Is Cape Town Safe For Tourists?

Is Cape Town safe? This is a question many travelers ask, and since I have been there a bunch of times, I am ready to answer that for you.

With its beautiful beaches, mountainous scenery, and breezy food scene, Cape Town is a haven for hordes of tourists every year, each looking to have a fun getaway in the sun

Yes, the South African city doesn’t always have the best reputation when it comes to safety, and there are some sketchy things happening and some strange vibes here and there, but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit safely.

Many people do and have a completely trouble-free time, and that was the case for me too, on my many visits.

However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any safety issues at all in Cape Town. As well as the usual vigilance you’d pay in your any other big city you may visit, there are a few issues specific to Cape Town that you need to do some research and be prepared for.

Then there’s also the nature to consider. Cape Town’s beaches may be beautiful, but they can be dangerous — beach conditions vary and wildlife can also pose a threat.

But I’m not here to scare you, I’m just here to help you have a safe trip! I am here to answer your question “is Cape Town safe?” and this guide is all about making sure your trip runs as smoothly (and as safely) as it possibly can.

Head over to my posts The Best Things To Do In Cape Town and Want To Travel To Cape Town? Here Are 16 Best Things To Know.

St James Beach Cape Town is Cape Town safe
Photo by Andrea Willmore @shutterstock

Is Cape Town Safe?

Although Cape Town can of course be visited safely, and many tourists do visit without any issues, there are definitely some things you should know about safety in this otherwise cool, interesting city.

South Africa in general has a high rate of crime. Cape Town isn’t the most “dangerous” city in the country, but that doesn’t mean you can walk around without paying any attention to your surroundings.

Crime occurs in Cape Town – this can’t be denied. According to the Institute for Security Studies, the murder rate in South Africa for the period of 2022/2023 is of 44 murders per 100,000 people, with more than 66 murders per 100,000 people in the Western Cape alone (though a decline has been noted since 2016).

The good news is that crimes against tourists is low – but the pandemic and the drought and subsequent water crises had caused a rise in the poverty levels, and this in turn causes an increase in scams and petty crimes against tourists too.

Although Cape Town isn’t the safest of cities, you can still visit and fully enjoy its incredible beauty without troubles. I spent two weeks in Medellin and while I have occasionally felt a bit of an off vibe, my overall experience has been great.

I am here to share the most useful information and safety tips you need to know before visiting Cape Town. Let me now continue answering your question – is Cape Town safe?

You should get a good travel insurance for your trip to South Africa. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

best Airbnbs in Cape Town travel to Cape Town

Is Cape Town Safe For Tourists? Actual Dangers And Annoyances In Cape Town

Let’s now review some of the most common issues, scams and things to watch for to ensure you can stay safe in Cape Town.

Some areas can be dangerous

As I have said before, the risk of robbery and violent crime in Cape Town isn’t unheard of.

Most of these crimes, however, tend to occur either on the outskirts of the city or in isolated areas. The most dangerous area is definitely the Cape Flats and you should avoid it entirely – not even locals go there, if they can avoid it. Other areas you should avoid are crime-ridden Kraaifontein, Langa and Nyanga and in general other townships.

In tourist-friendly areas, the risk is much lower. The following are the overall safest areas of Cape Town:

City Bowl: This would qualify as the historic center of Cape Town and is home of Garden and Woodstock, two lovely neighborhoods where you can base yourself.

V&A Waterfront – A gorgeous area to explore, it’s where you’ll catch the ferry to Robben Island, and it’s home to a fantastic crafts market, a high-end shopping mall, and a fabulous food hall.

Clifton and Camps Bay – If you want to stay in an apartment with views of the Atlantic Ocean or are traveling with your family, this is probably the best area to stay in Cape Town.

False Bay – A great place to be if you are into water sports (especially surfing). Muizenberg, Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay are all great and safe.

Although these areas are generally safe, even there you need to pay attention. It’s literally a matter of taking a wrong turn, walking along one street over another, and this may put you at risk.

I remember I was once wandering around the colorful and overall safe Bo Kaap by myself, my camera at the ready to take photos, when I took a turn to follow a pretty cat. I came across what looked like a family gathering, and said hello.

Someone literally came out of the house to point out a number of streets above I should avoid, and suggest I put away my camera just in case I mistakenly ended up there. It ended up with him literally escorting me as I went around taking photos – he did not leave until he was satisfied I was actually safe.

Beaches and national parks, while beautiful, can also be a place where thieves target tourists, especially in more isolated areas.

You should get a good travel insurance for your trip to South Africa. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

travel to Cape Town is Cape Town safe

Scams do occur

Another thing that you should be aware of is scams, usually involving ATMs and card skimming, or locals suggesting they can help you avoid bank fees.

