1. Don’t walk around town
Especially if you’re from Europe or Asia, I can’t explain to you just how dangerous some neighborhoods in South Africa can be. Unless it’s in broad daylight and a local has specifically told you that a certain area is safe, avoid it at all costs, no matter how safe it looks. You can go from a “safe” tourist area into a dangerous ghetto in just 2 streets. Also don’t expect to “hang out” around town or explore on foot. Unfortunately, this is a place where you get into your car and drive where you want to be, then afterward drive back home.
2. Don’t get into one of these
These mini-vans are called “taxis” in South Africa – They are dangerous and they are not for you. I’ve had American tourists come crying to me on the street because they tried to take a taxi somewhere and got robbed of all their luggage, money and passports and missed their flight. Stay away! Also when driving, watch out for these! They do NOT obey traffic rules.
3. Don’t go on any public transport
Avoid trains, avoid buses (except for MyCiti bus in Cape Town), avoid cabs – In South Africa, it’s best to drive everywhere yourself. If you’re visiting a city center, your best bet is Uber, otherwise make sure you rent a car. I know it seems weird because you can’t walk, you can’t take public transport – But that’s just how it works here. Transport is a struggle, you need to realize this before visiting.
4. Don’t drink in public
It’s against the law here
5. Don’t get involved with the police
There are many reports of corrupt and violent police incidents in South Africa – Best to stay out of trouble.
6. Stay out of dive bars
Maybe you’ll be lucky and have a good time, but in general, it’s not a good idea. If you see these posters advertising brandy & coke – – It’s probably an Afrikaans dive bar and I won’t recommend you going inside, especially during a rugby match and especially if you’re not white. It might be your kind of place if you’re a right-winger.
7. Don’t go hiking alone
Preferably go with a hiking group or tour group. People get robbed, stabbed, and even murdered in the mountains too, not just in the cities.
8. Don’t even visit the cities in the first place
If you’re coming here to visit Cape Town or Johannesburg, there are probably much nicer, more accommodating, and safer cities you could visit as a tourist elsewhere. I would 100% recommend coming for a visit and exploring our beautiful nature, going on wildlife safaris, hanging out on the beach, surfing, hiking our majestic mountains (in a group!!), camping, looking at Boesman drawings, and breathing in the fresh, unpolluted African air. We have some of the best weather and the best natural beauty in the world. But our cities are dangerous and they’re a mess, I wouldn’t recommend it.
9. Be careful when cheaping out on accommodation
You need to make sure you’re not booking an Airbnb or hotel in a dangerous area. If your Airbnb is suspiciously cheap, make sure it specifically says in the description “safe area for tourists” or if you have a local friend, ask them about it.
10. Don’t discuss racial issues
There are very complicated racial tensions in South Africa. You might be surprised to see the segregation between different groups and feel tempted to discuss it. Try to avoid this if possible – If you don’t understand the context you might trigger an unwanted reaction. Needless to say, if you are a racist then don’t act it out here. But also, if you are anti-racist and notice someone being racist, it’s best to stay out of it and not confront them, unfortunately. Don’t even refer to someone by their race (for example “I got directions from a white guy at X and Y”). Avoid any jokes involving race. Avoid avoid avoid.
If you’re planning a trip here – You’re about to experience some of the most beautiful nature you’ve ever seen and it will absolutely be worth it! Enjoy your trip and I hope you follow these rules otherwise RIP.