Five Tips for Safe Travel in South Africa

South Africa is a wonderful place to visit, but poverty and increased crime rates have made travelers hesitant to take a trip to the country. But with such an impressive diversity of cultures, languages and landscapes, South Africa boasts much to be proud of, and much to attract the adventuresome traveler. So here are some tips for taking a trip to South Africa that’s memorable – for the right reasons.

Get the facts straight

As with any trip, it’s advisable to do your homework before leaving. South Africa has a reputation for violent crime, but some preparation beforehand can familiarize you with how deserved that reputation is. While the country does experience fairly high crime rates, its troubles have been largely sensationalized by the media. Go in with an awareness of South Africa’s troubles, but without the prejudice of believing everything that you hear.

Pack smart

When you’re getting ready to leave for your trip, make sure to pack smart. As South Africa’s biggest crime problem comes down to petty thievery, be proactive and leave your most precious belongings behind, where you know they’ll be waiting safe and sound when you return. For those important items that much accompany you – passport, other documents, any medications – keep them close by and where you can see them. Consider buying a money belt before leaving so you have extra protection with your passport and valuables.

Be aware

South Africa culturally puts a lot of emphasis on those who “have” and those who “don’t.” So while on your trip, avoid being overly ostentatious with money or material belongings. Remember that you’re in a poor country – showing off how much you “have” may make certain people who live feel it’s unfair they “don’t.” And that may encourage them to target you for petty theft.

Be culturally respectful

Being a place as exotic and different from your own as South Africa may be, there’s a real desire to take pictures of the people and conditions around you. But remember that these people are not on vacation, and your camera in their faces may make them feel that their privacy’s bee invaded. Be considerate, ask for permission and show respect for the people around you.


Abstinence may not sound like the most fun part of your trip, but it may be the wisest. Unfortunately, South Africa has the highest HIV infection rate of any country in the world, meaning you’re more exposed there than anywhere else on the planet if you choose to have sex with a local. Not to mention that sneaking off to be alone with someone leaves you especially exposed to rape, theft or abuse. If you do choose to engage in sexual activity with someone while you’re there, be sure to be as safe as possible.