One of the first questions tourists ask when looking at a holiday in South Africa is safety related: Will I be safe while in the country?
Although, to be fair, this question applies to most countries that are popular tourist destinations. Tourists generally attract petty criminals like a moth to the flame and South Africa is no exception.
Picture it: You wearily step out of the airport, after a very long flight, look around with a dazed and confused expression and wonder how to get to your hotel. Do you hire a car? Are the taxi's safe? Should you hike? How far away is your Airbnb?
All of these questions can and should be addressed BEFORE you step foot into any foreign country and will go a long way in helping you avoid safety issues. Take the time to research your next destination. Know where you will be staying and how you will be getting there from the airport. Take the time to learn how most people travel on a daily basis or look into hiring a car for the duration of your stay. Do some research on the general area that you will be staying; Is it generally safe? Must special precaution be taken?
With that being said, let's take a closer look at South Africa and how to avoid those pesky pick pockets, fraudsters and cheats:
When traveling by foot, by taxi or any other form of public transport its always best to keep expensive jewelry safely hidden. Be sure to keep any bags or packets closed and close to your body at all times.
Using a visa card instead of cash is much safer but if you must carry cash, do so in a way that does not attract attention. Keep small amounts at a time and don't flaunt cash in front of other people.
Laptops, cameras, Ipads and cellphones are always popular targets so try not to carry these in an obvious manner. Use a backpack style laptop bag, only keep a camera out while you are using it and don't leave your phone in your back pocket.
Don't fall for common distraction techniques. Yes, that lovely local man is so friendly and helpful but don't let him carry your bags. Beware of beggars who plead their case for money. Oftentimes they are scouting out their next targets or are really hoping you'll feel generous and give them large sums of money in exchange for a sob story.
It's best to leave important travel documents and passports in the safety of your hotel or Airbnb. If you must keep them with you, consider leaving copies in a safe place.
Avoid traveling in informal settlements alone or at night.
Consider staying in smaller towns and lesser known tourist spots. You'll still have all the beautiful beaches, wildlife and outdoor activities with much less risk of running into trouble.
Most of all, always be vigilant and informed. Know where you are going and how you are getting there. If you are unsure, feel free to ask your Airbnb host or hotel concierge for assistance. They will happily give you advice on best routes and safe spots to visit.
Despite a small handful of bad apples, the locals are generally a friendly bunch who will gladly assist anyone in distress. So don't be afraid to ask for help from larger groups or other visitors if you need it.