7 Safest Cities In South Africa (And The 3 Most Dangerous)

7 safest cities in south africa

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South Africa is by far the most beautiful country I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. I’ve fallen in love with the natural beauty, the friendly people, and the great exchange rate.

But, when I was planning to move here, I had a major concern: crime.

South African cities are known for having a high crime rate, and I was genuinely considering getting a bodyguard before visiting. But once I moved here, I realised that a lot of the things I heard were blown way out of proportion.

Like anywhere else in the world, South Africa does experience crime. But it doesn’t exist everywhere, at least not to the extent that some people tend to think.

In this article, I’m going to set the record straight by listing the 7 safest cities in South Africa and the 3 most dangerous ones. I’ll also explain why they’re safe, and which areas you should avoid. Finally, I’ll talk about the safest towns, and give you some travel tips to keep safe.

Let’s dive in.

Factors That Influence Safety

A city’s safety is ranked based on a crime index and a safety index.

The crime index is based on the crime rate per 1,000 people. This is used to estimate the overall level of crime in a city or country.

The safety index, also known as the peace index, looks at crime rates, terrorism, relationships with other countries, and the political landscape.

So, some countries may have a high crime rate and safety rate.

That’s the official ranking system.

The unofficial ranking system looks at how safe people feel in an area. I call this perceived safety. This can be broken down into the following.

Crime

The first factor that influences perceived safety (of course) is the type of crime. More violent crimes tend to have a heavier impact on perceived safety.

The next factor is how effective police and law enforcement are. Some police precincts are effective, even though crime rates are high. This can increase perceived safety.

Last up is the judicial system. If citizens don’t feel like the judicial system will punish offenders, they won’t feel safe.

Economic conditions

The next aspect of perceived safety is the economic conditions.

Poverty and unemployment play a big part here. The more poverty and unemployment there is, the less safe people feel.

Next is income inequality. An uneven income distribution can lead to higher crime rates.

Lastly is economic stability. This can influence income and job stability, which can affect unemployment and crime.

These factors have all been taken into account when coming up with the list below. So, without further ado, let’s look at the 7 safest cities.

7 Safest Cities in South Africa

These cities are broken down by a brief overview, why it’s safe, and the areas you’ll want to avoid.

1. Cape Town – Western Cape

Cape Town – Western Cape

First up is the world-famous Cape Town. From the stunning Table Mountain to the urban sprawl of the city itself, Cape Town has it all, including the highest safety rating in South Africa.

Places like Camps Bay and Bantry Bay are especially safe.

Why it’s safe

Cape Town is safe for several reasons. The first one is that law enforcement in the Mother City is the best in the country. It’s especially prominent in the city’s centre.

Cape Town also shows consistent year-on-year decreases in crime rates. In 2022, the annual crime analysis report showed a whopping 25% decrease in overall crime since 2019.

Areas to avoid

It’s generally a good idea to avoid the township areas in Cape Town. This includes:

  • The Cape Flats district
  • Langa
  • Kraaifontein
  • Nyanga

2. George – Western Cape

George – Western Cape

George is the largest city on the Garden Route (and the second largest in the Western Cape). From the looming mountains to the 18th-century Dutch buildings, it’s easy to get lost in the serene beauty of this relatively quiet city.

George is a popular holiday destination for both foreign and local tourists and is considered one of the safest South African cities.

Why it’s safe

George has a high quality of life, which means the majority of people in George have access to their basic needs. It’s also relatively small, which means there’s less concern about being ganged up on and falling victim to crime.

Areas to avoid

The main area to avoid in George is the township of Thembalethu.

3. Paarl – Western Cape

Paarl – Western Cape

The city of Paarl is one of the most beautiful areas you’ll ever see. It’s the third oldest settlement in South Africa and is steeped in history and culture. From the greens of the Paarl Golf Club (that dates back to 1908) to the Paarl Wine Route and its famous cheese, you’ll have no shortage of things to do and places to see.

Why it’s safe

The police force in Paarl is on par with that of Cape Town. On top of that, there’s a very strong sense of community policing. And, because locals welcome tourists of all kinds, nobody feels alienated, which helps with perceived safety.

Areas to avoid

The highest crime rate in Paarl is reported in Paarl East. So be wary if you find yourself there.

4. Kimberley – Northern Cape

Kimberley – Northern Cape

Home to the Big Hole (the deepest man-made cavity) and McGregor Museum, Kimberley is a must-visit for history fans. It’s a city of around 200,000 people and is steeped in history (and diamonds).

Why it’s safe

Being the capital city of the Northern Cape, Kimberley has a fairly strong flow of tourists. As a result, the police force is on alert for crimes.

Areas to avoid

The township of Galeshewe has a very high violent crime rate. It’s best to avoid visiting this area.

5. Upington – Northern Cape

Upington – Northern Cape

The second biggest city in the Northern Cape, after Kimberley, is Upington. It’s known for its extreme heat. Some car manufacturers even run weather and climate tests here. So, it’s no surprise that the main activities in Upington involve river cruises and swims. It’s an old-fashioned city that’s bound to transport you back in time.

Why it’s safe

The main reason Upington is considered safe is because the police force is said to be one of the best in the country.

Areas to avoid

The suburb of Rosedale is considered the most dangerous area in Upington.

6. Gqeberha – Eastern Cape

Gqeberha – Eastern Cape

Gqeberha, previously called Port Elizabeth, is found at the western edge of the Sunshine Coast. It’s a place that offers a great opportunity to catch some sun on the sandy beaches or spot whales and dolphins.

The city centre is full of heritage buildings and has been transformed from the once-dangerous place it was.

