Travel Tips: Volunteering in South Africa?

With more beautiful landscapes than one can count alongside one of the highest violent crime rates in the world, the main concern when travelling to South Africa is how to stay safe.

Before you dismiss this country due to its bad rap, please bear in mind the incidence of violent crime has gone down since apartheid ended, and there have been no murders in Cape Town’s five safest neighbourhoods, where you’re more likely to find tourists. South Africa is not a war-ravaged nation so you’ll be safe as long as you know to stay out of the dangerous neighbourhoods that for good reason don’t find their way into your travel guide. The main thing to be aware of is how to avoid falling victim to petty crime.

Although political and social difficulties are still somewhat prevalent on the back of the end of the apartheid regime, this country is not as scary or dangerous as uninformed western news outlets may have led you to believe.

Stay safe

Bearing in mind you won’t be going to the theatre in London’s West End or queueing for the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the care you need to have when visiting Johannesburg or Cape Town does not differ greatly from the one you’d have visiting a European capital or any of the big cities in the US.

While much of staying safe means following the safety rules you obey back home and following your intuition, the following are some tips to have on the back of your head to ensure the full enjoyment of your trip.

Know where not to go

Though crime rates are higher in the settlements established during apartheid for forced racial segregation – also known as townships – staying safe does not mean staying out of these places altogether.

Tours can be organised by seeking information from the tourism board. Perhaps Soweto in Johannesburg provides the best example of a culturally engaging trip to one of these settlements with everything from biking to bus tours, visits to the local markets where the residents will be very welcoming as they’re aware of the income brought in by tourists.

Mind your surroundings and be smart

Avoid walking alone at night as you’re more likely to be a target although pickpocketing can still occur when you’re in a group.

Wearing flashy jewelry or clothing or fully displaying your brand new smartphone are all great ways to announce yourself as a target. Leave your valuables at home, your passport at the hotel and you’ll only need to worry about having a good time.

Avoid carjacking by keeping the doors locked while driving and keeping your possessions out of sight. Make full use of the unlicensed parking attendants who are around to “watch” your car for you. Tip them and they’ll ensure your car is watched and kept.

In conclusion, use and abuse your common sense, trust your instincts and don’t walk around alone at night in sketchy-looking neighbourhoods in your Union Jack shorts while displaying the latest iPhone and your brand new Rolex. Be smart, try to fit in with the locals and you’ll have an amazing opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous sights and some of the most sought-after attractions in the world.


This post is written by Pedro Jacob, you can find him if you click here

Apply Here to volunteer in South Africa