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Do you ever wished you had not asked for advice on safety??

Margate, United...
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Do you ever wished you had not asked for advice on safety??

Was at a supper club outing last night and ended up sitting with a very pleasant middle aged gent who has just come back to UK ( a JBurg guest house owner) to visit family for the summer. Please dont jump down my neck I am just reporting what he said and am trying not to feel worried! Am sure most of you would hopefully say he is very misguided!

Asked several questions in relation to our forthcoming trip!

1. Is the car jacking situation in KZN as bad as UK Media and Travel agents say?

We expected to be told "oh no" instead he said it was worse and proceeding to show us two scars on arms suffered in a car jacking and a mugging.

2. Is it safe to walk round with expensive camera gear in a rucksack?

Answer here was Definately not - the professional thieves suss out tourists in a moment and know their bags likely to contain expensive camera gear - just take a little compact.

3. Well we have spent a lot of time on trip advisor and it would seem to be a lot safer than you are saying?

Told - Well believe who you want but I would tell anyone than south africa is a lot more dangerous than it is made out to be and with your walking problems being obvious with the walking stick thats a prime target for mugger who will know you are not quick to move.

A real happy advertisement for the country - has someone upset him back in South Africa? He did say that he thought Jburg and KzN were the most dangerous areas for tourists and that he planned to relocate to Capetown on his return to SA!!

Edited: 14 June 2010, 17:31
Stanley, Falkland...
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1. Re: Do you ever wished you had not asked for advice on safety??

1. I've never had a problem, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I would have thought it unlikely in touristy areas. Otherwise we would hear a lot more about it in UK press.

2. I wouldn't walk around some UK cities with expensive camera gear. A compact camera is probably sensible.

3. I still think its a generally safe country, but there are areas to avoid, and precautions one should take, as anywhere. What was the guy's experience of travel around the world?

It's possibly better you get a gloomy warning and have a great time, than you think everything is sweetness and light and come back surprised to find it's not.

Margate, United...
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2. Re: Do you ever wished you had not asked for advice on safety??

We have happily walked round a lot of places in the world including all over UK with my others half's camera gear in his backpack firtunately we have never had a problem. I think telling most avid photographers to just use a compact on holiday when part of the trip is wildlife related would get a comment I would not print here.

As it is we wont be walking round any cities apart from a day in Durban during our stay, I know trouble is everywhere, Im not happy walking around Canterbury in the evening at weekends let alone some larger UK cities any more but never worry in the daytime - however I know what to expect here and thats why these forums exist I hope for people to get a true oversight of where they plan to visit without hopefully upsettling anyone.

It just suprised me that a local who has travelled a lot as well as being ex army felt so negative - still thats people for you, all entitled to their own views and perceptions.

Tempe, Arizona
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for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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3. Re: Do you ever wished you had not asked for advice on safety??

I'm not surprised to hear his comments. As I have made clear, I'm an American living part of the year in a very quiet part of the Western Cape. Nevertheless, every South African whom I know in my community - many of them close friends - knows or knows of someone who has been touched by crime. For some it is something they or a family member personally experienced.

Having said that - I must add that there is a cumulative aspect to what I just said. They would describe incidents they know of that could have happened recently, or happened any time over the past 15 years. In the end, they retain vivid thoughts and feelings that keep the experiences alive forever. It shapes their view on whether South Africa is safe - or not.

Stanley, Falkland...
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4. Re: Do you ever wished you had not asked for advice on safety??

I would never suggest using a small compact for wildlife. You were talking about 'walking around with expensive camera gear'. I assumed you were talking about walking about cities, not game reserves.

Cape Town
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5. Re: Do you ever wished you had not asked for advice on safety??

Hi Amber,

Many people in South Africa are touched or affected by crime. Especially in the poor communities the crime rates are staggering. Crime in the more affluent areas is probably on par with most European and American cities - although possibly more violent.

Especially in the north of South Africa special caution should go to car jackings - be careful when stopping at a "robot" in the middle of the night but don't get paranoid while driving. Give the guy selling black bags and flags at the traffic light a smile at least.