Why it’s safe

The rate of contact crimes (like muggings) is very low in Port Elizabeth. It’s one of the most common crimes and has a huge impact on perceived safety. The low numbers are attributed to the police force and the friendly locals, who have a strong sense of community and help one another.

Areas to avoid

The northern parts of Port Elizabeth are considered fairly dangerous – especially at night.

7. Bloemfontein – Free State

Bloemfontein – Free State

South Africa’s judicial capital is also on this list. Bloemfontein feels like a small village. You won’t see many major attractions, but the city itself is stunning, and it’s the birthplace of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Why it’s safe

Populated areas are patrolled with 24-hour security.

On top of that, the police force is good, to the point where it’s safe to walk around most places at night.

Areas to avoid

Bayswater is considered the most dangerous area in Bloemfontein.

Safest Towns In South Africa

Let’s take a detour from the safest South African cities now and look at the safest towns in South Africa.

1. JanKemp Dorp – Northern Cape

JanKemp Dorp is around 4 hours from Upington and has a population of around 24,000 people.

It has a slow pace of life and is known for its wineries and nature reserves.

Why it’s safe

To put it plainly, JanKemp Dorp is safe because the locals don’t put up with crime. There’s a very strong sense of community here, so people work hard to keep their town safe.

2. Cape St. Francis – Eastern Cape

With a population of just 342 people, the seaside village of Cape St. Francis is known for its clean beaches and great surfing.

Most residents don’t worry about burglar bars or security systems, so it’s pretty safe.

Why it’s safe

Cape St. Francis is safe because it’s so tiny. The main crimes here are pickpocketing and theft.

3. Port St. John’s – Eastern Cape

On the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape is a small coastal town known as Port St. John’s. It’s considered one of the safest places to live in South Africa, with an average of 456 incidents of crime for every 100,000 residents.

Why it’s safe

The police are visible and incredibly responsive, making it difficult for criminals to get away with anything.

4. Plettenberg Bay – Western Cape

Locally known as “Plett”, Plettenberg Bay is another coastal town known for its beautiful beaches and wild coast. It’s considered the jewel of the Garden Route.

Why it’s safe

Access to basic goods like food and medical care is easy to acquire here. There’s a very low unemployment rate, and the police are also very responsive.

5. Knysna – Western Cape

Famous for its oysters and seahorses, Knysna is situated between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean coastline. It’s an artistic town where you’ll find quirky knickknacks and tons of fishing gear. While you may find one or two gated communities, most of the houses here aren’t particularly fortified.

Why it’s safe

Like most other towns on this list, Knysna has a very strong sense of community. Local life is slow, and most of the residents are retirees. So, a lot of work is done to look out for one another.

Most Dangerous Cities In South Africa

Now that we’ve listed the safest cities, I’d like to give you a heads-up about the most dangerous ones.

1. Pretoria – Gauteng

Pretoria is considered the most dangerous city in South Africa. According to Numbeo, it’s the second most dangerous city in the world, just below Caracas in Venezuela.

The main reason for the high crime levels is the massive divide between poor and upper-class areas. It’s not uncommon to hear about muggings and armed robberies regularly.

2. Durban – KwaZulu-Natal

Durban is one of the country’s largest seaports. It’s also one of the country’s most dangerous cities.

Like Pretoria, the main reason for the high crime levels is due to poverty. Durban North is especially dangerous.

3. Johannesburg – Gauteng

Locally known as “Jozi”, Johannesburg is South Africa’s biggest city. It’s the centre of mining, manufacturing, and finance. It’s also home to many slums and rampant corruption from political officials.

The contrast in wealth in Johannesburg leads to political and racial violence, as well as drug-related crimes.

It’s also worth noting that Cape Town, Durban, and Nelson Mandela Bay have the highest reported murder rates. This might seem contradictory to the list, but a lot of these violent crimes happen in poorer areas such as townships. That means the city itself is still considered very safe.

Travel Tips For Keeping Safe

No matter where you’re travelling in South Africa, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

Don’t wear flashy jewellery

If you love your jewellery, you won’t wear it in South Africa. Unfortunately, it’s one of the telltale signs of a foreign tourist or somebody with money. That makes you an ideal target for a mugging.

Don’t have your phone out

Theft in South Africa can be as violent as an armed robbery, or as simple as pickpocketing. One of the biggest cases of reported theft comes because of phones being stolen. And they won’t be sneaky, either. If you’re in the city centre, you could have your phone stolen out of your hand and have the thief disappear in the crowd. It’s a common occurrence in places like Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Don’t go into dodgy areas

This one should be fairly self-explanatory. If you’re in an area that’s not as well-lit or secure as others, you’re opening yourself up to crime. This is especially true in Cape Town and townships in the Eastern Cape.

Don’t handle large amounts of money in the open

This one falls into the same category as flashy jewellery. Don’t handle wads of cash if you can avoid it. It’s always a better idea to carry a card since most establishments are happy to accept card or SnapScan payments.

Don’t walk alone at night

This doesn’t apply everywhere (especially areas in the Garden Route), but it’s still good advice. Walking alone at night makes you a prime candidate for a criminal. Either surround yourself with friends or stay home.

FAQs

Which province has the most crime in South Africa?

The province with the worst crime statistics is the Eastern Cape.

Which city in Africa has the lowest crime rate?

According to Statista, the city in Africa with the lowest crime rate is Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. Other cities include Rabat in Morocco and Alexandria in Egypt.

What are the most common crimes in South African cities?

The three most common crimes in South African cities are:

  • Drug-related crime
  • Theft
  • Common assault

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