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.
So you might be asking yourself whether Cape Town is safe to visit. To ease your minds, we have created an in-depth insider guide. We did the research, so you don’t have to worry as much.
You’ll find our top tips and tricks on how to stay safe in Cape Town, all you need to do is scroll down. We’ve covered every concern you might think of – is it safe for female travellers; can you drink the water, what insurance do you nee, etc…
Let’s get right to it!
How Safe is Cape Town? (Our take)
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.
There are a few crimes that visitors need to be aware of before starting their trip:
- Petty Theft
- Criminals impersonating the police
- Street beggars and pickpocket thieves
- ATM and credit card theft
- Apartment or tour guide scams
These crimes mainly seem to affect tourists. Locals have to deal with different dangers, like drug related crimes, murders and gang violence.
Despite its 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 3 million visitors in 2019.
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 by 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. Sadly, it’s been called “the apartheid dumping ground”. The result of governmental neglect is poverty & social problems and the area is essentially run by gangs.
Is it Safe to Visit Cape Town Right Now?
You may be asking if it’s safe to travel to Cape Town today? The security in Cape Town has changed quite a bit. Cape Town saw a lot of positive change; most notably, the murder rate declined. 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 too much – it is dangerous to do so.
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, you need to be cautious and follow our travel safety tips which will make you less likely to fall prey to crime.
Do you need Travel Insurance for your trip? Even if you’re only going for a few days, that’s more than enough time to get smote by wrathful angels. Have fun in Cape Town, but take it from us, overseas medical care and canceled flights can be seriously expensive – insurance can, therefore, be a life-saver.
Travel mishaps can and do happen and it is well worth thinking about insurance before you leave home.
We have used World Nomads for years now and I have personally made several claims. Why not get a quote from them yourself?
Do be sure to read the terms and conditions to make sure that the policy covers your needs.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Safest Places to Visit in Cape Town
Cape Town is a large city with two main areas: the Atlantic Seaboard and the City Bowl. Divided by the iconic Table Mountain, these areas are sub-divided into different neighbourhoods and areas. If you’re worried about your safety, stay in one of the following areas.
This hip and popular neighborhood is one of the safest areas in Cape Town. Although not the cheapest, you can find upscale hotels, restaurants and clubs, all located very close to each other. Waterfront is a contained area with limited road access and plenty of CCTV cameras and security patrols. It’s also home to the Aquarium, the Robben Island Museum, and is the main stop on the City Sightseeing bus routes. If you can put up with loads of tourists, this will be a great place to stay!
V&A Waterfront is Cape Towns safest and most popular neighbourhood.
Clifton and Camps Bay
These two sister neighbourhoods are an amazing option for families that want to enjoy the beauty of Cape Town while staying safe. You can find flashy houses and mansions overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and, if you’re lucky, one or the other celebrity. The area has good transportation links to other parts of the city and it’s home to some of the best guesthouses in Cape Town. The sandy beach, tasty restaurants, street entertainers, and fun activities make this one of the best Cape Town neighbourhoods to visit.
Clifton and Camps Bay
Known for being a celebrity hub with amazing accommodations, Clifton and Camps Bay is a great neighbourhood for families.
City Bowl is located between Table Bay and the mountains and offers amazing accommodation for backpackers and adventurers. You’ll find plenty of artists, small businesses, and young entrepreneurs in the area. Garden and Woodstock, two uprising and popular neighborhoods, are situated in City Bowl as well. Staying here means a great mix between nature, culture and lots of creativity.
City Bowl is the top spot for backpackers, young people and everyone that appreciates art and creativity.
Places to Avoid in Cape Town
Unfortunately, not all of Cape Town is safe. The general rule of thumb is: the poorer the neighborhood, the more crime you’ll encounter. We’ve listed the main no-go areas that you should avoid during your trip.
- Cape Flats: Cape Flats is known for high crime rates and should definitely be avoided. It’s situated to the southeast of the CBD area and ruled by gangs. Since 2019, the government has stepped in and the crime statistics have improved, however, it’s still considered a no-go area for tourists.
