go to content go to search box go to global site navigation

Women Travellers

Attitudes Towards Women

Old-fashioned attitudes to women are still common among South African men, regardless of colour. However, this doesn't mean sexist behaviour should be tolerated.

There's a high level of sexual assault and other violence against women in South Africa, the majority of which occurs in townships and poor rural areas. Given the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the problem is compounded by the transfer of infection. Some rape victims have escaped infection by persuading the attacker to wear a condom.

For most female visitors, patriarchal attitudes and mildly sleazy behaviour are the main issues. However, there have been incidents of travellers being raped, and women should always take precautions.

Safety Precautions

  • Single female travellers have a curiosity value that makes them conspicuous, but it may also bring forth generous offers of assistance and hospitality. Despite the risk of assault, many women travel alone safely in South Africa.
  • The risk depends on where you go and what you do: riskiest (and not recommended) are hiking alone, driving after dark, hitching and picking up hitchers.
  • Risks are reduced if two women travel together or, better, if a woman travels as part of a mixed-sex couple or group.
  • Inland and in more traditional black communities, it's best to behave conservatively. On the coast, casual dress is the norm, but elsewhere dress modestly (full-length clothes that aren't too tight) if you do not wish to draw attention to yourself.
  • Always keep common sense and caution at the front of your mind, particularly at night.
  • Don't go out alone in the evenings on foot; always take a taxi, preferably with others.
  • Even during the day, avoid isolated areas, roadsides and quiet beaches.
  • Carry a mobile phone if you'll be driving by yourself.
  • If you are spending a long period in a more dangerous place such as Jo'burg, consider buying a can of pepper spray or similar to keep with you.