Crime in Johannesburg and staying safe on holiday


Joburg can be the friendliest city but, like its summer weather which switches suddenly from sunshine to a thunderstorm, it also has a tempestuous streak. Be aware, rather than paranoid. Use your head, know where you’re going, and do not flash your cash or valuables around. Consult a local to get a head’s up. For a first encounter with the inner-city consider a guided walking tour or a trip on the City Sightseeing hop-on, hop-off Red Bus to get the lay of the land.

Some safety tips:

  • When driving, always keep valuables in the boot of the car rather than on the passenger seat
  • Pay attention to what is going on around you, especially if you may be distracted by using your phone. Opportunistic pickpockets like to target people who pay be otherwise distracted 
  • Don’t show off expensive jewellery, watches or cameras. It is best to leave your jewellery in the hotel safe while you explore the city
  • Opt for using an ATM inside a bank or mall and never take advice from somebody at an ATM
  • Areas such as Alexandra, Hillbrow, Berea, Yeoville and Joubert Park are best visited with a tour guide or experienced local
  • Be wary of opportunistic ‘phone snatchers’ who are known to grab phones from people using them on the street. This is especially common at transport nodes, such as the Gautrain station, where people are using their phones to order Ubers. It is better to order your Uber while inside a building.
  • At the airport avoid using unmarked transport providers. You can ask to book from a legitimate transportation company at the airport information desk or alternatively use the Gautrain or book an Uber.
  • Never exchange currency on the street. Only use legitimate foreign exchanges in banks or at the airport.
  • Be aware of 'staged mishaps', such as someone bumping into you or spilling your drink in a busy bar. This is a tactic often used by pickpockets to distract you while an accomplice goes through your belongings.
  • When seeking directions at the airport, proceed to the indicated information counters for official advice.
  • Avoid picking up strangers or hitchhikers when driving around and likewise, do not accept lifts from strangers.
  • If you are renting a car always have the rental car details at hand in case you get stuck, stranded or involved in an accident. 
  • Members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) must carry an identification card stating the member's name, rank, service number and photograph. You have the right to request members in civilian uniform to identify themselves with their identification cards.

Emergency numbers:

  • Police Dial 10111 to contact a national call centre that can assign a patrol vehicle to attend to a crime incident
  • Fire and ambulance Dial 10177 for emergency services
  • Cell phone networks Dial 112 from any cellphone to be connected to a 24-hour emergency service operator. This is a free call
  • Medical emergency Dial 082 911 to connect to Netcare 911's 24-hour operations centre or 084 124 for ER24. Both are private emergency medical services


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