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South Africa

Health & safety

Dangers & annoyances

Crime is the national obsession and, apart from car accidents, it’s the major risk that you’ll face in South Africa. However, try to keep things in perspective, and remember that despite the statistics and newspaper headlines, the majority of travellers visit the country without incident.

The risks are highest in Jo’burg, followed by some township areas and other urban centres. Daylight muggings are common in certain sections of Jo’burg, and the city’s metro train system has had a problem with violent crime. No matter where you are, you can minimise the risks by following basic safety precautions, remaining alert and exercising common sense.

If you are a victim of crime in South Africa, it's most likely to occur at an ATM. There are dozens of scams that involve stealing your cash, your card or your personal identification number (PIN) - usually all three. Thieves are just as likely to operate in Stellenbosch as in downtown Jo'burg and they are almost always well-dressed and well-mannered men. The ATM scam you're most likely to encounter involves the thief tampering with the machine so your card becomes jammed. By the time you realise this you've entered your PIN. The thief will have seen this, and when you go inside to report that your card has been swallowed, he will take the card - along with several thousand rand. Choose the ATM you use carefully, and try to avoid using them at night and/or in secluded places.

Recommended vaccinations

The World Health Organization (WHO; www.who.int/en) recommends all travellers be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, as well as hepatitis B, regardless of their destination. The consequences of these diseases can be severe, and outbreaks do occur.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (www.cdc.gov), the following vaccinations are recommended for South Africa: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid, and boosters for tetanus, diphtheria and measles. Yellow fever is not a risk in the region, but the certificate is an entry requirement if you’re travelling both from an infected region to some of South Africa’s neighbouring countries such as Mozambique.