South Africa is something of a paradox - it has developed a reputation as a rather dangerous country, but its tourism industry is booming with millions of travelers visiting it every year. While it is true that there are some dangers in South Africa, the country can be perfectly safe to visit as long as you choose your destinations carefully and are aware of potential risks.
South Africa has high rates of violent crime, but it's important to remember that most of it occurs in certain areas such as dangerous urban neighborhoods that are not normally visited by tourists. This means that while being outside in areas frequented by tourists during daytime is normally fine, you should not explore South African cities on your own, either on foot or by car. Get in touch with your Ministry of Foreign Affairs as many countries keep a list of unsafe destinations in South Africa that you should avoid. Even more importantly, listen to and follow the advice of your hotel and trustworthy locals regarding areas that you should not visit. Many of the most dangerous parts are the so-called townships, formerly racially-segregated areas located on the edges of cities. While not all townships are dangerous, you should only visit one if you are going with a local friend or if you're absolutely certain that it is safe to do so.
Although less publicized, petty crime affects foreign travelers a lot more often in South Africa. Do not flash your valuables, watch out for pickpockets, and do not engage with friendly strangers if they are trying to give you a gift, sell you something or are asking for help (unless their need is obvious). If you feel threatened or have been a victim of a crime, contact the local authorities immediately. The nationwide emergency number in South Africa is 112. The national tourism information and safety number is +27 831232345.
While rare, highway robberies and other roadside crime is not completely unheard of. Many highways and provinces of the country are very safe to explore, but others can have some dangers, especially after dark. Plan your routes carefully and in advance, always consulting your Ministry of Foreign Affairs, your country's embassy in South Africa, and the latest news updates. Regardless of the region you're traveling in, it's best to keep car doors and windows locked at all times.
Many South African highways, secondary roads, and streets in towns and villages lack any lighting and can, therefore, be dangerous to drive on after dark because of pedestrians, cattle, and wildlife possibly being on the road, as well as other vehicles that you might not notice.
While one of South Africa's main attractions is its spectacular nature, many species of wildlife such as venomous snakes, lions, rhinos, sharks, and crocodiles can be dangerous to humans. Therefore, it's important to only hike, camp, and swim in specifically designated places that have been confirmed safe by someone who knows the area. Even when visiting a national park, find out in advance where it is and isn't safe to camp or even visit on foot.