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Southern Africa Travel Advice:
Safety


Crime, like anywhere else in the world, can be a problem, but you really need not do much more than take all the usual sensible precautions. Know where you're going before you set off, particularly at night, watch your possessions, don't walk alone in dodgy areas, lock your doors at night.

And, like anywhere else in the world, there are some areas of major cities which are more dodgy than others. It is easy to avoid these and still have a good time.

Safety Tips
• consider taking your mobile with you or renting one whilst you’re away. Store useful numbers such as the local police and the nearest embassy or consulate
• check with your service provider to make sure your phone works abroad
• check beforehand that the areas you plan to visit are safe by asking hotel staff or police. In South Africa it is not advisable to use local commuter and metro trains as attacks on foreigners have occurred.
• do not to hitchhike or accept or carry items for strangers.
• be careful when taking photographs, videos or using binoculars. Such activities may be misunderstood, especially near military installations
• don’t openly display valuables such as mobile phones or digital cameras and consider using a padlock on suitcases or backpacks
• don’t carry more money than you need for the day or evening
• If you need to carry a lot of cash ask your partner of friend to carry some for you
• keep a small amount of cash in your wallet and the rest in a secure money belt or inside pocket
• if you have several credit or debit cards, only take one out with you
• leave your cash, cards and travellers’ cheques in a hotel safe – check it is secure

Be prepared to deal with:
• aggressive sales tactics and being charged more than locals.
• various scams aimed at tourists.
• thieves such as pickpockets.
• beggars, including children being exploited by adults as street beggars. See begging.

Take precautions, but do not get paranoid about it.

Carjackings
Those who choose to drive private cars, either borrowed or hired, should be aware that car hijackings do occur, although precautions can be taken to avoid this. Drivers should always be on the alert when they come to a halt at traffic lights or stop streets, as well as when they are arriving at or leaving premises.

Doors should be locked at all times, and while the temptation is to keep windows open in sunny weather, they should be kept closed.

Plan your travel route beforehand. Make sure that you do not leave valuables in clear view of people on the side of the road. Articles such as cellular phones and handbags left on seats are favoured targets of smash and grab thieves.

When parking at night choose well-lit or security-patrolled parking areas. Street security guards will usually ask whether they can watch over your car and in return should be paid a small fee – anything from two rand upwards.

On Safari
• In many places there are no fences and potentially dangerous animals wander through.
• Please listen to your guides and hosts. The safety precautions need to be taken seriously.
• Don't drive off the roads in game reserves and National Parks.
• Don't feed animals or birds (especially baboons and hyenas) - this creates dependency, so they become a threat to travellers and rangers have to shoot them.
• Do not go wandering off on your own, approach animals on foot, or leave your vehicle to do so, unless you are with a qualified guide.
• Do not swim in rivers unless your guide recommends it. Crocodiles, hippos and bilharzia are potential dangers.
• Never attempt to attract an animal's attention.
• Litter tossed on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds and is unsightly.
• Refrain from smoking on game drives. The dry African bush ignites very easily, and a flash fire can kill animals.
• Do not buy products made from endangered fauna or flora.

ATMs and con artists
Watch out for con artists at the automated teller machines (ATM). Under no circumstances allow a stranger to assist you in your transactions. Should your card become stuck in the ATM, enter your PIN three times whereupon the machine will retain your card. You can then approach the bank to release it, or call the helpline number that can usually be found at ATMs for assistance.

Beware, too, of confidence tricksters who try and persuade you to invest in their schemes, requiring you to disclose confidential banking details.

Lost passports
Should you lose your passport, report the loss as soon as possible to your country's embassy or consulate, and to the local police.

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