Cape Town is an extremely cool city that is mostly known for its natural beauty. It’s a port city that’s dominated by the profile of its main landmark, Table Mountain, and is pretty famous for its beaches. You can surf here AND see penguins! There’s a mix of cultures (always resulting in tasty food) and a lot of history.
But… there have long been problems in this coastal city. The reputation for safety in Cape Town has been one marred by theft, muggings, assaults, carjackings, gang violence – often, if not always, fuelled by poverty. Years of Apartheid have contributed to current social issues.
To ease your minds, we have created an in-depth insiders guide on how to stay safe in Cape Town.
We believe that it’s possible to travel safely and have a great time almost anywhere, as long as you keep a level head and travel smart. We do the research, so you don’t have to worry as much.
We’ll be covering a lot of issues in this guide. Whether you are concerned about traveling to Cape Town as a female solo traveler, or even if you’re worried about food safety in Cape Town – we’ve got you covered. We’re going to present lots of tips for avoiding danger in this city and we hope to prove that its safe for everyone, even for families on holiday in Cape Town.
You may be worried about staying long term, or you may just be worried about the safety of Cape Town for a short visit. Whatever your concerns may be, it’s ok. Our insider guide will help you out with anything you might need.
How Safe is Cape Town? (Our take)
Incredible scenery, tons of Cape Dutch architecture to explore, a cocktail of culture from Kaap Malay to Indian, a very healthy food and drink scene (let’s not forget South African wine!) – Cape Town is a sweet place to spend your time. Couple it with opportunities to see wildlife and go hiking and you have the potential for an amazing destination.
Cape Town is the most popular city in South Africa, although crime stats show that the city has the highest recorded rates of murder, robbery and non-violent property-related crimes in the country. The urban and metropolitan regions continue to be disproportionately affected by crime and violence.
Cape Town is the most popular city in South Africa, although crime stats show that the city has the highest recorded rates of murder, robbery and non-violent property-related crimes in the country. The urban and metropolitan regions continue to be disproportionately affected by crime and violence.
This started in 1950 when the Apartheid government introduced the Group Areas Act. This law was used to create different residential areas for different races which led to forced removals of people living in “wrong” areas. A majority of people of colour (black, coloured and Indians) were forcefully moved to townships like District Six, Khayelitsha in the Cape Flats, Gugulethu (also known as Gugs) and Langa. These areas have always been associated with gangsterism, poverty and aids.
The major issue is drug-related gang violence. The common types of crimes include burglary at Residential premises, muggings of personal belongings like jewelry and cellphones. Criminals impersonating law enforcement officials in order to commit hijackings. This is likely to affect tourists unless renting a private premises or car.
At first crime issues were only affecting people in the informal settlements now crime has slowly infiltrated suburban areas. The government has sent the military to intervene and most residents and businesses have hired private security.
Due to you probably not coming from a poor township yourself, you’ll most likely avoid most serious crime sans petty theft. There’s a big focus on welcoming foreign visitors to Cape Town and steady gentrification of formerly ‘sketchy’ areas underway.
Is Cape Town Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
Despite its criminal reputation, Cape Town is still a popular tourist destination. The whole of the general Western Cape region of South Africa is well trodden and received over 2.6 million visitors in 2018. By the end of 2019, the forecast is saying that visitor numbers will top 3 million.
Some parts of Cape Town’s city center, as well as the suburbs, are relatively safe; malls, business districts, and tourist areas have a high-security presence. The most unsafe you’re likely to feel is being hassled by someone over-persistently selling sunglasses, or venturing out at night (tip: DON’T).
It’s Cape Flats – locally known as The Flats – that sees the most violence and crime. This sandy expanse to the southeast of the Central Business District is somewhere you’ll want to give a wide berth to. It’s been called “the apartheid dumping ground” and is poverty-stricken, riddled with social problems, and essentially run by gangs.
Due to this quarantining of dodgy districts, on the whole, Cape Town is safe to visit. The level of safety doesdepend on where in the city you’re likely to stay and visit, however. For instance, pickpockets operate in City Bowl, while the V&A Waterfront is known for scammers.
But precise timing can change things, so…
Is it Safe to Visit Cape Town Right Now?
