Advice for visitors to SA

IMG_6183Dear visiting member of SGI,

We are very glad that you will be visiting our country, and we look forward to meeting you soon!

Remember, we do require that you please bring a letter of introduction before we can put you in touch with local members.

We’d like to offer you some practical tips about visiting here. South Africa is a beautiful country, with much to be proud of, but there are are some issues it is best to be aware of.

Personal safety

Depending on where you are, and how you conduct yourself, crime and security can be a problem.

There’s no need to worry unduly, but be please alert and careful.

Many areas are very safe, others not so safe. Ask locals for advice. Be careful walking anywhere at night – again, get local advice, and avoid deserted places.

If people approach you, be friendly, but firm and confident. If you feel at all uncomfortable, we suggest you say “Good bye!”, cheerfully, and just walk away.

Always keep a close eye on your bags and belongings in public places, especially if approached by strangers.

Keep hotel rooms locked and secure.

Be cautious using cell phones in public – they can be snatched.

Minibus taxis are cheap and easy to use, but be careful at night or if taxis are nearly empty towards the end of the day. If a taxi driver is driving very recklessly, don’t hesitate to get off.

If traveling long distances by bus, ask ahead and be sure that the bus has more than one driver, and that it seems well-maintained.

IMG_8725The environment

When in large cities, the water is always quite safe to drink, but in smaller towns and in rural areas, it’s best to check with locals, or drink boiled water only. High mountain streams, such as those high on Table Mountain or in remote mountains, are safe to drink, as long as there are no settlements up stream.

In the North Eastern parts of South Africa, such as the Kruger Park, malaria can be a concern, and it’s best to consult a travel doctor in advance.

Walking and hiking in the wild are usually very safe, but as ever, ask local advice in advance. Do not walk alone in the wilderness, and be sure that you always have warm clothing, strong shoes, water and a cellphone with you. In summer, the sun can be very intense indeed, and wearing a hat, long-sleeved tops, using strong sun block and carrying water is a good idea.

General

Public transport is good in some areas, and poor in others. You’ll need to plan ahead.

It’s easy to get cheap SIM cards for a cell phone, so getting a local number might make sense if you’re here for more than a few days.

In restaurants, a tip of 10% or more on the bill is standard. Tipping is also appreciated by staff in hotels and other accommodation.

South Africa is a country with an HIV/AIDS epidemic, and it’s especially vital to be extremely careful and always use condoms in sexual encounters.

Ichinen!

Please chant with a strong determination to have a completely safe and happy visit with many wonderful encounters.