One of the principal rules a tourist should abide to is not to be a pedestrian in urban areas at night! In rural areas it is recommended not to drive after dark. A cell-phone is an important safety-measure, especially when the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere! When booking your vehicle via Protea Tours, a cell-phone is added free of charge - if desired.
The risk of theft can be reduced significantly when following precautions are considered: Do not expose jewellery or expensive camera equipment in public or leave them in the rental car! Wallets and cheques should not be stored in trouser pockets and larger sums of cash and other valuables should be deposited in the hotel safe. If a safe is not available it is even more important to secure valuables in a breast bag or a security belt. Loose amounts of small change in pockets are advisable because this avoids pulling a wallet in public. In case of a robbery it is of utmost importance not to put up resistance and to obey.
The South African police advises all tourists not to pick up hitchhikers, to keep the car doors locked at all times and to open the windows only slightly. It is important to use secured parking spaces / lots, not to leave valuables in the car as well as to leave the glove compartment open to indicate that it is empty.
It still is advisable to consider the relatively low risk of carjacking. For this reason many South Africans still drive with shut windows and locked doors in urban areas. Carjacking usually takes place at night at intersections. For this reason it is wise to keep a sufficient distance to the car ahead to allow for sufficient manoeuvrability especially when the traffic lights are red. In the case of carjacking it is important to behave as defensively as in the case of a robbery.
Johannesburg: The centre of this vibrant metropolis unfortunately remains an exception in South Africa. Even during the daytime it is not recommend to tour downtown (especially Hillbrow) with a guide. The high crime rate is also due to the influx of many immigrants from poorer African countries, which has turned the centre of Johannesburg into a typical 3rd world city. Fortunately these precautionary measures do not apply to Sandton and other affluent suburbs.
Cape Town & Pretoria (Tshwane): During the daytime the crime potential in these towns is more relaxed and in no way compares to Johannesburg or rather Hillbrow. Exploring downtown at night on foot is not advisable. It is recommended to take a taxi from or to your hotel or guest house.
Townships: (e.g. Soweto, Langa, Kayelitsha) These residential areas are very interesting but should only be visited with guided tours!
- SNAKE BITES / SCORPION STINGS
The risk of snake bites and scorpion stings is comparatively low in South Africa. Most snakes tend to avoid contact with the rare exception of the puff-adder and mountain adder, which prefer to remain basking in the sun on a path. In case of a snake bite – do not panic, remember the size and colouring of the snake and contact a medical doctor as soon as possible. Do not apply a tourniquet because of the risk of restricting arterial blood supply.
Take precautions – you are in Africa and spiders as well as scorpions have to be considered! When collecting firewood or stones it is important to use a stick or shoes to check them out before picking them up! Contrary to popular belief spider as well as scorpion stings are painful but not lethal!
Sunburn is probably the most severe health risk a tourist is exposed to in South Africa. Unfortunately many South Africans are still not conscious of the risks of overexposure and lack of protection. It is important to use sun lotion with a protection degree of 25-30, but its efficiency also depends on the frequency of application! Other protective measures are hats with a wide brim as well as long-sleeved beachwear. Quality sunglasses can reduce UV-radiation up to 50%.
Before bathing at an ocean beach it is imperative to make inquiries beforehand because of the risk of dangerous currents as well as sharks. Popular beaches are protected with shark nets and have lifeguards on duty! Nonetheless, the risk of a shark attack is extremely low! It is definitely more risky to bathe in rivers and ponds because of the risk of bilharziosis (see BILHARZIOSIS). At beaches it is important to heed the following signs: a red square means that swimming is dangerous, a red and yellow square indicates that life guards are present, and a yellow sign with a black circle in the middle means that swimming is only possible 200 m to the left and right of the sign!