Its summertime, and the living is easy! As we start winding down for the well deserved holiday break, it is time to put our feet up and start having some fun in the sun.

Most South African’s I think are pretty much born with a certain amount of street savvy when it comes to safety first, but as a refresher here are some tips from the SA Police on what to be on the lookout for while on holiday. Tourists are seen all over the world as soft targets by criminals, and we are moving into their busy season too, so lets be vigilant while we have fun.

Safety for tourists

Take the following few basic precautions and ensure that your visit is as pleasant and as safe as possible-

At the Airport

  • Stay especially alert and watch your bags and laptop at all times. Do not let anyone but uniformed airline personnel handle or watch your bags.
  • Watch out for staged mishaps, like someone bumping into you or spilling a drink, as it is often a ploy to divert your attention and steal your bag or passport.
  • Carry your purse close to your body, or your wallet in an inside front pocket.
  • Better yet, wear a money pouch under your clothes.
  • Keep a separate record of the content of checked luggage. And keep anything of value in a bag that stays with you at all times.
  • Avoid displaying expensive cameras, jewellery and luggage that might draw attention. Your aim should be to blend in with the crowd.

At the hotel (Accommodation)

  • Do not leave your luggage unattended unless it is locked way in your room.
  • Store valuables in the safe deposit box.
  • Keep your room locked at all times.
  • Hand the key in at the desk when you leave the hotel.
  • If someone knocks, check who it is before opening the door.
  • Make sure that luggage is only given to the hotel=s bell staff and a receipt is issued for stored luggage.

In the street

  • Plan your route beforehand.
  • Don’t stop people to ask for directions or check your map on the street.
  • Try not to look like a tourist by making obvious that it is your first time in the area.
  • It is better to explore in groups and stick to well-lit busy streets.
  • If you find yourself alone, try to make reference to yourself as part of the group.
  • Avoid drawing attention to you by wearing lots of jewellery and showy displays of cameras and other valuables.
  • It is definitely not advisable to carry large sums of money around. Carry just as much money as you require for the day.
  • Keep your handbag and cellular phone with you and do not leave them unattended.
  • Always keep an eye on what’s going on around you.
  • Never allow young children to wander off from parents.
  • If you think someone is following you, take out your cell phone and pretend to make a call. Say the word police with enough volume for the person following you to hear.
  • Don’t confront them. You may, alternatively, just get yourself to the nearest public place as quickly as possible.
  • Avoid going out unnecessarily after hours.
  • If you want to call a taxi, your hotel or the nearest tourism info office can recommend a reliable service.
  • A policeman or a traffic officer will be glad to direct you if you get lost.

On the Road

  • Practice the same prevention skills you do in parking lots or garages at home.
  • Become familiar with your route before you start the trip. Get a map of the route and study it.
  • Make sure your rental car is in a good working order. Learn how all the windows, door locks and other equipment work before you leave the lot. Keep your maps and rental agreement concealed, not lying on the seat or the dashboard where they can be seen by others.
  • Keep car doors locked while you are driving.
  • Store luggage in the car’s boot (trunk) where it is out of sight.
  • If your car is bumped by another car, think before you get out. If you are in doubt or feel uncomfortable, signal to the other driver to follow you to a nearby police station or a busy, well-lighted area where it is safe to get out.

In the car

  • Plan your route in advance
  • Keep the doors locked at all times and wind the windows up.
  • Do not leave your cellular phone or other devices where it is visible from outside the car.
  • Lock your valuables inside the boot (trunk) before your departure.
  • Do not ask strangers to take you a group picture no matter how friendly they seem.
  • At night, park in well-lit areas.
  • Do not hitchhike.
  • If in doubt about the safety of an area, phone a police station for advice.

How to avoid mugging

Mugging is unfortunately one of the common crimes that unaware people fall victims to in the streets and shopping malls everyday. The following are just some of the simple measures that you can take to so that you don’t get robbed.

  • Look around you and be aware of your surroundings. Remember, an area is not safe just because you are familiar with it.
  • Walk actively and confidently. You must always try to make eye contact with the people around you.
  • Carry your bag around your neck and diagonally across your body. Do not carry it hanging over one shoulder. You may as well clutch your bag and hold it to the front.
  • Put your wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket not a back pocket.
  • Walk in well-lit busy streets and walk in a group if possible.
  • If you know or suspect that a pedestrian is following you, go to the nearest well-lit or busy area and call the police.
  • If you are followed by a vehicle, never try to outrun it. Turn and walk in the opposite direction. React by yelling or shouting if possible.
  • Carry money or phone cards for emergency phone calls.
  • Hide your cell phone and do not walk around talking on a cell phone as it will distract you.
  • Avoid going out unnecessarily after hours.
  • Avoid taking short-cuts through deserted areas such as parks, empty areas and passages.

Visit SAPS for more information

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