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Is South Africa Safe? What You Need to Know Before You Go

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Is South Africa safe? It’s one of the questions every visitor to the country asks before they come, and it’s one of the most common questions I got after telling friends and family I was visiting South Africa.

South Africa is a country known for its natural beauty, diverse culture, and vibrant history. However, it has also faced challenges related to safety and security.

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In this blog post, we will explore the safety situation in South Africa by examining relevant data, discussing common safety concerns, and providing practical tips for visitors and residents alike.

South Africa is currently among the countries grouped as third-world or developing nations. Such economic classification takes into account a country’s economic status and other economic variables.

If you visit South Africa you will either find yourself in luxury accommodations or what we call in the U.S. “the hood” there is no in-between.

You will be surrounded by either state-of-the-art technology, the arts, or dilapidated buildings that have not seen a touch of paint in 30-plus years. 

South Africa is an exciting, dynamic, and vibrant country that has severe socio-economic problems but that doesn’t mean you should count South Africa out. 

American tourists can be misled into thinking South Africa is not safe but is South Africa any more dangerous than most metropolitan cities in the United States?

Many tourists usually arrive at Tambo International Airport and are taken in luxury vehicles to smart accommodations in upmarket locations.

Very rarely will an international tourist venture off the beaten path to areas that are unsafe and dangerous.

Don’t be naïve.  Do your research and come prepared. Make safety a priority any time you are traveling out of the country no matter the destination so you will not be the victim of a crime.

Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. You’ll have the best holiday whether you are exploring Johannesburg, a safari tour in Kruger National Park, or a wine tasting at Bosecendale winery outside of Cape Town.  

Is South Africa Safe

South Africa Travel Advisory

Travel Advisory
October 5, 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.

If you decide to travel to South Africa:

Updated: October 27th, 2022
Latest update: The US Government has received information that terrorists may be planning to conduct an attack targeting large gatherings of people at an unspecified location in the greater Sandton area of Johannesburg, South Africa, on 29 October 2022.
There is no further information regarding the timing, method, or target of the potential attack. You should avoid crowds of people and other large public gatherings in the greater Sandton area of Johannesburg during the weekend of 29-30 October 2022.

Is South Africa Safe: Fact vs Fiction

  1. Crime Statistics: To understand the safety landscape, it is crucial to analyze crime statistics. According to the South African Police Service (SAPS), the country has experienced a decline in certain types of crimes in recent years. For example, the number of reported murders has decreased, showing progress in combating violent crime. However, property-related crimes such as burglaries and robberies remain areas of concern.
  2. High-Risk Areas: Certain areas in South Africa have higher crime rates than others. Urban centers like Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban tend to experience higher levels of crime, including theft, muggings, and carjackings. It is essential to exercise caution when visiting these areas and be aware of your surroundings.
  3. Safety Tips for Visitors:
  • Research your destination: Before traveling to South Africa, familiarize yourself with the safety situation in the specific regions you plan to visit.
  • Transportation safety: Use reputable transportation services and avoid walking alone at night, especially in dimly lit or isolated areas.
  • Valuables and personal belongings: Keep them secure and out of sight, preferably in a locked compartment or safe.
  • Awareness of scams: Be cautious of common scams targeting tourists, such as distraction techniques, fake tour guides, or pickpocketing.
  1. Nature and Wildlife Safety: South Africa is renowned for its magnificent wildlife and nature reserves. When exploring these areas, it is essential to prioritize your safety and follow guidelines provided by park authorities. Maintain a safe distance from animals, never feed them, and avoid walking alone in remote wilderness areas.
  2. Emergency Contacts: Save important emergency contacts, including local police, medical services, and your embassy’s contact details. Having this information readily available can be invaluable in case of an emergency.

Here are my best tips for staying safe in South Africa

Safety concerns with being an American in South Africa

Safety concerns are always a concern when visiting a foreign country, but in South Africa, they are even more pronounced.

There’s no denying the crime rate is high, but there are some things you can do to increase your odds of staying safe. The first thing you need to know is that Johannesburg and Cape Town are two different countries, so you’ll need visas for both.