But there are other ways to be scammed, like through fraudulent tourist agencies or visa agencies, and even fake tour guides.

Another scam you should be aware of is the picture scam, where a local asks you to take a photo, and when you return their phone or camera they purposely drop it and blame you for that, demanding you pay them back.

responsible travel is Cape Town safe

And so do hijackings

Renting a car and driving around is super fun (the Garden Route is stunning, and even driving around the Cape Peninsula!) but this is another risk in Cape Town. Hijackings aren’t uncommon, especially at night or in rural areas, and robbery from parked cars can occur.

You will also have to deal with the parking attendants and car guards – literally random people who stand by a parking spot and help you park your car (to me, it’s actually annoying as they stand in the way!).

These are usually harmless – just leave them a few coins and they won’t bother you.

Make sure to get a good travel insurance for your trip to South Africa. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

road trip check list

South African Tourism Police

Because of the above issues, there is a specialized tourist police force called the South African Tourism Police. These focus their efforts on tourist hotspots to make sure visitors to the city are safe. That means that (usually) in popular areas you should never be too far from an official if you need help.

things to do in Cape Town

Tips On Staying Safe In Cape Town

Here are some handy tips to keep in mind when you make your trip to Cape Town.

Get a local SIM card

Getting a local SIM card is super easy in South Africa. You can find a Vodacom stand right inside the terminal at the airport, and it will be a matter of minutes till you have a local number complete with a data plan that you can use to navigate the web, for apps like Google Maps or Uber, and to call local numbers whenever needed. It’s one of the most important safety tips in Cape Town.

Beware of scams

Scam artists do target tourists so it’s good to know a few of the tricks they use. For example, it’s best to ignore overly friendly strangers, people offering you help with “faulty” ATMs, or trying to contact you on social media to meet up.

Try to avoid eye contact or talking to strangers in the street too. Some may be very persistent in begging for money or whatever else, but stopping to take out some money only gives them an opportunity to attack you.

is Cape Town safe

Pick your accommodation wisely

Know some neighborhoods that you shouldn’t wander around in. Sometimes the difference between a “safe” and “unsafe” part of town could be a matter of just a road or two.

Long Street, for example, is particularly dodgy – even more so at night – and best avoided. If you’re worried about this, ask at your accommodation for areas you should avoid.

Make sure to read my posts Where To Stay In Cape Town and The Best Airbnbs In Cape Town.

things to do in Cape Town

Watch out when taking cash from ATMs

Taking cash out of ATMs in Cape Town does pose a bit of a danger, especially as a solo traveler. If possible, only take cash out when you are in a bank or in a mall with security.

Be as discreet as possible when putting the cash into your wallet, and hide your pin from view (even when you’re paying with your card).

Having a virtual contactless card on your phone is a great idea – I started using one after my bag was stolen in Rome and I don’t even take my wallet with me unless I have to!

You need a good travel insurance for your trip to South Africa. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

Cape Point National Park

Join a guided (food) tour

One of the best tips I have to meet other travelers and stay safe in Cape Town is to join a guided tour. The benefit of joining a guided tour is that you’ll get picked up from your accommodation and have a local guide who will know how to keep everyone out of trouble. Read reviews first though and make sure it’s a well-reviewed tour.

There are plenty of tours around the city and to the neighboring areas – for example this Cape Town and Cape Point Peninsula tour – that allow you to meet other people.

Foodies looking to get into the local food scene of Cape Town should consider taking a food tour or a cooking class such as this one. That way you’ll be guided around by a knowledgeable local who should be able to take you to some of the best spots in town without any worries.

places to visit in South Africa

Keep a low profile

It’s best to walk around Cape Town looking as much like a local as possible. Wear casual clothes, no designer handbags or expensive jewelry. Don’t have your phone out looking at Google Maps the whole time. Standing out like this will make you an easy target.

You should also read my post What To Wear In South Africa.

Keep your wits about

Keep your valuables safe and don’t leave anything unattended. That doesn’t just mean jewelry: you may be traveling to Cape Town with things like your laptop, phone, and even your passport is valuable. You might want to leave stuff in a safe if your hotel room has one.

Get yourself a good travel insurance for your trip to South Africa. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

best places to visit in South Africa

Don’t leave anything in your car

If you’re renting a car, do not leave any valuables on show. In fact, it’s best to leave any valuables out of the car whatsoever — just in case.

You’d be surprised to know that people may try to break into your car to steal the most meaningless item, but that may start a series of events with your car rental company and insurance agency that are all best avoided.

