I remember being torn between Europe and South Africa for my summer vacation in 2018. Whereas news of xenophobia, high crime reports, and disease seemed to tip the scale in favor of my other possibilities, I remembered the revered reputation South Africa had garnered since hosting the 2010 soccer World Cup. In addition, I realized that just like any other country globally; there are isolated incidents that scare away tourists, which should never be the case. So the following day, I got on the first flight out to Cape Town for what still ranks as my best solo trip.
South Africa is an immense country spanning 471,000 square miles with a total population of 57 million richly diversified in language, culture, and tradition. The country is also a popular tourist destination. Many visit South Africa to experience the pristine beaches, illustrious safaris and hike on the thousands of trails in the backcountry. However, just like in any country, a trip meant to be pleasurable can go tart just as quickly, especially if you didn’t do your due diligence. Despite a few online blogs that taint her name, South Africa is a safe place to travel as long as you follow every tip in this post.
Stick to a pre-set itinerary
For you to have a successful trip to the beautiful cities in South Africa, a precise itinerary will do a lot of wonders. Indeed, crime rates in some of the townships established during the apartheid cause worry, but your safety doesn’t depend on skipping them entirely but instead have a strict plan of what to do and wherein the city. I, however, believe that hiring a local guide on your visit will make the difference, especially if you wind up in a place where you can’t communicate with the locals.
Carry enough prescriptions before getting on the plane
If you live with an underlying disease or disorder like Bipolar disorder, stock up enough medication before leaving for South Africa. I am not saying that Africa’s third-biggest economy lacks in pharmacies; to the contrary, it has plenty. However, trying to find a specific prescription might seem quite a challenge in the country. In addition, malaria is a prevalent disease in South Africa, so stock up on repellents, especially if your itinerary involves sleeping outdoors.
Keep a low profile
We tend to be our biggest enemies when judged by our actions. Therefore, it is imperative to keep a low profile when visiting any foreign country, not just South Africa. Do not flash money or wear expensive jewelry in the slums on your vacation. Chances of standing out are pretty high, judging from your demeanor and even higher if you attract unnecessary attention. To therefore not fall victim to petty theft or robbery, keep a low profile.
Crime, in most cases, is a result of the ineptitude of the tourist. Actions such as arriving at a campsite without prior reservation, taking random taxis from the airport, and opting for cheap unlicensed guides are the biggest threat to your safety. Since hotel reservation is a prerequisite for all entering the country, planning your trip is a much easier task. Order a taxi before your arrival or ask the hotel to send you one. Most, if not all, of the elite travel destinations, require a heads up before welcoming guests.
Steer clear of beaches and urban areas at night
With a rank as the 9th intentional homicidal country in the world, you must carefully calculate your nighttime itinerary to the last dot. How about a little Netflix to entertain you at night or perhaps the hotel WI-FI for any social interactions. Beaches in South Africa have become breeding places of ill-intentioned criminals and must be avoided even if you visit a large group.
Keep your valuables hidden
Big towns like Johannesburg and Cape Town have reported carjacking and car break-in crimes way up the list, which calls for vigilance while you stop for ice cream or go shopping. Keep your car doors locked and valuables safely hidden when out in the city. Do not walk with your passport and keep it in the hotel at all times.
Before planning any vacation, one of my biggest fears is losing all my money, which sometimes kept me up at night. The safest money policy is keeping it in three forms; one small local denominations to help pay for meals or taxi fare, two is a visa card if you need to pay for something pricier. And three, a backup stash is hidden in your hotel room, probably in one of your belongings. The policy has helped ease fears and anxiety as I eagerly move from one spot to the next on my vacations.
Hydrate as much as possible
The heat can be unbearable if you visit the country during the summer season (usually between December and February). Therefore, you must walk with a water bottle to keep your body organs in shape. Drink between 2 to 3 liters of water every day, depending on your social and physiological make-up.
Always trust your instincts
I once had a near-death experience in Paraguay, thanks to a relentless voice in my head. I was supposed to head out to a local pub in San Ignacio, but something felt off at the time. Whenever I tried to set out for the night, I felt disconnected from the plan until I lost interest altogether. I remember my tour guide vigorously knocking on my door the following day and telling me to watch the local news, and I couldn’t believe it. As a result of a bar fight, two had died after sustaining gunshot wounds. Since then, I have become a firm believer in my instincts. I prefer my instincts being wrong than to find out the grim way.