South Africa is a wonderful, beautiful, fascinating, diverse and culturally rich country which is still misunderstood by the outside world. The wide motto of the country is “open arms, open heart” and you just need to step off the plane to feel the enthusiasm!
South Africans are warm, hospitable and are known to always bring the vibe! The media sometimes have a habit of oversimplifying such a complex place. Violent crime generally takes place between gangs and are localised away from the tourists. Sometimes foreigners may be the targets of petty crime but as in every other country, once you know the basic rules, you’ll be just fine!
That’s why we have compiled all the in’s and out’s to keep you safe. So be a Smarty Marty and make sure to implement as many tips as you can!
SAFETY RULES :
1. DON’T LET OVERBLOWN SAFETY CONCERNS KEEP YOU FROM THE SINGLE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.
2. BE A SENSIBLE SALLY, DON’T BE A NANCY. NOBODY LIKES A NANCY.
A lot of the incidents that take place can be avoided, when you take normal safety precautions that you would in any other city.
- No ridiculous bags. This list includes: Sling bags & bags without zips. Pickpockets are in and out without you even becoming aware of them. No muss, no fuss.
- Don’t leave your bag hanging on a chair whilst at a restaurant.
- Don’t keep your wallet and phone in your back pocket.
- Keep luggage secure at your hostel. Bring your own locks to lock your bags, often lockers will be provided.
- Store passports and valuables in a safe.
- Make copies of travel documents and keep originals in a safe place.
- Do not take your passport out at night as a form of ID. Rather take something that you don’t need to board your plane home.
- If someone appears to be paying a lot of attention to you, try to step into a nearby shop, hotel or restaurant.
- Pay attention to your surroundings, look up, look around. Be aware.
- If someone gets too close, move away to keep your distance.
- If someone is trying to engage you in a conversation on the street and you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut. Politely make an excuse to leave and exit quickly.
- Don’t walk at night. Always take a taxi.
3. SAFE IS SEXY – NO GLOVE, NO LOVE.
The possibility of having a love child with a relatively unknown partner (what was their name again?) is pretty slim, and contracting an STD can easily be avoided. Practise safe sex. Make use of the free Baz Bus condoms distributed at the hostels.
4. DOING IT WITH FRIENDS IS ALWAYS MORE FUN.
Don’t put yourself in isolating situations. Hike, beach and party with newfound friends. Even in groups, avoid unlit and deserted areas at night.
5. ARRIVE ALIVE
With car hijacking hot-spots; areas where smash and grabs are common; drunken drivers; crazy taxis and unreliable roads; the safety issues for foreigners on the road are numerous and using Baz Bus can be a real relief!
Baz Bus is unique because it picks you up and drops you off at the door of your hostel. In certain inaccessible areas, a shuttle comes to meet the bus. But you are never left alone. Our main priority at Baz Bus is getting you to your end destination safely. Our drivers have been navigating this route for over 20 years so we know exactly where to avoid to ensure a smooth and stress free journey.
6. ONE TEQUILA, TWO TEQUILA, THREE TEQUILA, FLOOR !
It isn’t necessary to reach the floor! Take it easy, pace yourself! Losing your inhibition and judgement can make you a target for opportunistic criminals.
- Don’t carry too much cash out.
- Leave valuables (phones, cameras, expensive jewelry) at home.
- Be aware of your drink. Spiking drinks is not uncommon. Try stick to bottled drinks that you can slip your hand over to cover when you’re in crowded clubs.
7. CARRY CARD, NOT CASH.
Keep cash on your person to a minimal and rather use plastic instead. Visa and Mastercards are widely accepted, though you might incur extra charges for Diners Club or American Express.
8. ATM SAFETY
- NEVER accept assistance from a stranger.
- Cover your pin when typing it in to the machine.
- When swiping your card (restaurants, hotels) make sure you are always present and do not lose sight of your card.
- Report lost or stolen cards immediately.