The security in Cape Town has changed quite a bit since the advent of democracy in 1994. Follow the abolition of apartheid, Cape Town saw a lot of positive change; most notably, the murder declined to more reasonable levels. Unfortunately, it’s still got a reputation as one of the world’s most dangerous cities and, as we mentioned before, things may be sliding a bit.
Theft in the form of muggings, scams, and pickpocketings remain part of the scenery as they would be in any developing city. Because of these occurrences, among others, you can’t really wander around the city – it is dangerous.
For many years, Cape Town has been in the midst of a water crisis. Earlier in 2018, locals were limited to 50 liters of water per day. In terms of Cape Town being safe to visit right now, the city’s tourism authority states that they’re still “open for business.” Imagine how a lack of water may make some residents more desperate though.
Being a tourist you’ll be less affected by a drought than a local, but it’s something to be aware of. For instance, you’ll find hand sanitizer in public toilets instead of running water. There is the worry of something called Day Zero – this isn’t a zombie apocalypse, but is when the municipal water may shut off and people have to collect water instead (this may happen in 2019).
Politically, you’re unlikely to encounter any trouble, although social unrest, even from white middle-class Cape Town residents, does appear to be building over the ongoing water crisis.
At the end of the day, being cautious and practicing good personal security is, on the whole, going to make you less likely to fall prey to crime.
Cape Town Travel Insurance
Get insurance! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun while visiting Costa Rica, but take it from someone who has racked up thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.
As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! We highly recommend World Nomads.
21 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Cape Town
Statistically, this may be a dangerous city, but thousands of tourists are relatively unaffected by crime during their visits. The best way to avoid crime is to be cautious, stay vigilant, be aware of your surroundings – and to keep in mind our insider tips for staying safe in Cape Town.
* Don’t walk around at night – crime rates are SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER after dark. Don’t even think about wandering around during this time. Take a taxi (more on that later).
* Don’t travel on the trains (especially at night) – Rent a car to get or use Uber.
* Avoid certain districts – do your research and make sure your walking routes don’t take you through dodgy neighborhoods. The safety of individual districts constantly changes.
* Be aware of your surroundings – for instance, wearing headphones isn’t smart. You’ll want ALL your senses to stay safe.
* Don’t walk around looking super rich – jewels, expensive clothes, looking like a celebrity. It’s an advert for thieves.
* Be alert at all times – don’t wear your headsets or walk around holding electronics like cameras or phones.
* Swim between flags and in nets at beaches – because of dangerous currents, and also sharks. Swim close to the shore and keep an eye out for red flags (this means don’t swim). But enjoy!
Be careful if you’re out hiking – In 2019, there has been an increase in kidnappings and rape cases. It’s not recommended for females to go hiking alone. Attacks do happen on the trails. Always share your location with a someone you trust. Travel with a group and check to see if certain areas have higher rates of muggings.
* If you’re approached by ‘tourist police’ ignore them – these people are nine times out of ten fake and just looking to extort you.
* Don’t leave things lying around unattended – bags, phones, wallets. These can disappear easily. Keep them on you.
* Use ATMs inside – The only currency accepted in South Africa is Rands (ZAR). Avoid carrying a lot of cash and try to pay by card. It’s just safer to do so. When withdrawing cash, go inside a mall or bank. Be aware even inside of people getting too close for comfort.
* Secure your belongings at your hotel – if someone rifles through your stuff, it’s best to have valuables hidden or in a safe.
* Don’t open the door to just anybody – check to make sure you know who’s knocking at your door – it may be a potential thief.
* Keep your credit cards in sight – even when they’re in use as fraud is rampant here. Hide them in a money belt.
* Similarly, don’t give your details to anyone – again, fraud.
* Practice safe sex – HIV/AIDS is a genuine issue in South Africa that affects lives daily.
* If you’re being robbed, don’t resist – most fatalities occur when people struggle too much.
* Decline if someone offers to help you with your luggage at airports – they’ll most likely just be after your luggage itself.
* If you’re heading out at night, do your research and go with people – a ‘nice’ area + more people around you = preferable.
* Copy important documents – rather than take your passport around with you, which could easily go missing.
