This is an iconic place to get a photo in Cape Town with Table Mountain in the background

Safety in Cape Town – Is Cape Town safe for tourists?

Published on: May 26th, 2020 at 10:02 am

With around 4.5 million people, Cape Town is the second largest city by population in South Africa. However, the safety in Cape Town has held a bad rap for being crime-ridden and unsafe for tourists for many years.

But is that true?

Today I want to share my thoughts on how to ensure your safety in Cape Town and if, in fact, Cape Town safety is as bad as many think. I’ve personally travelled to Cape Town on multiple occasions and feel I can offer some personal advice on Cape Town safety.

tips on how to visit Cape Town safely

Is Cape Town safe to visit?

In recent years, Cape Town has worryingly crept up from the 34th most violent city in the world to the 9th most violent city in the world according to the BBC study in 2015. However, this shouldn’t and doesn’t automatically determine that all areas of the city of Cape Town are extremely violent and dangerous. 

Cape Town has actually been actively trying to increase their cities security and make tourists feel safe by introducing programs such as the Cape Town Safety and Support Plan along with a Visitor-Support Program to assist any tourists who have been victims of a crime. Most tourist-heavy areas are well protected and policed these days to help Cape Town tourists. 

This is an iconic place to get a photo in Cape Town with Table Mountain in the background
One of the most iconic places to get a photo while in Cape Town. You can see Table Mountain and the “tablecloth” in the background.

How safe is Cape Town for tourists

So with that being said, if asking the question, is Cape Town safe? I believe YES, travel in Cape Town is safe as long as you remain alert and aware. In my honest opinion, you shouldn’t put off visiting the city just because of safety concerns. This would be a big mistake as you are missing out on visiting and experiencing such a beautiful city.

However, safety should be a priority no matter where you’re travelling throughout the world and you should always take precautions when you’re visiting a new city or country. Investing in good travel insurance, like World Nomads Insurance is a must for any travel adventure as sometimes unfortunate things just happen, like when I got completely robbed of everything in Chile. These potential events shouldn’t ever deter you from taking a trip in my opinion and simply worrying about, how safe is Cape Town, will prevent you from seeing one of the most visually beautiful cities in the world. 

Let’s check out some tips to staying safe when travelling in Cape Town and the country South Africa in general.

Cape Town South Africa Safety Tips

Here are some of the best Cape Town South Africa safety tips for ensuring you stay as safe as you possibly can while travelling throughout the South African city. Avoid the potential dangers of Cape Town by following these simple yet effective travel tips.

Try to Walk As Little As You Can

Take a Taxi, Especially at Night:

Muggings and robberies are one of the top reported crimes in Cape Town. Try to avoid this by taking a marked taxi cab wherever you’re trying to go. Taxi safety in South Africa Cape Town is good so take advantage of this where possible.

Utilize the Cities ‘Hop-On-Hop-Off-Buses’:

Although you have to buy a ticket, the hop-on-hop-off buses are a great way to ensure you’re safe while getting around the city quickly while also hitting all the major sites in Cape Town. They travel to places outside of the city that you probably won’t walk to anyway so even without the potential safety concerns it is a genuine Cape Town tourism must do.

Grab your ticket for the “Hop-On-Hop-off Bus”

Check out the must-see destinations located in the city of Cape Town. These are all budget-friendly and easy to visit, some are even FREE and perfect for Cape Town tourists looking to stick to a budget.

Rent a Car: 

If you plan on hitting lots of stops and going to different places, you might be better off renting a car. Make sure that your doors and windows stay locked whenever you’re not in the car, you don’t rent a convertible and try to avoid driving after dark as carjackings and highway robberies are unfortunately common after sunset.

I found driving in and around Cape Town to be completely safe. I visited areas such as Cape of Good Hope, Boulders Beach and much more. I have a detailed blog with exciting day trip options from Cape Town. Compared to going on multiple tours I found this a more affordable and relaxed way to visit the sites but also understand that some people with South Africa travel safety concerns might find this too risky.

In that case, I suggest looking at various tours on offer to the destinations I mentioned above on websites such as GetYourGuide or Viator. Both are tour respected operators and you can check out reviews from other travellers before booking any trips.

White rental car I hired to do a road trip in South Africa
I decided to hire a car for a few days and complete some road trips close to Cape Town. This was a great way to ensure I seen more than just the city.

