How Safe Is South Africa for Travel?

South Africa
Safety Index:
48

South Africa is a country located at the southern tip of Africa.

It shares its borders with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho.

It is no exaggeration to say that this country is huge, with many varying landscapes and 11 official languages, and an equally diverse population.

It is the country that boasts the strongest economy on the continent: South Africa is known for its wines and is one of the world’s largest producers of gold.

It is also very influential when it comes to African politics, and in 2010, South Africa hosted the first Football World Cup to be held on the African continent.

Though some may think of typical stereotypes when hearing the words “South Africa”, it is actually completely different than people imagine.

Mainly, it can be said that it is a country consisting of two countries.

On the one hand, it is, without exaggeration, a first world state, especially the major cities such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, and on the other hand it has a staggering rate of poverty, only imaginable in Africa.

It is one of the most unequal countries in the world, where you can see opulence and poverty standing side by side.

Warnings & Dangers in South Africa

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : HIGH

As amazingly fun and exciting South Africa might be, you should be aware of the many dangers that await the unsuspecting tourists. This country has extremely high rates of crime. You should be vigilant and take all possible precautions measures in order to minimize the risk of something going wrong.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : HIGH

Public transport in South Africa is the scene of many criminal activities. Be aware of criminals waiting around at Johannesburg and Cape Town airports and then following tourists to their accommodation with a goal to rob them. There have also been reports of luggage thefts at the airports. Rails and metro trains are also the locations where assaults and robberies have occurred. If you plan to take the train in Cape Town, always opt for the 1st Class, travel during the day and in a cabin with people. Avoid traveling to Cape Flats altogether.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM

Pickpocketing was once a serious problem in this country, but it has been on a decline during the past couple of years. Still, the riskiest locations where you may encounter petty theft are crowded places such as markets, public transport and bus, and train stations.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

South Africa is often the victim of many natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, storms, and wildfires. One of the bigger floods in South Africa occurred in 2011 killing 91 people.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : HIGH

Mugging and robberies are a much bigger issue in this country than petty theft. And though usually, the motive of these incidents is theft, rape is sadly not uncommon at all, so female tourists should be particularly cautious.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : HIGH

There are threats coming from extremists linked to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL), as well as threats from individuals inspired by terrorist groups, including Daesh, who might try to carry out so-called ‘lone actor’ attacks targeting public places.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM

There are a couple of popular scams, one of them involving criminals posing as "tourist police" with a goal to rob visitors. They are known to stop tourist buses, saying that they're checking identification and searching luggage. However there's no such thing as "tourist police" in South Africa, so be on the lookout.Then there are so-called "strollers", and they can be anyone from children to junkies. Their only goal is to rob you blind so keep your valuables well hidden.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM

Though many female travelers went to South Africa and had no problems at all, this country might not be the safest choice for female solo travelers. Be very careful at night and avoid risky situations such as winding-up in deserted and poorly lit streets or finding yourself in an unknown area with strange people.

So... How Safe Is South Africa Really?

Though this is a country where there’s so much to see and do, that it’s impossible to fit it all in during one trip, with both breathtaking scenery, rich and luxurious parts of major cities, exciting nightlife and incredible culture, it is a country with a serious rate of crime to watch out for.

Since there are staggeringly poor areas in this country, it is not at all uncommon to hear about muggings and armed robberies in this country.

And though usually, the motive of these crimes is theft, rape also occurs from time to time, which is especially relevant for female visitors.

There have also been reports of food and drink spiking, with victims ending up being assaulted and robbed after the incident.

Traveling by a rented car is also not very safe: there have been tragic instances of foreigners being carjacked and murdered.

However, it’s more important than knowing what kind of crimes tend to occur in South Africa, is knowing the areas and hotspots where they’re more likely to occur.

You should generally avoid townships as they experience a higher crime rate than other areas, and though you shouldn’t steer clear of them at all costs if you have to visit them, do it within an organized tour group.

Caution should also be taken in Johannesburg, both in the city center and in its suburbs, especially at night.

Cape town is another high-risk area, especially after the evening hours.

Avoid the areas of Greenpoint, Salt River, Seapoint, Mowbray, Observatory, and the Cape Flats as there’s higher criminal activity there.

How Does South Africa Compare?