* Be polite – political discussions and conversations about ‘us’ and ‘them’ do happen, but it’s best not to argue no matter how ‘woke’ you feel.
* LGBT travelers take note – homosexuality is taboo in black communities, so be aware.
* You’ll probably be approached by street children asking for money – it’s a personal choice if you give money, but you may find yourself overwhelmed if you seem to be giving a lot/all the time. Donate to a not-for-profit.
Cape Town may seem dangerous and traveling there might sound stressful, but keeping in mind the above tips would be a good start for a trouble-free trip. Make sure you do your homework, be aware of ‘no-go’ areas, and be conscious of your surroundings; practice these, and you’re bound to have a blast!
Keeping your money safe in Cape Town
So it’s clear that a keeping your money safe in Cape Town can be a little bit of an issue. Petty theft is definitely a thing and no matter how much you exercise smart travel habits, bad things can happen.
You may have someone demand money from you, you may be pickpocketed, you may even have something stolen from your room. But the best way to keep your money safe is to hide it in plain sight. Yep, we’re talking about a money belt!
Is Cape Town safe to travel alone?
You’ll be pleased to know that Cape Town is safe to travel alone. Of course, traveling by yourself anywhere in the world comes with its own problems. The main one being, well, you’re by yourself. Solo travelers are often easier targets for thieves and can be more susceptible to attack.
But don’t be nervous! Absolutely, Cape Town is safe for solo travelers so long as they follow a few extra rules. Of course, it’s not the safest place on Earth – you’re going to have to bear a few things in mind, and travel differently to how you might in a group – but visiting this amazing South African coastal city is going to be a blast.
* Try not to look like a tourist. Looking like a tourist will pretty much put you at risk of being pickpocketed or otherwise robbed – because tourists are rich enough to fly to Cape Town, so they must have plenty of spare cash, right? Dress… well, not like a tourist. A big ol’ camera around your neck isn’t going to help.
* Going on a well-reviewed walking tour, or any other sort of tour – may be one put on by your hostel – is a good way of acquainted with the city with a local. It’s a good chance to get familiar with your surroundings.
* Staying with a local at a homestay or guesthouse is another good way to get some perspective. Not only will you learn about Cape Town (and South Africa) but also get a good grip on how to get around the city. Understanding the social/political landscape and history of the country as a whole will help greatly.
* Ultimately, do your research. Our tips are a good place to start, but the different districts of Cape Town is a sphere of knowledge that needs special attention. Make sure you know where you’re going and how you’re getting there.
Cape Town is safe to travel alone in. At the end of the day, restricting yourself due to safety concerns isn’t going to be a barrel of laughs. Knowing what the dangers are, acquainting yourself with the city, making friends and using taxis to get around is going to really increase your chances of having FUN in Cape Town! Luckily, Cape Town is frequented by all sorts of solo travelers so the odds of you finding a group and having a blast are higher than you think.
Is Cape Town safe for solo female travelers?
With a high crime rate and the ever-looming threat of rape (South Africa as a country has been called the “rape capital of the world”), Cape Town might not seem like the best place to be heading as a solo female traveler. In defiance of these dangers against some people’s advice, there are still plenty of female travelers who go backpacking in Cape Town. Most walk away unscathed.
Women will have to practice more caution than they might do in other places and this shouldn’t stop them from traveling to Cape Town – it shouldn’t really stop them from traveling anywhere. It just means extra work as a female solo traveler. Lame but necessary.
So DO go to Cape Town, experience the city and have adventures. But: you will have to raise your awareness game. Following these tips will help you have an idea of what to expect.
* Take taxis arranged by your hostel or through an app. It’s not worth taking the risk when it comes to walking around at night, or even just after sunset.
* Meeting other travelers is a good idea, so check yourself into a hostelwith good views, a good vibe and some female only dorms (if you fancy it). Talking to other female travelers is good since you can share tips on traveling, which can only ever be a positive thing.
* When you’re walking around by yourself, be confident. Looking unsure of your surroundings makes you seem like an easy target, even if it’s just someone looking to scam you in a touristed area like V&A Waterfront.
* Not everywhere in the city is shady. Do your research, get out of the main touristed areas – Bo-Kaap is a wonderful, trouble-free district full of cool, colorful houses. A township, on the other hand, is a huge no-no. A hip area near your hostel, maybe. Use your better judgment.
