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Safety & Security in Johannesburg


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Thorn Tree Refugee
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Joined: September 2nd, 2010

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  • Added on: September 2nd, 2010
I've been offered a job in Jo'burg for a year. I'm really excited about it because I've heard great stuff about the city and country. But my wife is totally freaking out over the move. It seems that Google didn't help, the more she read the more frightened she got. I don't want to lose my job, but I don't want to have a nervous wife sitting at home every day too.

Does anyone have an opinion on the recent crime situation in Jo'burg. Is it really still that bad, even after the clean up for FIFA World Cup?




Street Food Connoisseur
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Joined: March 23rd, 2008

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  • Added on: September 2nd, 2010
I was in South Africa last year, and frankly it's my favorite country and I'd move there in a heartbeat if it weren't for the crime. Particularly Johannesburg. (To be fair, the only place in the world I wasn't given a key for the hostel door was in South Africa, albeit the middle of nowhere part of it!)

I mean obviously some areas of the city are nicer than others etc, but even in the nicest areas all the houses have tall fences topped with wire and high-tech security systems, and I thought it interesting that people would go to the mall to eat out because they knew their car would be safe in the carpark etc. And I've yet to meet someone from the area who didn't have some hair-raising story about either being carjacked or seeing someone have the same thing happen etc etc, to the point where even other South Africans usually they say they can't imagine living in Jo'burg (which is saying something because it's not like any of the cities are super-safe to begin with!).

I mean hey I'm an American girl living in a city that would freak most people in the world to death for its safety record when you get down to it, but I don't feel like I'd be comfortable. It's one thing to visit as a tourist and know to watch your stuff and take a taxi and have locals keeping an eye on you, it's another to be in such a place for a year especially if it sounds like your wife would worry a lot about it.

But then that's my two cents, and I'm sure others will have differing viewpoints than mine on this. :)


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Lost in Place
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Joined: October 17th, 2010
Location: Australia

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  • Added on: November 8th, 2010
FWIW - I have never been to South Africa but my husband is an immigrant from SA, and he would never live in Johannesburg. In all fairness he'd never move back to South Africa either, but most definitely not Jo'burg. He only agreed to go back to SA for a holiday if we didn't go near it, except perhaps to fly in and fly out and spend NO other time there. (No plans to go back yet - it was just a "one day" type discussion). When my dad visited SA for work a few years ago (2003 or 2004, can't remember) he went through Jo'burg where he met a guy who had been carjacked twice by the age of 22, and in both cases lost the car and the gun he had hidden in the glovebox (which you obviously can't get to once you've got a gun to your head through the car window). I wouldn't want to live in Johannesburg, and I'm the sort who tells my husband he's over-paranoid about crime & safety in South Africa. I also don't know if the "clean up" for the world cup had much long-term effect either, or if they just hid it all from the world's TV cameras. That said, I'll reiterate that I haven't been there - just know people who have.


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Holds PhD in Packing
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Joined: January 29th, 2009

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  • Added on: November 8th, 2010
I started this RTW in South Africa right before the world cup. I met a lot of local people while attending a spiritual retreat in Port Elizabeth (along the Garden Route) and was always amazed by the fact that pretty much EVERY person I met when I was in SA who had lived in Jo'berg had ALL experienced being on the end of a carjacking... I flew into Jo'berg only because I went to a private game reserve near the Sabi Sands and was advised to get in and out of Jo'berg as fast as possible... I spent almost 3 weeks in Cape Town & loved it but even there -- even though it was just days before the World Cup -- people warned me to be ultra careful.... The guy who worked at the hostel would walk me to the street because he said he was a little worried (and he was from the Congo!) I did think it was weird that people liked to go to shopping malls but I understand now from a previous poster that was just because they felt that their car was a bit safer... I love Africa and I love SA but I don't know if I could subject someone else to having to live there if they weren't up for the adventure.... Good luck to you in your decision making... Maybe its the right thing for you but you really need to do some research, I think....