Don’t be Flashy

Pickpocketing and muggings are a problem in every major city, but just to be on the safe side don’t pack any flashy jewellery or super expensive clothes for your trip. I usually leave as many valuables as I possibly can at home whenever I go on holidays and this should be no exception regardless of the destination.

Tips for Cape Town tourists:

•  Don’t flash cash when dealing with street vendors, or really any time during your trip.

•   Bring a dummy-wallet. Fill it with expired credit cards, petty cash and some coupons. If you do become a target for thieves, it’s a good idea to have a back-up ‘dummy wallet’ you can hand over to distract anyone who’s trying to rob you. This will ensure you can get away from any situation without losing all your belongings.

•  Don’t carry to much cash on you at all during the day or evenings. If at all possible leave any unnecessary cards and ID’s in a safe location at your accommodation. I also used my sock and shoe to hide extra cash in a different location to my wallet but I ever once had any issues with safety while in Cape Town and this was just a precaution.

South Africa Cape Town safety – Stay in The Touristy Areas 

Below are some of the most well-known and safest areas when you are travelling in Cape Town. Sticking to these areas for the bulk of your Cape Town tourism activities will ensure you are always around a large number of tourists and close to the police.

V&A Waterfront

This area is a hub of activity that houses hotels, restaurants and bars. Along with the Aquarium, it has the Robben Island Museum and is a common stop for many City Sightseeing bus routes.

City Bowl

Has many clubs and bars, many restaurants and is been known to be a hot-spot for backpackers.

Campus Bay

A great spot if you’re trying to hit the beach while on your trip. It sits dramatically at the foot of the Twelve Apostles Mountains and boasts incredible views.

Somerset Road and Kloof Street are also known tourist hot-spots where South Africa travel safety is dominated by the power of tourists in high numbers. If you are travelling solo in Cape Town then this is a good spot to meet some fellow travellers.

A great way to get familiar with your surroundings and become more comfortable with where and how you can travel throughout Cape Town is to complete a walking tour. I completed the Bo-Kaap walking tour on one of my first days in the city and highly recommend it.

A mural of two people waving at each other in Bo-Kaap area in Cape Town
One of the murals you can discover while completing a walking tour of the Bo-Kaap district in Cape Town

It showed some interesting areas of the famous coloured houses, Bo-Kaap, found in Cape Town but also gave me a chance to ask a local guide any questions I had regarding the dangers of Cape Town. I also got to hear answers from questions other tourists asked.

Find a walking tour in an area of the city that interests you in Cape Town.

Animal safety in Cape Town

Cape Town and Africa, in general, have a large amount of wildlife both on land and in the surrounding waterways of the ocean. Oceans found near Cape Town are a mixture of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. For this case, animal safety is something to be aware of when visiting the country to ensure your safety while in Cape Town. 

How safe is Cape Town – Animals to be aware of on land

On land, Baboons have been known to cause some safety issues for tourists especially around the mountain and in nature-rich areas. Often walkways and paths have “monitors” on them to ensure tourist safety but if you come across one of these animals it is important to remain calm and remove yourself slowly from the area. 

Cases of Baboons attacking tourists in Cape Town are extremely low. Avoid feeding these wild animals and stay to designated paths while on a hike in Cape Town to reduce your risk.

When visiting National Parks close to Cape Town such as Cape of Good Hope, it is possible, however rare, to come across wildlife animals such as Cape Mountain zebra, antelope breeds of Eland, Bontebok and Hartebeest and you will almost certainly find Baboons here as well.

A baboon that was found walking around near Cape Town, South Africa
Baboons can be found in areas close to Cape Town and should not be approached when discovered

Snakes are also possible to find through the National Park and in natural environment habits. Keep a lookout when you are hiking in Cape Town to ensure the trail is clear of any dangers. Find a list of the best hiking trails found close to Cape Town.

Water Safety advice in Cape Town

Is Cape Town safe for tourists doesn’t just mean on land, does it? Safety concerns in South Africa Cape Town also extend to the ocean that surrounds the city and this is mainly because of the local residents that call this place home. Which are, of course, the terrifying Great White shark.

It comes as no surprise that if one of the main tourist attractions of Cape Town is Great White cage shark diving then there are going to be high numbers of the creature in the ocean. While attacks are not common they can occur to swimmers, surfers and others taking part in water activities if care is not taken.