Some areas of Johannesburg have higher crime rates than others, so be sure not to wander too far off the beaten path. If you’re driving in Johannesburg or anywhere else in the country for that matter, don’t leave anything valuable visible inside your car.

Safety Concerns with Being a Woman in South Africa

South Africa is a beautiful country, but it can be dangerous for women. There are safety concerns that you should be aware of before visiting South Africa.

South Africans are very friendly and welcoming especially to American Tourists.

Just like any other place in the world, there are certain precautions that you should take while exploring this wonderful country.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Do not go into dark areas alone or after dark. If something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t so don’t stay where you’re not safe!

Avoid walking around at night even if it’s just for 5 minutes.

Safety Concerns with Walking the Streets at Night

It doesn’t matter if you are visiting Cape Town or Johannesburg, but there are many precautions you can take before and during your visit to ensure you stay as safe as possible.

The first thing you should do is sign up for a safe walk with one of the local tour companies in town.

Then, try not to carry around large sums of cash on you at any time, and be sure that your belongings are secure no matter where they are.

Finally, stay aware of your surroundings at all times when out at night so that if an incident does happen, it’s easier for law enforcement officials to locate the perpetrator.

Things to Do Around Town To Stay Safe

Safety is a major concern for many when traveling. In order to stay safe while in Johannesburg, take the following precautions: 

1. Avoid staying out late at night.

2. Don’t walk around alone at night or in secluded places.

3. Limit your alcohol consumption and always be aware of your surroundings when drinking.

4. If you’re out late, call a taxi instead of walking home alone

5. Be vigilant about locking up your valuables at all times and avoid carrying large sums of cash with you

6. Be smart about what you share on social media

7. When visiting tourist attractions, be mindful that certain neighborhoods may be off limits

Tips For Where To Eat And Drink

Traveling is always an experience, and no country has a monopoly on safety. That being said, South Africa is one of the safest countries in the world, with crime rates at an all-time low.

For example, Johannesburg is often cited as one of the most dangerous cities in the world due to its high crime rate; however, this misconception comes from international media’s overemphasis on sensationalist events and not any empirical data.

In reality, you’re more likely to be killed by a bee sting than be attacked or mugged.

Nevertheless, there are still some precautions you can take while visiting South Africa that is worth mentioning: stay away from deserted areas at night and avoid dressing too flashy when out after dark in order to blend into your surroundings better.

How To Stay Safe on Public Transportation

Public transportation is an integral part of life in Johannesburg. It offers a convenient and affordable way for locals and tourists alike to get around the city.

However, as with any public transit system, it comes with risks. Here are some tips for how to stay safe on public transportation.

– Keep your belongings close by
– Stay alert and aware of what is happening around you
– Be observant of the other passengers on the bus or train – Take extra precautions if you are traveling alone or carrying expensive gear

How to Stay Safe in an Airbnb or Hotel Room

Staying safe in an Airbnb or hotel room should be easy. But you never know what could happen when you’re on the road, so it’s good to be prepared.

Here are a few tips for staying safe while you’re traveling:

– Leave your valuables locked up safely in the hotel room or Airbnb; don’t carry them around with you.
– If someone asks for help, turn and walk away.
– Make sure the door is locked before you leave the room and make sure the door handle doesn’t show signs of tampering before entering.

Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife viewing poses risks, particularly on foot or at close range. Be aware of the threat of monkeys and baboons overwhelming sightseers in their search for food. They are known to get very aggressive.

  • Always maintain a safe distance when observing wildlife
  • Only exit a vehicle when a professional guide or warden says it’s safe to do so
  • Only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators
  • Closely follow park regulations and wardens’ advice


Coastal waters have unpredictable waves and current patterns, which can be dangerous. Shark attacks have been reported in several areas, including in KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.

  • Follow the advice and warnings of local authorities.
  • Be cautious when swimming in lakes and rivers because of the risk posed by wildlife

Travel Restrictions

  • You don’t need a visa if you’re visiting South Africa for tourism purposes for up to 90 days. In other cases, you’ll need a visa. Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. You should contact the nearest embassy or consulate of South Africa for the latest details.
  • Damage to infrastructure and travel routes has been caused by heavy rains and flooding in the city of Durban, as well as other areas in KwaZulu-Natal Province. There are possible risks of road closures and delays and some disruption to services. Follow the advice of local authorities. 
  • South Africa no longer has COVID-19 restrictions in place. See the South African Government website for more information.
  • You no longer need to show proof that you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • You no longer need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test to enter South Africa.

