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How safe is South Africa. Concerned about Crime from Advisory warning.

We have a safari in Kenya/Tanzania in late July and after searching for airfares, I discovered that we can take a direct flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, SA, perhaps spend some time there, then on a separate ticket fly to Nairobi back from Kilimanjaro.

I found some nice tours on the internet but here are my concerns:
1) According to advisory warnings violent crime is a serious problem. Perhaps it would be mitigated by taking a bus tour of 3-5 days?
My travel experience would lead me to go with a compete tour rather than doing it on own, since that is best when crime or terrorism is an issue.

2) I am sure we would need to retest for COVID19 before our flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi. I see that the airport has tests available. Perhaps we should minimize our time in Johannesburg on our way to Nairobi, by staying one night near the airport and just recover from jet lag and not risk exposure to COVID19 so a positive test would torpedo our safari? We could do the tour on our way home after the safari. I would hope the COVID19 test results could be had in a short time. Kenya requires either an antigen or PCR test like the USA.

Posted by
1202 posts

Can't address Joburg because we were only in the airport; however, we did visit central Cape Town, the wine country to the east, and the Cape Peninsula. The only time things felt a bit sketchy was when we drove by the edge of Khayelitsha Township. We were traveling independently for this part of the trip. You should be fine on a bus tour.

Posted by
5116 posts

I am pretty sure that the exact same travel advisory could be (and probably is) in effect for almost any major US City. Would you feel comfortable traveling to Chicago?

Posted by
5456 posts

Thanks for your comments.
Agree with your comments and have no plans to visit Chicago, NYC, LA, San Fran., Portland or Seattle.

Posted by
13527 posts

Its been a number of years since i was in JBurg (the World Cup). At the time THE CITY, not a part of the city or a neighborhood (like Chicago for instance), but THE CITY as a whole was indeed dangerous enough to warrant awareness and precautions that you wouldn't need to exercise in 75% of Chicago. Some parts of the city you would have been ill-advised to enter without a local escort. I would guess that this is still the reality but think it best that you do some real research with sources that dont have political axes to grind so you can have a fun and safe trip (and you can, I had a wonderful time, met wonderful people, and its one of those places I want to return to. But do know its not Lincoln Park.)

There are sources like this but they dont define neighborhoods. I would suggest talking to local tour guides about "safe behavior" and "safe practices" :

Posted by
5456 posts

Thanks again for your comments. I agree that Chicago would not be as unsafe as J burg.
What I tell foreign friends when they mention crime in America is that crime in the USA is largely in certain big city areas and Americans tend to know those areas and avoid them. Foreigners don't always know those areas.

As a Georgian, I know exactly were not to go in Atlanta, however, that has changed in the past couple of years and places that were safe are no longer. My ex-wife was assaulted while trying to enter a mall in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, not know until recently to unsafe. Many now say they have stopped going to that mall that the police seem to have turned over to thugs.

Back to the issue, Johannesburg safety. I appreciate your link, I will do more research and perhaps contact some tour agencies.

Posted by
3988 posts

I contacted my brother who traveled to Johannesburg for business frequently prior to covid and he said, “Overall fairly safe. Like most big cities, there are places you avoid but he and his wife felt safe.” He also said, “I like Capetown much better. Stallenbush, a few miles north of Capetown, is the wine country. It is in the mountains and looks like Switzerland or Austria. The rest of the country, depending on where this are, does require some caution.

He was last there two years ago.

Posted by
1724 posts

We were in SA about four years ago. At that time, there had been a number of carjackings of tourists coming from the Jburg airport independently and in taxis which was quite concerning. We went with Odysseys Unlimited which sent a car and driver for us from the airport. I remember the driver constantly checking his rear view mirror. Maybe it was my imagination but he seemed nervous. I would go with a tour. There is safety in numbers so to speak. We never felt we were in danger there. Maybe the situation has been cleaned up by now.

Posted by
13527 posts

geovagriffith, you are right. The US is turned upside down right now. But as of yet, the US hotels are not surrounded by high concrete walls with guarded gates (not uncommon in J-Burg).

Still, I want to correct something I said. I used the term "dangerous". That is pretty subjective. It is what it is and with a bit of care and common sense, it can be a wonderful trip. I absolutely loved South Africa.

Oh, and this place Hitgeheim Country Lodge & Eco Reserve near Port E.

Posted by
3021 posts

I was sitting on a back porch in a rural neighborhood in the Upstate of South Carolina with a resident of Joburg a few years ago. He leaned back in his chair, sighed and said, "This is so nice. I can never be relaxed like this where I live. I always have to be on guard and aware of what is going on around me."

