South Africa – What to know Before Traveling

Scared. Of frighted can be the proper word to describe my state of spirit before landing in South Africa; Johannesburg is the first stop. Uganda was set to be a friendly country but in the end it proved not to be that friendly. I was reading a lot regarding the safety in South Africa. Started in asking my friend Marcel how is life there and if he had any incidents. Nothing in 5 months since his arrival in South Africa. Next was a friend who visited the country last year; same situation, no incidents.

My brother alarmed me a bit saying that a friend was in Joburg and she wanted to go to a mall, 200m away from her hotel. The receptionist was surprised by her decision to walk the distance and advised her to take a cab! Jesus, I said, what’s going to be there for me?

News were not on the South African side either; one night in Jinja read an article on the BBC saying that the crime has reached the highest level in South Africa and many people, tired of so many robberies decided to move into other countries.

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Entering the governmental sites is not such a good ideal. After reading the British one, you could decide in seconds to change your flight ticket to another destination! Kidnaping, airport car highjacking, and so many crimes as if you were about to enter a war zone! “There have been incidents involving foreigners being followed from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to their destinations by car and then robbed, often at gunpoint. Be vigilant in and around the airport and when driving away”. But the end is like this: “Most visits to South Africa are trouble-free”

A bit scared, landed in Joburg. The weather did not help either; raining, grayish and kids gave me an insecure feeling.. First impression was excellent  coming from Uganda via Kigali and Addis Ababa where the airports are like Baneasa. I was expecting something similar. But Tambo Int Airport was huge, nice and very easy to access. And no people following you.

I was a bit surprise to see my friend having the car window opened. Still got the highjacking image in my head. Second surprise was the highways! Not sure is you can find something like that in Europe. South Africa was starting to look more like the United States.

Of course, nothing happened on the way to the accommodation place even if we passed through all Joburg, including CBD, the former financial area of Joburg, no a black and colored area.

But I was still a bit scared; not as much as before the landing, but a small fire was still there. And the evening did not improve the feeling. Dinner was taken in a Cameroon’s restaurant in Yoeville; a neighborhood formed mainly with African immigrants  The crowds on the street did not help as well; seeing a hit and run incident just across the corner (a man hitting a woman carrying a baby) worsen the things. All evening tried to enjoy the excellent fish, but my mind was in a different zone; any stranger approaching our table made be shaking a bit. Of course night ended without any incident.

What I discovered instead of the overreacting  media news? An amazing country, lovely people, called them Afrikaans, black, Zulu or colored  An interesting Afrikaan culture and a very friendly one. Amazing food; amazing stakes; never had a bad meal during my whole stay in South Africa. A developed country, but at the same time with huge contrast between the races; lovely residences for the white population and rich black community and poor infamous settlements for the poor.

Interesting Afrikaans music.  Hard working people. American life style from residential areas to mean of transportation: mainly by car. People whom rarely walk; especially the whites and in Joburg mainly.  And no kids playing on the street.

A cosmopolitan city, Cape Town, with a lot of things to do and see.

Last week I was again at the Cameroon’s restaurant in Yoeville; the secure feeling was long gone. I was part of the community and felt good!

All the details in the coming weeks…

by Sorin

Sorin is a freelance travel writer. He is an experienced travel writer and traveller. Since 2012 he explored more than 60 countries on 4 continents: Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. Currently is based in Romania after spending the last 7 years in Myanmar.