Why has Johannesburg become less safe?

South Africa Security: Traveling in South Africa really is that safe

"How safe is South Africa actually?" - A question that we asked ourselves again and again before the trip and that you will definitely be very interested in.

After almost two months we can now say: It's not that wild! Provided you follow a few simple rules and know how to behave.

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

Note: Our text only refers to corners that we have visited ourselves. For example Cape Town, the Garden Route or the Kruger National Park.

Further contributions for your South Africa planning:

Our experiences before and during the trip

We want to say one thing right away: During our trip through South Africa, we weren't even afraid, weren't stolen, weren't threatened and we weren't shot either. Can you believe it? : D

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

As is so often the case, we heard stories about theft, robbery or other crimes in advance. Someone always knew someone who had problems in South Africa.

Even while we were telling the story, we could only shake our heads every time. Either the stories were completely exaggerated from the start, only half true, or it was their own fault.

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

The crime rate in South Africa

Nevertheless, we do not want to and will not talk nicely. South Africa is still a country with a very high crime rate, a big problem and by no means comparable to Germany.

The income gap is gigantic and the gap between rich and poor is terrifying and sad at the same time. While in the city centers people sometimes live in luxury apartments with a pool and a sea view, millions of people outside in the town ships still have to fight for bare survival in corrugated iron huts every day.

Without money. Without work. Without perspective.

And it is precisely in these townships, where the dark-skinned South Africans were exiled during apartheid, that the majority of the serious crimes take place. Yes, gang wars, drug smuggling and murder are part of it.

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

Due to the fact that the town ships are outside, serious crimes within the cities are much rarer and tourists are almost never affected by them.

Security of individual areas

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

Security in Cape Town

A few years ago Cape Town was considered to be much more unsafe than it is today. That has changed a lot in the meantime.

On the one hand, this is due to the large amount of money that is being poured into the city's coffers as a result of the increasing tourism and, on the other hand, the numerous security patrols and police patrols in the city center.

We ourselves found Cape Town to be very safe. And as described above, much of the nasty crime takes place outside in the town ships.

Cape Town is better known for petty criminals such as pickpockets or smaller drug vendors, who sometimes talk to you from the side in the evenings. So in the end nothing else than in other big cities in the world.

So just leave your trouser pockets empty and prefer to carry the backpack on the front. As an alternative, you can also choose a backpack that is difficult to open. For example this one: Tatonka Vento *

Beggars in Cape Town: Beggars are as much a part of Cape Town as Table Mountain. So don't be surprised if you are often asked for money in the city center. The following applies here: the more insecure you seem, the more persistent they remain.

Often, however, a friendly and at the same time very decisive “Sorry, no cash.” Is enough to leave you alone again.

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

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

In the evening we were often out and about a little longer in the city and then walked a few blocks to the bus stop. Completely problem-free.

But that doesn't mean that the city is safe in the dark. The probability of becoming a victim of an attack is definitely higher at night than during the day.

For this reason, we have always followed a few simple rules of the game in the dark, which we will also reveal to you below in the behavioral tips and with which we got along very well.

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

Safety on the Garden Route

No ifs or buts, the Garden Route is not only one of the most beautiful, but also one of the most prosperous corners of the country. Small, clean cities, big houses, new cars, expensive restaurants.

To be honest, our standard of living here felt more like Europe than Africa. This is also reflected in security. Several hotel owners told us on arrival: "Even when it's dark you can be outside without any problems."

So during our road trip along the Garden Route we had no concerns and it seemed to us to be the safest part of our South Africa trip. But that doesn't mean that we felt unsafe in the other corners. ;)

The only thing that kept reminding us of the country's poverty and problems were some small town ships on the edge of the autobahn.

You can find more about the Garden Route in our article: Garden Route in South Africa - The best highlights, our route and tips

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Safety in Johannesburg

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

As a tourist, it is best not to be seen outside, especially when it is dark, and caution is advised.

Even when we just wanted to walk to the supermarket after arriving in South Africa, the hotel staff said we'd better take a taxi or UBER. Mind you during the day.

However, the hotel was also in the airport area, which we didn't find very inviting in general. We cannot say what it is like in the city center itself.

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

How safe is a rental car tour?

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

  1. Don't leave things in the car. Not even an empty water bottle, garbage or anything else. Also opens the glove compartment. This way, possible intruders can quickly see that there is nothing to be taken and move on.
  2. Avoid driving in the dark. This may not always work, but it shouldn't become a habit either. If you drive in the dark, always lock the car from the inside.

Otherwise, a few words about general driving safety:

  • In South Africa there is left-hand traffic. It was a bit strange for us at first, but after a short period of getting used to it, it worked surprisingly well. Nevertheless, it is something completely different than driving a scooter on the left.
  • Take your time while driving and look three times in each direction before you continue.
  • The South Africans themselves have proven to be very disciplined drivers who mostly adhere to traffic signs, red lights and speed limits. Somehow we didn't expect it.
  • However, you should watch out for the large, white 9-seater that transports many locals to work. The drivers are really insane.

Important NOTE: There is no end to flashing in South Africa! Even Germany is really humane against it and the punishments are not exactly without it.

How dangerous is the wildlife?

Another topic that is also part of security in South Africa is the animal world.

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

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

The probability that a lion or a crocodile will suddenly cross the highway is also 0%. Even the larger national parks are completely fenced. We only saw wild monkeys on the highway several times.

Bathing in South Africa: Great White Sharks and Bathing? Is that possible? Jain! There are special corners where swimming is safe and corners where you shouldn't go into the water.

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

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

The beaches are beautiful, but the sea is freezing (around 15 ° degrees mostly) and mostly very rough with strong waves.

Useful equipment against theft

Even if the security in South Africa is much better than its reputation, minor theft cannot of course be ruled out. To protect you from this as much as possible, here are a few useful recommendations:

  • Pacsafe * - Especially if you spend a lot of the night in hostels or normal hotels without a safe, the Pacsafe is a loyal travel companion that protects important things from thieves.