Is Cape Town safe for tourists? Here is my personal experience with safety in Cape Town, and why it actually became one of my all-time favorite travel destinations!
Cape Town is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever visited.
Never before have I been able to go day hiking, sunrise hiking, wine-tasting, sightseeing, biking, penguin-spotting, and safari-adventuring in just one week.
But one week in Cape Town let me have so many incredible experiences. On top of all that, the food was delicious, the weather was pleasant, and the people were so kind.
Whenever I rave about Cape Town and South Africa, I’m often met with statements like, “But isn’t Cape Town dangerous?”
Yes, crime does occur in Cape Town. Even while I was there I heard about some muggings and sketchy incidents from a fellow traveler.
But my personal experience in Cape Town was extremely positive. I’ll go into detail about how I explored Cape Town and the precautions I took in order to stay safe.
I’ll also answer some common questions about the safety of Cape Town so you can better prepare for your own trip!
Is Cape Town Safe For Tourists?
In my experience, Cape Town was very safe because I used common sense and befriended the locals. I’ll provide my own safety tips to help other travelers feel safer in Cape Town and South Africa as a whole.
But it’s important to note that every person will have a unique experience while traveling. Life is unpredictable, and me saying that Cape Town is safe doesn’t necessarily mean your own trip will be smooth-sailing.
But if you follow the safety tips recommended, and do your own research, you have a better chance of staying safe in Cape Town.
Here are my answers to some common questions about safety in Cape Town, based on my experience.
What makes Cape Town unsafe?
Though I personally didn’t experience any crime in Cape Town, I know it is relatively common.
Violet crime is possible, though the most common types of crime are theft, pickpocketing, car jacking, and muggings.
Wildlife is another thing to look out for in Cape Town! Baboons commonly make an appearance as you drive further away from downtown, and sharks are prevalent in the oceans. I’ll touch on wildlife and ocean safety later.
Is it safe to walk around Downtown Cape Town?
It is generally safe to walk around downtown Cape Town during the day. Touristy areas like Bo-Kaap, V&A Waterfront, Kloof Street, and Long Street are generally safe. Neighborhoods like Camps Bay and Clifton are generally safe as well.
I spent a few days walking and biking around Cape Town alone and had no issues. But it is always nice to have a buddy with you while sightseeing.
That said, I wouldn’t walk around Cape Town at night. Even in a group, I just wouldn’t do it unless I was with a trusted local. Most of the crime happens after dark, so even in touristy areas just try to avoid walking around at night.
Should I rent a car in Cape Town?
I highly recommend renting a car in Cape Town! First of all, it’s much easier to get around with a rental car. Lots of cool attractions are far away from downtown, like Chapmans Peak Road, Boulders Beach, Muizenberg Beach, Cape of Good Hope, etc.
You can explore the city easier with a car, and it relieves the stress of having to navigate public transport. Guided tours and taxis are another safe option. Especially after dark, you don’t want to be walking so take a taxi!
I’ll also get into more car safety tips later on.
Where Not To Go In Cape Town?
Generally speaking, the further out of the touristy areas you go in Cape Town, the more dangerous it gets. The Township areas in particular are known to have raised crime rates.
Cape Town’s Townships are informal, underdeveloped neighborhoods that reflect the economic and racial struggles of the city’s history. They also showcase the resilience of local communities and are vibrant cultural hubs. If you do want to explore a township, your best bet is going with an organised tour so you can have the local knowledge and avoid any conflicts.
Is Cape Town Safe? Top 12 Safety Tips For Cape Town
Based on my own experience, here are my top tips for staying safe in Cape Town. Many of these are just common sense that any traveler may already know. But some are specific to Cape Town, and I’m really grateful of what I learned during my week there.
So those wondering, “Is Cape Town safe?”, you’ll have a better chance of staying safe if you follow these tips!
1. Find a local friend
This is my #1 safety tip for Cape Town! Befriend a local that you can trust. They will give you all their insider knowledge and safety tips.
I met my friend Richard in our Cape Town hostel and he became my unofficial tour guide. I had so many great times with him, and I definitely felt safer with him around (shoutout Richard!).
Read my ultimate guide to work exchange and consider trying one in South Africa! It’s the best way to meet locals, save money, and have cool new experiences.
2. Avoid going out at night
Like I said earlier, just avoid going out at night in Cape Town. If you do love nightlife, always go out in a group and stick to popular, busy, touristy areas.
If you’re nervous about safety in Cape Town, just don’t go out at night. It’s that simple! And as a solo female traveler, I definitely wouldn’t go out alone at night, ever. In any country.
3. Don’t hike alone
This is a Cape Town safety tip that I learned from my friend Richard. I told him I planned to hike Table Mountain alone the following day. He looked at me wide-eyed and just said “No you’re not, I’m coming with you”. Then we corralled 3 other people from the hostel so we could go in a group.
