US, Israeli travel advisories for SA escalated due to 'high crime', UK adds 'most visits trouble-free'

2020-01-03 10:37 - Selene Brophy
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Photo Taken In Czech Republic, Prague

Travel advisories for South Africa continue to highlight crime as a major concern for visitors.

Israel has kicked off the new year warning its citizens about "high crime" rates in SA. Its foreign ministry issued a statement on 1 January 2020 saying, “Violent crimes are also common and target tourists. The majority of criminal episodes are concentrated in townships and homeless areas, including commercial areas, especially in the evenings and after dark.”

Visitors are being advised to avoid public transport and carrying too much money or valuables. Women have especially been cautioned against "walking alone".

The United Kingdom's advisory for SA, current at 3 January and last update on 5 December 2019, says most visits are "trouble-free", advising "sensible precaution" as well as adding in additional information on potential changes to South African Airway's timetable.

Similarly, Australia's travel advisory, current on 3 January and last updated on 15 November, advises a "high degree of caution" due to crime. It also added details related to the changes in documents for those travelling with children to SA

READ: 'We’ll put up with the occasional discomfort' - Cape Town voted world's best city for a record 7th year

The United States last updated it travel advisory on 23 December 2019 from Level 1 to Level 2 - calling for visitors to "exercise increased caution", warning of "crime, civil unrest, and drought".

"Violent crime, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles, is common. There is a higher risk of violent crime in townships and the central business districts of major cities after dark," says the US Foreign Ministry.

So what is being done to combat the crime and negative perception to tourists in SA?

Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced the safety strategy plan for the festive season on 12 December 2019, prioritising both the safety of local and international travellers alike.  

READ: How this 24h, solar-powered tourism kiosk erected in Sandton plans to increase safety

The Department launched a new Tourism Safety Plan that includes, most importantly, preventative measures to ensure safety throughout the festive season, responsive steps to take in the event of an incident - ensuring quick and effective operational responses - as well as an aftercare programme focused on supporting any victims after an incident has occurred.

In the long term, the Tourism Monitors Programme will be remodelled so that it is linked with SAPS Community Policing Forums and Community Safety Patrollers as part of SAPS Community Policing Strategy.

Police Minister, Bheki Cele says, so far a special police unit was established to monitor people travelling from OR Tambo International. 

"We believe that the public will see value in government efforts and the intervention measures implemented for this festive season. The joint effort between government and the private sector is evidenced today by these partnerships formed to deal decisively with the safety of our visitors and to ensure that South Africa remains a destination of choice," says Kubayi-Ngubane.

READ: Cape Town makes it onto a 'no go' travel list, but it's not about tourists' safety

Emergency numbers to save on your phone: 

  • South African Police Service and National Emergency Response -  Phone: 10111

  • Phone from cell phone: 112 (automated response)

  • Emergency - Ambulance  - Phone: 10177

  • Netcare - Phone: 0860 638 227

  • Missing Children Emergency - Phone: 072 647 7464

  • Sea Rescue Emergencies NATIONAL - Phone: 112 or 0870949774 

For area specific numbers Click here.


It's important to always stay alert. Wearing your watch or rings are fine - just don't flash your valuables excessively. Always keep you handbag on you, even in restaurants. Place it beneath the car seat when driving for added safety. 

Keep friends informed about your itineraries. Don’t walk alone late at night.

It's better to Uber than to take a taxi off the street. Double check the number plates of your Uber correspond to those on your app. The MyCiti Bus is reliable and operates in Cape Town until 10pm.

READ: Why the R40 Mpumalanga highway could be named SA's most dangerous road for travellers

  • Road safety: 

Never drink and drive - always have a designated driver. Rather safe than sorry.

Motorists can expect to be stopped at mobile testing stations where officials will test the roadworthiness of their cars. Drivers will also be tested for alcohol levels at all road safety law enforcement activations. 

Try to avoid driving at night in unfamiliar surroundings: Travellers are advised to plan their journeys carefully and avoid last minute rush and late night driving.

Rainy weather, particularity currently in Gauteng, is another risk, so motorists must adjust their speed in consideration of wet road conditions. 