* If you want to go out partying, maybe stick to your own hostel bar. If you do go out (with people and while using taxis), watch your drink and don’t take drinks offered by strangers. That alsoapplies to the hostel bar as well. Sometimes fellow travelers are not totally virtuous either. Getting mad drunk is not something we’d advise either.
* Ask the staff at your hostel about the local area. Are there places to avoid? Are there certain streets that have a bad reputation? The more you know, the safer you’ll be.
* Let people know what your plans are. If you go out hiking or even just on a guided tour, having someone know your whereabouts s better than nobody knowing where you are for the day. These people could be hostel staff, a newly made friend, or even your friends back home.
* Try to fit in a little more and dress like a local. It might not be super cool where you’re from, but it’s much better to blend in than stand out in Cape Town. See what other people are wearing and try to emulate with what you’ve got. For example, shorts = tourist. Every time.
* Avoid being on isolated beaches by yourself, any time of day. Muggings – or worse – can happen.
At the end of the day, Cape Town isn’t an ideal for girls. It’s not 100% safe for solo female travelers, but then again it’s not 100% safe for any sort of traveler, really. With most violent crime restricted to the townships (which is what gives Cape Town its bad reputation), chances are you’ll have a great time. Just stay safe, be sensible and be aware of your surroundings at all times!
Is Cape Town safe to travel for families?
Cape Town receives all kinds of tourists, many of these being families rather than intrepid backpackers. As such, we’d say Cape Town is absolutely safe for families.
Chances are you’ll be staying in a more touristed area, and will be doing more touristy things than the average backpacker. This already makes the situation much safer for you.
That said, it doesn’t make you immune to petty theft as this still DOES occur in touristed areas. Being aware where pickpockets operate is a good start.
You will still get hassled EVEN WITH CHILDREN. You might think it’s unthinkable, but a hawker trying to sell you something will literally follow you for as long as they think they’ve got your attention. A firm yet polite no will be enough. If it isn’t, ignore and keep walking to somewhere else.
Generally, going on a tour with someone recommended by your hotel is the best wayto see Cape Town’s sights with children.
However, weather can also be an issue. Summer can get absolutely sweltering (January and February mainly), which is not ideal for little ones. Planning your trip for springtime, which is in November, is a good idea. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, so heat-related issues should be less of a problem.
Plan ahead, book family-friendly hotels, stay organized. Ending up lost and panicked with your children is going to be a super stress-inducing situation for everybody involved. Making sure you’re on top of everything when it comes to your itinerary is best.
Oh, keep a watchful eye on local wildlife. It’s nice to watch from afar, but when it gets too close for comfort it might get dangerous – especially for children. Stay vigilant!
Is it safe to drive in Cape Town?
In terms of road safety, ease of rental and the quality of the roads, we’d say that it IS safe to drive in Cape Town, not to mention thrilling. Some of the road trips you can take from the city feature incredible scenery and the routes here among the best in the world.
Getting out of the often traffic-packed streets of Cape Town (which can get A LOT worse during rush hour) and onto a scenic road like the king of all scenic roads, Chapman’s Peak Drive is a super rewarding experience. It’s also easy to get out onto the nearby Garden Route if you fancy a longer road trip from Cape Town, too.
There are some issues to be aware of when driving in Cape Town itself.
One of these is carjackings; another is smash-and-grabs. These almost always happen at red lights. Being aware that these DO happen, keeping your car clear of valuables, and locking the doors at all times will decrease the chances of this happening.
Another thing is to avoid driving at night as muggings become frequent at this time. Stick to main roads if you DO end up driving after dark. When it comes to parking, stick to lit parking areas. There’s often guards you can pay to look after the car, too.
Remember too that people drive on the left here. Try to avoid being that tourist who drives the wrong way in traffic
Is Uber safe in Cape Town?
Uber is safe in Cape Town. In fact, everybody uses Uber in Cape Town. Even if it’s a 2-minute journey on foot, even if it’s just 100 metres to the next venue, Cape Town residents do not walk – they Uber (or taxi).It’s honestly one of the safest ways to get around after dark.
Are taxis safe in Cape Town?
