South Africa © Shutterstock

While it’s advisable to be vigilant wherever you travel, it’s worth highlighting a few areas of South Africa that are more prone to crime.

As is often the way with cities — no matter where you are in the world — places like Johannesburg , Durban and parts of Cape Town exhibit higher crime rates, including petty crimes like pickpocketing and more serious crimes like armed robbery. 

Particular areas within these cities are known for being riskier, such as the central business districts of Johannesburg at night, and less touristy townships around major cities.

While rural areas are generally safer in terms of violent crime, they’re not immune to crimes like burglary and car break-ins.

Cape Town, South Africa - aerial view © Mark Van Overmeire/Shutterstock

Wondering "is South Africa safe?" Many popular tourist areas are © Shutterstock

Good news — some of South Africa’s most popular, most exceptional tourist areas are also good on the safety front, whenever you decide to visit .

For example, areas like the Kruger National Park and private reserves in the Eastern Cape are well-patrolled and considered very safe for tourists. 

If you're set on a South African safari, read our guide to  how to plan a South African safari , or save yourself the hassle and book our customisable  Kruger Adventure  trip.

In addition, while certain parts of Cape Town face crime issues, major tourist areas like the V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain, and the Cape Winelands are relatively safe, with robust security measures in place.

The same is true of the Garden Route. This popular stretch from Mossel Bay to Storms River is renowned for its beauty and safety, making it ideal for families and solo travelers alike.

Editor’s tip:  read up on the best time to visit Cape Town and check-out our customisable Luxury Cape Town and the Garden Route trip.

Chacma baboon Kruger National Park, South Africa © Shutterstock

Chacma baboons, Kruger National Park, South Africa © Shutterstock

Pre-trip tips for staying safe in South Africa 

Here’s a checklist of general pre-trip tips for safe travel in South Africa. 

  • Check what   vaccinations you need a few months ahead of travelling. 
  • Check travel advisories from reputable sources, like your government, and stay informed while on the road. 
  • Book accommodation in areas that are known for being safe and tourist-friendly. 
  • Plan how you’re going to get around — we cover that in detail below.

Want to cut-down pre-trip planning hassles?  Our  local experts  can craft your perfect customised  South Africa itinerary . 

south-africa-knysna-shutterstock_1050701894

Knysna, South Africa © Shutterstock

Read on to find out how to get around South Africa safely by public transport, or on a self-drive trip. 

Public transport While minibus taxis are the most ubiquitous form of public transport in South Africa’s cities, they’re not the best option for tourists. And the reasons? Driving habits tend to be somewhat erratic, they’re usually overcrowded, and the complex route system can be tricky to navigate.

In contrast, buses and coaches in major cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban are reliable and safer, with long-distance services like Greyhound, Intercape or the Baz Bus (popular among backpackers) being excellent options for travelling between cities. 

Find out more about  getting around South Africa.

The Garden Route in South Africa ©  LMspencer/Shutterstock

Along the Garden Route, South Africa ©  LMspencer/Shutterstock

Driving in South Africa

In good news if you’re looking to take to the open the road, South Africa has a well-developed road network, especially the national highways and main roads in urban areas. Just note that roads can be poorly maintained in rural areas, and potholes are common.

As for the rules of the road, you drive on the left, and non-nationals should have a valid driver’s license from their home country, ideally accompanied by an International Driving Permit. 

Speed limits are generally 60 km/h in urban areas, 100 km/h on secondary roads, and 120 km/h on highways.

When it comes to safety, lock your doors while driving and never leave valuables in plain sight in your car. Be cautious at traffic lights and stop signs, especially at night, as vehicle break-ins can occur.

It’s also advisable to avoid long road trips to isolated areas without a reliable navigation system or pre-planned route.

Fancy taking to the open road in South Africa?  Take inspiration from our self-drive itinerary.

umhlanga-pier-durban-south-africa-shutterstock_362786636

Umhlanga pier. Durban, South Africa © Shutterstock

It goes without saying that going on a safari in South Africa is truly exhilarating. To ensure your safari experience is safe and memorable, here are a few simple tips.

First up, you should choose a reputable safari provider that prioritizes safety and environmental conservation. Making your life easier, established parks and reserves like Kruger National Park, Addo Elephant National Park, and private reserves in the Sabi Sands offer professional services with experienced guides.

It’s also important to follow the instructions given by your guide. They’re trained to handle close encounters with wildlife and know how to react in emergency situations.

Except in designated areas, you should remain inside the safari vehicle at all times and wear neutral-colored clothing (browns, greens, and khakis) to avoid attracting wildlife attention.

As well as wearing sunscreen, it’s advisable to wear long sleeves and trousers to protect against the sun and insect bites.

Lastly, be sure to respect wildlife and the environment. This means no unnecessary noise that might disturb wildlife, no feeding, and no dumping of trash. 

Fancy mixing city sights with safari experiences? See our customisable South Africa Gems itinerary.

Or how about an active trip, like our Cycling South Africa’s Garden Route itinerary?

Kruger Park, Limpopo, South Africa © Rich T Photo/Shutterstock

Rangers in Kruger National Park, South Africa © Rich T Photo/Shutterstock

Before booking anything, research the safest neighborhoods for accommodation, and know the areas to avoid. Social media groups and travel forums can provide up-to-date advice from other female travelers.

In general — and this applies to all  solo travelers — it’s safer to travel during the day, and to be cautious when meeting new people.

Note that public transport and taxis can pose risks, especially at night. Apps like Uber are generally safer than hailing taxis on the street, and it’s best to avoid public minibus taxis.

Lastly, it’s worth having a local SIM card with data for live GPS tracking and emergency calls. 

Feeling reassured and ready to plan you trip?  Get  The Rough Guide to South Africa  and read up on the  best things to do in South Africa .

Not keen on planning?  Browse our customisable  South Africa itineraries  before talking to our  local experts  to kick start curating your dream trip.

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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How to Stay Safe in South Africa

Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga in South Africa

Each month, Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes a guest column featuring tips and advice on solo female travel. It’s an important topic I can’t adequately cover, so I brought in an expert to share her advice. Here, she’s sharing safety tips for South Africa.

At the dinner table back home in California, I asked my friends to name the first thing that came to their minds when they thought about South Africa . I expected them to say things like “elephants!” and “Lion King!” but instead “Ebola,” “soccer,” and “crime” were among the responses I got.

When I told them that I would be traveling there by myself, they were horrified at the thought.

This is proof to me that much is misunderstood — or at the very least generalized and oversimplified — about this country, which has a lot more going for it than some misplaced Ebola rumors and a World Cup that took place there a few years ago.

South Africa is huge and diverse, spanning 471,000 square miles, with a population of over 59 million that speaks 11 official languages. Why does it have such a bad rap?

In this post, I’ll share my tips on how to stay safe during your visit because, contrary to popular belief, South Africa is a perfectly safe place to travel as long as you follow a few basic steps.

Table of Contents

Why Does South Africa Have a Bad Reputation?

  • 8 Ways to Stay Safe in South Africa
  • Is South Africa Safe for Tourists?
  • Is South Africa Safe for Women?
  • Are Taxis Safe in South Africa?
  • Is the Tap Water Safe in South Africa?

Cityscape of Cape Town with a tall mountain and ocean in the background in South Africa

South Africa is the first country I’ve visited where the locals have repeatedly told me that muggings and violent crime are a big problem. According to those I’ve spoken with, they’re also on the rise .

The statistics back this up. South Africa has one of the highest rates of intentional homicide in the world. Rape is also a large issue in the country .

While this may seem off-putting, keep in mind that the homicide rate in a city like Cape Town is on par with US cities like Baltimore and St. Louis.

For comparison, all of the top 5 cities in the world with the highest homicide rates are in Mexico — yet Americans still flock there every year on vacation.

Moreover, the homicide rate has gone down since apartheid ended , and there have been fewer murders in Cape Town’s safest neighborhoods (V&A Waterfront, Camps Bay, Gardens, Sea Point, Green Point, and De Waterkant), where tourists tend to flock. It’s not a war zone — far from it. Most violent crime takes place between people who know each other in dangerous neighborhoods that tourists don’t tend to visit.

As in many countries, tourists in South Africa are mainly the targets of petty crime. These are often crimes of opportunity as well.

Though there are political, economic, and racial struggles, South Africa is not nearly as “scary” or “dangerous” as it is often perceived.  

