We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

1st timers - safety concerns?

Ontario, Canada
Destination Expert
for Sudbury
Level Contributor
570 posts
188 reviews
Save Topic
1st timers - safety concerns?

Hello fellow TA'ers!

My husband and I are starting to plan our first trip to Africa. We are very early in the planning stages but in addition to visiting South Africa are also thinking visiting: Zambia, Namibia or Mozambique. Number of locations will depend on how much time we can take off from work this time around!

Ever since we have began talking about Africa with our family and friends we have been hearing the expected comments/questions about the safety of travelling there. Including friends/coworkers who live or have lived in South Africa. I don't feel like it is an unsafe destination but when I say that people look at me like I'm a crazy person.

I've read a bunch of TA forum topics on the subject and it would seem most people feel it is a safe destination for travelers. But why the bad rep?

Here are some specific questions, hope you all can pipe in and drown out the negative opinions!

1. Are there any concerns about driving within S. Africa on our own? Ie. renting a car to see the various parts of the country we are interested in? We are not fans of tour-groups. We will be staying with friends in CapeTown but would like to travel from there to see other parts of the country.

2. Are there areas of S.A. that are un-safe? I don't mean bad neighbourhoods in large cities, I mean are there places/regions/cities in general a tourist should avoid?

3. Of the other countries listed, does anyone have any knowledge to share about tourist safety? I am going to post in those forums as well but they don't seem to have as many regular participants as this forum :)

As mentioned, we are experience travelers and we like to blend in as much as possible. We do not bring valuables on trips, walk around with cameras around our necks, wander with maps in-hand, etc.

Please help me silence the nay-sayers. Any and all feedback will be appreciated :)

- Kristy

Naracoorte
Level Contributor
2,861 posts
16 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: 1st timers - safety concerns?

1. No

2. Not that I am aware of other than the type of 'bad' neighbourhoods you mention.

3. I have never had safety concerns in Namibia and did not have any safety issues on my one trip to Mozambique.

Ontario, CAN
Level Contributor
491 posts
56 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: 1st timers - safety concerns?

Hi fellow canuck....we spent several weeks in SA this year and drove 7000km in a rental car - Cape Town to Joburg - including Kruger. We had no issues - loved every minute of it. It's true that there is still a perception that it is somehow "unsafe" as a destination - the question is still a common one on this forum. Frankly it seems unfounded in our opinion....we never once felt in an uncomfortable place or situation. If you want any other info, feel free to PM me.

Hong Kong, China
Destination Expert
for Holiday Travel, Food and Travel, Macau
Level Contributor
27,516 posts
5,693 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: 1st timers - safety concerns?

Have rented vehicles and driven from J'burg to Kruger area a couple times in recent years and have no zero problems. Have made trips to Cape Town as well and had no problems. Mind you, you still need to act prudently when traveling in South Africa, just like you do everywhere.

Johannesburg, South...
Destination Expert
for Johannesburg
Level Contributor
4,518 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: 1st timers - safety concerns?

I've lived for 66 years in South Africa.

Traveled far and wide, covering millions of kilometers over the years.

Never had an anxious moment , except once, when being charged by an elephant in the Kruger National Park...... great fun!

Use common sense, just as you would travelling anywhere, and indeed, even in your own city.

I cannot figure out why South Africa has acquired the reputation for being so dangerous .. Millions visit here, and have a wonderful, safe time.

Relax, use common sense, and enjoy my beautiful country

Hong Kong, China
Destination Expert
for Holiday Travel, Food and Travel, Macau
Level Contributor
27,516 posts
5,693 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: 1st timers - safety concerns?

We also had an anxious moment when a male lion approached our jeep a bit too closely (must have smelt the biltong Jill was chewing on).....

and didn't care much for the huge scorpion we found in our bathroom sink (thank god it was winter he he was colder than we were) after a morning game drive!

London, United...
Level Contributor
399 posts
Save Reply
6. Re: 1st timers - safety concerns?

@Gavin SA has a reputation because it has a high murder rate (it used to be twice as high). Also some of the crimes are sensational - eg car-jacking which is not something we see here. The high rape rate is also mentioned often on news here.

One can see evidence of crime when one drives past electric fenced houses in certain suburbs of particular cities (did not notice this in CT but did in Jozi and Durban).

Of course it should be pointed out that most of the crime doesn't affect areas tourists visit which are generally middle class suburbs or conservation areas.

Although personal experiences (either way) shouldn't affect ones perceptions in an ideal objective world, I can safely say that I never felt I was taking a risk at any point in my two holidays to SA..

Edited: 19 April 2013, 14:48
Pickering, United...
Level Contributor
3,298 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: 1st timers - safety concerns?

Kristy at the offending some folks, many ex-residents including family of mine left South Africa at certain points when they no longer felt "safe". Their privileged life styles were at risk and the grass was greener in other countries (including Canada and the UK). They felt uncomfortable in the new SA and this makes their views somewhat biased so take them with a pinch of salt. Over the last two decades we have visited regularly and never had any issues. We have travelled all over SA including to area that our families said were just too dangerous to even contemplate. We have walked, taken local transport and driven through cities and driven to remote areas and townships.

I find SA less frenetic than either Zambia or Kenya. however Namibia was much quieter and the southern part of Moz that I visited was very laid back but I suspect this is not the case in Maputo.

I cannot think of any tourist spots that I would not self drive to.

Berkhamsted, United...
Level Contributor
1,488 posts
198 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: 1st timers - safety concerns?

Several years ago, when my husband and I announced we were moving to SA, my own dad called me stupid for wanting to move to one of the murder capitals of the world and hung up the phone on me. After just one trip to visit us, he was hooked on the place and couldn't wait for his annual trip to SA!

We lived there for 7 years and still visit as often as finances afford - which unfortunately isn't half often enough!

Whilst there is crime in SA, it is present in many other countries too. But it rarely touches the tourists to SA.

Cape Town Central...
Level Contributor
3,007 posts
76 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: 1st timers - safety concerns?

Driving in and around the City of Cape Town and South Africa is very straight forward. Just make sure that you do not leave any visible items on the car seats and lock them up in the trunck of the car. All the places of interest in and around South Africa and Cape Town is well looked after and you will not need to look over your shoulder every minute.

Hank - Owner - Ulungele Tours

Ontario, Canada
Destination Expert
for Sudbury
Level Contributor
570 posts
188 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: 1st timers - safety concerns?

Thank you all for the responses. Much appreciated! I have been looking forward to an opportunity to visit South Africa for many years and can now easily shake off the negative comments we have been receiving.

Safarifiend - thank you for your post. It definitely puts perspective on some of the SA ex-pats who have been telling us SA is unsafe. We live in a mining region so often have the chance to meet people from SA. Some have been very encouraging when they hear we want to visit but some have told us scary anecdotes.

I am even more excited to travel to SA now and look forward to being able to help get rid of this undeserving reputation.