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Safety Tips

Excellent basic Rights advice on Legal City

The most vulnerable you'll be is your first day upon arriving. Ensure that you know what to do before arriving. Don't trust anyone and ask for more than one opinion. You're more of a target when travelling with luggage. Don't carry your passport, flight ticket and money belt all over the place if you can help it - put them in a safe and carry copies. These items are expensive to replace; never mind the inconvenience. And for Gods sake; don't drive at night and don't even think of stopping next to the road to look at the map.

Please note that this info is provided not to scare you off but to alert you to possible dangers.
If the Book of Lies states that it is safe to use minibuses and your hosts/locals states NO; PLEASE LISTEN to the locals - they live there, they know what goes down.

I feel I have to state the following: The Police are not to blame - they are understaffed, underpaid and live under intense pressure. Mbeki and his Government doesn't have a clue!!   By not acting they are approving criminal acts, guilty of human rights abuses, reverse racism and killing a great foreign exchange earner. Please keep in mind that certain parts of South Africa might be dangerous but then so is certain parts of Washington, New York, London, Sydney, Rio etc.Common sense will prevail mostly everywhere in South Africa except in Jo'burg.

Also note that it is not crime itself that is the greatest danger or killer. Try bad driving!! Or even Worse - Aids

This is by far the biggest danger. No matter how nice a guy or girl is don't fool around even if they say they have been tested - they probably haven't been. Then there is a mountain of STD's like Chlamedia as well. So what you do is don't jump the locals' bones, white or black. If you meet someone nice and think there's a future get a full test, for more than just aids.

This is the latest fad. Starting about Dec 2003 the in thing was to either close a road very late at night/early morning and then hijack the vehicles when they stop. This has turned to packing big rocks all over the road that was too much work - they now use mostly truck tyres. When you crash they rob you blind. There has lately been several cases - 27 near the Atterbury off ramp in Pretoria. The worst of this was the public was not made aware of this for at least 3 weeks. After the Police claimed it was isolated incidents a victim set up an email address and had an amazing response from other victims. The police doesn't want this reported as it is work - they refer you to the traffic police, claiming it is a traffic matter. It is however attempted murder. There has been people hurt and paralysed. Also' this is starting to happen all over. So, don't drive highways/main roads at night.

This concerns mostly gravel roads. They are extremely tricky as there are loose sand that causes people like you to total the car. The insurance will NOT cover you no matter what insurance you take. In fact - they might bill you for the whole car as it IS negligent driving. You might think you can drive but swallow your pride because if you drive normally your rear end WILL pass you and you will write the car off and probably be hurt as well. What happens is tourists drive far too fast. So; now your foot is on the accelerator like normal. Here comes a curve in the road. And you don't take your foot off  'cause you just don't know. So right there you lose control. You will get no sympathy from anyone. So, drive carefully and slow on gravel - half you normal speed. Take you foot of the accelerator just before every curve and corner in the road. And if you do lose control, turn the steering wheel into the direction of the spin.

Cars gets stolen thanks to huge unemployment, the high cost of parts and the lax law.
Ensure that you have off road parking wherever you stay over. Also consider taking a full insurance as most companies only offer 90%. They might not make this clear and tell you that your rental includes insurance. Make sure you have the most comprehensive cover possible. We offer that at one of the best rates around. When parking anywhere park at a parking arcade wherever possible and KEEP the ticket with you.

If you have bought a car the best and easiest company to deal with by far is Outsurance.
Avoid Sanlam as they will try and get out of any claim. They told me my car when stolen didn't exist. Of course, I 'm a liar. On top of that I 'm stupid as well - I insured a non existing car for 2 years. I also had it towed in 4 times by the AA but that must have been a buddy's car with my number plates. And I also paid for 3 major services including an engine overhaul on this ghost car of mine. They treated me like a criminal and will do it to you too. When eventually they paid they paid R4000 less for a 2 year older model. Sanlam is the company that gives most insurers a bad name - they have the "you are fully insured (but only till you claim)" attitude.

This is not Switzerland or wherever you are from. So don't leave something like a jacket visible on the back seat. Also if you are clever enough to park, and then show people you are locking your gear in the boot, then you are inviting them to redistribute wealth. A clear sign of previous break-ins is glass scattered in the road.

