Safety in Africa

Apr 3rd, 2005, 04:13 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 469
Safety in Africa

We have travelled in perhaps 30 or more countries over the years, always independantly. We are thinking about a "safari" to somewhere in Africa and have seen wonderful pictures of South Africa. Here's our concern. We've been heard a lot about crime in SA and wonder if we should consider renting a vehicle and seeing the country on our own, using a tour company or perhaps doing a different country. We're in the really early planning stages so any advice about personal safety would be greatly appreciated
galiano is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 07:08 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,367
Africa requires a lot more common sense than other places. Like travelling at nite. Or foolish places to attempt to go with out backup vehicle. But travelling
independently is the way to go. If you get to a particular country with out a vehicle you can book a tour easily
for example
Arusha-Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti
Dar-for about anything in country
Nairobi-for about anything
Vic Falls-many tours start or end here
Maun- the okavongo to chobe
Joberg/Cptn/--mother of all

I have travelled independently in africa since '87 and the experiences have been incredible.Made friends of the very guides and people of legend that you will here about- Like Norm Carr or South Luangwa. Have enabled me to stay in camps/lodges that the people on this forum have paid 1000's of $$$ for nothing or modest prices.If you need specific help...Have travelled the Cape to Cairo overland and many trips in between. Had plenty of run ins but the key is never losing self control. Mzungus are notorious for that. But if you play the game, smile and deal with it, you will be fine. Sometimes you offer a cigarette, a pack, a beer or soda. Sometimes knowing when to call their bluff. If you want specific lodges,ask the forum. I am generally not particular, because I like the bush too much. You can't see and experience Africa from a hotel room.
Nothing like stopping on a game drive at tea time and enjoying a cup of tea and a herd of ellies at a waterhole.
luangwablondes is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 07:31 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,354
Each country has its challenges.

South Africa (including Namibia) is the best country for self-drive as the roads are wonderful. Thousands do it every year with no problems.

But the distances are great so a combination of fly/drive is certainly recommended. Talk to the locals at the B&Bs or hotels where you stay and let them give you safety tips for their areas.

In reality, you will probably only rent a car in the Western Cape, Garden Route and from JHB to the Kruger Area and back (if you drive instead of fly). The rest of the time you will probably fly. These 3 driving areas are safe if you follow basic rules such as not driving at night and avoiding areas off the beaten track unless recommended by locals.

In other countries you will have additional challenges such as bad roads, inaccurate maps or no maps whatsoever!

You are an independent traveler. No need to change if you visit South Africa! Unless you can see yourself on a tour in a kombi with strangers!
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 09:16 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 469
Well both these replies are encouraging. SA seems like a wonderful country with magnificient scenery and wildlife. Still I have heard horror stories about the level of crime - perhaps it can be "managed" So I will continue to look at SA as a possible destination.
galiano is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 10:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,719
Before I visited SA I was a bit worried about crime and safety due to all the scare stories I'd read and heard about. However, after my first trip there I returned home and immediately started planning my next South African holiday! Luangwablondes and Climbhigh are right that it just requires common sense. Listen to the locals, don't drive at night, take basic precautions (keep valuables out of sight, lock your car doors, know where you're going...).

On my second trip to SA we drove from Jo-burg to Kruger, then through Swaziland to Kwazulu-Natal, then back to Jo-burg. It was a great experience and we'd never have seen so many beautiful places if we hadn't had our own transport. We made sure our driving times were realistic and that we wouldn't be trying to race against the clock in order to arrive somewhere before nightfall.

If you read through some of the threads on this board you'll find a lot of trip reports from people who have had fantastic self-drive trips through SA. Lots of safety tips too (try entering "safety" in the search box above).
hanl is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 08:51 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 987
Galiano, I've made more than a dozen trips to South Africa over the last 25 years, I follow SA politics, and I have friends who live there. My advice is to go. I think it's important to put crime rate figures in perspective. The kind of crime that causes the high statistics isn't the kind that affects tourists. Most of it is among criminal gangs, and won't affect you at all. There is a lot of residential burglary, but as a tourist you don't need to worry about that either. In all the time I've followed SA news, I've only heard of three attacks on tourists, and in at least 2 of those cases, the tourists did exactly what they had been warned against, and ignored the specific advice of police and locals. This is 3 out of however many million visitors they have every year, multiplied by 25 years.

The chance of having your car burglarized is, maybe, a little higher than in some other places in the world, so you probably should keep your luggage and camera in the trunk. Ask for local advice before you drive outside of towns at night. If you're driving an expensive car, you do need to worry about highjacking -- there's an extremely profitable cross-border car theft business between SA and Zimbabwe. But those guys want BMW's and Mercedes, not small rental cars.

Driving on your own is as easy as driving in the US -- great roads, reliable and frequent service stations, well-marked and well-mapped roads. Also the opportunity to see rural life close up. And you can stop and just look at the beauty whenever you want to.

I would never let worry about crime keep me away from beautiful South Africa. We expect to keep on visiting there every 2 or 3 years from now on. Go. I'm sure you won't regret it.
Celia is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 03:50 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 14
We just returned from a 3 week trip to SA that I am delighted to report was fabulous thanks to all the help I gleaned from reading this column for months and months. I am so committed to spreading the word in the USA about the safety that we found in SA. I don't know why SA has such a bad rap in the media in this country but it certainly has to overcome that before more Americans will consider SA as a destination. While in SA, we met so many wonderful people from all over the world and we asked them if they had any hesitations about coming to SA and they didn't know what we were talking about. I would certainly verify the previous posts about being sensible, etc. but the country and the people are there waiting for all of us to enjoy it to the maximum and we did!! I will eventually post a trip report as I owe you regulars a lot for the tips, suggestions and encouragement we got when we were in our planning stages.
We were on our own for about half of our trip with a rental car and then had signed onto a schedule that allowed us to have drivers and transfer "handlers" Thanks to all and we can't wait for our next trip. NOW, I understand why so many of you return year after year.
azmngal is offline  

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