You should also read my post The Complete Guide To Renting A Car In South Africa and Everything You Must Know About Driving In South Africa.

things to do in Cape Town

Don’t walk home alone

Always know how to get back to your accommodation after a night out and always f

ollow the advice of your hotel staff. My very first night in Cape Town, the hotel receptionist advised me to take an Uber to the restaurant I wanted to eat at. I was surprised, as it appeared to be no more than a ten-minute walk, but I decided to take her advice.

Everything looked ok, so on the way back I decided to walk instead of taking an Uber. I made it back safe and sound but the vibe was so weird that I decided never to try my luck again!

Going out for dinner or drinks is a fun thing to do in Cape Town, but after a few cocktails or a glass of wine, it’s easy to lose perspective.

Never walk home alone; download Uber on your phone and wait for it inside the restaurant or bar, or get the staff to call a taxi for you and only walk out when you know it has arrived to pick you up.

trip to Cape Town

Keep your phone charged

Make sure your phone is always charged. Have a spare battery pack if necessary. This will be your lifeline for things like Uber and maps, or even checking reviews of restaurants that you want to go into.

Let people know your itinerary

This goes mainly for solo travelers and especially solo female travelers. Always make sure that somebody knows where you are and what your plans are for certain days of your trip.

If you’re heading out to the national park or going to the beach, it’s better that somebody knows (either somebody back home or staff from your accommodation).

Cape Town Beaches
Photo by Peter Travka @shutterstock

Pay extra attention at the beach

Beach safety is important. Stick to beaches that have lifeguards and facilities. Don’t go swimming on isolated beaches; not only can you be easily targeted by opportunist thieves, but it may be isolated for a reason (i.e. there are dangerous currents or the threat of sharks in the area).

Don’t leave your valuables unattended on beaches either as these can easily go missing. And even on busy beaches, don’t pick a secluded spot to spend the day; thieves have been known to target tourists hidden behind rocks.

You should also read my post 19 Best Cape Town Beaches.

Don’t hike alone

Take care in quieter areas of national parks, particularly when hiking Table Mountain in the early morning or dusk; robberies on tourists aren’t unheard of.

Never go alone and always stick to designated, well-used routes. In fact, I would recommend hiring a registered guide. For more information, see the official South African National Parks website.

Head over to my posts A Complete Guide To The Table Mountain Hike and A Complete Guide To The Lion’s Head Hike.

Cape Town Airbnb

Is it safe to take a taxi in Cape Town?

Taxis can be a bit of a difficult subject in Cape Town and because of this Uber is a very popular alternative. For example, there are many taxi scams that are easily avoided if you book an Uber.

However, if you can’t get an Uber, one way to make sure your taxi is legitimate is to get your accommodation to book one for you. It’s also very normal for restaurants and bars to call ahead and order you a taxi when you’re ready to leave; waiting around on the street at night is not something you want to be doing.

In terms of Ubers, just make sure that the vehicle registration and driver ID match up to what you have on the app. When you’re waiting for an Uber, don’t wait on the street and don’t have your phone in your hand or any other valuables clearly on show.

Once you get into the Uber make sure that the windows are closed and the doors are locked.

Another thing to be aware of is at the airport. Here unregulated taxi drivers have been known to pretend to be Uber drivers. If you arrive at the airport and you order the Uber, make sure that you are getting picked up from where the app tells you you’re getting picked up from.

trip to cape town

Safety on public transportation in Cape Town

Cape Town has two big bus networks that make up its public transportation. The first one is Golden Arrow, a long-standing company that connects the center of the city with the outskirts.

The more modern MyCiTi bus company is often used by tourists. Their network leads along many of Cape Town’s top attractions and popular areas, such as the V&A Waterfront, Camps Bay, and Gardens. It also connects to the airport as well.

MyCiTi is generally the safer of the two companies. Around the CBD and Atlantic Seaboard side, these buses are mostly safe, but you should still be aware of your surroundings when using the buses.

It’s not a good idea to take the MyCiTi bus out to Khayelitsha as high levels of crime have been reported on these routes.

Regardless of the bus company, do not take public transport after dark or early morning, when both the buses themselves and stops will be quiet and isolated.

Don’t forget to get good travel insurance for your trip to South Africa. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

what to do in Cape Town

Food Safety In Cape Town

Cape Town is a bit of a foodie heaven. There are cafes galore, cool bistros, and local food joints, as well as high-end restaurants to check out in this eclectic city.

The chances of getting sick from eating in Cape Town are pretty low, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to what you’re eating — nobody wants their holiday ruined, after all.

In general, it’s a good idea to eat at restaurants that are well-known, well-reviewed, and busy with customers. Stumbling into an empty eatery out of desperation isn’t always the best way to do things (sometimes restaurants are empty for a reason; they’re not good).