Solo traveler Kristin Addis making friends with the locals of South Africa

While much of staying safe means following the safety rules you obey back home and following your intuition, here are 7 tips to make sure you have a safe and fun trip to South Africa:

1. Know Where Not to Go Though crime rates are higher in the townships (settlements established during apartheid for forced racial segregation), staying safe does not mean staying out of them altogether. Some of my favorite memories, such as drinks shared around an unlicensed bar, little kids swinging from my arms, and delicious streetside BBQ, all came from my time spent in the townships.

They’re friendly places. They’re just better visited during daylight hours and with a local guide who lives there and knows the lay of the land. This can be organized through your guesthouse or by seeking information from the tourism board.

Soweto in Johannesburg, for example, has walking , cycling , and even bus tours . It welcomes tourists thanks to the benefits of the money they bring in.

2. Don’t Walk at Night People tend to become targets by walking in cities rather than taking private or public transportation . Even in a group, pickpocketing can occur, but it’s much more likely to happen when walking alone. Avoid walking alone when possible, especially at night.

3. Don’t be Flashy Wearing jewelry or designer clothing and taking your phone/camera out in public are all great ways to become a target. Bringing expensive jewelry on vacation is not advisable in the first place, but if you do have pricey things like a camera, keep them hidden. And never keep your passport on you.

The more likely it seems that you’re a foreigner who does not know the lay of the land, the more likely you are to become a target for petty theft. Put the phone away and take it out when safely at home or in a café.

4. Lock Your Car Doors and Keep Valuables Hidden Other common occurrences, especially in big cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg, are car break-ins and carjackings. Avoid these by keeping the doors locked while driving and keeping absolutely everything — sunglasses, phones, bags, and wallets — out of sight. Nothing of value or anything that seems like it could possibly be valuable, including cheap sunglasses, should be visible when the car is parked and unattended.

In the big cities, unlicensed parking attendants are always around to “watch” your car for you, so throw them a tip now and then for keeping an eye out for your car when you’re not around.

5. Have a Dummy Wallet Though I believe I stayed safe mostly because I didn’t walk around much, there were a few times when I got tired of being scared and walked short distances instead of taking a taxi or a bus. To protect my belongings, I carried a “dummy wallet” that had just a few canceled credit cards and a bit of petty cash in it, while I hid everything else in my shoe or, honestly, in my bra.

If anyone approached me, I planned to freely hand over my bag so that the thief had something to take while the rest was safely hidden. It never came down to this, as I never experienced any crime firsthand, but I felt ready should a thief approach.

6. Be Aware and Listen to Your Instincts It also helps to be hyper-aware. If you must walk, take in your surroundings, look in every direction and make a point of letting everyone know that you’re paying attention by keeping your head up and looking alert. Try never to be alone on a sidewalk, and get as close to families as possible.

I once walked down a quiet side street in the up-and-coming Woodstock area of Cape Town and, realizing nobody was around, immediately turned around and went back to the busy main road. It felt sketchy, and my alarm bells sounded.

If someone appeared to be paying me too much attention, I’d look that person in the eye and say “hello” or step into a store with other people inside.   7. Use Common Sense I thought about my safety precautions in South Africa compared to what I would do at home. I certainly wouldn’t walk around most parts of Los Angeles or other major American cities alone and wouldn’t even consider it at night, particularly not with my phone out.

I guard my bag like a hound in most major European cities due to the incredibly high pickpocketing rates. It really wasn’t so different in South Africa.

8. Buy travel insurance – Travel insurance protects you against unexpected costs that arise if something goes wrong on the road. It’s just a few dollars per day (often less) and is worth the peace of mind. Here are some suggested companies to help you get started .

I recommend SafetyWing for travelers under 70, while Insure My Trip is the best choice for travelers over 70.

You can use this widget to get a quote for SafetyWing:

For more information on travel insurance, check out these posts:

  • What Does Travel Insurance ACTUALLY Cover?
  • The Best Travel Insurance Companies
  • How to Buy the Best Travel Insurance

Frequently Asked Questions

Kristin from be my travel muse sitting on a mountain ledge in South Africa thinking

Is South Africa safe for tourists?

While you do need to take necessary precautions here, South Africa is indeed safe for tourists to visit. Most violent crime occurs between people that know each other, and the places that tourists tend to stay in are the safest areas in the country.

Is South Africa safe for women?

While high rape statistics can be (understandably) offputting for female travelers, again, most crimes occur between people who know each other. I visited South Africa for 9 weeks as a solo female traveler and, following the tips above, was perfectly fine.

Are the taxis safe in South Africa?

Taxis are generally safe here. It’s best to pre-book and pre-pay for rides, so ask the hostel/guesthouse staff for their recommendations on reputable companies as well as how much a ride should be. Uber also exists throughout the country and is a good option for getting around safely. Never use the mini-bus taxis that locals use as they can be notoriously unsafe .

Is the tap water safe in South Africa?

The tap water here is generally not safe outside of urban areas so bring a reusable water bottle with a filter to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw has built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.

It used to be that I couldn’t answer the question when asked about my favorite country I’ve been to. Now, I often reply South Africa .

Though statistics can make it seem like a scary place, in reality I spent much more time enjoying myself than ever worrying about being robbed or becoming a victim of violent crime. While safety should always be foremost in your mind, South Africa did not feel scary, uncomfortable, or dangerous.

Sure, you’ll need to take more precautions than you would in, say, Thailand , but it’s still perfectly safe as long as you use common sense and follow the tips above.

Kristin Addis is a solo female travel expert who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has solo traveled the world for over ever since. You can find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and Facebook .

Book Your Trip to South Africa: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned!

Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • Safety Wing (best for everyone)
  • Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
  • Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Want More Information on South Africa? Be sure to visit our robust destination guide to South Africa for even more planning tips!

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Hi, I’m Nomadic Matt, the New York Times best-selling author of How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and Ten Years a Nomad, as well as the founder of this website! And I’m here to help you save money on your next trip.

Got a comment on this article? Join the conversation on Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter and share your thoughts!

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I recommend only products and companies I use and the income goes to keeping the site community supported and ad free.

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Kristin Addis in Africa on the beach

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I emigrated from South Africa to Europe and re-visited recently. South Africa is truly a beautiful country, with friendly, hospitable people, incredible scenery, and incomparable wildlife. I believe that these qualities are certainly more worthy of publicity than the crime and other negative aspects. Indeed, I can think of no other place on earth so rich in a diversity of scenic beauty, wildlife, sights, sounds, music, and varied cultures as South Africa. 

South Africa’s population is a unique mix of Africa, Europe, and Asia. I can think of no other nations with 11 official languages and 35 indigenous language! Out the total South African population of approximately 57 million, 44 million are black South Africans, 4.6 million are of mixed race, and 1.3 million are of Indian or Asian descent.

The white population is 4.8 million (8% of the total population.) and descends mainly from Dutch, German, French, and British colonial immigrants who came to settle in the country between the 17th and 19th centuries. The black South African population is comprised of the Nguni people (Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi), the Sotho-Tswana, the Tsonga, and the Venda tribes.

South Africa is renowned for its floral wealth. The 553,000-hectare Cape Floral Region is one of South Africa’s eight World Heritage sites. It was declared by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to be of “outstanding universal significance to humanity” and “one of the richest areas for plants in the world.”

The National Parks are among South Africa’s premier attractions. The more than 20 National Parks in South Africa include the famous Kruger National Park, the vast Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park, Addo Elephant, Golden Gate, Agulhas, Augrabies Falls, Bontebok, Camdeboo, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, Karoo, Madikwe, Mountain Zebra, Tsitsikamma, and Wilderness National Parks—each one with its own very distinctive character, flora, and fauna. See Sanparks for a detailed map of the South African National Parks.

Apart from the numerous National Parks, there are also many privately-owned game reserves. If you wish to see “The Big Five” (buffalo, lion, leopard, African elephant, and black rhinoceros), you can do so more easily in South Africa than anywhere else.

IIn South Africa, apart from “The Big Five,” you may observe over 200 different species of mammals. The Springbok (South Africa’s national animal—made famous by the Springbok rugby players), white rhino, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest (gnu), warthog, monkey, hunting dog, hippopotamus, kudu, impala, sable antelope, and hyena are but a few of these!

South Africa is also a bird-watchers paradise with over 800 species to be spotted, including the Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Tawny Eagle, Martial Eagle, Hornbill, Lourie, Kingfisher, Lilac-Breasted Roller, Secretary Bird, and South Africa's national bird, the Blue Crane.