CountrySafety Index
South Africa48
Morocco54
Slovenia87
Bulgaria80
Vietnam73
Portugal57
Japan83

Useful Information

  • Visas - While U.S. citizens visiting the Republic of South Africa for tourism purposes do not need a visa for any stays shorter than ninety days, along with many other countries, there are some nationals that do need a visa in order to enter South Africa. Make sure your passports are valid for at least 30 days past your planned date of return from South Africa. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need a visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
  • Currency - South African rand is the official currency in South America. ATMs can be found throughout the country and credit cards are widely accepted.
  • Weather - Since it is such a large country, the climate in South Africa varies from the Mediterranean in the southwest to temperate in the middle part of the country, and subtropical in the northeast. There is a small area in the northwest that has a desert climate. Most of the country experiences warm, sunny days and cool nights.
  • Airports - Cape Town International Airport is the busiest and biggest airport serving the city of Cape Town. It is also the second-busiest airport in South Africa and third-busiest in Africa. It is located approximately 20 km from the city center.
  • Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to South Africa, since it covers not only the costs of medical problems but also theft and loss of valuables.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

South Africa Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 23° C
Feb 23° C
Mar 22° C
Apr 20° C
May 18° C
Jun 16° C
Jul 16° C
Aug 16° C
Sep 17° C
Oct 19° C
Nov 20° C
Dec 22° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
282927252220202021242527
Low
°C
171716151312111213141517
High
°F
828481777268686870757781
Low
°F
636361595554525455575963

Where to Next?

39 Reviews on South Africa

  1. T
    Travel Enthusiasts says:

    Lay Low And Be Cautious

    This page is one big exaggeration, south Africa is generally very safe to visit but try and avoid walking in the night, do not show any indication of high wealth. just even handling your money in public can make you a victim of mugging, pick pocketing, and robbery. its not that safe of a place for women, sexual assault and rape is on the rise. visiting south Africa is like a gamble, it could go really well or really bad. south Africa is not a great paradise like many think and theirs actually better places to go in Africa to see the nature or go on a safari. being white in this country is a issue too. police will stop you in the streets and demand money no joke. your seen as a walking ATM machine. so lay low and be cautious. i know it might seem bad after all i said but if you lay low and do everything ive said in this paragraph then you can have a great, safe trip to South Africa

    1. E
      EvilWhiteMan says:

      Yet another unsafe African country

      “visiting south Africa is like a gamble, it could go really well or really bad”

      Sounds like a real dream destination to me. Watching my back constantly? No thanks, I prefer Europe and Asia. If one day I should be tired of life…..I come visit Africa (for assisted suicide).

      1. W
        Wyatt/JHB says:

        I have lived in Johannesburg for 49 years. I have been a victim of crime twice.

        Both times were caused by my stupidity and lack of awareness.

        Reading all these reviews is quite sad because most of them are just made-up nonsense.

        The police don’t demand money from you, they will accept bribes though, but you are not forced.

        If you are hassled then you’ve probably done something wrong.

        I would also love to know about these instances of terrorism?

        The only time we hear that word is watching the news and always involving European countries.

        Most of the people leaving reviews have probably never even been here. Including the person who wrote the review.

        1. Agreed

          This makes more sense because America has more terrorists, murder and crime because of the color of skin not because they did wrong. I would not want to be there it is worst than Cape town 👀👀

        2. B
          BoyMeetsBush says:

          SA is Safer than America

          Agree. The high risk is way over rated. I have lived in Joburg for 12 years and 25 years in NYC. NYC under Mayor David Dinkin in the 90’s was much worse than Joburg. I have also experienced 1993 World trade centre bombing I worked right across and 9/11/2001I was in Manhattan saw the 2nd plane hit live. I have never experienced that in SA.

        3. Well white guy from South Africa who lived with his family in Cape Town, confirmed me high risk of robbery, murder. He was gun pointed 3 times so far. He said South Africa is not safe for the white people.

      2. I love South Africa

        I have lived in South Africa all my life, but I have travelled extensively. Honestly the crime here is not that much different to that of London or New York. Yes you do have to be careful in some areas, just like any big city. The coastline is exquisite, the Big 5 breathtaking and the people incredibly friendly. The police are not all out to get you. Yes crime happens, but often because you are not aware eg bag over chair, easy opportunity. Give it a chance, it’s an incredible country.

    2. A
      AuntieT says:

      Skip South Africa

      Yeah ok rape not that bad. 😳🤷🏻‍♀️

      Follow guidance..skip South Africa..

