Is Johannesburg safe? Johannesburg informally known as Jozi, Joburg, or “The City of Gold” is the largest city in South Africa, classified as a megacity, and one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world.
It is the provincial capital and largest city of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa but how safe is Joburg for American tourists?
Johannesburg is a city that many traveling to South Africa might choose to skip – flying into the airport and quickly heading off to Cape Town or Kruger National Park because of issues around safety Johannesburg
You’ve heard it all before, and you’re probably tired of it by now. Johannesburg isn’t safe! they say. Don’t go to Joburg!
If you listen to the naysayers you will miss out on one of the most vibrant, magical, and Blackity Black City you will ever visit.
While Johannesburg does have its dangerous areas (just like any other major city in the world), it is a safe city with a plethora of fine dining restaurants, bars, and art galleries.
While I was in Joburg dining at the trendy eatery Zioux the champagne bar and cocktail lounge won the Restaurant Bar and Design award for its creativity and over-the-top classic retro revival and nostalgic plates designed for sharing.
It seems like the media often portrays Black and Brown cities as dangerous and warns Americans about visiting while glossing over the fact the crime rate in the U.S. is at an all-time high.
The truth is Johannesburg is as safe as any other metropolis in the world. There are areas in Johannesburg that are ok to visit and areas you can visit but must take precautions.
The purpose of this guide is to help you find out if Johannesburg is safe for you and if so, how you can stay safe during your visit.
Is Johannesburg dangerous
Crime is everywhere including in South Africa, Italy, the Czech Republic, and the good ole U.S! Yes, crime is in Johannesburg, but there is also crime in Tennessee where I live and I am not going to stop taking my daughter to school, or going to the grocery store.
Fact vs. Fiction Is Johannesburg Safe:
Crime Statistics in South Africa
Population: 59.31 million
Murder Rate per capita: 76.86
Crime Statistics in the U.S.?
It’s difficult to say for certain. The two primary sources of government crime statistics – the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) – both paint an incomplete picture, though efforts at improvement are underway.
The FBI publishes annual data on crimes that have been reported to the police, but not those that haven’t been reported. The FBI also looks mainly at a handful of specific violent and property crimes, but not many other types of crime, such as drug crime.
While the FBI’s data is based on the information it receives from thousands of federal, state, county, city and other police departments, not all agencies participate every year.
In 2019, the most recent full year available, the FBI received data from around eight-in-ten agencies.
The overall crime rate of each country is calculated by dividing the total number of reported crimes of any kind by the total population, then multiplying the result by 100,000 (because the crime rate is typically reported as X number of crimes per 100,000 people).
Crime rates vary greatly from country to country and are influenced by many factors.
For example, high poverty levels and unemployment tend to inflate a country’s crime rate. Conversely, strict police enforcement and severe sentences tend to reduce crime rates.
There is also a strong correlation between age and crime, with most crimes, especially violent crimes, being committed by those ages 20-30 years old.
The crime rate in the United State is 47.77 which is more than 55 countries. Within the United States, crime rates vary between different states. For example, states like Tennessee and Alaska have much higher crime rates than states like Vermont and Maine.
As you can see from the chart below some crimes are higher in South Africa while others are higher in the United States.
While credit card theft and robbery are predominant crimes in Johannesburg it is still the financial capital of the country with a rich cultural scene and I have never seen so many wealthy Black folks in my life!
South Africa Travel Advisory
July 18, 2022
South Africa – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution
Last Update: Reissued with updates to health information.
Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to crime and civil unrest.
Country Summary: Violent crime, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and “smash-and-grab” attacks on vehicles, is common. There is a higher risk of violent crime in the central business districts of major cities after dark.
Demonstrations, protests, and strikes occur frequently. These can develop quickly without prior notification, often interrupting traffic, transportation, and other services; such events have the potential to turn violent.
Please see our Alerts for up-to-date information.
Read the country information page for additional information on travel to South Africa.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined South Africa has a moderate level of COVID-19. Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel.
If you decide to travel to South Africa:
- Read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before planning any international travel, and read the Embassy COVID-19 page for country-specific COVID-19 information.
- Avoid walking alone, especially after dark.
- Avoid visiting informal settlement areas unless you are with someone familiar with the area.
- Do not display cash or valuables.
- Drive with doors locked and windows closed.
- Always carry a copy of your U.S. passport and visa (if applicable). Keep original documents in a secure location.