When it comes to taxis, Cape Town is full of ’em.
While most of the taxis in Cape Town are legit, there are still a number of sketchy, illegal taxis that can lead to trouble. Using one of these on accident can lead you to be overcharged or worse.
Stick to reputable companies that have official methods of contact. One company that is certainly worth your time (and money) is Excite Taxis, although there are plenty of others. Even when using these legitimate services, take a photo of the driver’s ID. This helps in case you have any problems.
As with anything, do your research and find one that works best for you. Better yet, ask your hotel/hostel/guesthouse which company they use or alternatively just ask them to book for you.
Is public transportation in Cape Town safe?
Hmm, public transportation in Cape Town… let’s start with minibus taxis.
These are SUPER cheap, but they also come with a lot of flaws. They’re often overcrowded, the cars themselves are not maintained, and the drivers have a tendency to disobey all traffic laws. Unless you’re looking for a genuine life-or-death experience, avoid.
MyCiTi is the name of the bus service in Cape Town, and this is much safer. As opposed to minibus taxis, these are actually like any ‘normal’ city bus that you might get in. We approve this mode of transport.
There’s a train service called Metrorail too. As we mentioned earlier, this is not the sort of thing you’ll want to be traveling around on at night (like with anything in Cape Town), but in the daytime, it’s relatively safe. The trains are good because you get to avoid the terrible Cape Town traffic.
If you’re really worried, travel only the main lines. There’s security at most major stations, though you’ll have to keep a watchful eye for suspicious characters and general lurkers at Central Station.
But for the most part, public transportation in Cape Town is cheap and (mainly) safe.
Is the food in Cape Town safe?
Cape Town is a big, bustling, beautiful city and it’s got a load of different food on offer to match. From Malay to European, from French food to good ol’ fish & chips, there’s genuinely a lot to choose from. It’s a melting pot!
Thankfully since Cape Town follows pretty much to the T international guidelines for food sanitation, the food in Cape Town is safe. You shouldn’t be running to the toilet after you’ve eaten here. But if you want to be EXTRA careful, here are some basic tips for avoiding an upset stomach in Cape Town.
* Restaurants that are unpopular are usually unpopular for a reason. This means they’re untasty or unsanitary or – worse – a mixture of these two things.
* Ensure that any food you have is cooked through. It’s pretty much a basic rule of thumb that you should follow even in your own country, but if something that’s supposed to be cooked ISN’T, send it back.
* Street food in Cape Town might be a little more like the ‘street food’ in your own country i.e. these are food trucks with enough room to prepare, clean and get rid of waste. You’ll find these in tourist areas, all will range in styles from Italian to Moroccan. Take your pick ’cause they’re all great – and safe.
* Salad and fruit is fine. If you’re REALLY worried, peel your apples, boil your lettuce, and clean everything.
* Wash your hands; wash your hands; wash your hands.
You’ll have a lot of fun eating and drinking your way around Cape Town. We’d be ashamed to forget to mention the wine here is great as well! Cape Town and Stellenbosch is the home of South African wine, after all.
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to explore. As we said, stick to popular establishments and if there’s a restaurant worth trying but it’s in an unsafe area, taxi it there AND back.
Can you drink the water in Cape Town?
Yep. You totally can drink the tap water in Cape Town.
But as we mentioned earlier, Cape Town was until recently in the midst of a drought.
At times, there were concerns that the tap water was not safe to drink in Cape Town because the dam water levels being so low. Many believed that the lower levels would cause increased chances of contamination and that outbreaks would be more difficult to treat. The drought also limited water to 50 litres a day – for everything.
Now? The water is safe in Cape Town. The drought is no longer in effect since the reservoirs filled up again, but one bad winter could mean all the difference.
Be aware of wasting water. Not only is it not traveling responsibly, but it’s also stupid to waste water, even in your own country!
If you plan on going on any day trips out of Cape Town to see what the wildlife is up to in the Karoo, then take plenty of water – especially in summer. Same goes for any amount of hiking, even ‘just’ up Table Mountain. Carry your own water bottle, as you never know when the next drink will come. We like the Active Roots Insulate Bottle because it does a great job of keeping water cool on those hot African days.
Is Cape Town safe to live?