      Choose life.

    3. I will wait

      I really wanted to visit this year and then a colleague told me her brother that lives in Joburg recently got robbed because their automatic gate wasn’t working and he left the car to check.

      Not looking wealthy and white is probably the best way to stay safe.

  2. Be careful and everything will be okay

    Thanks for the train tip! We visited South Africa for my colleague’s wedding and now we plan on returning there just the two of us. Johannesburg is a great city, you just have to watch your bags, I’ve seen a lot of suspicious faces around me a lot of times.

  3. Always go with a travel buddy

    Whenever I’m travelling alone I do my best to pick safe destinations. Yes, I want to enjoy myself and explore cool places but I also want to make sure I make the flight home safe and well. South Africa sure has its perks but I decided to visit it with my father and it proved to be a very wise decision, he’s way more cautious than me.

  4. I stay in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and just like any other country there are areas to avoid.

    All in all, we have a great country, try not to stand out too much and you’ll be fine.

    1. You have to be cautious at all times

      I understand that South Africans always get upset when travellers mention they felt unsafe. South Africans naturally behave much more careful than (for instance) Europeans, who are used to live in a safe world and don’t even know what real danger means. If you grew up in South Africa you will never be as careless as a European. Never ever. So they don’t understand what we mean when we say it doesn’t feel safe because if you play by the rules it is considerably safe. I have lived in South Africa for a while and being European I can tell you it is an issue to be white and when you are a foreigner they always try to scam you. It’s just a natural thing. What to me is actually the biggest issue is that you are not free, because you always have to be cautious. Always and everywhere.

  5. As a white person I wouldn’t go to SA as the reported genocide (or rather the lack of deserved coverage for it) is terrifying. First in the world for rape and Joburg is basically a no go zone.

    1. Yikes

      I don’t know why you mention “as a white person,” since it sounds really unnecessary. It doesn’t matter in this country. You’re a target no matter what race you are.

      1. S
        SuchandSuch says:

        Um? really! oh Wow!

        You haven’t heard of People like Malema also know as the Black Hitler of our times or Zuma singing kill white people? Zuma was the President of the country while doing such things.

        My friend, you need a big wakeup call.

      2. H
        Henco Viljoen says:

        not really. in south africa and the rest of Africa, having a different skin tone means you stand out. White people are seen as walking atm machines and have a very high chance of getting scammed. Theres also a lot of bad history and a lot of racial tension in SA. Genocide is definitely an overstatement but there is a mass murder streak of white farmers in the country, so avoid staying on farms too.

  6. A
    Anonymous says:

    Dangerous for whites

    My buddy grew up in SA and he said the other day, “I’ll never go back. Anyone who says it’s safe is lying.” This is from a white, English South African whose parents still live there, and who has traveled all over the world.

    1. Well, um, Afrikaans ZAs and English ZAs don’t get on. All South Africans (should) know that. The AZA’s see the EZAs as snobby. Some are to be honest.
      As a AZA I know a few EZAs and some (not all) DO think they are to good to learn the language and DO think they are better then the AZAs. But loads of EZAs are nice and willing to try to learn Afrikaans.
      Also, I am white, but that’s because my great great someone moved to South Africa from the Netherlands. I have been snubbed, but when I speak Afrikaans they see I’m an AZA and all tension is lost.
      So yes, I agree that South Africa isn’t safe for EZAs or white people (unless you are a white AZA like I am) because of Apartheid. But you have to understand why.

      1. Jo’burg, City of Gold

        Absolutely untrue. I have lived in Johannesburg for 40 years, and have only felt unsafe in run-down areas in the city centre. As a white woman, I have sat and drawn street life in many suburbs in this beautiful city. Our people are friendly, and you are no more at risk than in any other big city.

  7. J
    John Smith says:

    South Africa is a great country, with great people. Just be sensible like you would anywhere else.