The following hijacking hotspots have been identified by the NHPA: 

The National Hijack Prevention Academy (NHPA) has released a list of hijacking-hotspots in some major SA cities. The organisation's latest list shows hotspots in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban. 

Beware when travelling under highway bridges in cities, and as far as possible, do not travel in problem areas at night. 

NOTE: The information is based on historical data and traffic modelling. 

  • Stay safe while hiking

Plan your route from start to end and choose the route according to the ability, fitness and experience of the group. This will prevent potential injury.

Before embarking on your hike, make sure you are familiar with the route, terrain, difficulty and expected time required to complete the trail.

Never hike, run, cycle etc. alone.

Undertake your activity with somebody who knows the way and carry a guidebook, map or route description. A registered guide is recommended. 

When packing your bag, remember, you will eat your way through the heavy snacks. Aim for a 12kg load for long routes and trails. For a five-day hike, ladies can get away with 50 - 60 l bags and the gents with 60 - 70 l.

Water purification tablets or drops are required for most routes – the dodgy river water will become your best friend. 

Inform someone exactly which route you are taking as well as your expected time of return) and stick to this route and plan.

Always be prepared for unpredictable weather, i.e. take proper weatherproof and warm clothing even on a sunny day (wind and rain proof); torches - with spare batteries and globes; good footwear - strong boots or shoes with non-slip soles; food; water; a flask of tea or some other beverage; a rucksack to carry it all in - so as to leave your arms and hands free.

Heed signs advising of danger and do not take short cuts or unknown routes.Leave valuable like cash and cameras behind.

Be wary of suspicious persons who may pose as hikers.  

Swim at beaches where and when lifeguards are on duty. Lifeguards are on duty at selected beaches between 10am and 6pm on weekends and during the week during summer school holidays. Listen to their advice and talk to them about safety on the beach that you are visiting. They are the experts on that beach. If lifeguards are not on duty do not swim.

Swim between the lifeguard’s flags. Teach children that if they swim between the lifeguards flags the lifeguards will be watching them and can help if there is a problem. Lifeguards watch swimmers very carefully between the flags – just wave an arm if you need help.

Don’t drink alcohol and then swim. Learn how to do CPR. 

Don’t swim alone. Always swim with a buddy. If you are with a buddy while swimming there is someone who can call for help if you need it and you can’t wave to the lifeguards or call for help yourself.

Adult supervision and barriers to water are vital. Adults who are supervising children in or near water must be able to swim. This is vital if it is at a water body that does not have lifeguards on duty. It is extremely dangerous to get into the water to rescue someone so rather throw something that floats to the person in difficulty and call for help (112 from a cell phone and check for the nearest Sea Rescue station telephone number before you visit a beach – put that number into your cell phone). Children should not be able to get through or over barriers such as pool fences to water. Only use child safe pool fences and child safe pool covers or nets.

Know how to survive rip currents. If you swim between the lifeguard flags they will make sure that you are safe and well away from rip currents. If for some reason this is not possible do not swim. Educate yourself about rip currents, there is plenty of educational material here, including videos of what rip currents look like.

Don’t attempt a rescue yourself. Call a lifeguard or the NSRI by dialling 112 from your cell phone for help. If you see someone in difficulty call a lifeguard at once or dial the nearest Sea Rescue station from your cell phone. You should put this number into your phone before you go to the beach – get the emergency numbers for NSRI here or you can Google for the closest NSRI station emergency number. 112 is a good emergency number – for any emergency – to dial from your cell phone. After calling for help try and throw something that floats to the person in difficulty. A ball, a foam surf board and so on.

Watch children who are using floating objects, toys or tire tubes at the beach or on dams very carefully. Never use these if the wind may blow them away from the shallow water. You can very quickly get blown away from the shore and as much fun as tubes and Styrofoam are it is easy to fall off them. If a child can’t swim and falls off in deep water they will drown.

Do not be distracted by your cell phone or social media. While you are looking after children in or near water you need to focus on them and nothing else. Adults who are supervising children should not be distracted or use their cell phone. It is not possible to concentrate on children in the water and be on your phone at the same time. 

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