South Africa’s undisputed beauty makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and the country is currently preparing for an influx of visitors from across the globe for this summer’s FIFA World Cup .
Unfortunately, however, South Africa has been hampered by a reputation for crime that instills fear amongst travellers that is both disproportionate and unnecessary. The reality is that whilst many of the country’s urban centres – notably Cape Town and Johannesburg – do have relatively high crime rates, there is no reason to be unduly concerned as long as you take the appropriate precautions.
Most of these are the same precautions you should take when visiting any unfamiliar territory. Namely, taking taxis rather than walking home late at night, avoiding ostentatious displays of material wealth, and trying to move around in groups rather than alone.
Another important tip for South Africa World Cup visitors is to always ensure your 2010 accommodation is sorted before you arrive in a city. Due to the vast numbers visiting the country for the tournament, hotels, hostels, B&Bs and camp sites will fill up quickly, and the last thing you want is to be left without a bed for the night and the prospect of sleeping on a park bench or in a shop doorway.
The safest way to travel across South Africa is by using one of the myriad of established and reputable tour operators who will provide you with a vehicle and a driver. However, if you are on a budget and intend to travel between cities by bus, be sure to place all valuables in your luggage, rather than anywhere that can be reached while you sleep.
Those planning to hire a car are likely to hear and read horror stories of car-jacking. This is actually a rare occurrence, and only really happens in busy cities like Johannesburg. However, vigilance is still required, and drivers are advised to always keep car doors locked. It is also recommended that – so long as it is safe to do so – you avoid stopping at traffic lights late at night. South African police will not treat this as a driving offence.
For visitors intending to spend their entire trip in one city, the standard advice applies. Avoid walking anywhere late at night, particularly if you’ve been drinking, and always plan your journey home before you head out for the evening. If possible, pre-book a registered taxi to take you back to your accommodation at the end of the night.
To reach the World Cup stadiums, visitors should make use of the shuttle buses that will be put on by tournament organisers and will operate from several points across each city. Alternatively, for those hiring a car, there will be park-and-ride schemes to help you on your way.
A safe spot to congregate before and after matches will be the official FIFA Fan Zones that will be set up in every host city across the country. These well-policed venues will allow fans to watch games live on big screens, and enjoy an array of entertainment options.
Above all else, enjoy yourself. This is a country with so much to offer, and you don’t want to spend your entire trip looking over your shoulder. Keep your wits about you, lap up the stunning scenery, and you’ll depart with nothing but incredible memories. Have a great World Cup!