Johannesburg, popularly known as Jo’burg or Jozie, was in the 90s considered to be the ‘most dangerous city in the world’ and still has quite a reputation when it comes to crime and safety. The travel advice of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs states useful tips to prevent ‘sexual violence’ and ‘violent robberies and attacks on foreigners who have just arrived in South Africa’. Statistics from Google show that almost four thousand searches a month are made using terms such as ‘Johannesburg dangerous’, ‘Johannesburg safety‘ and ‘Johannesburg crime’. Some tourists even seem to avoid the former capital during their holiday in South Africa.
“There are always some rotten apples.”
“That fear is not unjustified,” says Feliciana Groothuis. The Dutch expat has been living in the cosmopolitan city for over more than three and a half years and shares her findings on day-to-day worries in her book ‘Another boring day in South Africa’. “But it’s an outdated image. It’s safer here than it used to be and, besides that, it’s also how you see your fellow people. Of course, there are always some rotten apples, but when you treat someone properly, they will do the same the other way around. And gangs that are active? There may be several of them, but I only know the Rolex gang. And I don’t own a Rolex, so I’m not frightened by them.”
Crime immediately concerns armed robbery
“The point is that, if something happens, it’s not common theft. Most of the time it immediately is an armed robbery, so the consequences are more drastic. Apart from that, everyone seems to talk about Johannesburg, but the crime rates in Cape Town are actually many times higher. In Cape Town, the crime only remains in the townships, because the city is much more segregated. In Johannesburg, it moves more towards the city as well.”
“Only positive experiences.”
“Poverty is a major issue here,” she continues. “In the Netherlands and most of Europe, the differences in income are not that significant. You have to keep in mind that, in their eyes, you have everything. So don’t put your money down randomly and, in the car, always put your handbag at your feet. To be honest, I’ve had no negative experiences at all. Going into town alone is no problem for me. The thing is, you also adapt yourself. I would, without any problem, drive around with the windows open, but obviously I have to put the valuables out of sight.”
That’s actually also one of the travel advisories of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Further safety guidelines:
- Stay alert and don not go out alone;
- As mentioned, keep valuables out of sight.
- Do not hang a camera around your neck and do not wear any jewellery;
- Do not just get in a random taxi, but use Uber or reputable taxi companies on the advice of your hotel;
- Do not take hitchhikers and solely stop at petrol stations or roadside restaurants;
- Do not go out with large amounts of cash, but make sure you can give them something;Do not just walk the streets in the evening.
In short: use your common sense, be aware of the risks, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Because Johannesburg has a lot to offer, just like the rest of South Africa.