- Conserve water and follow local guidance on water use for tourists and Save Like a Local.
- Check the City of Cape Town website for up-to-date information and guidance on how to manage water consumption.
- Refer to Nelson Mandela Bay’s website for updates on water restrictions in effect in the Eastern Cape.
- Monitor water levels at the City of Cape Town’s Water Dashboard.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Country Security Report for South Africa.
- Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
I posted on my Facebook that I preferred Jo’burg over Cape Town and you would have thought I killed someone.
There is an ongoing debate about Cape Town versus Johannesburg on which city is “better.” Don’t get me wrong Cape Town was stunning from the mountain views, the wineries, the city life, and the ocean.
Cape Town is actually more dangerous than Johannesburg, the city of Cape Town ranked #15 on the world’s most dangerous cities list In 2019.
The city has a murder rate of 62.3 deaths per 100,000 people. Johannesburg is not mentioned on this list but you never hear people saying don’t visit Cape Town.
What more could one ask for when traveling to South Africa? For me personally, Johannesburg provided something Cape Town could not which is its rich history, a melting pot of various cultures, and did I say Johannesburg was filled with Black folk doing the damn thing!
So, is Johannesburg safe for tourists? Below is a detailed guide on staying safe in Johannesburg.
1. Rosebank Neighborhood
This vibrant neighborhood is one of the most popular areas in the city to stay in as it provides an abundance of entertainment and tourist facilities in a compact part of the city, making it easy to walk around.
The only thing you really need to worry about is pickpocketing Rosebank, which tends to happen in any busy city. Luckily Rosebank is one of the safest areas in the city as it has undercover police as well as uniformed police and tourist police too.
The great thing about Rosebank is that there is something happening including some of Johannesburg’s most famous art galleries including Cherie De Villiers gallery as well as many examples of art deco architecture, which makes for a beautiful stroll.
The main other things to see in the neighborhood include the African Craft Market, where you will find a huge quantity of quality handmade arts and crafts, and the Rooftop Flea Market is regarded by many as one of the best in the country.
If you prefer visiting upscale shops then you don’t have to walk too far as the Rosebank shopping mall is part of the market and is where you will find a variety of designer shops and brands.
It is only a ten-minute ride to see some of the city’s main attractions like Constitution Hill, The Apartheid Museum, and the South African National Museum.
For eating, drinking, and sleeping the best streets are Jellicoe Avenue, Oxford Road, and Tyrwhitt Avenue and between them, you are sure to find something that will suit you.
2. Melrose Neighborhood
Just next door to Rosebank is the peaceful and beautiful area of Melrose, which is another safe area to stay in and is classed as an up-market part of the city.
It is well connected to other parts of the city and is full of tree-lined streets, parks, traditional architecture as well as new complexes.
The Melrose Wild Bird Sanctuary provides a great day out and is home to over 120 wild bird species and is where you can relax and enjoy a picnic.
There are also world-class restaurants offering a wide range of foods, and bars that have beers and wines from all over the world.
3. Sandton Neighborhood
This sophisticated district is the most important financial and business district in the country and is home to the stock exchange, banks, and many other corporate companies, which is a safe neighborhood to stay in.
There are many art galleries, parks, expensive restaurants, brand-new shopping malls, theatres, cinemas, bars, cafes, and hotels with Nelson Mandela Square being at the center of it all.
The Convention Centre is one of the largest of its kind in the world and is home to various events and exhibitions throughout the year.
Walking in Jo’burg
Know where you are and which neighborhood you are staying in so that you are aware of your surroundings and that you keep a watchful eye on your things – don’t leave any of your personal belongings unattended in public.
If you are dining out, keep your bag between your legs, not hanging on the back of your chair where you can’t see what is happening.
In crowds, it is easy for pickpockets to go unnoticed. Don’t get too distracted by everything around you and stay aware. Markets, concerts, and busy airports or train stations are typical spaces for petty crimes to take place.
While South Africans are quite friendly and being polite to strangers is part of the culture, it is good to remember that not every stranger has your best interests at heart.
Keep this in mind when engaging with anyone who you do not know.
Not only will this help you stay safe, but this knowledge will also give you a greater sense of where everything is when you’re lost (and there will be times when you will be).
Tell Someone Where You Are Going
Always carry a phone and let someone know where you’re going -Carrying your wallet slung on your body, as opposed to dangling from a pocket, will help make theft harder.