You will find most South Africans of all races warm and welcoming, eager to show off their spectacular land to visitors from abroad. If you meet a local family, they will no doubt invite you to share in the ultimate South African experience, the braai (barbecue). South Africa is keen to welcome tourists from abroad and repair the country's recent poor international image. Accommodation standards are high, and you will enjoy abundant food and drink—the famous "Castle" beer and outstanding local wines.

Still, visitors to South Africa need not walk around in fear, provided they take the necessary care to behave in a common sense manner, thereby not becoming an easy target for criminals.

Follow all the above safety rules and get to know this extraordinary country.

Transportation

The International Airports in South Africa are Johannesburg (OR Tambo International), Durban, and Cape Town. Many other cities have smaller airports, e.g., Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg, East London, George, etc. SAA (South African Airways) is the primary domestic and international carrier.

Travel Within South Africa 

The traveler has various options for getting around the country:

1) Organized Tours Many companies organize custom-made tours or on various tourist routes: www.intrepidtravel.com or www.gadventures.com . 2) Inter-City Coach Travel Greyhound 3) Car Rentals   Car rentals are the best bet for the independent traveler. It is also the ideal means of seeing the scenic beauty and wildlife in South Africa's game parks as much as possible. It is wise to shop around. Numerous car hire companies operate in South Africa, for example: Hertz South Africa Avis Worth noting when driving in South Africa: Drive on the left All road signs are in English Roads are generally in good condition, and a 4x4 vehicle is not necessary, even on unpaved country Beware of some erratic driving, especially from mini-bus taxi drivers, who are a law unto themselves! Unfortunately, there are many unlicensed drivers and un-roadworthy vehicles on the roads. Expect the unexpected and drive defensively. Automatic transmissions are not the rule of the day. Most cars have manual transmission, so do request an automatic if you require it from the car hire company. Any valid foreign driver’s license which contains an identity photograph is acceptable. If yours does not conform to this, it is best to get an IDP. When asking for directions, do not be surprised when told to "go to the next robot." No, you are not in outer space. A "robot" is the unique South Africanism for a traffic light! 4) Domestic Air Travel Considering the vast distances between cities, this is the most convenient option for the traveler on a tight schedule, with the possibility of picking up a rental car at any airport. Apart from South African Airlines , the following airlines operate in and around South Africa. Shop around for the best fares: British Airways KLM Air France Air Mauritius 5) Rail Travel  Spoornet is a South African rail travel provider. However, the foreign visitor shouldn't travel long distances by standard passenger train due to the criminal element. However, Spoornet has introduced its Premiere Classe with 11 coaches accommodating only 84 passengers for train-travel funds for travel between Johannesburg and Cape Town (and return) twice weekly. The trip between Johannesburg and Cape Town takes 25 hours, and the route passes some of South Africa's premier tourist destinations, but stops do not allow time for excursions from the train. The famous Blue Train allows travelers to afford authentic luxury train travel. There is a one-way fare from Cape Town to Pretoria per person. The route includes accommodation, all meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and off-the-train excursions. For exact fares, itineraries, and other information, visit www.bluetrain.co.za . Rovos Rail is another exclusive train, known as "the most luxurious train in the world." offering many different routes and traveling as far as Victoria Falls. For full details, visit rovos.com . 6) Local Public Transport Visitors to South Africa should use something other than local buses or commuter trains. These are generally jam-packed with commuters and could be a better place for the average traveler. The urban public transport infrastructure differs from that of Europe or the USA. It serves mainly the vast workforce and local population, so the overseas visitor best avoids it. Unless you are driving in towns and cities, use only recommended taxis—which have been ordered for or recommended by your hotel or guesthouse. Thousands of mini-bus taxis (usually white) operate in and out of urban areas—these are generally not safe for the foreign traveler to use.

Important Facts About South Africa

  • Population: 57,000,000
  • Currency:  South African Rand—at the time of writing, approximately R14 = US$1.00. One Rand = 100 cents. 
  • Electricity: 220/230V 50Hz
  • 11 Official Languages:  Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Tswati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu. English is generally understood everywhere.
  • 9 Provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North-West, Western Cape.
  • Administrative Capital: Pretoria
  • Legislative Capital:  Cape Town 
  • Judicial Capital: Bloemfontein
  • Time Zone:  GMT + 2
  • Country dialing code:  +27
  • Weights and Measures: Metric

Other Useful Websites and Phone Numbers

  • Emergency Services: 10111 (the equivalent of  911)
  • Hotline for American Travelers: +1  202-647-5225
  • USA Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 431 4000
  • The South African National Tourism Information and Safety: +27 083 123 2345
  • The AA (Automobile Association) of South Africa

Please note: Due to regular fluctuations in the Rand-$ exchange rate, all the above prices should be checked during travel using a currency calculator of choice.

Pearl Harris was born in South Africa, where she spent most of her life before emigrating to the Czech Republic with her husband, Ian, in 2002. Besides travel, her passions are writing, photography, reading, and animals. She has a B.A. in English & Linguistics, a post-graduate Diploma in Translation, and a TEFL qualification. Formerly an EFL teacher, Pearl now freelances and you can find more information on her website about her work proofreading & editing .

Pearl has been widely published in magazines and on the web . Her travel memoir, From Africa to Buková , and the sequel Where is my Home? are available on Amazon.com.

Tanya Linnegar, has authored an article on Coffee Bay in South Africa for Transitions Abroad.

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safe travel in south africa

Travellers Guide to SA - Tips & Requirements

Discover our comprehensive guide for smooth and safe travel experiences in South Africa.

Get valuable tips covering a broad range of topics from visa requirements to safety practices, including unique and sometimes quirky South African factors like load shedding and car guards, to take into consideration.

Every journey is a mosaic of exciting experiences and challenges, and South Africa is no exception. Safety concerns in South Africa are not unique; they're pretty much the same as you'd find in any other part of the world. From New York to Tokyo, every destination has its dos and don'ts.

This guide will help you with planning your trip and having a great holiday in South Africa!

All visitors need a valid passport to enter South Africa. The passport must have at least 30 days remaining from the intended date of departure and must have two blank pages for entry stamps.  

Extended Passports

Please note that:

  • Machine-readable passports that have been extended are not accepted in South Africa
  • Minor’s passports that have been extended could cause entry issues. It is advised that if a minor’s passport is to be used for a trip to South Africa, a new passport should be issued to be on the safe side. This South African entry regulation applies to minor passports from any country

For more details on this, please visit the Department of Home Affairs website here .

Unless the visitor comes from a visa-exempt country it is necessary to present a valid visa.

Travellers who require a visa can apply through the South African e-Visa system if their country is currently catered for in the pilot phase, otherwise, they must apply at a South African embassy or consulate in person and provide biometric data.

Currently, there are several visa-exempt countries for South Africa. Citizens of these countries can enter the country without a visa for limited periods.

To view an up-to-date list of countries catered for via e-Visa or the list of visa-exempt and visa-required countries, please visit South Africa Visa Requirements and Eligible Countries .

Travelling With Minors

Birth certificates.

There is often confusion around this issue since unabridged birth certificates were introduced as a travel requirement for minors arriving in South Africa in 2015. This document was initially required to help prevent child trafficking. However, on Friday, November 8th, 2019, South African government officials announced that birth certificates and consent letters are no longer required.

Current requirements: 

  • Foreign visa-required minors will have their birth certificates processed during their visa application and do not need to produce the document for inspection at the airport upon arrival. A minor presenting a passport which contains the details of his or her parent or parents is not required to produce a birth certificate/equivalent document
  • Foreign visa-exempt minors do not need to present their birth certificate or parental consent letters
  • Supporting documents are not required where minors are in direct transit at an international airport

Accompanied Minors

Minors accompanied by both parents, or one parent, or travelling with a person who is not the biological parent, requires:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid visa, if from a visa-required country

Unaccompanied Minors

Unaccompanied Minors Requires:

  • Copy of the passport(s)/identity document(s) of the parent(s) / legal guardian(s)
  • Contact details of the parent(s)/ legal guardian(s)
  • Copy of birth certificate / equivalent document
  • Note: This dispensation does not apply where a parent is either unwilling to consent or unable to be located due to separation or divorce Where a parent refuses to give consent, a court order in terms of section 18(5) of the Children’s Act, 2005 (Act No. 38 of 2005), may be presented in lieu of parental consent

School Tours

  • In the case of school tours, the parental consent letter may be replaced with a letter from the school principal confirming that all consent letters are held by the school
  • Upon producing this letter, immigration officers at ports of entry and South African missions abroad would not require any additional documents from individual scholars such as parental consent, birth certificates, death certificates, court orders or copies of the passports or identity documents of the parents and of the person receiving the minor in SA
  • This special dispensation applies to all schools registered with the Department of Basic Education in South Africa and its equivalent abroad in respect of South African and visa-required minors
  • Download the suggested format for this letter here

SARS Traveller Declaration

SARS introduced and piloted a new online Traveller Declaration system and is now ready to start rolling out to more airports and border points across South Africa. You can download a quick and useful step-by-step infographic here . 