Many of the main beaches have “Shark Spotters” to keep the beach areas safe. These are used as an alternative to nets and other devices that can harm the sharks and other animals of the ocean. Follow the advice of these spotters, check for red flags, listen for alert sirens and try to swim close to the beach area.

If surfing, follow the advice in this article for safety tips and good surfing spots in Cape Town.

Know Which Areas to Avoid or Be Extra Cautious When Visiting

How safe is Cape Town, South Africa will depend greatly on how well you manage to avoid the most notoriously dangerous areas of the city. Just like many other cities in many other countries around the world, some locations are simply just not safe for tourists. Travel to Cape Town safely by avoiding the below areas of the city. 

•   Townships, in general, have been known to have a higher crime rate than other areas in Cape Town. It’s recommended they only be visited as part of an organized tour or group, and always avoid picnic areas or beaches that are isolated. I visited the Langa Township via a morning tour and highly recommend the experience. It will leave you feeling a mixed range of emotions though.

A general store found in one of the townships located just outside of Cape Town
Here is a small general store that is found in the Township´s close to Cape Town, South Africa. Visiting a Township is only recommended while in a tour

•  Cape Town Flats, Salt River, Seapoint, and Mowbray in Cape Town tend to see more criminal activity than other areas. If you go out at night, make sure you stay in well-lit areas and don’t walk around by yourself.

Is South Africa safe?

South Africa travel safety concerns are not solely focused on the city of Cape Town and there are other cities where areas should be avoided when possible.

•   Johannesburg-Joubert Park, Hillbrow and Berea are known criminal hotspots. If visiting these areas, take extra caution at night as muggings are common here. However, if you DO plan on visiting Johannesburg visit Maboneng, Newton and Soweto as crime has been noticeably reduced in these areas.

Common Scams and Crimes to Avoid in South Africa

Why is South Africa not safe or has such a bad reputation? Below are some of the common and most used scams and crimes to watch out for in not only Cape Town but also other parts of the country. 

•   Like I mentioned earlier, carjackings and highway robberies are common in Cape Town. Criminals place objects in the middle of the road which often forces unsuspecting tourists to stop and get out of their vehicle making them vulnerable. Do not stop your car to try and clear any debris. Instead, wait for another car to stop or try to go around the barrier using the roadside.

•   Luggage theft at Cape Town and Johannesburg airports can occur. Try to avoid placing valuable items in your checked luggage. If you have to, consider using a service that will wrap your bags in plastic, this will reduce the risk of them being tampered with. Criminals have also been known to wait outside the airports and follow unsuspecting tourists to their Airbnb or hotel and rob them. Always be aware of your surroundings and don’t accept a ride from the airport to where you’re staying unless it’s from a reputable company.

•   If you opt to travel by train, always travel in first-class and in a cabin with other people, really important during the day. Local metro trains have been a hot-spot for assaults and robberies especially between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

•   ‘Tourist Police’- This is when criminals pretend to be police in order to mug or rob unsuspecting tourists. Always insists to see identification and be cautious even with the police. If they are asking something that doesn’t seem right it probably isn’t. Calmly walk away towards a crowded area.

•   Food or drinks being spiked is not uncommon. Never let your food or drink be out of your sight. If you have to use the bathroom make sure someone you know and trust looks after your things.

•   Common dangers of Cape Town include pickpocketing and purse snatching. This occurs in very-populated city areas around the city so always keep your belongings close to you and be aware of your surroundings. If you have a backpack on, ensure you don’t have anything valuable in the front two pockets that are easy to reach. Many people opt to carry their backpack on the front of their body while walking to ensure their safety in Cape Town.

The above scams are some of the reasons many tourists ask, is it safe to travel in South Africa? By being aware of them and taking your time at airports, using common sense on public transport and keeping your eyes open and alert I think you can travel in South Africa safely.

Things to do and Nightlife Areas to Enjoy

If you are wanting to head out and explore a bit of the best things to do and nightlife of Cape Town then the below destinations are generally the best to ensure your safety in Cape Town. 

•   Long Street- Is considered to have the most ‘touristy’ club scene in all of Cape Town. These bars and clubs are within close proximity of one another so walking to each is easy and safe.