I’ve never hesitated about hiking alone before. But his reaction made me realize that hiking alone on unregulated trails in Cape Town is not a good idea.
Our little group also hiked Lions Head Mountain at sunrise, which is another epic Cape Town activity. Because you have to start hiking in the dark, definitely don’t do this hike alone either. If you don’t have a friend to go with, book a tour with a local guide!
4. Be wary of homeless people
Cape Town has a lot of homeless people, even in the touristy areas. But they are different to other homeless people I’ve encountered in my travels.
The homeless people in Cape Town are super warm, friendly, outgoing, and sometimes pushy. They strike up conversations with you, tell you their whole story, then say they don’t want money they just want some food or supplies from the store.
It’s really hard to deny these people when they connect with you like that. I bought a lot of things for homeless people in Cape Town and I think most of them were genuine and harmless. But I did have one person follow me for a while until another local shooed them away.
So be compassionate, but also be wary and maybe try to be better than I was at saying “no” if necessary.
5. Try to blend in
This tip applies everywhere in the world. Try to blend in with the locals so you’re less of a target for pickpockets.
Wearing flashy clothes and expensive accessories makes you stand out and look rich. Not good! Just dress modestly and keep your fancy jewelry at home.
6. Only walk around with the essentials
Similar to the last point, don’t carry around more than you might need for the day. On the off-chance that you are pickpocketed, don’t give them as much to steal.
Don’t walk around with your passport, credit cards, and all your cash. Only take what you need for sightseeing and leave the rest at home.
Also be sure to keep your belongings on your person and close by all the time. It’s good if you can have a hand on your bag instead of it being behind you like a backpack. Just in case!
7. Secure your belongings
When you are out sightseeing, make sure your valuables are secure back at your accommodation. Things like passports, cameras, laptops, cash, etc. should always be locked away.
The most secure places to store these items is in a safe or a locker with your own padlock. Most hostels give each guest a locker and most hotels have a safe.
You can also give valuables to reception for safekeeping to be extra careful. But thanks to luggage locks and dorm room lockers, I never had anything stolen in Cape Town!
8. Have travel insurance
South Africa is the first trip that I ever bought travel insurance for! But it really did teach me the importance of having travel insurance, especially when visiting more high-risk environments.
I would definitely recommend having travel insurance in Cape Town. It just keeps you covered in case something drastic does happen.
Squaremouth Insurance was the company I used for South Africa. I found a super affordable plan and they reimbursed me 100% for my medical bills from the Transkei (which I write about in my Budget Traveler’s Guide To Travel Insurance).
Check out Squaremouth Insurance – my go-to travel insurance company!
9. Be smart with your vehicle
If you are renting a car in Cape Town, you always have to keep it locked. And overnight, keep it completely empty. Take all your luggage out and into your accommodation with you.
Car robberies are relatively common in Cape Town. But if you keep your vehicle empty, there is nothing to rob!
You can also ask the staff at your accommodation where the safest place to park is. Street parking is common, but if you’re at a nicer hotel they may have secure onsite parking.
10. Stick to the touristy areas
As I mentioned earlier, it’s always smart to stick to the touristy areas. I totally get wanting to escape the crowds and see the more local side of a city. But you don’t have to do that in Cape Town!
Cape Town isn’t nearly as touristy as cities like Rome, Paris, or Bangkok. If you are set on getting away from the tourists, visit in winter. Winter is off-season and the weather is cool and beautiful. We barely encountered any crowds anywhere in South Africa during August and September.
11. Be wary of wildlife
South Africa is a wild country! Though you won’t find elephants or lions roaming around the city, and most wild animals live on private game reserves, baboons are common on the outskirts of Cape Town.
Seriously, when you drive around the outer suburbs of Cape Town, such as Cape Point, baboons will run across the road. They may even run up to your car! They are not afraid of people, and they can actually be dangerous. Always keep your car locked, especially if there is food in it. And don’t approach any wildlife.
12. Practice ocean safety
Cape Town has some stunning beaches, and a refreshing swim in the ocean is always a great idea. Just practice general ocean safety to avoid any accidents. Try to only swim on beaches where there are lifeguards.
If there is no lifeguard, only wade in to where you can stand and be cautious. Or just don’t swim at all to be safe. Riptides and currents can be strong on the southern tip of Africa!
The waters around South Africa are also notoriously sharky. Just stick close to shore and you probably won’t have any scary shark encounters. Unless you’re a surfer, then you’re just going to have to pray you don’t see any sharks when you’re paddling out.
Daredevils who do want to see sharks in Cape Town can try a regulated cage diving experience, rather than risking it on their own out in the ocean.
So is Cape Town safe?
In my experience, Cape Town is perfectly safe if you abide by these safety tips and use common sense. As long as you’re smart and trust your gut, you should have an amazing time in Cape Town!
Read about more of my amazing experiences in South Africa:
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