It is unfortunate but tourists are a target for criminals. You should not spend your trip being scared that something is going to happen but you should think about what you are doing and minimise your risks. On my first solo overseas trip I stupidly took too much notice of “advice” which meant that I was so unnecessarily frightened of the stories of robbery and pickpockets in Naples that I gave it a miss, now 20 years later it is one of my favourite places in the world. For similar reasons when I got lost in the back streets of Amsterdam I was petrified and ended up in tears asking some poor cute Dutchman to walk me to my backpackers! I got a really expensive dinner out of it so it wasn’t a complete loss 😉
Here’s how to travel safe – The golden rule is to stay in safe places. At all the Ashanti premises (Gardens, Greenpoint and the Guest Houses) we have very robust security system and guards to ensure your safety whilst on our premises. We are proud of our safety record however you do need to take care when you are out and about. Also please secure your valuables inside. Unfortunately some fellow travellers are light fingered and we have no way of knowing or excluding these folks.
When you are out and about you should follow these guidelines :-
1. Don’t flash your cash. Keep a small amount of money in an accessible place. Don’t keep all your cash in one spot. Have a backup ATM card someplace else. I use to keep a visa card in my boot, mastercard in top pocket; about $10Us in my handbag and the stash in the secret money belt when I travelled alone through Europe and Asia, but then I am a bit paranoid.
2. Don’t look like a tourist. So don’t wear socks with sandals ;). Don’t have the state of the art camera swinging of your neck with a bum bag proudly proclaiming Las Vegas! Look at what the locals are wearing, wear that. Use a backpack not a bum bag. Dress to match where you are.. so don’t wear safari camping clothes if you are wandering through the markets.. save that for Kruger.
3. Don’t take all your money, passport, Baz Bus ticket etc out joling and then wonder why when you got drunk that somehow your purse/wallet and you parted ways. (Don’t shake your head .. it happens more than you think). If you need to get this drunk do it at Ashanti. We will least see to it that you get to your room before you fall asleep in a doorway!
4. Keep your passport secure – you have a personal safe in your dorm and room please use it. Getting a new passport when traveling is a pain and you don’t want to waste your holidays lining up in police stations and embassies!
5. Use cash passports. These are safe. Sure they take a cut of your cash but it is a small price to pay to keep your travel money protected.
6. Always have recorded separately your visa card, cash card, cash passport, passport etc numbers … keep a copy at home with your mum and a copy elsewhere in your luggage.
7. Locks may look decorative but they really do come in handy when securing your stuff.
8. Act safe. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Be Alert – look for signs that may indicate that trouble is about. For example a person standing in the rain not doing anything .. may be a look out for a robber.
9. Go out with others.
10. Get a taxi home late at night.
11. Don’t argue with anyone that is insistent about taking your bag. Knives or guns can kill. Your life is more important than a thousand rand.
12. HAVE TRAVEL INSURANCE ! Good grief if you can’t afford to have travel insurance you can’t afford to travel! Although you really need this for health care but it will cover serious theft too.
13. Have a travel phone that is cheap doesn’t matter if you lose it – make sure it has Ashanti’s phone number in it.
Even following these guidelines you mays still find that there is an incident. In countries such as South Africa there is unfortunately a great income gap between the wealthy and the poor. This is exacerbated by the lack of social welfare as a safety net for poor folks that cannot find work. Our unemployment figures are unfortunately quite high making this a huge problem for our civic leaders to address. You may while you are here in South Africa want to help make a difference – talk to our travel desk about doing a tour of cape flats. Our tours focus on businesses that are trying to address the gap in wealth and make a difference for South Africans that are without work.
When you move on from Cape town we do recommend that you:-
1. Always let friends and family know where you are going;
2. Have an ICE (in case of emergency) number in your phone and belongings;
3. Register with your embassy or government where you are going .. for the Aussies DFAT has a website which also includes travel alerts.
Remember have fun but be safe too!
Contributor: Allison Finley-Bissett