They also have a very helpful website which provides details on:

  • How the South African Traveller Declaration System Works
  • What to do once you’ve completed your declaration
  • What you will need
  • Before you travel
  • Complete your declaration
  • Arriving in or leaving South Africa
  • Useful links
  • Related Documents

Health Considerations

While there are no compulsory vaccinations for most visitors entering South Africa (note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required if arriving from some endemic regions), it is recommended that you be covered against Tetanus and Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and Typhoid. If you plan to travel to more rural areas or stay for an extended period, you may wish to consider vaccinations for Rabies and Hepatitis B.

Vaccination Certificates

Travellers, including minors, coming from countries where yellow fever is prevalent need to present a certificate showing they have been vaccinated.

No COVID vaccination documents are required for South Africa.

Access to Healthcare Services

South Africa operates a two-tier healthcare system. The public healthcare system serves the majority of the population whilst the country also boasts a robust private healthcare sector, featuring high-quality facilities staffed by highly trained healthcare professionals.

It is advisable for all visitors to South Africa to have comprehensive travel insurance that includes coverage for healthcare expenses. This provides financial protection in the event of medical emergencies or unexpected healthcare requirements. With the right insurance, you can seek care in either the public or private healthcare systems as needed.

South Africa is mostly malaria-free, but some regions do require precautions. Consult your healthcare provider for appropriate vaccines and medications before your trip.

This handy guide provides some detail on what the incidence of malaria is in South Africa and how to safeguard yourself.

Malaria Incidence

From 2010 to 2018, South Africa has experienced varying degrees of success in reducing the malaria burden.

South Africa has made significant progress in controlling malaria, reducing malaria incidence from 11.1 to 2.1 total cases per 1,000 population at risk.

In 2010/2011, the incidence rate for local and unclassified cases only (excluding imported) was 0.87 cases per 1,000 population at risk.

Overall, malaria cases reduced from approximately 14,000 in 2014 to 5,800 in 2016 and increased to 30,000 during an epidemic in 2017 in Limpopo.

The country has achieved high coverage against set targets with effective malaria control interventions in the areas of case management, vector control, surveillance, epidemic preparedness and response (EPR) and health promotion.

Areas of Risk

In South Africa, malaria is mainly transmitted along the border areas.

Some parts of South Africa's nine provinces (Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal) include malaria areas. Malaria transmission in South Africa is seasonal, with malaria cases rising in October, peaking in January and February, and waning towards May, according to the Department of Health.

In Limpopo Province, Vhembe and Mopani districts experience the highest burden of disease, while the remaining three districts (Waterberg, Sekhukhune and Capricorn) experience very low local transmission.

In Mpumalanga Province, transmission is highest in the Bushbuckridge and Nkomazi municipalities of Ehlanzeni district, Mpumalanga's only endemic district.

As compared to the other endemic provinces, KwaZulu Natal districts (Zululand, Umkhanyakude and King Cetshwayo) have reported the lowest burden of malaria cases for the years 2013-2018.

Gauteng Province reported the highest number of imported cases for this period.

Prevention and Cure - A Simple Mnemonic

THE ABDC of Malaria

Common Myths  

Malaria Myths

Sources: Department of Health: Republic of South Africa, The South African National Travel Health Network, Department of Health: Republic of South Africa: Malaria Elimination Strategic Plan for South Africa 2019-2023, The South African National Travel Health Network (SaNTHNeT)

There are no cases, or suspected cases of Ebola in South Africa. The most recent outbreak of Ebola was in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Geographically this is not near South Africa and there is a low risk that Ebola may be exported here.

South Africa has a great deal of experience in diagnosing and managing viral haemorrhagic fevers and has the only BSL-4 high-security laboratory on the continent.

What is Ebola?

Ebola virus is a severe acute viral disease often mistaken as malaria, typhoid fever, cholera, leptospirosis, plague, rickettsiosis, relapsing fever, meningitis, hepatitis, and other haemorrhagic fevers.

How is Ebola Spread?

The Ebola virus is not waterborne or airborne.

The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope or porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.

Ebola then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with:

Blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola Objects that have been contaminated with body fluids (like blood, faeces, vomit) from a person sick with Ebola or the body of a person who died from Ebola

People remain infectious as long as their blood contains the virus.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of EVD can be sudden and include:

Fever / Fatigue/  Muscle pain / Headache / Sore throat

This is followed by:

Vomiting / Diarrhoea / Rash / Symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function In some cases, both internal and external bleeding (for example, oozing from the gums, or blood in the stools). Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.

The incubation period is from 2 to 21 days. A person infected with Ebola cannot spread the disease until they develop symptoms.

Who is at Risk?

The risk of Ebola infection for most travellers to DRC is low. Only those going to the outbreak area or who otherwise have contact with a person with Ebola are at risk.

Travellers could become infected if they come into contact with blood or body fluids from an infected person. Family and friends caring for people with Ebola and healthcare workers who do not use correct infection control precautions are at higher risk.

Where can you find more information about Ebola?

  • World Health Organization
  • National Institute for Communicable Diseases
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Sources: WHO, NICO, CDC

Load shedding.

The famous South African load shedding! It's a scheduled power outage to manage electricity supply. Not to worry; it's usually planned and announced in advance. Just make sure to charge all your devices beforehand and consider carrying a portable charger. Loadshedding is often a great time to sit back and enjoy a good book or have an authentic candlelit dinner. Romantic, isn't it?

Here’s an all-you-need-to-know guide about load shedding for travellers:

What is load shedding?

As South Africa’s primary electricity supplier, Eskom’s mandate is to ensure the security of supply to service. At all times there must be sufficient supply to meet demand.

Eskom faces the challenge of a constrained power system that will affect South Africa until substantial new power capacity is available. In the meantime, to meet demand, older power stations and infrastructure are being used to full capacity.

Load shedding, or load reduction, is done countrywide as a controlled option to respond to unplanned events to protect the electricity power system from a total blackout. This is done through various stages of load shedding.

While we generally use the word blackout loosely to mean “no lights” in our local area, a country-wide blackout has much more serious consequences, which can occur when there is too much demand and too little supply, bringing the power system into an imbalance – tripping the power system in its entirety.

Why is South Africa experiencing load shedding?

Load shedding is related to inadequate national energy supply to meet demand. This is mainly due to a large amount of unplanned maintenance required at Eskom’s aging coal-fired power stations. In addition, the new energy generation units at Medupi and Kusile have faced challenges in bringing the units online.

What are the stages of load shedding?

Load-shedding stages depend on the extent of the shortage of generation capacity to meet the country’s electricity demand, with stage 1 being the least serious, and stage 8 being the most serious. Outages generally last for about 2,5 hours. Due to technical issues, there can be minor changes in the load-shedding area boundaries from time to time. 

  • Stage 1 allows for up to 1,000 MW of the national load to be shed. This is the “cosiest stage”, for lack of a better world. Outages will be implemented three times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or three times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time
  • Stage 2 allows for up to 2,000 MW of the national load to be shed and doubles the frequency of stage 1. Outages will be implemented six times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or six times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time
  • Stage 3 allows for up to 3,000 MW of the national load to be shed. This stage increases the frequency of stage 2 by 50%, so outages will be implemented nine times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or nine times over an eight day period for four hours at a time
  • Stage 4 allows for up to 4,000 MW of the national load to be shed. Outages will be implemented 12 times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or 12 times over an eight day period for four hours at a time
  • Stage 6 is the highest we’ve ever been shed, the dark and dreary month of December 2019. At stages 6 and 7, Eskom sheds 6 000MW and 7 000MW respectively, which means power cuts will be scheduled over a four-day period for four hours at a time
  • Stage 8 doubles the frequency of stage 4, meaning Eskom will shed 8 000MW and residents will be in the dark up to six times a day, or 12 hours depending on the schedule

What will be affected by load shedding?

