Should you travel to South Africa?

If you have booked or were thinking of booking a honeymoon to South Africa, the recent news of a young woman being murdered while on honeymoon in Cape Town may have shocked you and made you question your decision. Having travelled to South Africa twice, most recently for my own honeymoon – a four week road trip around the country, I wanted to share my own thoughts with you, in the hope that if you are heading there for your honeymoon it might help put your mind at rest.

South Africa is an amazing, staggeringly beautiful country, but it is often easy to forget that it’s only been sixteen years since Apartheid ended and that there is still a huge gulf between the rich and the poor, which is often split along racial lines. Indeed, the fact that many people still live in rudimentary accommodation in townships can often be rather shocking to visitors.

Yes, there are lots of problems; yes, it does have rather scary crime and murder rates; yes, you will have to exercise a little caution. So, should you actually go to South Africa?

Without a doubt, yes.

It’s important to put all this into context. The vast majority of crime and murders take place in the townships. The husband of the woman who was killed in Cape Town admitted that they went to a township on their way home from dinner in the Winelands because they wanted to see the “real Africa”. Now, what happened is absolutely tragic and awful, but there is no way that you should ever go into the townships at night, regardless of whether you are driving or someone else is. Many locals wouldn’t dream of doing so, and crime, especially carjacking, is a very common problem, as this couple found out. Even during the day, if you feel that you want to see a township then you should do so on an organised tour – even these can feel rather voyeuristic, but being with a local guide will make it less so, and be better received by the residents.

There’s a few other things that you should do in South Africa, just to be on the safe side:

When driving, keep your doors locked and use the air-con rather than having the windows down. Don’t leave anything of value in the car when you’re not in it.

Don’t carry obvious, expensive items – glitzy jewellery that stands out a mile, cameras around your neck etc – and try not to mark yourselves out too much as tourists.

Avoid walking too much at night – drive or use cabs where possible, even in Cape Town, and avoid deserted stretches of road when walking. In many areas – generally where there are restaurants, bars etc – there will be people who will look after your car, whether you park in a car park or on the street. They should obviously be tipped when you return to the car.

Buy a decent guidebook and read up about the areas you’ll be visiting – it should make pretty clear any no-go areas and offer good, up-to-date  advice about safety. I know I’m biased, but the Rough Guide to South Africa is an excellent and extensive guidebook – I used it on both visits and found it indispensable.

It’s worth bearing in mind that these tips are things that apply throughout the world – in any big city there are going to be areas you should avoid going into, and you should always use a little caution when you’re somewhere new, especially at night.

Now, you may well be thinking by this point “erm…Emma, you haven’t really reassured me about visiting the place…” – but the thing is, being aware of exactly what a country is/can be like is an essential part of preparing for a trip. The vast majority of trips to South Africa are absolutely uneventful (well, apart from the good kind of holiday eventfulness) and if you’re sensible (which you’re more than likely to be – it’s all just common sense), then you’ll have a fabulous time.

The country has so much to offer: Cape Town is a fantastic city, and there are few places in the world with such a superlative setting; there’s gorgeous food and wine aplenty; beautiful coastline that encompasses wild, desolate stretches of coast and perfect beaches for sunbathing; amazing game viewing; dramatic mountain ranges; endless desert… list could go on and on. And that’s without mentioning the people – some of our most precious memories from our honeymoon involve the people we met, from the fantastic chef-cum-temporary host at Mtubatuba, to the brilliant guides at Kosi Forest Lodge; to be put off by the worst, and often unseen, side of the country would be to miss out on a really amazing experience.

If you are thinking or planning a honeymoon to South Africa and have any concerns or questions then don’t hesitate to get in touch with me – I’d be more than happy to help you out.

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