This was a thing that crossed our mind one too many times while preparing for our trip to South Africa in the past few weeks! The internet was very convincing in making up our minds for this effortlessly beautiful country. To be honest, we were still a bit concerned about safety. But, the hospitality of the South African people, was very warm and made us feel at ease with our concerns. We even managed to get back a forgotten bag with all its contents safe due to some really helpful South Africans (Thanks Verity, we owe you a big one!).
South Africa can be a bit unsafe, but that’s only if you are not careful. From family living in Johannesburg to a friendly Uber cab drivers, we got some serious sound advice to avoid any trouble.
Here we share some of those tips, so that you enjoy what this beautiful country has to offer with peace of mind:
This one probably will hold true anywhere in the world, but seriously avoid unknown roads at night, wherever and whenever possible. We had initially planned to rent a car in Cape Town to explore the Garden Route, but later changed our mind after advice from locals to not attempt anything like that,specially at night.
Valuables out of sight while travelling in cars – your Uber driver will definitely warn you of this one every time you get into their car. We used mostly Uber cabs which ended up to be cheap and highly reliable. Some of the drivers were extremely helpful and they took us to our destinations and were flexible enough with our last minute route changes! We did not get a chance to use public transport, specially the Gautrain, but have heard good things about it. The couple of times we did not use Uber at night, we ended up using the pricey hotel transfer. On hindsight, we think it was a bit unnecessary, especially in Cape Town. So, that was probably our paranoia kicking in!
Do your research before hand about your accommodation. Go on trip advisor or a similar website to read up on reviews from people who have already been there. A quick google search can give you an idea of the neighborhood. Not all neighborhoods were created alike, and like in every city, different neighborhoods provide different things. So pick one which is best suited for your travel needs and dont forget to do your homework! We stayed at some amazing hotels with good hospitality and safety record. Loved every minute of our stay at the Monarch Hotel and the Winston Hotel in Johannesburg, and the Hotel Commodore in Cape Town.
We visited the township Khayelistha in Cape Town with the help our beautiful hostess. On our way to the place, we had to endure horror stories of brutal murders that had happened there in the past. We did feel a bit out-of-place when we were looking for eKhaya eKasi Art and Education center in the narrow streets of Khayelistha, specially when our driver himself was not at ease driving there. Our hostess, Nwabisa, was however the most loveliest of all and the world was hunky-dory again. She even took us around to see the hard work of the township residents, as if we were long lost friends.
Something that we regretted not doing was discovering Cape Town with a local. We did get help from some lovely people to see the sights of the city. We would have enjoyed the Cape Town nightlife to the full extent by knowing where the locals like to unwind and enjoy some drinks and food. The one thing that took us by surprise was the early close time for most place, maybe it was winter hours or maybe we did not visit the right places. So, I am going to keep that in my bucket-list for the next trip!
We had a gala time discovering this magnificent country- from the shores and vineyards of Cape Town to the Neighborgoods Market and historical areas of Johannesburg and finding the Big 5 at the Kruger National Park. This country truly is a masterpiece – extremely beautiful and hence, taking that leap of faith and trusting the people is definitely worth it.
One helpful resource beside the usual suspects (Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor etc.) is the Visit South Africa website. The South African Tourism Board has taken up a lot of initiatives to make this place tourist-friendly. I even came across a diligent Tourism Board members at the boarding gates, on my way back, taking elaborate feedback from the tourists.
Please feel free to drop in your experiences and tips about visiting South Africa in the comments below!