As with most big cities in the world, the big cities will prey on the tourists. Be careful when you are in Johannesburg, Windhoek, Cape Town, Victoria Falls, Lusaka, Lilongwe, Maun, Bulawayo, Mbeya, Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Nairobi.
Be especially careful and alert in crowded subways, train stations, elevators, tourist sites, and market places. Most crimes in South Africa are not violent, but you could have something stolen which would put a damper on your vacation.
Respect the authorities; be polite and courteous especially around the borders.
Don’t show off electronics, even an iPod can be asking to get robbed.
Leave your expensive jewelry and watches at home.
Try to blend in and not look like a tourist by acting like you know what you are doing.
Always take a taxi at night rather than walk.
Don’t ever stay at someone’s house in exchange of buying food and drinks. They will usually go through your belongings or require you to buy a lot of food and drinks. This scam is often more common in tourist places not remote areas.
Don’t use short cuts, poorly lit streets or alley ways.
Don’t travel alone at night.
Avoid civil disturbances. If and when these happen, there is usually violence involved. Police have a hard time controlling it and may have to use violence themselves to break up a large crowd.
Avoid loud conversations or arguments.
Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.
Use the safe deposit box in your room and don’t leave valuables unattended in your room.
Beware of strangers who approach you, especially if they offer bargains or to be your travel guide. Fake tour operators will tell you to buy travel or local attractions through them. Buy tours online with a credit card before you leave. Only deal with recommended or known companies.
Wear the shoulder strap of your bag or purse across your chest. Walk with the bag away from the street. Drive by purse snatchers can easily grab your bag or purse if you don’t.
Try to seem confident and have a purpose when you are walking around, even if you are lost. Always act as if you know where you are going. If you need directions try to only ask authority figures, or if you have to a shop owner.
If you are confronted, don’t fight back. Give up your valuables without hesitation. Bring a fake wallet or fake ring for decoy in situations like this.
Consider wearing a neck wallet under your shirt, or wear your wallet in your front pocket with a chain. Never wear it in your back pocket and don’t ever wear a fanny pack for more reasons than one.
If you are driving choose a car type that is commonly available, nothing sporty or exotic. Keep car doors locked at all times. Don’t drive at night. Wear your seatbelts. Don’t park your car on the street overnight, if your lodging doesn’t have a parking garage park where it is well lit. Never pick up hitchhikers. Don’t leave valuables in your car unattended, but if you have to keep it in the car boot (trunk). Keep windows rolled up.
When buying a DVD it may be blank or the wrong movie. So, make sure you watch or listen to it beforehand, if you want to buy it.
If a cute local kid asks for your name, address and number so he can write to you. He or she may get your family or relatives phone numbers back home, call them collect and lie to them to get ransom money. Don’t give strangers your personal information.
In many parts of Africa police (or con men impersonating as police) and thieves sometimes work together who will falsely accuse you of having drugs. They conveniently accept large bribes. To avoid this assist on going to the police station to get a written receipt for any fines paid. Ask for identification if approached by individuals identifying themselves as police officials, uniformed or not, don’t just rely on a badge and an outfit. However, if you think they may turn violent, it is better to give up your wallet rather than be harmed.
When you are on a safari you will most likely be with an experienced guide. Because of this accidents are rare and infrequent when it comes to wild animals. Most safari operators don’t carry enough liability insurance. You may want to look into purchasing additional travel insurance for this purpose.
Valuables like cameras, laptop, etc. should go in your carry on. Sometimes luggage inspectors in Africa may seal valuables from luggage, but not from your carry on because it will always be with you.
Use covered luggage tags to protect your identity.
Do not carry around large amounts of cash. There are plenty of ATMs where you can withdraw money with your credit card or debit card at least in the big cities.
Never count your money in public. When you are paying for something, try to be as discreet as possible and count your money inside the wallet, not in your hand.
Walking at night downtown, at parks, along footpaths, on beaches, by yourself or with a small group, without being accompanied by a guide, is unwise and dangerous.
Be on alert for pickpockets who will often distract you. They may ask you questions and they usually work in teams. Sometimes they have children who work with them as well.
The top ten most dangerous countries in Africa as of 2012 from the Global Peace Index are:
3. Democratic Republic of Congo
4. Central African Republic