"You are going to South Africa? But isn't it dangerous?!"
"Do NOT go to Johannesburg! This place is a cut-throat."
Do these sentences sound familiar to your ears? If you ever discussed your will to go to SA with someone before, you probably heard something similar. This article is here to give you a glance at what is (our) reality in terms of security.
It's been over a year since we first stepped foot on South African soil, and -touching wood!- nothing ever happened to us. SA - and Joburg more specifically- have bad reputation. But keep in mind that this country suffered some serious social hardship less than 30 years ago and it is still recovering from the apartheid era. Stereotypes are old and dating back from these times of unrest. Of course, South Africa still isn't your calm Swiss neighborhood. Yet, if you respect some basic ground rules, you should be fine ;)
Here 3 golden basic rules:
Use your good sense
Thinking of going for a stroll at night? Exploring an area you do not know on foot? These may seem obvious bad ideas, but basic good sense is key here.
If you do not feel comfortable somewhere or with someone, just order yourself a Uber and leave. Look around you: are there other people like you? If you feel like the area is too dodgy and you are not accompanied by a local, try not spending too much time there.
Also, you are visiting a country were richness is highly unequally distributed amongst people. So, if you're going to a nice mall or restaurant with a Uber, you can rock whatever outfit you wish. But if you're exploring some poorer districts or visiting a museum, avoid exposing your finest jewlery. No need to attract eyes on you.
2. Listen to locals
Just like in any major cities in the world, you will find good and bad districts. Ask your hotel receptionist / airbnb host / friends / forums to know whether you're in a good or a bad one.
South Africans have a good heart in general, they are very approachable and friendly. If they see you doing something silly, they will usually notify you. Do not hesitate to ask around you for tips. If you're told not to go to XYZ place, just dont.
3. Keep your eyes open
Sitting at a restaurant terrasse in the evening, queuing in a high density area, waiting at a red light on the road... do not let your phone / valuables unattended in plain sight. I am not saying you should stress and act awkwardly during your entire stay. But, you know... just keep your good sense awoken and keep your eyes open ;)