The following may not be available when the electricity supply at your accommodation is switched off: 

  • Electric geysers and electrically heated water supplies
  • Gas hot water systems that rely on mains power to control the system or ignite the gas
  • Electric appliances such as stoves, kettles, toasters, microwave ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines and tumble dryers
  • Electric lights
  • TV and hi-fi equipment
  • Cordless phones, fax machines and answering machines that run on electricity
  • Electrically motorised security gates and garage doors (those with battery backup should have sufficient capacity to operate a few times during load shedding)
  • Personal computers
  • Electric air conditioning
  • Mains-powered electric clocks and alarm clocks (without backup batteries)
  • Household electric pumps for water features, irrigation or plumbing systems
  • Automatic electronic control systems and time clocks

What is usually not affected by load shedding?

Generally speaking, the following will continue to operate despite load shedding:

  • Security systems that have battery backup (some may trigger an alarm because of the power interruption)
  • Other electronic systems and devices with battery backup or UPS support
  • Telephones that do not rely on mains electricity
  • Cell phones
  • Laptops and tablets

Where can I find out if my area is being load shed?

Your accommodation establishment should have the necessary information on hand to advise when load shedding is scheduled to take place.

If the municipality you are staying in is an Eskom customer, you can also look up your schedule on the Eskom website by typing in the area. Information is also available from the Eskom Contact Centre on 086 003 7566.

If you have a smartphone with data, you can also download such apps as EskomSePush and MyEskom (available on both the Apple iStore and Google Play Store). These will give you continuous updates on current and forecast load shedding times in any areas you select, as well as what stage load shedding is underway.

What is the impact of load shedding for travellers?

While load shedding can be a temporary inconvenience for travellers, many accommodation providers and tourism establishments have equipped themselves with diesel-powered generators to ensure minimal inconvenience for their guests and visitors. This applies to most shopping centres and restaurants too.

If you happen to be travelling to South Africa over a load shedding period, ensure you’ve looked at the Eskom website or apps mentions above and plan your day based on when there’s no scheduled load shedding and to time your visits to tourist attractions that do not have back-up power accordingly.

Should you be staying at an accommodation provider or visiting a tourism establishment with power, know that the load shedding is a temporary situation and try to prepare as much as possible, e.g., requesting a thermos of hot water before the load shedding begins so you’re not deprived of your coffee.

And of course, you’re in South Africa! There’s plenty to do that does not require electricity. Go to the beach, take a road trip or catch a glimpse of the Big 5 – if nothing else going off the grid will restore your soul. 

Load Shedding Tips for Travellers

Load shedding may be inconvenient, but you could minimise this by being prepared and staying positive and patient. With a bit of luck, you will only be minimally affected, or not at all.

  • Your accommodation establishment will have this etched into their brains. They will probably inform you each day when to expect load shedding and also know the best coffee spot and restaurants with power in the near vicinity.
  • Remember, power cut times differ between regions and even within a city. If you’re re on the move, be prepared and look ahead and where you’re going, the likely time you’re planning to be there, whether there is load shedding and whether these establishments have back-up power if there is.
  • Plan your dining times in areas that are not being load shed or outside of load shedding times. Many restaurants have a back-up plan, so check with your accommodation provider or the restaurant.
  • Try to avoid non-essential car journeys in cities during load shedding – see traffic lights below.
  • However, counter to this, driving in the rural areas during load shedding is a good way to see the country, and not feel the need for electricity. An added bonus is you can charge your devices at the same time.
  • Make sure that your phone and camera are fully charged prior to the power cuts.
  • The hotel or lodge will have provided extra emergency lighting in your rooms, but it will be darker than normal so we also recommend bringing a head torch so that you can have both hands free. Why not keep your phone (with its ‘torch’ app) close to your bed?
  • The reality is that nothing works quite as it should when there is a power cut. Therefore, your room may not be ready at the usual check-in time because there was a power cut when they were due to clean the room.
  • The good news is that you are on holiday. The hotel swimming pool doesn’t need power, nor does a walk on the beach or a scenic drive over a mountain pass.
  • Please note that most generators do NOT power lifts or elevators in hotels so make a habit of using the stairs.
  • Whenever possible, ensure that your devices are charged fully. Plug them in overnight, charge your powerbanks when you can and ensure you have a car charger for those long road trips.
  • Speaking of long road trips, ensure your vehicle always has fuel in the tank because many petrol stations cannot pump fuel during power outages.
  • Similarly, some card pay points may be slow or non-operation during load shedding. ATMs cannot operate without electricity so ensure you carry enough cash on you, but be vigilant about carrying too much and displaying it openly.
  • Ensure that the accommodation you are staying in has backup batteries in its electrically operated gates, garage doors and security systems are in good condition to last through periods of load shedding.
  • Ensure that the accommodation you are staying in has temporary lighting readily available, e.g. battery-powered torches, gas lamps and candles. Make sure these items are located in places where they will be easy to find in the dark.
  • Boil water and keep it in thermos flasks for hot drinks for times when the power is scheduled to be switched off.
  • Use an insulating cover on teapots and other pots and pans to keep drinks hot, and meals warm.
  • Prepare meals beforehand in readiness for periods when there will be power cuts.
  • Fill plastic containers with water (still leaving some space inside each container for expansion during freezing) in a deep freeze or the freezer compartment of your fridge. This frozen bottled water will help keep food cold during a power outage.

Is it Safe to Travel to South Africa?

When it comes to tourism safety in South Africa, it's important to know that there are practical steps you can take to mitigate the impact of crime and ensure a secure travel experience. Locals will often advise you to be cautious and remain constantly aware of your surroundings, as this can go a long way in ensuring your safety.

By following this advice, you'll have the opportunity to create lifelong memories while exploring South Africa's breathtaking landscapes, encountering its diverse wildlife, and immersing yourself in its fascinating history. Along the way, you'll have the chance to meet captivating people from a variety of cultures, enriching your travel experience.

It's worth noting that as a visitor, you can also make a positive contribution to the prevention of crime by adhering to some key suggestions. While South Africa is known for being a popular destination, attracting numerous repeat visitors, it's essential to keep in mind that millions of tourists visit the country without incident each year.

Like many cosmopolitan destinations, South Africa faces its share of crime. However, it's important to understand that this crime is not primarily targeted at tourists and does not typically occur in areas frequented by visitors. While exceptions exist, ensuring tourism safety in South Africa remains a top priority for the industry.

Media reports often highlight South Africa's reputation for crime and corruption. However, it's crucial not to base perceptions solely on these reports as they may not always provide a balanced perspective and can sometimes exaggerate the situation. Instead, consulting your travel agent or tour operator will provide a more accurate picture of what is happening on the ground.

Just like any other country, South Africa has areas that are safer than others. In most cases, common sense prevails, and taking the same precautions you would when travelling in any foreign country or city in the world is advisable. Furthermore, planning a properly structured itinerary through a reputable tour operator with a strong tourism safety protocol will help mitigate any potential risks. In the unlikely event of an incident, this ensures that you will receive swift assistance from experts and local authorities.

Is South Africa Safe for Solo Travellers?

It is generally safe to travel alone in South Africa. However, like any other destination, it is important to take necessary precautions and be aware of your surroundings. It is recommended to stay in well-populated areas, avoid walking alone at night, and take taxis or rideshares instead.

Careful planning and knowledge of how to get around are key to making the most out of your visit while staying safe. It is also advisable to inform someone from your accommodation of your plans for added peace of mind. Remember, prioritizing your safety is essential for an enjoyable and worry-free trip to South Africa.

Is South Africa LGBTQA++ Friendly?

South Africa is often rated as one of the friendliest LGBTAQ++ destinations and is known for having one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, which includes protections for LGBTQA++ individuals.

Here is what makes South Africa one of the most gay-friendly destinations:

  • The majority of the South African public is accepting of homosexuality
  • Sexual activity for same-sex couples: Male legal since 1998. Females were always legal.
  • Civil union rights: Limited recognition of unregistered partnerships since 1998; same-sex marriage since 2006.
  • Marriage rights: Legal since 2006.
  • Adoption rights: Legal since 2002.
  • Military service rights: Legal since 1998.
  • Anti-discrimination laws: Our Constitution bans all anti-gay discrimination.
  • Gender identity laws: Anti-discrimination laws are interpreted to include gender identity; legal gender may be changed after surgical or medical treatment.