I  haven't heard of any foreigners that has been done while cycling in SA. Your main danger here is getting hit by traffic. Don't cycle at night. I 've heard of incidents between Vic and Livingstone as well as north of Nairobi. One traveller cycled with a flare gun as a safeguard. If you want to go this way I would recommend it; also you either use it right away or lose your stuff; don't ever hesitate. If you access that you have to use it, use it to its full extent - dead centre of the body & close range. Alternatives are rubber snakes or mace & pepper spray (available in SA).

Huge in 2004, this is also a relatively new trend; especially in Gauteng. This is also used by hijackers. They follow and stop on your arse as you pull up to your destination. If you just came from the airport they normally just take your luggage and won't shoot you.

Hijacking is common in Johannesburg and Durban and starting to pick up speed in Cape Town. It also happens elsewhere but to a much lesser degree. Cars are taken to chop shops where they are broken down for spares within 2 hours. It is as bad as it sounds and you should be aware of it. Even if you don't resist you might be shot. Note the Hijacking hotshot signposts. Also the latest trick (2004) is to box you in on the Witbank section (the road from Kruger to Jo'burg/Pretoria).  They would use a larger vehicle like a 4x4 staying on your right; talking on his cell phone telling his mates you are coming and keeping pace with you. On the left coming up would be a "breakdown". Just before you get there they would throw a huge piece of wood in the road; trying to force you to stop as you can't swerve. Now if you stop you are toast, so don't. Be aware enough to not get boxed in, even if you have to brake sharply and get into the right lane if you see a breakdown.
Also note that hijacking of bicycles are the latest. This is not included in the list below!

SAPS Carjacking Statistics of the RSA for the Financial Years 1996/1997 to 2003/2004
Cases Reported - for previous year ending 28 Feb
Eastern Cape
Free State
North West
Northern Cape
Western Cape
RSA Total

Also a very interetinfg read is the NATIONAL HIJACK PREVENTION ACADEMY (NHPA)'s site

A creative tactic has been observed in hijacking lately:

This tactic is being used in parking areas, irrespective of whether they are open or closed areas.  A large paper (pamphlet, newspaper etc) is placed on the back windscreen of the vehicle, obscuring the rear view.  The unsuspecting victim climbs into the vehicle, places key in the ignition, starts the vehicle, engages the vehicle in reverse and then notices the obstruction.  Irritated by this nuisance, the victim climbs out of the vehicle to remove the paper -- at that moment the hijackers strike, normally finding the keys still in the ignition and the engine running. A clean getaway is normally the result.

The solution:
Be in code yellow when approaching your vehicle, observe who is close to your vehicle, do a quick inspection of your vehicle -- especially rear windscreen.
If there is a threat, move towards help.
If there is no help , escape the area.
If the situation escalates, draw attention to yourself by screaming for help and have the “Striker” ready in your hand.

Effective avoidance is only achieved if you are in code yellow, and you are aware of the tactics being used.
Be proactive -- educate yourself :