Cape Town is an amazing town, one that is often worth the risks. Ask any local and, regardless of statistics, they’d probably say it’s safe to live in Cape Town, at least, for people with good sense.
Living here means you probably won’t be as free as you might be in your own country. Not only do you have the challenges of living in a society rife with crime (meaning security, living behind high walls, electrified fences, getting taxis everywhere), but you’ll have the additional challenge of living in a society that’s still divided. Races may mix without issue in your own country, but it’s still not the case here, unfortunately.
Living safely in Cape Town will require living in a fairly upmarket suburb with excellent security. Bloubergstrand is a suburb to the north of the city where you’ll feel safe out at night, even alone at the beach. Constantia and Hout Bay are beautiful places to live in the south, but you’ll need security due to the “informal settlement” of Imizamo Yethu between the two.
At the end of the day, security is essential. Home invasions are not just the stuff of fiction here. Keeping doors and windows locked and valuables well out of sight should become second nature to you if it isn’t already.
This isn’t to say Cape Town isn’t safe. It’s just a different level of KEEPING yourself safe, one that you might not be used to. Don’t forget: South Africans have grown upwith being vigilant and security conscious and it’s something you’ll have to develop yourself.
Joining community groups, Facebook groups, talking to the neighborhood watch near you, all of these things will help you when you actually make the move. If you’re thinking of making the move, then start researching on exactly where the safest places to live in Cape Town are.
So, yes, it’s relatively SAFE to live in Cape Town, but maybe not as safe as where you live now. Keep security tight, stay vigilant, and exercise a good level of caution, as always.
How is healthcare in Cape Town?
Like most countries in the world, South Africa comes with two possibilities for healthcare: privateand public.
The public system is chronically underfunded. It doesn’t exactly rank highly when it comes to the best healthcare in the world (to be precise, it was No. 119 out of 195 countries in 2017 according to The Lancet Healthcare Access and Quality Index).
Let’s just say you probablywon’t be using it. There are long queues and the hospitals commonly lack what you’d expect to be the norm in the Western world.
That being said, the public healthcare in Cape Town itself is way better than in many other African cities. There are many options for travelers who find themselves needing healthcare, or simply wanting to visit a doctor for whatever reason.
The government is currently in the midst of setting up a universal healthcare system. Release date… TBA. Far away, being realistic.
Simply put, private healthcare in Cape Town is really good. You’ll find numerous clinics and hospitals dotted around the city. Once you get to know your local area (as an expat, for example) you’ll be able to call for specific doctors, amongst other luxuries.
Travelers in Cape Town may have to pay for their healthcare right away; upfront. Heavy, we know, but this just means that travel insurance is extra important!
Helpful Afrikaan Travel Phrases
There are 11 official languages in South Africa: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu.
Afrikaans is by far the most common language and spoken by 90-95% of South Africans. English is also extremely common, and most South Africans grow up learning both.
Welcome – Welkom
Hello – Haai, Hallo, Goeie dag
Yes – Ja
No – Nee
Sorry – Jammer
Please – Asseblief
I don’t know – Ek weet nie
How are you? – Hoe gaan dit met jou?
Where are you from? – Waarvandaan kom jy?
Excuse me – Verskoon my!
How much is this? – Hoeveel kos dit?
How much is a beer? – Hoeveel is ‘n bier?
Final thoughts on the safety of Cape Town
Cape Town historically has been and certainly remains one of the world’s more dangerous cities; statistically, that is. In reality, what makes Cape Town so VIOLENT is the crime that occurs in the townships or the notorious Flats – and you’ll never catch a tourist or backpacker there. Unless you’re on a guided tour, of course.
So whilst you may be apprehensive about traveling to Cape Town, we’d say “don’t worry.” Cape Town is safe. It does have problems with theft and robbery and female travelers may want to be on the extra-cautious side. These issues don’t mean that Cape Town is 100% unsafe to visit.
Bad things can happen anywhere, but when it comes to staying safe in Cape Town you can lessen your chances of being a victim by simply being vigilant. Pay attention to your surroundings – that’s our number one rule. We’ve harped on this, among other points, in this guide and if you’ve paid attention, you’ll be going away with a nice haul of tips that will help keep you safe.