That being said, there are still incidents of discrimination against the community, particularly in rural areas. Please exercise caution and research your visit well or get guidance from a reputable tour operator or travel agent.

Is it Safe to Visit a Township?

If you're planning a holiday in South Africa, you may have come across warnings about crime in the townships or even advice that you should avoid these areas completely. While it's true that crime rates are often higher in these areas, tours of the townships occur every day without incident, offering a glimpse into how many South Africans live and the complexity of South African society.

Visiting one of the townships is a great way to get an authentic glimpse of everyday life and culture in these vibrant communities. Engaging with local people and seeing how they live, work, and play is a rewarding cultural experience for many tourists. Township tours also provide an opportunity to learn about the history and evolution of these areas, from their humble beginnings as informal settlements to their current status as thriving urban centres.

However, it's important to ensure that you go into the "right" places within these townships to ensure that your visit goes smoothly. Opting for a guided tour with a reputable operator who has knowledge of the area and a planned itinerary is the best way to do this. These tours are carefully structured by people who know these areas best and are often led by guides who have grown up within the township, experienced living there firsthand, and have close personal ties to the area and its residents.

Whether you're in Johannesburg and want to explore the vibrant township of Soweto or in Cape Town and wish to trek your way through Langa - the Mother City's oldest township - you will have no trouble finding a guide to share the colourful stories, sights, and sounds of these areas. With improved safety and carefully structured tours, you can count on an authentic day of sights and activities, making for a more meaningful excursion.

While you definitely shouldn't be fearful when embarking on a guided township tour in South Africa, it's always important to follow your guide's directions, be aware of your surroundings, and keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Do not carry large sums of money on you
  • Do not wear flashy jewellery
  • Keep personal belongings such as handbags and backpacks secure at all times
  • Always be aware of your surroundings
  • Stick close to your tour group

Is South Africa politically stable?

South Africa's government and politics are stable. Having gone through a traumatic past of apartheid, civil and political unrest, and the incredible changes that created the current democratic system of governance under Nelson Mandela, South Africans are incredibly proud of their Rainbow Nation and democratic freedom.

Our hard-fought-for constitution allows South Africans to stand up for their rights when they feel aggrieved. This occasionally surfaces as protests - the majority of which are peaceful demonstrations but can become disorderly. In either case, protests and surrounding areas are best avoided by tourists.

Travel Advisories

In our commitment to ensuring a seamless and secure travel experience in South Africa, SATSA has compiled a series of trade advisories designed to address current concerns and enhance the safety and comfort of your journey.

Advisories will be updated and maintained here, so please do visit regularly. 

  • Election Season Insight : With South Africa poised for its 2024 general elections, our advisory offers a comprehensive guide on what travellers can expect during this significant period. Find out more about the measures in place to ensure a peaceful and orderly process.  Read the Election Advisory .
  • Water Supply Update for Gauteng : Amid concerns over potential water supply issues in Gauteng, we provide reassurance and updates on the situation, ensuring your stay in Johannesburg remains unaffected.  Read the Water Supply Advisory .
  • Navigating ATM and Card Scams : Recent reports of ATM and card scams targeting tourists have prompted us to issue an advisory on staying vigilant and secure. Learn about the modus operandi of these scams and how to protect yourself.  Read the ATM and Card Scams Advisory .
  • Self-Drive Safely in South Africa : For those embarking on a self-drive adventure, our guide covers essential safety tips, from navigating local roads to dealing with breakdowns and ensuring vehicle security.  Read the Self-Drive FAQ .

Definitions

Birth Certificate

  • An extract from the Birth Register containing the particulars of a minor and his/her parent(s). Birth certificates containing the details of a minor as well as his/her parent/s are accepted for the purposes of these requirements regardless of the country of issue
  • In the case of countries that do not issue birth certificates, an ’equivalent document’ containing the particulars of the minor and his/her parent(s), issued by the competent authority of that country, or an embassy of that country may be produced
  • The suggested format for Equivalent Document is available here
  • South African law regards any person younger than 18 years as a child.

Equivalent Document

  • In the case of countries that endorse the particulars of parents in minors’ passports, or other official identification documents, these documents shall be acceptable for the purpose of establishing the identity of the parents of the travelling minor

Letter of Special Circumstances

  • Letter issued by the Director-General of Home Affairs in lieu of parental consent in the event of a recent death or mental or physical disability
  • Unless the context indicates otherwise, the word “parent” includes adoptive parents and legal guardians.

Parental Consent Letter

  • Must accompany a birth certificate when any parent is not travelling with his or her child
  • Must not be older than 6 months when presented
  • Suggested format of the Parental Consent letter is available here

safe travel in south africa

Is it safe to travel to South Africa?

Woman taking pictures of the view at the top of a mountain in South Africa on a sunny day

We take your safety extremely seriously. We're in constant contact with staff on the ground, and our itineraries are designed with safety as the number one priority.

While South Africa is generally a safe destination for travelers, there are some issues you should be aware of and some tips on how to be a smart traveler.

South Africa is a beautiful country to travel to as long as you remain vigilant. The crime rate is high, and incidents including petty theft, armed robberies and carjacking are common. Protests and political demonstrations can also become violent. It's unlikely that travelers will experience violent crime in major tourist areas, but it's possible. Crimes tend to occur in major towns and cities after dark or during planned blackouts, known as load-shedding. You should avoid walking at night and use Ubers or hotel shuttles instead.

If you're a solo traveler, a female traveler and/or a person who identifies as LGBTQIA+, you may face extra challenges. Whoever you are, it's important to be extra diligent when traveling through South Africa to understand the risks that you may face and know how to avoid or deal with them.

No matter where you travel, you should always be prioritizing your personal safety. We recommend doing the following while in South Africa:

Avoid protests and large public gatherings as these can become violent – keep tabs on social media and follow local authorities' advice

Avoid the Numbi Gate entrance to Kruger National Park

Don’t travel after dark, especially outside of the major cities

Don't carry your wallet in your back pocket

When traveling in a car, ensure doors and windows are locked at all times, only stop at designated areas such as service stations and be extra vigilant at traffic lights

Travel during daylight and on toll highways where possible

Use ATMs during the daytime and don’t draw attention to valuables or money – try to withdraw smaller amounts at a time if possible.

For more information on dangerous areas and safe travel in South Africa, these government websites may be helpful:

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs

British Foreign Office

Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs

New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs

US State Department

Let's create an exclusive trip for your group.

safe travel in south africa

Safety In Africa: Tips For Staying Safe

For many, just the thought of travelling to Africa is enough to send them scurrying under their bed with fear.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about crime and diseases, so most people’s concerns about visiting are usually centered around safety in Africa.

Africa is a daunting and challenging place to travel to. However, it is one of the most rewarding travel experiences you will ever have.

There is no place on earth like Africa, and if you can tame those monsters that hide in your shadows, then it is so worth you investing time and money travelling on this unique and vast continent.

In this guide, we share our top safety tips for traveling in Africa, so you can feel more at ease about visiting.

Global Peace Index Scores

Behaviour / appearance safety tips, 2. destination safety tips, 3. driving in africa safety tips, 4. health in africa safety tips, group tours of africa, final thoughts, more africa travel posts, is africa safe.

Since Africa is a continent, you cannot simply say yes or no with regards to safety.

Some of the safest countries to visit in Africa include Mauritius, Botswana , Rwanda, Seychelles , Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, and Zambia.

These destinations are known for their welcoming hospitality, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural experiences.

Malawi is also safe in terms of crime, and is often described as The Warm Heart of Africa, though there are malaria zones and other diseases to watch out for there.

On the other hand, certain areas may pose higher safety risks due to crime and civil unrest.

Some cities in Zambia, such as Lusaka and Livingstone, have a higher crime rate.

Travelers are advised to exercise increased caution when visiting some regions such as Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia, as well as some cities in South Africa such as Johannesburg.

There are particular areas where crime is higher, such as the Townships, or slums, which are areas that tourists wouldn’t go anyway.

Stick to the main touristy areas and tourist attractions, and you shouldn’t run into any problems.

Also, check where they rank on the Global Peace Index , to get a feel for how bad crime is.

To help you understand which countries are considered safe, here are the gpi score for some of the most visited countries in Africa.