POLICE & IMMIGRATION I 'm adding this as they are a total menace and disgrace. They are underpaid, corrupt, inefficient and break the law constantly. They most certainly don't hesitate to break the intimidation law by misusing their official standing to commit crimes. If you get hijacked don't be surprised when going to report the crime; you find your hijacker the other side of the counter. In general reporting a crime is a joke. 1st they wouldn't want to take your statement. 2ndly the stats will get cooked in any case. thirdly nothing will get done about it.
A couple of things you should know:
1stly a police officer must identify him/herself - from personal experience they don't.
2ndly a policeman should have reasonable cause to search you if you walk down the street. Our constitution have freedom of movement and though entering a grey area, if stopped and get told "routine search" tell them to get lost or talk to your lawyer. However getting stopped at a roadblock or dodging one is reasonable cause.
3rdly if 20 police jump out at your place of accommodation & pull the same stunt - "routine search" - they have to have a search warrant. Now if the owner gives them permission to search it is ok. But if the owner specifically ask them to produce their warrant and they claim they don't need one they are talking shit and breaking the law. They have to have reasonable cause like hot pursuit of a suspect or likewise. When an owner then tells them he will prosecute if they set a foot on his property without a warrant he is totally within his rights. And when they intimidate his staff as soon as he turns his back by threatening to arrest them they are breaking the intimidation law. And as soon as they put foot on his premises they have trespassed. Whatever they find in this case will be useless - illegal search and seizure.
The legal procedure is to get a warrant. A warrant cannot be obtained on hearsay, they have to take someone's affidavit to a judge. From personal experience they don't.
For property owners only the liqueur board are allowed on your premises without a warrant, but soon gun control will be added to that list.
Lastly; immigration. If stopped by an immigration officer and he thinks you are an illegal alien and throws you in a van, he is also breaking the law. He has to take you to your place of residence IMMEDIATELY to verify that you have a visa. If he even takes 5 minutes lay illegal seizure and kidnapping charges against him. Some asshole grabbed 4 of my Japanese tourists out of a meter taxi on their 1st day in SA, called them illegal Chinese, threw them in a van for 4 hours without water or a toilet. When they moved the roadblock, 8 SADF (soldiers ) came round wanting a bribe to release them. My advocate was there in 12 and the Jap Embassy in 25 minutes. We found the holding van and the asshole in charge claimed he had a blank cheque from the minister of Police. Even when he saw their passports and their visas he didn't apologize: "I was just doing my job". He actually committed several crimes as well as human rights abuses. If this happens to you. please go all the way to the Hague. It is the only way to stop this atrocious behaviour.
Immigration officials 'a threat to tourism'

Brace yourself against getting ripped off by someone. If you avoid the ambush laid by aggressive touts your transport operator might rip you off by charging you 5 times the market price. This happens everywhere in the world but at Jo'burg airport it's refined to an art. These touts will say and do anything to get you to stay.. Please get advice before you arrive. My strong stance against Jo'burg is well known. We highly recommend staying anywhere in Pretoria. Let me just state that you don't have to stay with us right? We will gladly assist you if you want to stay elsewhere. We get about 30 e-mails /month asking if Jo'burg are really this bad. It's not; it's about 10 times worse. THE SAFEST AREAS  IN JO'BURG MIGHT NOT BE SAFE ENOUGH OK?? Every email we get also asks if we can give some advice/tips etc. OK, let me spell it out again: "We highly recommend staying anywhere in Pretoria". If you ignore this don't bother reading any advice will help! If you have to stay in Joburg for business please stay in our "Volkstaat ( a pure racial boer state)"  as the northern suburbs of Rosebank and Sandton is described in the Lonely Planet SA 2000. And then the 2002 LP is not much better as it can't even place establishments in the right cities.

Avoid the city centre, Hillbrow, Berea, Yeoville, Observatory and Braamfontein. Tourists wandering around here are referred to as ATM's. Do not transit through Johannesburg station if you can help it. Do not think that common sense will prevail - it won't. Do NOT go to the bus station because you want to go to Durban or Cape Town. Luggage will act as a magnet. Do NOT use the METRO (train) to go anywhere locally. You will get robbed. Mainline trains are quite safe. If you have to get to Johannesburg station get dropped off in the parking lot at the top of the busses right at one of the entrances. Don't use ANY other entrance except the top- and the bus entrance- you will get done. Most muggings are not at knife point anymore. And if use a minibus to transit to and from Jo'burg you are nuts!

The train to/from Cape Town goes straight from/to Pretoria so don't get off in Johannesburg. All SA, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia busses leave from Pretoria as well. Pretoria is only 26 min away from Johannesburg international airport and has shuttles. There are Durban busses from Jo'burg airport running daily both to and from.

Pretoria is much more laid back than its adrenaline pumping neighbour. Places to be careful are the area around tourist information, the minibus taxi rank at the bottom of town, the bottom of the Union Buildings and Church St between the Union Buildings and Paul Kruger House. The Modus Operandi of our new South Africans is to follow you for quite some time, wait till you draw money at the ATM, to approach you and as to make sure that you're a tourist ask for directions. If you don't know you'll get mugged. On fridays (pay-day) and weekends the city centre should be avoided  if you're carrying valuables. In general the few muggings consists out of snatch and run.
The latest though is Hatfield that has gone bad since 2003 thanks to the ineffective Tswane City Council. Hatfield is full of car guards of which at least half are muggers. Don't think you are safe because you are staying 3 blocks away. One of the reasons I sold my hostel in Hatfield was the constant stress about safety since mid 2002. Then also something new, white drug addicts. This is becoming a huge problem. They mingle and tea leaf cell phones and whatever they can. Recently they have come in at least twice in Cool Runnings, snatched a bag and ran to a getaway car.

