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An Australian teenager in Pretoria


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It is Monday, 11th Dec and is noon here in Adelaide, South Australia.

An hour ago, my youngest daughter, Heidi, asked if she could go to Pretoria to visit a friend she'd spent three months with at a Christian campsite in Wisconsin, U.S.A. earlier this year.

My daughter has travelled to the U.K. with me in 2000 and on her own to the U.S.A. in May to September. She is 18.

She is an Australian citizen, born in Tasmania, Australia and travels on an Australian passport. She also has a British passport which she got as a "minor" before she turned 18 and is valid for a long time also.

She is working to save money to go to University next year in Sydney studying Occupational Therapy and her firm where she works closes down for four weeks over Christmas into January.

She has money for a ticket to Jo'burg return.

She misses her mate in Pretoria who she shared a dorm with and worked alongside for three months in the U.S.

Now . . . . is an Australian teenager in South Africa a dumb idea?

Is Pretoria the safest spot on the planet?

What are the travel documents needed to go, as an Australian, to South Africa for up to four weeks?


What's the best way to exchange Australian $$$$$ for Rand?

Anyone need a few Australian $$$$$$$$$ ???

Her mate lives in an area called "The Willows".

What else does a dad need to know?

Edited by Bob
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It is not a place I would personally send my own daughter to alone I would rather get the friend to come and visit Australia.

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Hey Bob,

Wow – this is a tough one, and given how much you know about South Africa, I can only imagine the thoughts going through your head.

First of all, let’s get the logistics out of the way – that’s the easy part. Heidi won’t need a visa to enter SA, as long as she is going on holiday and stays for less than 90 days. She can exchange her A$ for ZAR at any bank or foreign exchange outlet. To be safe, she can purchase travellers cheques and then encash them as she needs (just be sure to use the same vendor to avoid double commission fees!). Alternatively, and maybe the safest way would be for her to simply use her credit card to purchase items or to draw cash at an ATM. Although this might be slightly more expensive, it is the safest option.

Now, for the harder part….how safe is it for a young teenage girl in South Africa. The area you refer to, The Willows, is in the Pretoria East region, and is as safe as any other mid to upmarket suburb in Gauteng, which isn’t saying much. However, the bigger concern for me would be that she is obviously not going to stay in her friend’s house 24/7, and will spent at least a fair portion of her time in the car or in other spots. I assume that the local girl will be street smart and will know what areas to avoid and how to protect herself as best as possible, so at least Heidi won’t be as vulnerable as she would be if she were travelling on her own or with other tourists. If you tell her to listen to her friend’s instructions, then you will have done everything that it is possible to do for her.

Good luck with this Bob – I don’t think it is an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination.



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Now . . . . is an Australian teenager in South Africa a dumb idea?

Is Pretoria the safest spot on the planet?

Hallo Bob

It is a tough one to answer.

Your audience here consists largely of people considering migrating to Australia with local crime levels as a major consideration and people who've already made the move (some I suspect also because of South African crime levels). Add to that JohanK's newspaper references and I understand your concern. Keep in mind though that newspapers don't normally sell by carrying good news articles. The latter could be a debate in its own right.

We also live in Pta's eastern suburbs about 5 km from the Willows. In our suburb on Saturday night a lawyer got shot in the back during an armed robbery whilst having a barbeque with friends. He is fortunate to have survived the attack but is permanently paralysed from the waist down.

The reason why I am using this incident is to show that there is a real danger of becoming a victim even for the local residents. We have seen cyclical increases in criminal activities every year as we approach Christmas time. This would include, but not limited to, cash in transit heists, armed robberies at shopping centres and burglaries. Janaury and Febraury is believed to be less risky.

Ajay is on the mark to say that your daughter would be reasonbly safe staying with her mate in Willows as one would expect her mate to be "street smart". This could be an opportunity for her to come and see our beautiful country, something that may not present itself again within the near future.

Just remember that there would always be an element of danger lurking around the corner.

If you can live with this let her come.

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Hi Bob,

Yes it is tough because violence is here to stay any where in SA. I hear that tourist operators will not promote tourism to Durban because of high levels of crime. I grew up in Durban and as far as I am concerned the town itself and the beaches have gone to the dogs.

Our freind ,who emigrated to the UK last year, brother (lives in PTA)was shot by robbers in his house. He is now on a ventilator and not looking good.

Foreigners are watched as they come through immigration at JHB international....followed and robbed at gun point. This has been in the local press as well as it happened to a chinese person at our work.

