After my first post about Safety in South Africa I kept on getting emails from people with questions like: “Is it really safe?” “All these scary stories on other blogs, are they true?” People were still concerned about the safety issue in SA.
An interesting list of questions came from Marcel. He lives in Canada and wanted to go traveling to SA with his wife Chantal. He was very honest and told me his wife was really scared and therefore hesitated to book the trip. So Marcel turned to us and I again asked my SA friend Clare Appleyard for advice.
I thought it would be a good idea to share with you not only his questions and answers, but also his experiences now that they have returned from their trip to SA.
Because they indeed went! They were convinced that SA was safe enough for them to travel. You can read all about it in this post and if you still have questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section. It’s a long post, but very much worth it for people who are really seeking advice.
Hope this post convinces those who are still not sure about traveling to the beautiful country of South Africa.
First Marcel and Chantal, can you introduce yourselves?
We are Marcel St-Jean and Chantal Prémont and we live in Montreal, Canada. We both reached the age of 50 and have two children: Carl (20) and Marie (16). I work for Bombardier Aerospace as a Technology Integrator and Chantal is working at GazMetro as a Team leader.
To which countries have you been traveling before SA?
The countries that my wife and I visited were USA (almost all states), Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Portugal and now South Africa & Lesotho.
Before you booked your trip to SA you read multiple blog posts about safety (or the lack of it) for travelers in SA. How did you feel after reading those blog posts?
We both checked the internet for blogs and talked to travel agents when we prepared our trip. We also talked to a friend who has been to SA multiple times. She fell in love with the country but she did warn us about many things! Never go outside when it is dark either walking or driving, don’t carry your big Nikon camera, don’t show your jewels or fancy gadgets clearly marking you being a tourist. Also don’t carry too much money, close your windows, lock your doors all the time and don’t make a full stop at the traffic light (Called Robot in SA) because people will break in your car while you are waiting at the traffic light.
I wanted to rent a Mercedes but everybody told me that would be a bad decision; I should always take the smallest car. Big car means lot of money.
And the list goes on….
I found that lots of blogs have comments warning people: they see criminalities everywhere. But even for me there are places in Montreal that I wouldn’t go at night. Is it not that people notice small local incidents and turn it into a nationwide security threat?
Then you decided to send some questions to Act of Traveling after reading the blog post about safety in South Africa. Let’s have a look at some of your questions. I have included the answer that you got from Clare Appleyard.
Question Marcel: We are going to SA for 3 weeks rent a car and drive to Kruger-Durban-Port Elisabeth to Cap town. All my friends tell me that it is too dangerous to do that trip.
Answer Clare: Sadly, most people who think that South Africa is too dangerous have never been to South Africa. Have any of your friends visited South Africa? Everybody has an opinion on our beautiful country, but very few people take the time to validate their opinions. I hope that this email will encourage you to come and see for yourself.
Marcel: I wanted to rent a Mercedes instead of a Corolla but was told that I would trigger carjacking because of the luxury car?
Clare: Carjackings are on the decrease in South Africa. There is very little chance of a carjacking taking place whether you drive a Mercedes or a Corolla, so personally I would go with the car you want to rent. There are no shortage of luxury cars (Mercedes, BMW’s, Porsches) on South African roads, and they’ll all driving around with no problems.
Marcel: For Kruger Park I’ve got my Nikon 7000. It maybe ok to use it there but what about Durban or Cape Town, would it be safe to carry the camera around my neck?
Clare: You want to be sensible and exert the same level of awareness that you would do in any big city. If you do keep your camera round your neck, have the strap around your neck and keep a hand on your camera. What I do is carry a backpack and keep the camera in my backpack and take it out when I need it.
Marcel: Is petrol widely available when you drive on the highway along the East coast? And do they accept credit cards?
Clare: Down the east coast, it’s unlikely that you’d need to travel more than 150km to find a petrol station. There are plenty of small towns along the coast, all of which will have petrol stations. Credit cards are generally accepted at petrol stations in major centres, but in the smaller towns, you may be safer with cash for petrol payments. Expect to pay R600 – R700 for a 55l tank of petrol (USD 70), depending on whether you are at the coast or inland
We also have no shortage of ATM’s around South Africa.
Hope this helps!
Get to South Africa and experience our wonderful country for yourself!
So they went…
After this feedback Marcel and Chantal decided to book their tickets! Now let’s find out how they felt during their trip. I talked again to Marcel few weeks ago and asked him the following questions.
So Marcel, Clare provided you with some clear answers and you went to SA! But I guess you still felt a bit nervous. What happened after you arrived at the airport? How did you both feel?
What happend next was that three days prior to departure my wife was still terrified to go based on everybody’s comments. I had to reason here and I had to change the car for a smaller one (less stress).
We arrived at Johannesburg Airport around 10pm and we were waiting for the hotel shuttle bus. I turned around to talk to my wife, but found out she stood inside 10 meters away from me. When I asked her she said that her friend told her never to go outside when it’s dark. I hoped that would have changed after Clare’s feedback, but it didn’t. Not yet.
So as we traveled by car (Honda). I mentioned to her that I saw more luxury cars here than back home in Montreal. Next time I will rent a bigger car for sure. Especially when you go up North, I recommend a big 4×4.
As for petrol stations there are a lot of them even open 24hrs. Many of them accept credit cards. But do carry some change to tip the pomp attendant, about 5 Rand.
As we went further to our next destination my wife realized that it is not so bad after all. People were very nice, polite and always helped us with directions. She mentioned to me that she doesn`t understand why her friend was expressing all those warning about SA!
Once we were even stuck on the R36 in the middle of nowhere with two flat tires, with the closest town 15kms away. I had to find and talk to some local people and they were all very friendly and even proposed to help with the flat tire problem.
I guess you always have to be careful as a traveler, no matter which country you are. Have you ever felt unsafe in SA?
Honestly I did not felt unsafe during our three week trip. We drove over 4000 kms and have been to two 5-stars Safaris lodges and the rest was B&B (which I actually adore). Everywhere we went (local restaurants, the local market or any other place) we found the people to be amazing, polite and very friendly. We really enjoyed our trip.
For sure when you travel you always have to be careful on where you go, but sometimes it`s just because of the unknown. For example when we arrived in a small town we saw thousands of people in the street and we thought there was a riot! But after a while we understood that this is the place where everybody hangs out: it was the main street where everything happened: local market, offices, garage etc.
What were the highlights of your trip?
The highlights of our trip were the Safaris, the God Windows in the Graskop area , Kruger park, Sani Pass, Lesotho, Graaf-Reinet for the ostrich farm, the Cango cave, Wilderness for the beach and restaurant, Monkey land and Nature reserve Robberg, Franschhoek for the wine valley, Boulder beach for the penguins, Cape Point park, Robbens island and Cape Town….. simply wow!
What would be your advice to people who have plans to go to SA but might feel uncertain because of safety?
Stop listen to other people’s scary stories and enjoy your vacation. Don`t visit SA by travel agency tour bus but rather by renting a car and explore SA from the North down to South. Do visit small towns and talk to local people. The best way is by staying at B&B’s. Enjoy the stunning view of the mountains, sea and nature. I`ve met so many beautiful people and made friends from other countries.
It is a very beautiful country for people who love nature. It was our first time to SA… but for sure it won`t be our last.
Marcel & Chantal
Thank you Marcel for taking the time to share your travel experiences in South Africa with us! And thanks also for some really beautiful images that we could show here.
In the meantime our own family has visited South Africa too! You can read all about it by clicking here.