Find the Long Street area here

•  Zula Bar: Has a large dance floor, pool and fuse ball tables, along with a balcony and other outside areas. Perfect if you’re looking for something with a ‘chill’ vibe. They also have live music every Friday.

Find Zula Bar in Cape Town

•  The Purple Turtle: Known for its vibrant purple exterior, this place has live music, karaoke and an open-air balcony.

Find The Purple Turtle in Cape Town

•   Grand West Casino and Entertainment World: Known for being the only casino in Cape Town, there’s a reason they call this place a ‘world.’ You will find the following:

  • Includes all typical Casio slot machines, and roulette tables
  • Large 24-hour food court to fuel up in between card hands
  • ‘Ice Station’ Olympic size ice skating rink along with a mini supervised rink for your little Olympians
  • Ten Pin Bowling: 12 lanes accompanied by music and lights
  • Magic arcade with laser tag, fun for the whole family!
  • See a film at their in-house cinema

Find Grand West Casino and Entertainment World in Cape Town

Conclusion – How safe is Cape Town?

So, is it safe to travel South Africa? There is no doubt that Cape Town safety is potentially always going to be of concern for some tourists wanting to visit the area. It is far from being a completely safe place to explore and I’m certainly not going to say that Cape Town tourism is 100% safe. But I would argue this, is there such a place anywhere in the world?

The fact that the city of Cape Town South Africa is taking the issue so seriously should be an encouraging sign for visitors now and also in the future. With systems such as their Cape Town Safety and Support plan and the Visitor Support Programme already in place through Cape Town, it is fair to believe things will begin to change for the better. Use this travel to South Africa safety advice and take a trip for yourself just stay aware of your surroundings.

Let me know in the comments section what you think, is South Africa safe for travel? If you have any personal stories while travelling the country or other scams

I hope this little Cape Town safety list helps you feel a little bit more prepared for your trip to South Africa. Be sure to find more content related to travelling in South Africa and in particular the city of Cape Town in my Cape Town blog series and South Africa specific blog posts.

Popular things to do in Cape Town

Cape Town Blogs of Interest:

Cape Town Blog Series – All the information you will need to plan and enjoy a trip to Cape Town. A full guide of the city, activities to do in and around the area, safety advice, where to stay in Cape Town suggestions, recommended restaurants to eat at, hikes and safaris to do plus much more.

Victoria Falls Blog series – All the information required to plan and enjoy a trip to Victoria Falls. Find things to do in Victoria Falls, the best value accommodation option in Victoria Falls, restaurant advice, visa information and much more

Best Africa Safaris to do – find a selection of quality safari options that include South Africa and Zimbabwe

All other Africa Travel blogs – Information on these and other destinations such as Botswana, Namibia, Morocco and Egypt.

Organise Your Trip: Travel Advice and Tricks I Personally Use

Book Your Flight

Heading to either Skyscanner or Momondo are my methods of choice for this. They are my favourite as they search for flights from different companies all over the world. You can filter the results to suit your needs and ensure you land the best price every-time.

Book Your Accommodation

This is an important part of any holiday you’re going on. Read all the reviews and get the right accommodation via TripAdvisor. They even show you the best prices available at the time for that room from suppliers like Booking.com.For booking a hostel your best bet is to start with HostelWorld or possible even use CouchSurfing if you’re on a real budget.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance is a must these days so you have a piece of mind you’re covered for anything that could go wrong while on your trip. I now never go on a trip away without travel insurance. I’ve been using World Nomads for the past few years.

My favourite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • SafetyWing (cheaper option to just cover you for health issues)

Looking for the best companies to save money with?

As I have been travelling frequently over the last few years I’ve learnt some great tools to use for saving money when travelling. I have a travel resource page that lists all the trusted companies I personally use and rely on. I think you will find them good as well.

I also have a couple of great blogs that share quick and easy ways to save money on flights or accommodation. Take a look and save some cash on your next trip.

The Best Place To Book Your Tours

If you are someone you likes to have the best tours in one place and read reviews from other travellers about their personal experiences of each different tour then the best platform to use is GetYourGuide.

They offer the best tours, have money-back offers in case your trip is cancelled and ensure the price of each tour is the lowest possible.

Other posts that might interest you:

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guide on safety in Cape Town for tourists

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Last Updated on: May 25th, 2020 at 10:04 am

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