If you want to be extra safe, a good bit of advise is to drive with your window rolled down a few centimeters (making a "smash & grab" nearly impossible).

Having said that, as a tourist, if you stick to using common sense, you are very unlikely to fall victim to crime.

My South African brother in law has only been robbed at knifepoint once in his life... while on holiday in Europe.

Hope that helps put things in perspective a bit.

Cheers and enjoy your holiday!

Ronald

Pretoria, SA
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6. Re: Do you ever wished you had not asked for advice on safety??

Just to add my tuppence worth. I have now lived in Pretoria for a couple of years. My better half works for an American firm, who perhaps take the security hype to a higher level than necessary. There are approximately 200 expats living in SA for this firm. The only 'security' incidences in the 2 years we have been here have happened to the same couple. Once an intruder had entered their house through an open ground floor window and stole a wallet and a laptop. Did not go anywhere but the downstairs room where the window had been open. Same couple in a large supermarket had the wife's wallet stolen from a shopping trolley. It had been left on the child seat in the front. Both are 'stupidity' crimes, which could easily happen in any city throughout the world.

I work in an office in pretoria and many of my female colleagues have been subject to a smash and grab - because they had left their handbags on the front seat of their vehicles. By their own admissions, their own fault!. This is from comfort in surroundings etc. Generally, I think tourists are much more aware about what they are doing, travelling in a new place etc makes you more aware of surroundings etc. Many 'locals' blank the hawkers / beggers on the robots - they see them every day, but a tourist is more likely to me trying to take in what is around them.

Therefore I believe smash and grabs are much less likely to happen to tourists. Smash and grabs do not involve and form of violence, just theft. A woman's handbag has many 'goodies' in it for a thief. I would say I have not heard of any smash and grabs on men - purely because valuables are out of sight in pockets etc.

In 2 years I have never heard in this area, or where we have travelled, of a car-jacking, or a mugging.

I would not particularly walk round Joburg/ Durban/Cape Town etc with large amounts of camera equipment round my neck, but I wouldn't in New York/ London/Paris. I like my compact in my pocket to whip out when I want it. In a rucksack, sure, although why bother lugging it all around all the time. I would consider a 'non - camera' rucksack however as it would be extremely obvious if in an all singing all dancing kodak bag for instance. Game reserves are a different kettle of fish entirely. Everyone has large cameras!

blueamber - be aware but certainly do not feel worried. I think something has upset the guy you have talked to. We love this country a lot (we are not South Africans) and certainly would not live here if we felt scared or threatened. It is the most beautiful place and I hope you enjoy your trip.

Cape Town
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7. Re: Do you ever wished you had not asked for advice on safety??

@CHH, couldn't agree with your conclusion more!

Cape Town
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8. Re: Do you ever wished you had not asked for advice on safety??

Blueamber

Good information from the others on the reality of the situation for tourists in this country. In the areas that visitors go to and for what they do this is no different to other major tourist destinations all around the world. In fact much safer than some as there is no evidence that tourists here are ever specifically targeted for major crime.

However it might be worth investigating the background as to why you see so many widely differing views of South Africa.

Here on TripAdvisor, many of the regular posters, like myself, are “New South Africans”. We have come to live in this country since 1994, having made a specific, considered choice to make this our home. Others are native South Africans who have however travelled widely and, again, see South Africa from an International perspective. The third main group of regular posters are visitors – mainly but not all from the UK – who come here regularly on holiday, often year after year.

All these groups see South Africa from an international perspective. They see the differences in living here and coming as a visitor. They focus into the better areas to visit and live – because they have come here with choice and with open eyes. We also see that in the time that we have lived here, although there are still significant broad problems, South Africa has made great strides in recent years. People who look inwardly will tell you of the high crime rates and the effect that has had on people that they know. However, as Dave says, these events may go back a long time. Those of us who have come here from choice, will equally emphasise that crime rates, although across all communities are still unacceptably high, have come down more than fifty percent in that time. In some areas such as central Cape Town, serious crime declined more than 80 (EIGHTY) percent in the past ten years - tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293740-i9186-k303… .