9. STASH IT, DON’T FLASH IT
If you do have valuables on your person, keep them safely tucked out of sight. Take phones & cash out in the safety of a café or hostel.
10. DON’T BE SHY, ASK THE LOCALS.
South Africans are known for their hospitality, and want foreigners to have an overwhelmingly positive experience. When you arrive in a new place ask your hostel staff and tour guides: # Where to avoid # Common scams tourists fall victim to.
11. LEAVE THE BLING AT HOME
Rather leave the unnecessary valuables (Jewellery, iPad’s, MacBook air and even your Nike Air’s). If you don’t need it why risk it?
12. SAVE 112 ON YOUR PHONE
South African emergency number that will put you through to the relevant department. National tourism information & safety line: 083 123 2345.
13. HOMING PIGEONS SOMETIMES NEED AN ADDRESS
Ensure you have a card from your hostel with their address and contact number. As much as we like to think we are good with directions it is easy to get disorientated in a foreign city.
14. NO DISEASE PLEASE
Most of South Africa is malaria-free, but if you’re visiting the Kruger National Park or lowlying parts of northern KwaZuluNatal, be aware that you are entering malarial areas and should take precautions: prophylactic medication & lots of mosquito repellent.
15. TOURING THE TOWNSHIPS
These are informal settlements that can be dangerous in certain areas. Many backpackers claim that their favorite South African memory was there so it’s a no miss, but: # Go with a registered and recommended tour guide. # Leave before it gets dark.
16. THOSE “GREAT” GREAT WHITE SHARKS
South Africa has had some shark attacks. A lot of our beaches have shark nets. Shark attacks happen when the water is murky and the shark spotters (located on a nearby mountain) have bad visibility. We have a flag system signalling conditions. Only swim on a green flag when the water is clear.
17. DO NOT EXIT THE SAFARI VEHICLE!
When in the roaming ground of the big 5, no matter how tempting that selfie may be, do not get out of the safari vehicle. Listen to your guide; you don’t want to become the next YouTube sensation.
18. TRAVEL INSURANCE : IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT. YOU CAN’T AFFORD YOUR HOLIDAY.
Adrenalin junkies be careful; many travel insurance plans will not cover you for high risk adventure sport. Comprehensive travel insurance is a requirement when going on an overland tour.
19. MODERN HIKING
Non-negotiable: take a (fully charged) mobile WITH airtime. Save the emergency number 112 should someone have an accident or if you get too far off the beaten track. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking trips. Take something warm even if the sun is shining. Make sure you have enough water; then pack another bottle. Take a map, take some friends and then set out before the midday sun.
20. SPLASHING IN THE SEA
The sea is rough and strong riptides are common. Only swim at beaches between the safety flags with life guards on duty.
21. ALERT FIIIIIIRE !!!!
If you find yourself in a dangerous situation yell “FIRE” as opposed to help. Most people freeze when they hear the word help, but will run towards you at the threat of a fire.
SOUTH AFRICA IS LIKE ANY OTHER COUNTRY. BE CAUTIOUS, BE CAREFUL, BE CLEVER AND YOU WILL HAVE THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME!
- Always take your restaurant leftovers in a doggy bag (takeaway bag). There is someone on the street that will appreciate it more than you will ever comprehend.
- If a street performer is good enough to makes you stop, he deserve a tip.
- Ask permission to take photos of people. You are not in a zoo.
- In some areas, there are a lot of beggars, try not to judge. Rather be empathetic to their situation. It is impolite to ignore a person, rather tell them that you don’t carry change and move on.
4 MORE TIPS FOR THE PARANOID PENNYS
These precautions are not necessary but they may help you rest easy when travelling solo:
- Buy a cheap phone ($15) to take out with you at night.
- Bum bags and fanny packs, sexy as they are, are incredible places to keep your valuables.
- Carry a dummy wallet with a little cash and an expired card.
- Carry pepper spray (maize) with you.