Keep your most important cards such as debit and credit cards close by -Don’t use any handbag/wallet chains as they’ll act like a noose around your neck if you get attacked.
Tips for Solo Travelers or Girls’ Trip
Look out for your girlfriends if you are at clubs or restaurants. As with any destination do not accept drinks from strangers. It seems simple enough and you meet a cute guy who is offering to buy cocktails it seems like a good idea at the time but don’t risk it.
If you’re walking back to your hotel stay alert and aware of your surroundings and if you find yourself being followed by a man or anyone else who’s acting suspiciously, cross the street or enter a store.
Stay Safe Driving in Jo’burg
I do not suggest driving in Johannesburg if you are not accustomed to driving on the opposite side of the road. Night driving can be dangerous because people drive erratically and they do not always obey traffic laws.
To stay safe, don’t drive at night if you don’t have to, or if you must drive make sure your lights are on and try to avoid traveling long distances.
You should also focus on the road ahead instead of looking for parking spots. Once you park your car, walk only where it is well lit and stay with a group until getting back into your car so that there will be witnesses in case anything happens.
Uber in Jo’burg
While most taxi drivers are professional and will take you to your destination without incident i suggest Consider taking an Uber instead.
While taxis can often be found in designated taxi ranks outside popular destinations like malls and airports, Uber cars can be hailed through the app from anywhere with a wifi signal – including from your own front door!
And considering that Uber prices start at R5 per km versus R10 for minibus taxis, it could end up being cheaper too. #2 Research the driver ahead of time.
Johannesburg Safety Tips
There should not be a question left about the safety of Jo’burg but regardless of where you are traveling use the safety precautions below to remain safe in Johannesburg:
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times
- Don’t take your wallet or money out on the street is one of them.
- Carjacking is one of the biggest issues in South Africa so I don’t even suggest renting a car just use an Uber.
- Never leave valuables in sight and do not wear flashy jewelry.
- Use the hotel safe in the room for your valuables.
- Always, always purchase travel insurance that covers you for lost and stolen items.
Should You Visit Johannesburg?
Resounding YES! I had the absolute time of my life! Johannesburg was a life-changing and unforgettable experience for me and if you have the opportunity I suggest booking your flight immediately.
- Visas – While U.S. citizens visiting Johannesburg do not need a visa for any stays shorter than ninety days just make sure your passports are valid for at least 30 days past your planned date of return from South Africa.
- Currency – South African rand is the official currency in Johannesburg but I used my American Express Platinum Card for all of my purchases.
- Weather – Temperatures in Johannesburg are usually mild and pleasant due to the city’s high elevation. The temperatures have an average maximum in January of 25.6 °C dropping to an average maximum of around 16 °C in June.
- Airports – O. R. Tambo International Airport is a major international airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.
- Travel Insurance – Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to Johannesburg, since it covers not only the costs of medical problems but also theft and loss of valuables.
Conclusion: Is Johannesburg Safe?
While Johannesburg is certainly not the safest country in the world it is not the war zone either that the media would have you believe.
Johannesburg is not this scary place where bad Black people will rob, rape, and murder you in fact, it is just the opposite. I left Johannesburg feeling like I had been deprived of learning about the arts, science, and technology.
Once you stop listening to the American media about which places you should or shouldn’t visit your world will completely change.
Johannesburg is the perfect blend of friendly, hospitable people, culture, arts, science, and of course food!
Enjoy Johannesburg without the fear of ‘Is Johannesburg Safe.’
Joburg’s history, stories, and creative spirit are more than you need to put Johannesburg on your bucket list. Although Joburg can be painted in quite a negative light because of its notorious crime, the fact is that a bit of common sense goes a long way to keep you out of harm’s way.
Fear of crime shouldn’t drive you to avoid Joburg, which really has a lot to share.
Crime is only one aspect, so please don’t let it ruin the whole picture because safety in Johannesburg is not an issue.
DO YOU NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE?
YES! Travel Insurance is important no matter where you are traveling because accidents happen and you should always travel with insurance.
I got extremely sick in the Czech Republic and that was the one time I decided to forego travel insurance I racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills and they wanted their money before I would even be seen by the ER Doctors.
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Have you not visited Johannesburg because of the negative narrative that the media has portrayed South Africa? Is Johannesburg on your bucket list now and do you still question ‘Is Johannesburg Safe?’
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