For context, the Global Peace Index (GPI) scores work by measuring and ranking the relative peacefulness of nations and regions based on various indicators such as levels of violence, crime rates, military expenditures, terrorism, and political stability.

The scores are calculated using a wide range of data, including surveys, qualitative analysis, and expert assessments, and offer a guide to the overall assessment of peace and security.

The lower scores indicate a higher level of peace and stability.

The following scores are as of January 2024. The lowest score is 1.1, and the highest is 3.4.

Safety Tips For Traveling in Africa

To make sure you don’t run into the wrong area, or attract any unwanted attention, be sure to follow these words of advice about safety in Africa…

As with any place you visit, act confidently and always be friendly . You don’t want to invite trouble your way. Africans are really friendly, there is no reason you can’t return their beaming smiles and chat with them.

Do not wear any flashy jewelry . Look like a budget traveller. Never talk about money and how much you have. Try not to carry a lot of money on you and keep it well hidden.

Ladies , there will be many local men that will want to chat you up, these are really young, cool, good looking men. It is so easy to be charmed by them. Just be careful.

We found the locals really aggressive in Tanzania. They will crowd you and pull at you in order to get you to buy from them etc.

Just be really firm and confident with them from the word go. Avoid conversation and eye contact. Just a curt nod of the head and move on.

Choose your destination wisely . Some African countries are safer than others, so always check your government’s travel advisory warnings.

Know your own comfort level and be prepared for any dangers you may encounter.

I personally would not go to places that are currently involved in acts of war or aggression or have a high crime rate.

Countries like Somalia have too many cases of kidnapping and robbery for me to see the appeal of going. For me, it is just not worth it.

Try to avoid walking around at night. Unless you are in big cities and with a group of people. I would just stick to the campsites/hostels/hotels, or if you do, don’t be rolling drunk or by yourself.

Know the area you are in. Just in case there are wild animals, you don’t want to be unknowingly walking around in their home at night time (or day for that matter).

Also have the number of the local authorities saved on your phone, so you know who to call in case you need to.

We stayed at St Lucia , one of my favorite South African towns, but it was also a place where hippos freely wandered the streets at night.

The only place I was really scared was Johannesburg, but that was because I had heard a lot of horror stories of carjacking, mugging, armed robbery, and worse.

Nothing happened to us.

The second time I went there I had my brother, who lived there for awhile, to look out for me and take me to the safe areas.

Make sure you are aware of where it is safe to go and where it is not . If you happen to be in Johannesburg, simply get an Uber everywhere. Don’t walk, even if it’s just 5 minutes down the road.

If you can spend time with local people you know and trust who know the area like this then hang out with them.

It will ease your mind and allow you to see the good side of the destination.

Or if you are that concerned then perhaps join a tour of these certain areas.

Hiring a car is a fantastic way to see certain parts of Africa, especially the Game Reserves and National Parks. Make sure you understand the road rules and take care . Check Discover Cars for best prices and availability .

If you do plan to self-drive a safari, be sure to check out our safari tips to maximize your experience.

When in the game parks keep your windows rolled up when you get close to the wild animals. Yes, they could jump in there. Only get out of your car at the designated rest areas and still keep your five senses heightened.

Don’t lean out of the car to photograph lions or rhino, as they may come up close to your vehicle.

When driving around Africa, you will have plenty of cars, trucks and other vehicles overtaking at any moment, blind corners or not.

I always honk my horn several times when approaching a blind corner to warn anyone coming opposite to stay on their side of the road until I pass.

Also note that speed cameras are ruthless in South Africa. You might not even know they are there, so be sure to make sure you’re not speeding if you want to avoid a fine.

If you come face to face with an elephant and he starts flapping his ears, that is your cue to reverse a bit and give him his space. And if he charges then lets hope you can drive like Michael Schumaker.

If you have to catch public transport i.e mini-vans, pick ups, never sit in the front seat/cabin. It is commonly known as the Death Seat . Take the squashy back options – it is safer.

Make sure that you get the recommended vaccinations before you arrive in Africa. You will need Yellow Fever and may not be allowed to enter your own country upon return if you have not had it.

You may also need to get vaccinations for Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid, as well as the normal precautions such as tetanus jabs.

Carry your vaccination booklet with you as you will need a lot of vaccinations and won’t remember when you had it or when you need a booster. You’ll need to show it to prove you have had your yellow fever vaccination as well.

Do you have malaria pills? Probably something you should have. Although they generally just mask the symptoms rather than prevent them.

My brother still got malaria even while taking them and was holed up in a small, dusty cabin on Lake Malawi for three months. He was happy enough, as the World Cup Soccer was on so he could watch all the matches.

Some have ugly side effects so choose wisely. We didn’t have any problems with Doxycycline, although it can make you more sensitive to the sun.

They came in handy for me when I contracted Tick Bite Fever. They are an antibiotic so they helped clear it up.

Watch out when swimming in stagnant water (particularly in Malawi) where you can get Bilharzia. Check with the locals they will tell you if it is okay to swim or not.

Don’t go hiking mountains in the heat of a Malawian 40 degree day. You will feel like you are about to die from heat stroke – really stupid move.

We ate plenty of food from local vendors and street food and never got sick. Go for it! Choose places that are well frequented by locals. Make sure the food is piping hot before you tuck in and you should avoid food poisoning disasters.

It’s important to travel to Africa with adequate travel insurance! Check Visitor’s Coverage  and  World Nomads , and  SafetyWing  for prices and policies.

If you’re considering joining a group tour for Africa, consider our long-term partner Globus family of brands. We have a discount in the blue box below.

  • Globus tours of Africa
  • Cosmos tours of Africa

GLOBUS DISCOUNT JUST FOR YOU!

We’ve secured an exclusive yTravel discoun t: Save $100 per person on select 2024 Globus and Avalon Waterway Vacations. Use the code: YTRAVEL when booking online at the Globus , Cosmos , and Avalon Waterways websites, by calling Globus and Avalon Waterways directly, or booking with a preferred Travel Advisor. Terms & Conditions .

I was a little scared when we decided we were going to travel around East and South Africa independently.

The tours sounded safe and comfortable, but we really wanted more of an authentic experience.

With this came a certain amount of fear. But, my fears were alleviated as soon as we touched ground.

After almost five months of catching local transport, camping, and spending a lot of time with the locals, we had no dangers or horror stories to speak of – only challenging journeys, warm friendships made, and one out of the ordinary case of tick bite fever.

  • Top 5 Things in Botswana to experience the natural beauty
  • 7 Reasons to visit Mozambique
  • 13 awe-inspiring things to do in Eastern and Southern Africa
  • Best tips for going on a safari in Africa
  • Helpful tips for getting around East and Southern Africa
  • How to travel Africa on a budget

For many, just the thought of travelling to Africa is enough to send them scurrying under their bed with fear. We’ve all heard the horror stories about crime and diseases, so most people’s concerns about …   Safety In Africa: Tips For Staying Safe Read More »

South Africa elections 2024 explained in maps and charts

On May 29, South Africans head to the polls. After 30 years of dominance, the ANC faces its toughest election yet, needing 50 percent to maintain its majority.

INTERACTIVE - South Africa elections 2024 in maps and charts-1716730785

On May 29, South Africans will vote in national and provincial elections to elect a new National Assembly and state legislatures. The National Assembly will choose the president for the next five years.

It will be the country’s seventh democratic general election since apartheid ended in 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected president with the ANC winning 62.5 percent of the 400 seats in the National Assembly.

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After 30 years of dominance, the African National Congress (ANC) faces its toughest election yet, needing 50 percent of the National Assembly to maintain its parliamentary majority.

INTERACTIVE - South Africa elections 2024 - South Africa at a glance-1716730775

When do polls open?

A total of 23,292 polling stations will be open from 7am to 9pm (05:00 GMT to 19:00 GMT), with election day declared a public holiday to facilitate voting.

According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), 27.79 million South Africans aged 18 and above have registered for the elections this year up from 26.74 million in 2019.

Registered voters living abroad cast their votes on May 17 and 18 and voters with special needs, including pregnant women and people with disabilities, will cast their ballots two days before election day on May 27 and 28.

How does the election work?

South Africa follows a proportional voting system where parties and candidates compete for 400 seats in the parliament known as the National Assembly.

For the first time, independent candidates will compete in the elections. To accommodate this change, voters will receive three ballots instead of two, each requiring a choice of one party or candidate.

