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Best way to carry cash in South Africa

Brisbane...
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2 posts
20 reviews
Best way to carry cash in South Africa

We will be travelling to South Africa, Botswana, Victoria Falls, Kenya and Tanzania and we’ve been warned about very clever pickpockets and holdups. We know about ‘spreading’ the money between our bags, but I’m curious which is the best way to carry our cash while we’re out during the day. Is it safe to leave the bulk of the money at the hotels? If not, which is the best way to carry cash while on outings? Money Belts or other concealed pouches? Are backpack bags better than cross body sling bags?

Thanks for any help.

18 replies to this topic
Long Island, New...
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6,606 posts
21 reviews
1. Re: Best way to carry cash in South Africa

Have you ever traveled anywhere?

In Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania its likely you’ll be in pretty remote areas. Are pickpockets really going to be a problem? What do you mean by “out during the day”? Where are you going in S Africa? Use ATMs and credit cards so you’re not carrying a lot of cash (like anywhere). VF uses USD and there’s very little available in the country so bring some or use credit cards.

Relax. Not everyone wants to steal from you.

Cape Town
Level Contributor
10,318 posts
2. Re: Best way to carry cash in South Africa

Your question was about South Africa so that's what I am answering. Why do you need large amounts of Cash? South Africans of all cultures, like most countries in the world nowadays, use Credit Cards for most things. With the rise of conactless cards and Phone Scan systems even cups of coffee and bus fares are paid electronically. You just need cash for tips that you don't add in your bill such as petrol station attendants, parking guards and a few others. Maybe a snack from a roadside stall or a soft drink. Just get a bit of cash every few days from an ATM when you need a top-up. They are everywhere.

I have lived in Cape Town for more than 15 years and I travel all over the country. I walk around the city most days, parking on the street and go out 2 or 3 evenings a week - to restaurants, concerts, theatre or opera, or just visiting friends. Park and walk just the same. In all this time living here, plus 25 years previous to this travelling to SA I have never been pick-pocketed or otherwise robbed - on the street, in my car or at home - neither by Clever or Dumb thieves! On the other hand I have been robbed and pick-pocketed in other cities around the world - London, Liverpool, Naples, Rome and New York - over many years of worldwide travel

I carry my cards and day to day cash in my wallet which sits in my front trouser pocket. The Horror Stories you have been told are just exaggeration and "Project Fear of South Africa"!!

No need to do anything different than you would do in Brisbane. Ignore the warnings and have a great vacation!

Edited: 06 August 2018, 04:46
London, United...
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1,499 posts
2 reviews
3. Re: Best way to carry cash in South Africa

When my wife and I are in South Africa - or anywhere else in the world for that matter - we do exactly what we do at home. We carry a bit a spare change in our pockets (or handbag) and some paper money in our wallets. But we mostly use our credit cards to buy stuff.

About the only time that we need cash is to tip the gas station attendants, the car guards and the occasional small purchase at a market stall.

Sometimes you will come across a a place that doesn't take credit cards - the Potluck Boskombuis restaurant on the R532 between Graskop and the Bourke's Luck Potholes, for example, has no electricity - but the vast majority of places will happily take payment by credit card.

Leigh-on Sea...
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4,645 posts
6 reviews
4. Re: Best way to carry cash in South Africa

as posters 3 and 4 state , no need to carry much cash in SA. I always bring around £100 worth of rands and end up taking most of it home for the next trip.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
129 posts
47 reviews
5. Re: Best way to carry cash in South Africa

SA is a very "credit card friendly" country. So you won't need as much cash as you'd expect.

I carry my wallet in my front pocket whenever I'm travelling. Oddly, I don't do it at home... but I guess that's just a bit of hometown confidence.

Nova Scotia
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for Nova Scotia
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14,248 posts
172 reviews
6. Re: Best way to carry cash in South Africa

Do not stash money in different suitcases or bags and do not leave it in hotel rooms unless in a safe.

I like hidden money pockets inside clothing but in many places that is not necessary.

Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
186 posts
4 reviews
7. Re: Best way to carry cash in South Africa

As Van_de_Caab illustrated, people are far more likely to get pick pocketed when they are traveling than they are in their home country because we're all much more aware of the rhythms of our environment back home than we are while traveling. Which is probably why so many south africans report being pickpocketed in some relatively safe areas while remaining solid in their home territory. Same is true for me.

I travel a lot for work, including spending about half my year in the Tanzania and Kenya area, and more recently a few months of work here and there in SA.

-in SA you can use a credit or debit card very easily. If you want to carry small amounts of cash, carry it along with a single credit card in the inside pocket of your jacket, or if you have deep enough front pockets on your pants, carry some there. It's accessible, but if you're concerned about theft no one is going to reach into your front pockets while you're unaware. For the record I haven't had an issues with theft there anyway, but when I travel, this is my convenient default.

-in Tanzania and Kenya if you're on an organized safari, you won't need that much hard cash with you except for tips. There are ATMs in the airport and in most of the larger towns you're likely to hit as a tourist, and you can just get tip money and a bit extra from the ATM. One issue with this is - the local currency there comes in relatively small denominations, so even carrying $50 can be a huge wad of bills, so carrying a lot of local currency can be a pain. In the case you need a lot of local money and find yourself with a giant stack of bills, you just keep it in a purse, bag or envelope you can keep track of, nothing tricky. And it's not going to get snatched on safari. I also usually carry some flat US $100 bills as emergency money in case an ATM eats my card, the ATMs run out of cash (this happens), or *insert some other unforeseen circumstance that requires money but prevents me from using a card*. I've dipped into that emergency stash a few times over the years. That money is in a small envelope that gets stored in the same relatively secure small bag as my passport. I've never lost it or had it compromised. I've never felt any of my stuff was at risk there.

I get being nervous before you travel someplace new, but it's not going to be as much of an issue as you think it will. You don't need secret pockets or anything.

Brisbane...
Level Contributor
2 posts
20 reviews
8. Re: Best way to carry cash in South Africa

Thank you everybody for your tips and suggestions. It seems that just general travel common sense is what’s needed. We were given the impression that it’s almost not if you get robbed, but when you get robbed! I’m relieved to hear that this information appears to be exaggerated.

Johannesburg, South...
Destination Expert
for Johannesburg
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5,688 posts
9. Re: Best way to carry cash in South Africa

<< this information appears to be exaggerated.>>

GREATLY!

Johannesburg, South...
Destination Expert
for Johannesburg
Level Contributor
5,688 posts
10. Re: Best way to carry cash in South Africa

Too late to edit.

I have never been robbed out, or at home, nor pick pocketed anywhere in Southern Africa, in my 70+ years in SA.

Since 2004 in the travel industry (changed my profession at that time), not one of my thousands of clients has reported being robbed or pickpocketed

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