For World Cup fans, 15 safety tips for visiting South Africa

For World Cup fans, 15 safety tips for visiting South Africa

Is it crazy to go on a soccer vacation to a country with one of the highest rates of violent crime on Earth? There’s also a risk of smaller crimes, such as the theft of wallets and cellphones, as well as credit card fraud.

South African authorities have promised a safe World Cup, with 41,000 police to be deployed during the monthlong tournament beginning June 11.

Yet the statistics are alarming: more than 18,000 murders a year; more than 70,000 sex crimes; more than 121,000 cases of robbery with aggravated circumstances in the same period. Car hijackings, robberies at businesses and robberies at homes all have risen sharply.

Travelers also can take simple steps to reduce the risk of crime:

1. Always lock car doors, and keep windows closed. Keep your valuables out of sight and reach.

2. At traffic lights, leave room in front of your car so that you can drive out in case of a hijacking attempt. Check side and rear mirrors for strangers approaching the car.

3. If staying in a guest house, take care approaching the gate. Drive on if there are suspicious-looking people in the area or if you are being followed.

4. If bumped from behind at a traffic light, drive to the nearest police station.

5. If you are hijacked, cooperate fully. Stay calm. Keep hands in view. Make no sudden moves. Don’t meet the hijackers’ eyes. Ask permission before removing your seat belt or leaving the car.

6. On foot, be alert and avoid isolated or dark areas and alleys. Don’t jog alone in parks. Stick to well-lighted areas at night. Travel in a group, if possible.

7. Use reputable taxis.

8. If you’re driving, know your route and the areas to avoid. If lost, don’t stop but drive to a business or garage.

9. Don’t wear expensive watches, jewelery or keep your camera around your neck. Don’t carry a wallet in your back pocket. Keep handbags zipped. Consider using a money belt.

10. Use hotel safes. Don’t carry large amounts of cash. Don’t leave valuables in hotel rooms.

11. Bring certified copies of important documents, such as your driver’s license and passport.

12. When arriving at your hotel at night, use the main, well-lighted entrance.

13. Some criminals use blue flashing lights and pose as police. If pursued by an unmarked car with a blue flashing light, proceed to the nearest police station.

14. Don’t accept help from anyone at an ATM, including anyone in a police uniform. If approached, cancel the transaction immediately. Don’t use ATMs in poorly illuminated, isolated areas. Cover keypads when typing in pin numbers.

15. Never let your credit card out of sight. Keep track of transactions on your bank account.

For more safety tips, visit the South African Police Service website. The website also has a directory of police stations.

– Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times staff writer

Photo: A street sign points pedestrians toward the new stadium in Cape Town, South Africa. Credit: Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times

By LA Times

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