The bad areas are St George's Mall after 5 pm and on weekends, Cardbox City under the highway between the city and Waterfront and the top of Long Street above Wale Street. Long street is getting worse by the day but will always be extremely popular. Take a taxi at night even if you just have to walk 10 minutes.

9/7/99 - UPDATE - We have had numerous reports this week of not only muggings at the top of Long Street and the whole area around but also of unnecessary assault even if you hand over your belongings.
The perpetrators are mostly Coloured - it's gangs with absolutely no respect for law and order and they operate at any time of the day. So if you decide to stay in that area DON'T walk around with your passport, camera, day pack or more than R100.

08 Feb 01 - update - The manager of Long Street backpackers states that Long street has never been safer duo to security cameras in the CBD. This is apparently true.
Sea Point as well as Green Point is getting a bit rougher as well. Just take reasonable care and don't try save money by walking late at night.
Lastly do not take the last train available. Also sit with your back in the direction you travel - there has been numerous vandalistic rock attacks

City centre after 4 pm can get a bit dodgy. The worst area is The Promenade (Beach) at night. Also Point Rd is to be avoided. Do not stay in the centre as it is convenient ok??? Just come back from the Indaba (05/2002) and 3 people I met got mugged as well as 3 operators had their kombis/cars stolen - heard of 7 incidents though. Although the beach is patrolled half a block away you might get done. The Northern beaches are safer.

Be careful in curtain areas, like for example Central, Walmer, Motherwell on the way to Addo. A couple of weeks back there were stone throwing and grab incidents in Walmer (Victoria Drive). Humewood and Summerstrand, that's where most of the Hotels in P.E. are situated, had a couple of problems with stolen cars in Marine Drive in broad daylight. But Central is definitely not a place where tourists should walk around freely. (email PE resident July 2003)

Apparently some backpackers have been mugged on the sand dunes near the very popular Sugarshack but this was ages ago.


Windhoek- Don't even think of walking between town and the hostels with your gear - you WILL get done! Taxis are reasonably priced and hostels pick up free. I 've had very recent reports of muggings at Shoprite Checkers right in the centre (5/2000) Also frequents reports of muggings inside restaurants' toilets - normally male. The rest of this country is cool as there are no people there.
Driving through the Caprivi - There is an armed escort twice a day for a convoy both directions for 200 of the last 300km's - just ask anywhere for info. please note that though the Intercape bus have stopped running to Vic, it is running again


Politically - Yes; farmers are getting murdered. been there 4/2000 and the city scene is fine except Harare.
Most crime is scams - don't change money on the street, don't give fake police your passport  etc.... if you fall for this you deserve to get taken like I deserved it 6 years ago!! The exception is Harare.
Harare - aggro town with lots of robberies around Selous ave. Although one of my fave hostels is situated there I wouldn't stay there if you paid me - people have been robbed between the taxi and the door as well as inside the hostel. SO- don't stay central!!!  Also avoid Mbare bus station carrying all your gear if possible. If you get there at night get out pronto!! however I 've been there a couple of times with just a day pack with no problems. If you hear guys whistling you are probably going to get done. The whistling warns accomplices that a target is on the way.
Harare is also the only place in Zim where I 've had  reports (20+)  of tyre slashing. As you stop to change it you  normally get robbed.
Bulawayo - sleepy town with the path between town and the campsite being a bad spot. Also numerous reports from late 2001 of muggings inside the taxis at the Translux and Greyhound bus stops. So don't share a taxi with anyone except another traveller and insist on leaving right away. Check with security that you are taking a bona fide taxi and note the registration number.
Vic Falls - safe town with only few incidents. Never turn your back on a robber though. .
Train Safety - you can open any carriage's door with a credit card within 5 seconds except for the new Harare/Bulawayo train. So always lock the door on the inside at the top as well and if you have a local in the compartment with you he might just go to the loo late and pretend to forget to lock again.