- Langa and Nyanga: These two areas are the oldest townships in Cape Town, but also one of the poorest. Therefore, crime rates are relatively high and it’s not a safe area for tourists.
- Other Township Areas: These areas are on the outside of Cape Town’s popular neighbourhoods. While they offer an incredible culture, they’re not the safest place for tourists. Exploring these areas alone is not recommended. Instead, opt for having a local guide or friend show you around.
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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 when planning your Cape Town itinerary and make sure your walking routes don’t take you through dodgy neighborhoods.
- 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 – Attacks do happen on the trails. Always share your location with 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 the Rand (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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
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Some General Safety Tips from the OG Broke Backpacker
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. Solo travelers are often easier targets for thieves and can be more susceptible to attack. If you follow our Cape Town safety tips, you should be fine!
Travelling to Jamaica Alone – Tips and Pointers
- Staying in a hostel in Cape Town with great reviews, a good social atmosphere, and a good location is a good step towards staying safe as a solo traveler in Cape Town.
- 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.
- 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.
- Always let someone know where you are. You don’t want to go missing without anyone noticing.
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 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.
Travelling to Jamaica as a Woman – Tips and Pointers
- 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 find a place to stay in Cape Town with 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ask the staff at your hostel about the local area. 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.
- Try to fit in a little more and dress like a local.
- Avoid being on isolated beaches by yourself, any time of day. Muggings – or worse – can happen.
More About Safety in Cape Town
We’ve already covered the big safety questions but there’s a lot more to know. Keep on scrolling to find more detailed information on how to stay safe in Cape Town.
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.
Generally, going on a tour with someone recommended by your hotel is the best way to see Cape Town’s sights with children.
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.
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. Another thing is to avoid driving at night as muggings become frequent at this time.
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 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.
Is public transportation in Cape Town safe?
There are a few public transport options in Cape Twon. Although not as safe as Uber, they’re still a great way to get around the city.
- Minibus Taxis: Very 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.
- MyCiTi: It’s the bus service in Cape Town, and it is much safer. As opposed to minibus taxis, these are actually like any ‘normal’ city bus that you might get in. We approve of this mode of transport.
- Metrorail: 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).
When moving from place to place, you shouldn’t store travel documents in a bag, even if it’s under your seat or overhead.
A full-sized money belt that stays tucked under your clothes keeps your documents and cash organized during your travels and assures nothing critical gets left behind or stolen.
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. And luckily, it’s 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.
- 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. Take your pick ’cause they’re all great – and safe.
- Wash your hands; wash your hands; wash your hands.
Can you drink the water in Cape Town?
Yep. You totally can drink the tap water in Cape Town.
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! Carry your own water bottle, as you never know when the next drink will come.
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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. 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.
Is it safe to rent an Airbnb in Cape Town?
Simple answer – yes! Not only will you be protected by the Airbnb guidelines and rental policies, you can also check reviews from previous guests that have stayed there. Of course, you will have to stay in a safe neighborhood, but most Airbnbs are in residential areas and your host can give you tips for the area.
Is Cape Town LGBTQ+ Friendly?
You’ll be happy to hear that Cape town is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities on the entire planet. The rainbow nation legalized same-sex marriages in 2006 – the first country in Africa and the fifth in the world to do so. If you venture out to the poorer areas (which we definitely do not recommend), you’ll get some nasty comments, but if you’re staying in the more touristy neighborhoods you’ll have an absolute blast!
FAQ’s on Safety in Cape Town
For a travel destination like Cape Town, there are lots of different things you have to consider when it comes to safety. We’ve listed the most common question, answers and facts to make your trip as easy as possible.
So, is Cape Town Safe for Travel?
Yes, we’d say Cape Town is safe for travel as long as you use your common sense and do your research. It 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.
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.
Follow our advice, fellow broke backpackers, and you’ll find Cape Town a much more manageable and fun place to be.
And have you thought about getting Travel Insurance for your trip? You can get a quote from World Nomads by clicking on the link below.
Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels!
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