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Holds PhD in Packing
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Joined: January 29th, 2009

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  • Added on: November 8th, 2010
I just saw that the original message was posted at the beginning of September, two months ago... I am sure a decision has been made by now, LOL



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Joined: February 14th, 2007

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  • Added on: February 17th, 2011
I have no idea if you've made your mind up yet, but here's my 2 cents anyway.

I spent 2 and a bit weeks in South Africa at the start of this year. I flew into Jo'burg and arrived there at 10:30 at night. The airport at this time, especially for a solo traveller who had never been there before, is pretty seedy feeling. Now, obviously it was busy with 2 large jets of tourists arriving, but after I left the baggage hall and entered the international arrivals area I felt a bit uneasy. Lots of taxi drivers and minibus drivers kind of flooded in and around the arriving tourists and were quite intimidating.There appeared to be very few airport staff and the police didn't seem too bothered. I was glad to meet my pre-arranegd driver and get the hell out of there if I'm being honest!

I stayed in pretoria and almost every other person I spoke to there who had spent time in in Jo'burg said they didn't like it. One or two of the people actually cut thier time short and came to Pretoria earlier than they wanted to just to get out of Jo'burg!

I travelled to a few other places in SA and spent most of my time in Cape Town, where I met a lot of other people, both from SA and further afield. A lot of the people from SA had nothing nice to say about Jo'burg in general, but praised the outlying areas, such as Sandton and admitted it did have a lot to offer visitors, especially in the Kempton area, near the Airport. I met one or two people from Cape Town who had never been to Jo'burg because quite simply "they were too afraid" and a few others who had been and were glad they didn't live there. I met an elderly couple from Sandton who loved living there. In all fairness I'd guess your new job would be located in that area of the city as it is where most of the business seems to have been moved to. By all accounts I've heard, Sandton seems to be perfectly safe and nice.

I decided to go on a full day trip of Jo'burg on my last day (otherwise I would have spent 10 hours in the airport, which nice as it is would have been a terrible end to my holiday). I was on a private tour, and to be honest I didn't feel as safe as I did anywhere else in SA. This was nothing to do with my driver/guide...he was brilliant. More to do with the fact that as soon as we got into the CBD, lots of school kids were walking directly into the path of our car and when we went for a short walk around some shops I could sense a lot of people looking at me, a few even gave me dirty looks. This is something I had not seen ANYWHERE else in South Africa. I was dressed down and was showing no signs of wealth as I'd left practically everything in the secure lockup at the airport.

My tour guide took me up the Clifton Centre tower (tallest building in Africa) and it was actually deserted. For such an interesting building, right in the middle of Africa's biggest city I felt a bit odd being the ONLY (as in no one else there at all) tourist Mid-summer! The CBD itself was in quite a sorry state. I mean it wasn't falling apart or dirty, but there is a lot of "for sale" and "closed down" signs and it is very busy. There seems to be a lot of poverty there. It is not somewhere I would want to go on my own.

I actually felt safer in Soweto where people spoke to me and were very friendly towards me, than I did in Jo'burg itself. There were even several groups of tourists cycling and walking around Soweto, as part of large groups, small groups and even a few individuals. I would still advise extreme caution in Soweto as well, if not just for the simple fact that most of the streets look the same, there is very little sign posting and you could find yourself lost in minutes, far away from the tourist trail.

I have family who used to live in Jo'burg up until around about the early 1980's. They moved away for work and now live, retired, near East London (a bit run down, but ok for a few days, very nice beach there). They said they would not go back to Jo'burg these days and whenever they go to visit family in that area they always stay in Pretoria instead of Jo'burg. I must say I felt perfectly safe in Pretoria, especially where I was staying in Hatfield.

In summary then, my experiences and hear-say of Johannesburg have not been amazing. I would go back to Cape Town and Pretoria in a heart beat as well as South Africa in general, but, for now anyway I would have to say I'd give Johannesburg a miss. It is a shame because it looks like it was a very nice city at one time, but sadly it has fallen into decline a bit. Hopefully in the near future it will become a great place again.

Sorry if all of this is too little, too late!

Good luck with whatever your decision is/was, South Africa is a brillaint place!

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