  8. Depends Where You Go

    It’s a huge country with varying degrees of safety. Some cities you’ll feel watched, others you’ll feel like a local. So it really depends on where you’re going. Just like many big countries it’s not just one simple thing. Imagine judging the USA based on LA. So be sensible and you’ll be okay. There are over 10 million tourists each year so it’s really not that bad. The beauty on the other hand will take your breath away

    1. D
      Dave CT says:

      Totally agreed… Couldnt have said it better…

  9. Terrible country!

    When I traveled to this country 2 years ago, well, it was horrid. The people are terrible. The police is terrible and scared of the people, therefore no control over them. The food is great. The scams are high. The rape is high. The murder rates are always high. Communicating with anyone is terrible. The hygiene and sanitation is terrible. Petty crime is high. Someone can easily walk into a store and hold you up while others just casually stare at you as if it’s a daily occurrence, without helping you in any way. This country is crappy and it’ll tear itself apart within a few decades if nothing improves. Don’t waste your time coming here. You’ll probably never come back, but, if you do, you’ll be scarred or realize just how awful a country and its people can be. Please, please, PLEASE DO NOT listen to the reviews that say this is even an OKAY country to visit!! It isn’t!

  10. H
    Henco Viljoen says:

    Whites
    The problem with most african countries is that white people stand out in a crowd, and are seen as a walking atm. we are more likely to get scammed. Now in south Africa, there’s extreme racial tension, plus the history of apartheid. So you will be treated very poorly.

  11. Very dangerous

    After reading reviews here and confirming the accuracy. I’ll never set my foot on this stinkhole called South Africa.

    1. A
      Anonymous says:

      Have you even been to the country?

    2. A
      Anonymous says:

      How can you say that South Africa is very dangerous if you haven’t even set foot in the country?

  12. P
    Paul Fishman says:

    The supporting looters and lootenants of Jacob Zuma have risen up in mass riots, looting and murder nationwide. This is because of the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma as of July 2021. The danger level is very high up to level 4. DO NOT come here because the infrastructure is being destroyed. Electricity and other services have been destroyed by the mass terrorist riots.

  13. Would a 63 yo white woman need to be concerned about rape?

  14. South Africa was my home since birth love the country it have recently emigrated to the UK its very unsafe the racism is rife the energy sucks and you have to live behind security bars and cameras and alarms it’s stressful the poverty is awful no government support nothing works it breaks my heart to see it go this way as it’s such a beautiful country but has no support for the poor as it’s totally unequal

  15. Country is kind of rough right now

    People can go their entire life in SA without being the victim of a crime obviously, but that doesn’t change the fact that the homicide rate (36.4/100,000) was literately higher than Pakistan (4), Afghanistan (7), Syria (1), Iraq (10) and the US (5), and Yemen (7) combined in 2020.

    I have traveled here three times and spent probably 1/3 or so of my time staying in townships, 1/3 in hotels in cities, and 1/3 doing the usual tourist safari stuff, so have seen a bunch of the country. Generally: some parts are totally safe, but most of the country is fairly safe during the day and a big no-go at night. A lot of bad stuff has happened in SA’s history and the economy hasn’t been in great shape in recent years. There are other amazing countries nearby where you can get off the beaten path and be a lot more free to explore the beauty of the cultures and places- Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique and others

  16. It Depends on How Much You Know as Well as Where You Go

    As someone living in South Africa, and reading the mixed reviews, I do just want to add a little. Is South Africa safe? It entirely depends on where you are, what you are doing, and your understanding of the culture. I often drive in Pretoria, but because of my knowledge, I never go to the CBD or major city areas. I always travel during the day and stay over at night. There will always be a small risk of getting mugged, assaulted etc, but that generally happens to people who are not paying attention, traveling around at night, and not watching their surroundings. Is it exhausting? Yes and no, you get used to it. And here are some top tips if you do want to visit South Africa:

    Do not use Taxis, use Uber
    Do not have your phone or valuables out in public, or headphones
    Go in a group if you can
    Never have your phone visible inside your vehicle either
    Always check the reviews of the places you are staying
    If you can, make connections with trustworthy (hear me now, trustworthy) South Africans in the area, and find out which places to avoid and which places to visit. It’s even better if you can travel with a local friend because they will practice common sense and safety for you. I myself know the top spots which is great to visit and the top spots where I never go
    Don’t dress like a tourist. What do I mean by that? Dressing normally will allow you to actually blend in from the crowd. Because South Africa is such a diverse nation, it’s a lot easier to blend in than you think

    Understand that South Africans are mixed cultures and races, but as a whole, in shops, malls, and entertainment areas, you will find a lot of South Africans to be very friendly and helpful. There is a whole lot of bias, stereotypes, and myths as well as an exaggeration that does run in the country. Yes, it has its issues and gender-based violence is one of them. Each and every country does have its fair share of problems. But don’t let this stop you from visiting if you want to visit. Just do a little more research, follow the tips and advice from people, and overall you should be fine.

