Last year South Africa attracted nearly 500,000 British visitors to its shores. For a country rich in culture, history and outstanding natural beauty it does not take a genius to work out why this country is so popular with us Brits.
Despite all of this, however, the rainbow nation is locked in a seemingly never-ending battle against crime. When searching for wildlife in the Kruger National Park, or watching the sun set over Table Mountain, you can quickly forget about some of the real problems that the country faces. For the majority of visitors, a trip to South Africa will hopefully be memorable for all the right reasons. Staying safe does not mean having to be paranoid but rather using a bit of common sense and not being naive.
Most acts of crime tend to occur in the townships, or in central business districts of the cities, and most likely at night. As a tourist it will be very unlikely for you to find yourself in these areas. If you are ever unsure about somewhere ask the staff in your hotel or hostel about the no- go areas, local knowledge is always helpful. Walking around at night is rarely recommended, if you want to get somewhere and are not driving book a private hire taxi. Again, the staff at your accommodation will know a reliable company that will generally be safer and will not try and rip you off.
A lot of visitors will hire a car on their visit to South Africa. Although the roads are generally in good condition driving is definitely a different experience to what we’re used to in the UK. Not that the roads are lawless but undertaking and seeing ten people on the back of a pick-up truck is an everyday occurrence in the country. The main advice I would give is just to be very aware of what is around you; always check mirrors and make sure car doors are locked from the inside.
If you choose to travel by bus there is an extensive network of intercity services that are generally very safe and reliable. Local minibus taxi services do operate throughout the country and although considerably cheaper they are a lot more hassle, and safety records are generally poor. A good option for backpackers is the Baz Bus. This company offers door-to-door transfers from selected hostels throughout the country that makes travelling very simple. The bus trips are not that bad either; films are shown on the road, you can meet and exchange stories with fellow travelers and the friendly staff are always there to help you out.
Yes, South Africa does have its problems but do not let it put you off making a trip to what I believe to be one of the most interesting countries on the planet. Being sensible greatly reduces the chances of you being a victim of crime and by reading guidebooks,researching on the Internet and accepting local advice, your experience should be as safe and exciting as the one I had.