We live in the WILD WEST and anything is possible.

Edited by Tazz
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I agree with the answers provided by others above.

I would say that if your daughter were to come to South Africa alone and travel alone as a tourist like one would do in a european city then that would be a bad idea and dangerous.

But on the other hand if she came here alone and is met on the airport by her friend with her family, and she stays with her friend during the entire trip untill they drop her off at the airport again, then I think the risk is much less.

South Africa is without doubt a more dangerous place than what your daughter is probably used to, therefore if she does come she should stay with local people that are familiar with the South African environment.

We are also busy emmigrating and one of the main reasons is crime, but when my sister from the Netherlands comes to visit us in South Africa and she stays with us and her South African friends I do not feel that the chances of her getting hurt is that high. It is just higher than it would have been in Netherland.

If I had a friend from Australia wanting to visit me, then I would tell them not to worry about safety too much, as long as they stay with me and listen to my advice.

So I think it all depends on the way the visit will be structured and on the people she is visiting. If she is visiting responsible, safety conscious people and she stays with them, then I would have allowed her to come. It might be useful for you to contact the parents of the South African friend.

I hope this helps


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It's now Noon, Tuesday 12th in Adelaide.

I was encouraged by the comments posted by you guys, also to the PMs which I received.

I thank you for your time and opinions which are valued.

On weighing up the pros and cons, Heidi is going.

My wife spoke to Carol (the mum in Pretoria) for about 20 mins last night, asking about the security of life there.

Also, people have commented that this may be the last chance of seeing the place for Heidi. It won't get any better over the next few years.

I've stressed that she does what everyone else there does . . . no arguments! If she doesn't wear a watch or sunglasses or take her handbag, it'll be for a good reason.

I've just come back from putting my Mastercard down for the ticket. Heidi picks up the bill . . . and any interest attached. She can pay whenever, as long as I get a zero statement in time.

She will be in Johannesburg this Friday arvo . . . that quickly. . . . for 25 days.

She was always brought up to be independent and learnt to "rough it", sleeping out under the stars whenever we went bush (which was a few times a year!) and isn't your usual teeage girl who's into fashion BIG time. She values her mates and is pretty determined and "go-getter".

She has booked it all herself, as she did for the U.S.

I just hope she comes back in one piece.


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Im sure she will be okay Bob :) The time will fly by and soon she will be back home in Oz

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This morning, after a late night phone call to her mate in Pretoria, it looks like Heidi is set to fly to Cape Town. Cost A$200 (R600).

She and her friend from Pretoria have mates in Cape Town.

When I was there, I remember taking the chair lift to the top of Table Mountain and also going to the market.

We still have a pair of multi coloured sandals bought there for a two year old (Bobby, our 23 yr old son)

Are there any "Must see" yet relatively safe spots to see.

I swam at a beach in the Atlantic . . . for about 10 mins . . . but the beachsand was golden.

Are the beaches still safe to bathe in at Cape Town, or are the beaches a place where swimmers are targetted for muggers?

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HI Bob

Definite must see's and do's when in CT

- Cable car up Table Mountain

- Stellenbosch wineries tour (or just a drive around Paarl, Stellenbosh and areas, really beautiful)

- Beaches -> Clifton, Camp's Bay is the place to be.

- If they love shopping, definitely pop in at Canal Walk (biggest shopping centre in souther hemisphere I believe)

- Go to V & A Waterfront for a walkabout

- Markets at Greenpoint Stadium on a Sunday (negtiotiate is the key here)

- For a fun day out on rides and stuff -> Ratanga Junction (just next to Canal Walk)

- day trip to the infamous Robben Island where Mandela spent 27 years of his life

- Cape Point

That's what I can think of at the moment.



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Canal Walk . . . do they love shopping? . . . two girls? . . .

Is the Pope a Catholic?

Edited by Bob
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If their would love to see some wildlife/animals as well

Tygerberg Zoo (close to Stellenbosch)

Two Oceans Aquarium @ V&A Waterfront

World of Birds in Hout Bay

Drakenstein Lion Park (close to Stellenbosch)

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ROFLMAO Bob....Are you sure you want to hand your mastercard over to her????

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Hi Bob

We life in the east of Pretoria (Farie Glen). The police gave a warning to malls in Gauteng. They said that the robberies in the malls will most probaly increase during the holidays. We go to the malls if we have to but otherwise we try smaller shopping centers.

Just a fact.

Hope she enjoys the stay. Cape Town is must saver.


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