Based on the Global Peace Index (GPI), South Africa is ranked the 130th safest country out of 163 countries — it’s safe to say it’s not one of the safest countries in the world. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still live a safe life in this vibrant Rainbow Nation.
There are many small, everyday habits that can improve your safety and greatly decrease your chances of something going wrong. Here are the top 10 safety tips for living in South Africa.
Ideally, you want to choose an area with high security and low crime rates. Johannesburg is known as the most dangerous city in SA, particularly for its more violent crime, followed by Pretoria and Pietermaritzburg. Whereas Cape Town is known as one of the safest with more petty crime. While not always, the safest areas tend to be the most upmarket.
The safest cities and their safest areas include:
Cape Town: Clifton, Camps Bay, Bishopscourt
Port Elizabeth: Summerstrand, Walmer, Lorraine
Johannesburg: Rosebank, Sandton, Midrand
Durban: Durban North, Umhlanga, Hillcrest
Pretoria: Waterkloof, Groenkloof
Smaller towns: Hermanus, George, Jeffrey’s Bay, Plettenberg Bay, Mossel Bay, Knysna, West Coast
You can even take it one step further by choosing a security estate which provides electric fences, camera surveillance, access-controlled entrances and security guards on duty 24 hours a day.
Armed robbery is one of the most common crimes in South Africa, so it’s essential to protect your house and yourself from burglaries. You can do this by investing in all the safety bells and whistles.
Safe-proof your house with the following:
Alarms with motion sensors
An electric fence
Armed response with a security company
Often, your mind is preoccupied when locking or unlocking your house. And with your gate being open or your house unlocked for a few moments, it’s enough time for crooks to slip in.
So it’s vital that you are hyper-aware when leaving or entering your property. You should stay in your car until your gate has closed, watching your mirrors to see if anyone slipped inside. And don’t forget to double check you locked everything up and turned on any alarms before you go.
Remember: Where you live plays a big role in your overall safety and the level of security needed. So, if you're feeling unsafe in your area, perhaps now is the best time to make a move for you and your family.
While South Africa does offer a range of public transport options, it’s important to note that not all of them are safe. Even the ones that are safer require a certain level of precaution.
Public transport systems that tend to be reasonably safe in South Africa include:
MyCiTi Buses in Cape Town
Gautrain in Gauteng
E-hailing services like Uber and Bolt
Official airport shuttles
Even while using these forms of public transport, remember to keep your valuables out of sight and avoid travelling at night, particularly alone.
Public transport options that aren’t the safest and should be avoided include minibus taxis and Metrorail train services.
Unfortunately, in many places in South Africa, it isn’t always safe to walk around. So when you do take a walk, make sure to take the necessary precautions.
Walking around at night is definitely a big no-no in South Africa, even in a group and particularly in city centres. If you absolutely have to, make sure to stick to well-lit areas that are visible to busy main roads.
Often it’s not even safe to walk around during the day, depending on the area. Assess the area beforehand if you want to take a walk around or go for a jog. Cities will often have a few popular walking and running spots that are busier and usually safer. For example, the Sea Point Promenade in Cape Town is the walker-jogger-runner hotspot and is regarded as one of the safer places to walk around during the day.
While Gauteng is notorious for hijacking, it can happen anywhere in South Africa, particularly in big cities. In fact, within the first 3 months of 2023, there were already over 5 000 reported incidents of carjacking across the country.
So it’s crucial that you always remain vigilant when driving, ensuring your windows are up and doors are locked, especially when you come to a stop at a traffic light or stop street. You also want to be on the lookout for any suspicious behaviour, like a car following you or a car in front of you slowing down to force you to stop.
It’s pretty much ingrained in every South African to never leave your belongings unattended in public, especially in places like the beach, restaurants or malls, as they can be snapped up in the blink of an eye.
Additionally, you never want to leave items in your car that are visible from the outside. Once people can see it, it becomes a temptation for a smash-and-grab. So always put items in your boot, away from any curious eyes.
Knowing how to and when to protect yourself is important. Self-defence can be simple techniques or even pepper spray, a taser, or a firearm. It’s also recommended to carry a whistle which, in some circumstances, can be used to alert attention in an emergency.
While a self-defence weapon is usually recommended only for women, everyone could do with some extra protection.
Taking formal self-defence classes is highly recommended to give yourself a better chance of getting out of a possibly bad situation safely.
As they say — hope for the best, plan for the worst. In the case that something does go terribly wrong, you want to make sure you’re prepared. Here are some safety precautions you can set up ahead of time:
Set up the SOS feature on your phone which sends your location, photos and audio to designated contacts in an emergency.
Have local emergency numbers on your phone with easy access.
Set up panic buttons in your home and home remote.
Create a plan in the instance you have an intruder in your home, including an escape route, alarm buttons, a safe room and even a defence weapon.
Work together with your support system to keep each other safe, protected and supported in the case of an emergency.
You can do this by:
Doing things in groups when you don’t feel safe going alone.
Sharing your location in Ubers or other potentially risky situations.
Staying in contact either on the phone or through messages when you feel unsafe.
Checking in to see if everyone got to their destination safely.
With just a few extra precautions taken and some awareness of your surroundings, you can do a lot to stay safe in South Africa. And once you can do that, you can focus on enjoying the wonders this incredible country has to offer!
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