Posted by
13527 posts

Dave, you illustrated the point very well. Its all subjective. If I lived in a "2" city and J-Burg was a "8" city and the J-Burg guy and I decided to meet in a "6" city; well he would be sitting back on the porch eating croissants and drinking Nehi while I would be sitting there in kevlar and my hands clenching my AK

Posted by
189 posts

I spent four weeks in Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa). Three of the weeks included guided safari time. The first couple of days I spent on my own in Johannesburg. My hotel was in a fenced and guarded compound. I booked two different one day tours around the greater Johannesburg area and had a great time each day. I did not adventure out on my own because I didn’t have a car. We were advised that things were safe in the city during daylight but to be very cautious at night. In Cape Town we spent a lot of time getting around on our own over a four day period. We roamed freely for two days in Victoria Falls. All of the safari camps (lodging areas) were fenced and guarded except in Botswana and Namibia where only armed guards were posted. Hope this helps.

P.S. the hotel’s recommended day tour was superior to the one I booked beforehand online.

Posted by
31467 posts

I've thought of making a visit to South Africa as there's one historic site I'm especially interested in. However the warnings on the government website (especially about violent crime) are daunting, so I'm not sure it will be worth the trouble - .

In addition to the Safety & Security section, the Health section also has numerous warnings and it appears that health facilities may require an up-front cash deposit before treatment is rendered, even if insurance is available. At my age, travel health issues are a concern! I'd definitely be visiting a travel medical centre to get my vaccinations up-to-date, and that would include Malaria prophylaxis.

Posted by
515 posts

Tanzania and Kenya are considered Eastern Africa…. Personally I would not venture there but I do know folks who have taken tours there.

We went to South Africa September/ October 2015. With respect to Johannesburg- we stayed our first 2 nights in The Residence Boutique Hotel not far from the airport and we’re met immediately by the hotel chauffeur when we left immigration and customs….he shepherded us to the ATM’s and through the airport to the car where he had water awaiting us along with air conditioning. The hotel was well staffed and had an excellent restaurant. Pricing was reasonable…we booked the Penthouse on the roof.

When we wanted to see some of Johannesburg we were driven and accompanied at all times…this was included in the rate….they also returned us to the airport for our flight to Skukuza Airport to start our 12 night/ 3 lodge Safari. We were not sure when or if we would ever be able to make it back to Africa.

As far as planning the logistics I sought out a very competent advisor that I found on TA….. he goes by Bwanadave….. he did not run tours but he had/ maybe still has relationships with with most if not all of the lodges….he worked with any budget. I know he still posts on TA. I highly recommend searching his posts….he is and has been generous with his wisdom, experience and advice.

Ken…..I totally understand about age and concerns over medical issues should they arise. At the time my husband had CHF but was being managed with medication. The evening we checked into our 2nd Lodge his legs were swelling badly….by this time it was after curfew …which means park gates are close …no ingress or egress. The staff were amazing there and my husband was comfortable waiting til the director came in in the morning. We were driven by director to the local clinic in Skukuza…this lodge was quite near to Skukuza…..and he spoke to the physician and was able to see my husband immediately… he had an H & P; EEC; and prescribed enough Lasix to allow my husband to complete our trip safely. My husband had not been on Lasix prior. Medicare does not work overseas and I expected to pay by credit card and then send paperwork to our secondary insurance. The bill….was..$63 US…

When we returned to Lodge…Dave and his contact called the Lodge and wanted to personally talk to us to ensure everything worked out (apparently the Lodge had called them) .

I would not hesitate to return to South Africa… is an intoxicating and magical country!

Posted by
515 posts

Update to my above post….Dave is still on LinkedIn ….his name is Dave Patterson and owner of The Africa Safari

Posted by
102 posts

We were on safari with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) in July, 2018 which included SA, Zambia, Zim and Botswana. We spent time on our own in J'burg and Cape Town. Safety in J'burg was of concern. We stayed at a hotel near the airport and only ventured out to places of interest with an escort. We have traveled to many places in the world and this was a first for us but unfortunately necessary.

We used guides recommended by the hotel and they were awesome and we felt safe. That was not the case in Cape Town and we freely went around day and night ourselves although we also did a couple of day tours with the guide attached to our guest house.

IMHO, having been brought up in New York City and lived in San Francisco for many years there is no comparison to J'burg or with other large cities in the US.

Personally, I would arrive in Nairobi early, acclimate and spend time there prior to your safari and save SA for another time.

We too will be on safari July/August in Kenya and Tanzania with OAT. We have been to both countries in the past but every moment is a different and thrilling experience. Africa is our soulful place in the world and it frequently calls us back.

Good luck with your planning.

Posted by
5 posts

The violent crime in South Africa is mainly situated in the sections that tourists wouldn't visit like the Cape flats in Cape Town. Tourist crime can still happen but if you are vigilant and sticking to the tourist areas you should be fine. Can't speak too much for Johannesburg but you can easily see what you need to see there in a day and then head to Cape Town which is probably your safest bet. Most flights will probably be cheaper if you go to JHB but you can fly to CPT on the cheap, I always use but you can probably hire a car and drive down too. If you drive via the East coast you will see a lot of beatiful and safe places along the way!