“Old South Africans” often see things differently. Some were paranoid about what would happen in the time after 1994. Most people now know how that change actually took place, due to people from all cultures working together. However in the years following 1994 there were changes within the social structures of the country that did include big increases in crime (at least the official figures) and increases in the decay of city centres (probably 20 years later than in Europe and the USA).

However some “Old” South Africans are stuck in this period ten years ago, when it looked like the "experiment" might go wrong. Their perceptions have not changed. However South Africa has changed in the past ten years (not always constantly in the right direction) but, in particular areas like central Cape Town today bears no relationship to the decaying, high crime area of that time.

I have to also say that by far the worst naysayers of the country are ex-South Africans. Many of whom left in the early years after 1990. Lots of these, now living in the UK, Australia and Canada constantly hark back to the “Golden Years” of South Africa when the white dominated Apartheid Regime “Kept Crime in Check”. Maybe for 10 percent of the population. But for the other 90 percent crime figures weren’t even collected! These Ex-South Africans seem to spend all their time on South African websites justifying their decisions with vituperative hate against anything done in South Africa since then.

However I must hasten to add, that more and more of all people living here, are starting to open their perspective. This trend has been hugely accelerated in the past few weeks. The build up, and now the reality, of South Africa’s huge success (so far!) with the World Cup has started to bring the whole country together as never before. A huge example of this was three weeks ago when, because of the unavailability of their ground due to the WC, the Pretoria Blue Bulls, the leading Afrikaaner Rugby Team in the country, decided to hold the semi-final and final of the Southern Hemisphere Club Championship in a stadium in the huge Black Township of Soweto. Amazingly many of their fans had NEVER been in Soweto (10 miles away from Joburg) in their whole lives! They went there the first week with trepidation. Would they be killed, raped or at the least violently robbed? They arrived and were greeted with joy by the local inhabitants dressed in the Bulls colours and within hours everyone was joining in a huge party. The next week for the final against the Cape Town Stormers the whole atmosphere had changed. The Bulls supporters went in their own cars, they gave lifts to Soweto locals to get them to the game and the whole atmosphere was so much more relaxed.

This whole mentality has continued to develop in the two weeks since then. Not only in Johannesburg and Pretoria but in Durban, Cape Town and the other host cities around the country. The visiting fans from around the world are being welcomed with open arms by people from all communities. Sure there is some crime, a few wallets and handbags have been stolen – some by local thieves and others by visitors from Brazil, Uruguay and Nigeria! But nothing more than would be seen at such a huge event in Germany, the UK or any other country. With so-far, virtually no violence.

A few weeks ago people here on TripAdvisor were saying “NEVER travel on a train in the Joburg Metro Area”. Now thousand of locals and visitors alike are streaming onto the trains and finding out it is the best way to get to the games! Reality may be returning to the attitudes of far more people in this country. And to the perception of South Africa in the eyes of the world!

Keep your eyes on us and then come and have a wonderful holiday in a wonderful country!

Finally please don’t think that I am posting this to antagonise any particular group of South Africans. Specifically I am well aware that many in this country – as elsewhere around the world, from Cumbria to New York – have had their lives tragically affected by criminal activity. This is purely my personal perspective.

Greater Sydney...
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9. Re: Do you ever wished you had not asked for advice on safety??

Wow. Great post VdC. I have only before been exposed to the ex-pat Sth Africans here in Aust who were "old South Africans", and I ignored them in planning for my trip next year. :)

Cape Town
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10. Re: Do you ever wished you had not asked for advice on safety??

hats off once again to VDC. He is spot on! In addition certainly don't believe the en vogue stories about a "genocide" against whites/farmers. Fact is that a vast majority of crime victims are poor and black (South) Africans. Just stating that as a sad reality. The poorer you are, the more likely you are to fall victim of crime. All crime stats proof that. As VDC says when you come here as a tourist you fall into a different category, even when you visit townships as a tourist.

Cheers,

Ronald