Local contacts

  • The Consular Services Charter tells you what the Australian Government can and can’t do to help when you’re overseas. 
  • The Australian High Commission in Pretoria can provide consular help to Australians in South Africa.
  • To stay up to date with local information, follow the High Commission’s social media accounts.

Is South Africa Safe for Women? 

The answer really depends on where you are and who you are with.  The country has horrifying rape and gender-based violence statistics. In a 2009 study, one in four men admitted to committing rape.

South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries for women and girls — most at risk are those who live in poor and underserved areas such as townships.

Most female visitors will be safe visiting South Africa and many women travel solo around South Africa including me and I never felt as if something was going to happen nor was I ever afraid.

To keep yourself as safe as possible, don’t travel after dark. Aim to stay in hotels and guesthouses with decent security.

Let people at home know where you are and what your plans are.

Use Uber over Bolt — Uber has better security features (such as driver facial recognition ID checks).

is south africa safe

Is Johannesburg Safe

Johannesburg is a really fun city to visit, with plenty to entertain tourists. But it does have a particularly high crime rate much like any metropolitan U.S. city.

There are areas to avoid, like everywhere, and it’s best to ask the hotel staff for specifics about what areas are unsafe.

If visitors experience crime, it’s likely to be theft — so keep your belongings secure (don’t leave your bag hanging off the back of your chair, for example) and be aware of who is around you.

South Africa Crime VS. United States Crime

While the United States is statistically much safer than South Africa.

So why is the U.S. State Dept. sending out Travel Alerts, calling Mexico “A Failed State”, and saying that ALL parts of the country (including popular tourist resorts like Puerto Vallarta and Cancun) are now unsafe for travel?

There has been a lot of news coverage about violence in Mexico. But very little of it notes that Mexico is a HUGE country with thirty-one states (+ the Distrito Federal).

They also fail to mention that most of that violence is drug traffic-related, or that you could count the number of tourists who are affected by it on one hand.

Did you know that according to the US Bureau of Consulate Affairs a whopping 7 people (U.S. Citizens died in South Africa over the last 5 years and only 1 was a homicide?  

Imagine 1 U.S citizen out of the nearly 130,000 visitors, Do you know who else had more than 1 murder in the last five years?

Well, Boston for starters. Then there was Las Vegas. And Orlando. And Indianapolis. Is the State Dept. advising tourists to stay away from those places?

How big is your own city when compared to South Africa? Here are the annual numbers of MURDERS, given by MSA (or Metropolitan Statistical Area)

  • Atlanta – 325
  • Baltimore – 298
  • Boston – 111
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth – 310
  • Detroit – 447
  • Houston – 462 
  • Indianapolis – 111
  • Jacksonville, FL – 120
  • Kansas City – 163 
  • Las Vegas – 133 
  • Los Angeles – 68 
  • Miami-Boca Raton – 377
  • New Orleans – 252 
  • New York City – 778
  • Orlando – 111
  • Philadelphia – 436 
  • Phoenix – 302 
  • San Francisco – 392 
  • St. Louis – 210 
  • Washington, DC – 325 

South Africa crime stats

Best Time to Visit South Africa

The best time to visit South Africa is from May to September, as the cooler winter months in the northern regions bring superb conditions for viewing big games.

It can be rainy from November to February, but this is the best time to travel for birding, and temperatures remain warm at 22°C to 33°C.

However, South Africa is a year-round destination, with varying regional climates and wildlife opportunities.

The Cape has beautiful, hot, dry weather in its summer months (between November and February), with temperatures between 23°C and 26°C. The best time to visit the Cape for whale watching is between July and November.