More general advice for travellers to Zimbabwe provided by the BACKPACKERS BAZAAR - Vic Falls

For the past two and a half years there has been political unrest in Zimbabwe and we have managed to dominate the headlines in the world news on a number of occasions. It is important to note that the trouble areas in this country are confined to big cities and certain farming areas.  To put your mind at rest these areas are at closest 400 kms from Victoria Falls and the  areas that you will be travelling in while on safari with us. In Towns and cities security and safety precautions should be taken as in any urban area of the developing world, and in fact most major cities in the developed world . Do not walk around at night, or in deserted places during the day. Muggings, pick pocketing and bag snatching do occur, and because of the deteriorating economic conditions and rising unemployment here these crimes are on the rise .  Also,  if you do happen to be in any of our cities avoid large gatherings as there is always the chance of a public demonstration flaring because of the political unrest.

In spite of our problems here Zimbabwe is a Beautiful country - you will find the people helpful and friendly. They will go out of their way to give you personal attention and make you feel at home making your stay here a holiday to remember.

Lastly, one thing you need to remember when visiting Zimbabwe. No matter what your views of the situation and conflict that we are experiencing,  we need your investment to support our resources.  Without you our natural resources will die and the country along with it.


If you require a visa to enter Zimbabwe this can be obtained when entering the country. A single entry is US$310 and a double entry is US$540.  It is important  that people know about the double entry visa as you will generally not be told this on entering the country and if you spend more than a day out of the country (in Zambia or Botswana )  and want to re-enter Zimbabwe you will be require to pay the full $30.00 again if you do not have the double entry.  If you are only out of the the country for a day the single entry visa is sufficient.

Changing Money and other money issues

You must not change money at the airport.  The exchange rates vary from the official rate  of 55 to the dollar to 600 which is the parallel rate today.   The best thing to do is wait until you get into Victoria Falls to get an idea of what rate you should be getting  - our office can help you out with this. Web masters note: Please note that if you fly in and are asked how much US$ you have; you will probably be marched to the bank and FORCED to change everything you have at the official rate! So declare the minimum.

Do not change money on the streets, this is illegal and a criminal offence which at best could get you deported and at worse get you some time in a Zimbabwean jail.   Most of the street money changers  are very adept at somehow giving you a bundle of newspaper and if no one risked changing money with these guys they would have no business and we would be rid of the dreadful menace that they are on the streets.

Money must be changed with an official Bureaux de Change and you must ensure that you receive an official  receipt.  With new foreign currency laws being implemented in the country some places will not take Zimbabwe dollars unless you have a receipt to show that you have changed money officially.

All Zimbabwean companies accept travellers cheques or cash in the main international currencies.  You must not use your credit card while travelling in Zimbabwe.  Credit cards are charged out in Zimbabwe Dollars. You have to be aware that this will be converted back to your currency at the official rate which would make Zimbabwe the most expensive destination in the world in most cases.  Activities booked in Zambia or Botswana can be paid for with credit card as they charge your card in US$.

Entry into Victoria  Falls

Entry into Victoria Falls is US$250.  This has to be paid in cash.  they will not accept travellers cheques or Zimbabwe $. On the Zambian side it costs US$100 also payable in cash and a day visa to Zambia is $10.00. The area of the Falls in Zimbabwe is more than double the size than the Falls in Zambia and when the water is low there is not much water coming over the Falls on the Zambian side, so viewing the Falls in Zambia from September to December could be a disappointment.

Airport transfers

Please ensure you book this in advance. The taxis at the airport take advantage of new arrivals and charge double what they should be charging.

Departure tax

Departure tax has to be paid only when flying out of the country. It has to be paid in US$ cash. At the moment it is $20.00 per person but there is an increase due in the near future.  Rumour has it that it will be put up to $30.00 per person.

Maseru has acquired Magicians as well (08/01). Youths can make knives appear from nowhere but they are still polite and probably more scared than you.

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Word of  Mouth  Rules - Updated  Feb 2007