  17. A
    Alex MacKenzie says:

    Don't Live in Fear BUT Don't Underestimate Danger

    I’ve spent a total of a year of time in the country, spread over a number of trips. I’ve known many locals and have heard their stories. Most of these locals were white and quite well off. I’ve spent in time in all the major cities, and I’ve self-driven most of the country.

    The truth is, it is a dangerous place. It is perfectly safe for you… until it is not. It can all change in a moment. It really is just a matter of luck to some extent. I have personally known people robbed at gun point in very upmarket areas, people car-jacked, people suffering home invasions. It is common, it simply is. There are many videos posted online of these types of events. It looks like the wild west in many of them.

    As a tourist employing a high degree of common sense and situational awareness, you’re likely to enjoy a few weeks vacation there and return home happy, intact, and with some terrific memories. However, there is no denying the fact that the odds against that, though still relatively low, are much higher than if you spent your vacation in Tokyo.

    One personal story… I was last there two years ago, just before the world lost it’s mind. We had the new experience of being stopped by the police one evening. We were returning from dinner in an upmarket area of Cape Town. There were several police officers just standing at the side of the road, waiving SELECTED vehicles over. We met the criteria, and were waived over and told that, due to a very minor infraction, the car would have to be seized and we would have to be taken to the station. It was clear from the theatrics employed that this was simply a ruse to extract a bribe. We held fast and agreed to the proposed legal consequences if that was must happen. Once the 3 officers realized that no cash was coming their way, they simply allowed us to go on our way.

    Would I return… likely. It will depend on how much more poor and desperate the average citizen is in the wake of the changes brought by the last 2 years. If tourist infrastructure is permanently lost, it may make the few tourists who do go stand out in an unwelcome fashion.

  18. A nice country to visit

    While there are certainly some cities (but especially areas within some cities) that are unsafe, I can’t say that I agree that South Africa, overall, is an unsafe country. Does it have it’s share of crimes, pickpocketing, muggings, rapes and so on? Yes, it does. But you can generally keep on the safe side by just paying attention, avoiding going out at night alone and avoiding particular areas which you should learn about before traveling anywhere, not just SA.

    I don’t think this country can be added to HIGH when it comes to terrorism risks. Yes, something bad can happen here as it can happen across the world but adding a HIGH red sign to it doesn’t seem fair. If this country is high then what about other places that have to deal with the threat of terrorism on a daily or weekly basis?

    From personal experience and from other people’s experiences I can say that Johanesburg is pretty safe. Yes, the Police can take bribes (I’ve had it happen) but it’s nothing I haven’t seen in other cities I’ve been in Europe, Asia, etc. It can happen all around the world. The Police is made of people and some of them will take bribes. But that doesn’t mean the police are hostile or doesn’t do its job. Overall, they seem to be doing a good job of keeping things safe.

    I don’t agree that visiting South Africa can be a gamble. If you learn about the bad places in each town and avoid them, pay attention to your surroundings, don’t go out alone at night and mind your own business, you will be just fine. The South African people are generally friendly, hospitable and welcoming and their culture is wonderful. Just ask around for people that have been in this country and most will have good things to say.

  19. B
    Bigbadman says:

    Overall : safe enough

    There are no damn terrorists in south Africa bro… WTF IS WRONG WITH U GUYS

  20. I
    Its safe says:

    Been there, it was safe and friendly

    SoWeTo and Johannesburg has been very safe and very plessant to visit, and I (if it really matters) are a white person. The most friendly people in the world is in SA, and I would gladly go back anytime.

  21. C
    Cara Du Toit says:

    Visit South Africa.

    I am South African and have been in South Africa for 23 years. It breaks my heart that people who haven’t ever been to South Africa warns other people not to visit. Yes South Africa isn’t the savest country to visit, but it also isn’t as unsafe as people make it out to be. We have beautiful beaches, so much culture and some of the best food you will ever have. South Africans are some of the most welcoming and loving people you will ever meet. If you do your research well, visit the right places at the right time (for example not walking alone after dark in an unsafe neighbourhood) travel in a group, being aware of what’s going on around you etc. your chances of getting robbed, or feeling unsafe is very scarce. I have visited other countries and there is not one I will ever exhange for South Africa.

Rated 3.1 / 5 based on 39 user reviews.

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