Is south africa safe

 Safest and Luxurious Hotels in South Africa

South Africa boasts several luxurious and safest hotels that offer exceptional comfort, impeccable service, and breathtaking views. Here are some of the most renowned luxury hotels in the country:

  1. The Oyster Box Hotel, Umhlanga: Located on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, The Oyster Box Hotel is a prestigious five-star property known for its colonial charm and panoramic ocean views. It offers exquisite rooms, multiple dining options, a luxurious spa, and a range of amenities that ensure an unforgettable stay.
  2. The Silo Hotel, Cape Town: Situated in the iconic V&A Waterfront, The Silo Hotel is a masterpiece of contemporary design. Housed in a converted grain silo, it provides guests with exclusive accommodations, world-class dining, a rooftop pool, and breathtaking views of Table Mountain and the city.
  3. The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, Cape Town: Nestled between the majestic Twelve Apostles Mountain Range and the Atlantic Ocean, this five-star hotel offers a tranquil escape from the bustling city. With luxurious rooms, award-winning restaurants, a rejuvenating spa, and access to beautiful hiking trails, it combines natural beauty with refined elegance.
  4. Singita Sabi Sand, Kruger National Park: Singita Sabi Sand offers an extraordinary safari experience in the renowned Sabi Sand Game Reserve. This exclusive lodge provides ultra-luxurious accommodations, exceptional game viewing opportunities, top-notch service, and gourmet cuisine. It’s a haven for wildlife enthusiasts seeking a lavish retreat.
  5. Ellerman House, Cape Town: Perched on the slopes of Lion’s Head in Bantry Bay, Ellerman House is a prestigious boutique hotel with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. It features elegant rooms, a world-class art collection, a wine gallery, a spa, and a private terrace with a pool. The impeccable service and attention to detail make for an unforgettable stay.
  6. The Saxon Hotel, Villas, and Spa, Johannesburg: Situated in the upscale Sandhurst neighborhood, The Saxon Hotel offers a luxurious escape in the heart of Johannesburg. Known for its elegance and tranquility, it boasts opulent suites, a renowned spa, award-winning dining options, lush gardens, and a world-class wine cellar.

Do you Need Travel Insurance?

I think most people have questions about where to go for medical care in an emergency. First, I should note that if you’re on spring break, chances are slim that you’ll be needing emergency care.

Still, better safe than sorry! The good news is that some of the most beautiful cities in South Africa—like Capetown and Durban —also happen to be home to some of the best hospitals and clinics in South Africa.

I can’t say this enough but please get insurance when traveling to South Africa! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance.

Have fun while visiting South Africa,  but take it from someone who has racked up thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.

Make sure to get your insurance before you head off on an adventure!  I highly recommend Travelex Insurance.


  • Expedia: the best website for finding cheap flight deals and hotels to and from South Africa
  • Booking.com: my favorite hotel booking website, as it consistently has the best selection and prices.
  • Hotels.com: another excellent hotel booking website for finding fabulous South African accommodation.
  • Tripadvisor: this famous review website now allows you to book accommodation and tours direct as well.
  • Get Your Guide: my favorite resource for finding tours and activities in South Africa and elsewhere.
  • Viator: another great option for finding fun things to do, skip-the-line tickets, and fabulous tours in South Africa.

Conclusion: Is it Safe to Travel to South Africa

Yes, South Africa is safe!

Yes, South Africa is safe for tourists. The areas in which people typically stay — Cape Town’s city center and inner suburbs, the Cape Winelands, the Garden Route, safari destinations, and yes, Jo’Burg— are among the safest in the country.

You should take the usual safety precautions. Don’t walk around at night — use Uber. Don’t flash your valuables. Be aware of your surroundings and you will be just fine.

If you need more evidence that South Africa is safe take a look at this interactive map and you will see what other popular countries have the same travel advisory level as South Africa. 

The countries below have the same South Africa travel advisory and most people don’t think twice about visiting these destinations so why are you asking is South Africa safe?

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Travel Guide


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Best Romantic Getaways in South Africa

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Have you allowed the misconceptions around visiting the continent of Africa to prohibit you from exploring South Africa? Are you still wondering is South Africa safe for American Tourists?

I would love to hear your thoughts on whether is it safe to travel to South Africa and how you feel about the South Africa travel warning so leave me a comment on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

Are you traveling to South Africa anytime soon? Leave a comment and let me know!


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