There's some getting used to being in a city, especially a new city when you first arrive. We've been in Durban for some time now, but our return to the USA had us a bit relaxed in the security department ... a little less aware of our immediate surroundings. Heading out to do some grocery shopping, we had to readjust to being back in the city. Unlike Las Vegas where we drove everywhere we wanted to go, being on foot makes you a bit more vulnerable to petty theft and potentially more violent crimes. South Africa is considered a high-risk country for crime. It's the rape capital of the world. The murder rate is high. Car jackings are commonplace. Durban, in particular, is notorious for street crime. We really need to be on alert when we're out and watch each other's back. That said, any city presents a good opportunity for thieves to work. David was pickpocketed on a bus in Guayaquil, Ecuador. I had a camera stolen (but I recovered it) in Peru. In general, though, we've been very lucky. We're personally aware of at least four cruisers who have been mugged here in Durban. Though it's impossible to stop crime, we can do our best to be streetwise and avoid being a target. Here are our suggestions for being streetwise.
Don't dress to the nines. You can be neat and clean without being showy.
Wear no jewelry nor expensive watches … plastic watches do the trick.
Don't flash cash. Be discrete if you need to buy something. Have small bills available without having to dig through your wallet.
Choose your ATM carefully and don't make a show of putting away your cash. Be suspicious of "helpful" people near an ATM. Be suspicious of anything that doesn't look right about an ATM. We once visited an ATM that had a second card reader attached just above the usual one. If we had swiped our card through it, it would have stored our debit card info, and the little camera mounted above would have recorded our pin number.
Distribute cash in different pockets and between each other.
Don't carry extra credit cards, just carry what you need. The same goes for anything else that isn't necessary and would be expensive or difficult to replace– driver's license, insurance cards, etc.
Keep your wallet in a front, preferably buttoned-pocket. David sometimes carries an extra "dummy" wallet in his back pocket.
Don't carry your passport with you unless absolutely necessary. We carry copies of ours when we go out. The copies are almost always acceptable in lieu of the originals.
Wear your backpack or your purse on your front. Don't hang it over your shoulder.
Be sensible where you wander. All cities have bad areas. Some worse than others. Don't tempt fate. Stay in the central business and tourist areas. If you see something or someone that looks suspicious, cross the street. Don't put yourself in harm's way.
Be wary after dark. Splurge … take a cab.
Watch each other's back. Rather than walking side by side, we take turns trailing each other, watching for people who bump into or brush against us.
You are especially vulnerable when stopping to take a photo. Pay attention to who is nearby or approaching.