Two ballots will be for electing the National Assembly, and the third will be for electing members of the provincial legislature in each of South Africa’s nine provinces.

South Africa’s election management body, the IEC , cleared 14,889 candidates, including 70 political parties and 11 independents, to contest 887 seats in the May vote.

INTERACTIVE - South Africa elections 2024 - how voting works-1716785010

  • Same ballot across the country
  • Voters elect one of 52 political parties
  • Represents 200 seats in the National Assembly
  • Unique to each province
  • Voters elect either a political party or an independent candidate
  • Represents the remaining 200 seats in the National Assembly
  • Voters elect political parties and independent candidates
  • The number of seats is determined by the population size in each province

Who is in South Africa’s current National Assembly?

South Africa’s lower house of parliament currently includes 14 political parties represented by 400 members, allocated proportionally based on the votes each party received in the 2019 elections.

  • African National Congress (ANC): 230 seats (57.5 percent)
  • Democratic Alliance (DA): 84 seats (21 percent)
  • Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF): 44 seats (11 percent)
  • Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP): 14 seats (3.5 percent)

Ten other parties make up the remaining 28 seats.

INTERACTIVE - South Africa elections 2024 - current national assembly-1716730760

How is the president in South Africa elected?

South Africans do not directly vote for the president.

Instead, they elect 400 members of the National Assembly, who then select the president by a simple majority – 201 or more votes determine the presidency.

If the ANC secures more than 50 percent of the seats, President Cyril Ramaphosa, 71, will most likely be re-elected as president to serve his second and final five-year term.

INTERACTIVE - South Africa elections 2024 - Ramaphosa and ANC-1716730770

What if no party receives a majority?

Opinion polls suggest the governing ANC, which is hovering at about 40 percent , will likely lose its majority.

If this happens, then the ANC will need to try to make a deal with other parties to form a coalition government, with the choice of coalition partner depending on their distance from the 50 percent mark.

Nevertheless, unless the ANC performs much worse than expected, there is a slim chance they could be completely removed from government.

How has the ANC performed in previous elections?

The ANC has won every election since the end of apartheid in 1994 when Mandela became the country’s first Black president.

In the 1994 and 1999 elections, the ANC won 62.5 percent and 66.36 percent of the votes, respectively, with high voter turnouts of 86 percent and 89 percent.

In 2004, amid a lower voter turnout of 76 percent, the ANC reached its highest levels, clinching almost 70 percent of the vote and securing Thabo Mbeki a second term as president.

In September 2008, Kgalema Motlanthe assumed the role of caretaker president after President Mbeki resigned, at the request of his party. He held this position until 2009 when Jacob Zuma took office following the ANC’s victory with nearly 66 percent of the vote.

Five years later, in the 2014 elections, the ANC emerged victorious but with a reduced share of the vote at 62 percent. The Democratic Alliance (DA) made significant gains, securing 22 percent of the vote. The newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party under former African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) President Julius Malema garnered 6 percent of the vote.

In 2018, following years of internal disputes and scandals, Zuma announced his resignation, leading Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to assume the presidency.

In the 2019 elections, voter turnout hit a low of 66 percent, with the ANC receiving 57.5 percent of the vote.

INTERACTIVE - South Africa elections - previous election results-1716730754

Who is likely to win?

Four of the biggest players to watch out for in this year’s election are the ANC, the DA, the MK and the EFF.

INTERACTIVE - South Africa elections 2024 -major political parties-1716730781

ANC – Cyril Ramaphosa (71)

According to the most recent opinion poll by local broadcaster eNCA , support for the ANC stands at about 43.4 percent – a two-point increase from two months ago.

The ANC is expected to win majorities in seven out of South Africa’s nine provinces.

However, it is projected to be defeated by Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and also in the Western Cape, where the DA is poised for another victory.

DA – John Steenhuisen (48)

Polling in second with about 18.6 percent is the country’s official opposition DA, which has been campaigning on a platform to “rescue South Africa”.

The DA currently holds a majority in South Africa’s Western Cape province, with Cape Town as its capital city. In the 2019 elections, it won 55.45 percent of the vote in the province.

MK – Jacob Zuma (82)

The MK party, named after the ANC’s former paramilitary wing uMkhonto we Sizwe (meaning “Spear of the Nation”), is currently polling in third at 14.1 percent.

The party led by former President Zuma was formed in 2023 and is expected to gain seats from the ANC.

In May, South Africa’s Constitutional Court barred Zuma from running for parliament following his 2021 contempt of court conviction; however, he remains the face of the party and is expected to present a candidate from the party as his stand-in.

EFF – Julius Malema (43)

Bringing up the top four, with 11.4 percent, is the anti-establishment EFF led by Julius Malema.

Formerly an ally of Zuma, Malema was expelled from the ANC in 2012 due to his disagreements with the then-president and other party members. He then went on to establish the EFF in 2013.

When will the results be announced?

The IEC normally begins releasing partial results within hours of polls closing.

In the last national election held on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, the final results were announced three days later on Saturday, May 11.

However, this year, with one more ballot to count, verifying results may take longer.

The IEC says it will announce the election results on Sunday, June 2.

safe travel in south africa

Home » News » South Africa

Avatar photo

By Agence France Presse

3 minute read

14 Dec 2021

Travel ban: SA and 10 other African countries taken off UK red list

The uk's health minister sajid javid said the travel ban is "now less effective in slowing the incursion of omicron from abroad"..

Flights canncelled due to Omicron - Travel bans and restrictions

. Image: iStock

The UK is to drop 11 African countries, including South Africa, from its “red list” barring incoming travel, ministers said on Tuesday.

From 0400 GMT on Wednesday, all will be removed from the list, said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The UK government had responded to the identification of the Omicron variant in South Africa by banning travel from 10 Southern African countries and Nigeria.

Currently, only people who are British or Irish citizens or have UK residence rights can fly in from the red-listed countries, and they have to quarantine in hotels on arrival.

“As always, we keep all our travel measures under review and we may impose new restrictions should there be a need to do so to protect public health,” Shapps tweeted.

Amsterdam airport to ban private jets, night flights

ALSO READ: Tourism on tenterhooks over stricter lockdown measures

Health Minister Sajid Javid also announced the measure to MPs in parliament as Prime Minister Boris Johnson seeks their backing for his new restrictions to curb the spread of Omicron.

Javid said the travel ban was being lifted because it is “now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad”.

‘Knee-jerk reactions’

As other nations were banning travel to and from South Africa, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) cautioned the countries “not to engage in knee-jerk reactions”.

Dirco said new variants had been detected in other countries as well, with these cases showing “no recent links with southern Africa”. 

The department also said the reaction to other variants “is starkly different to cases in southern Africa”. 

“This latest round of travel bans is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker.

“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished.”

NOW READ: Omicron variant: Dirco says UK govt rushed decision to place SA on its red list

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Joburg residents urged to stay safe amid heavy rain forecast

safe travel in south africa

  • Rain droplets on a car window.
  • Image Credits :
  • Patricia Visagie
  • 4 June 2024, 19:09 [SAST]

The Johannesburg Emergency Management Services has urged residents in the City to remain on high alert following predictions of heavy rainfall this week.

Disaster units say they are also on standby to deal with any flooding and damage to properties.

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) h as warned of disruptive rain and thunderstorms in some parts of the country, including Gauteng.

According to SABC Meteorologist Joel Guy Chabata, Gauteng should expect snow this winter season.

“Since Friday and Saturday, there was talk of snow in Gauteng and even as far as Namibia. Well, that didn’t happen as you’d want to know weather systems always change so even the forecast, we might be seeing something in two to three or five days,” he explains.

Informal settlement residents, meanwhile, say they are freezing and afraid of damage to their shacks from fires amid the heavy rains and cold weather with the EMS adding they are concerned about the increase in fires in the city after the China Mart complex in Crown Mines and a building in Midrand caught fire this week.

Emergency Services has since advised the public to exercise caution by switching off all heating devices before leaving a room or heading to bed in order to prevent any fire or damage.

EMS spokesperson, Xolile Khumalo says: “As part of our yearly winter awareness campaign several townships will be visited to educate them about fire prevention and safety measures. We caution the residents of Johannesburg to practice extra caution when using electrical appliances by ensuring that these are switched off after use.”

Weather | Warnings issued for snow, rain, strong winds in multiple provinces

Patricia Visagie

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