If you’re eating food from a street stall, take care that the food has been properly cooked through. It’s best to go somewhere that looks busy (and tasty) even if there is a line.

Locals will tell you that tap water is safe to drink in Cape Town, but you may still want to avoid it and prefer bottled or filtered water.

Cape Point is Cape Town safe

Is Cape Town Safe For Tourists?

Is Cape Town safe for solo travelers?

If you are a solo traveler, and asking yourself “is Cape Town safe to travel alone?” – rest assured this is a legit question.

However, solo travelers shouldn’t discount Cape Town. Many people – myself included – do visit this exciting city by themselves and have an amazing time. There’s the chance to meet plenty of other like-minded travelers, see all the sights safely, and have a good time while you’re doing it.

It’s understandable why it could seem like a daunting destination for a solo traveler, however. You just need to make sure that you’re sensible during your trip.

For example, wandering around at night time isn’t a good idea at all — but then again, there are many places in the world where it is not a good idea to walk alone at night. And in fact, you need to keep your eyes open during the day too.

The best place to start is by booking yourself into some well-reviewed accommodation. This doesn’t have to be a hostel, obviously, but just make sure the reviews feature good reviews from people who have stayed there solo. Making sure it’s in a good location (i.e. not far away from all the sights you want to see) is a major plus.

That’s not to say that traveling by yourself is always the safest way to go. It’s easier for opportunist thieves to target people who are by themselves, and that unfortunately is the case in Cape Town. Even in busy tourist areas, solo travelers can be targeted by criminals.

The best thing to do is to follow basic safety advice. That means keeping a low profile (no flashing expensive items, with your phone out, looking lost, etc.), keeping to busy streets, and being aware of your surroundings at all times.

And though I mentioned you don’t need to stay in a hostel, it may be a good idea if you want to make friends with whom you can explore the city in a group.

Never travel without a good travel insurance. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

Simon's Town is Cape Town safe

Is Cape Town safe for solo female travelers?

Is Cape Town safe for solo female travelers? Good question! Cape Town is not the safest place in the world for solo female travelers. That being said, if you want to go to Cape Town by yourself as a woman, you should know that many female travelers do go by themselves – I certainly have, for example.

However, taking a trip by yourself does mean using all those safety tips and heightened awareness that you would use anywhere else in the world.

Letting your guard down is not really a good idea. The following safety tips are valid for both male and solo female travelers in Cape Town.

hostels in Cape Town

Pick a safe place to stay

Before your trip even starts you need to make sure your accommodation is a safe place to stay as a solo female traveler. This means making sure that it has been highly reviewed by travelers like yourself — look out for reviews that talk about a lack of security, dodgy characters, or a bad location.

Staying somewhere that doesn’t feel safe (even if it ends up being fine) is going to make you feel on edge and worried from the moment you arrive.

Plan your trip carefully

Take some time to plan your trip. Take a look at the itineraries of other solo female travelers who have been to Cape Town, read their advice, and take a look on social media (Facebook groups are good).

Ask questions about traveling communities online — you’ll be surprised at how helpful people can be. In fact, this very blog you are reading is a great resource to plan your Cape Town trip.

Cape Town Airbnbs

Use Uber to move around (especially at night)

For the most part, you should be fine in Cape Town as a solo female traveler. As long as you plan your trip meticulously, and always have a way to get from A to B — without having to put yourself into a potentially dangerous situation (i.e. Uber) — and try to pair up with people to do things like go to the beach or go hiking, you’ll have an amazing time.

Join a guided tour to meet other travelers

If all else fails, there are always plenty of tours and group activities to join to meet other travelers – during my first trip to Cape Town I met some lovely people during a guided tour of the Cape Peninsula.

Staying at an accommodation or hostel that offers tours and experiences is a good idea if you’re traveling solo as a woman.

You truly need a good travel insurance for your trip to South Africa. Check out my recommended travel insurance here.

Head over to my post 13 Great Day Trips From Cape Town.

what to do in Cape Town

Avoid drinking too much

Honestly binge drinking is never a good idea, no matter where you are. But being drunk in a city like Cape Town does make you an easy target. If you really want to party, try to first meet other travelers and go out in a group.

Have emergency contacts ready

Another good idea is to have emergency contacts ready – they can be family, friends, locals you know, and even the phone number of your hotel / landlord in town, and that of the nearest hospital or police. Chances are you won’t have to use any of them, but it’ll make you feel safer for sure.

is Cape Town safe

Conclusion: Is Cape Town Safe For Tourists?

If after reading all of this you are still wondering “is Cape Town safe for tourists?” here’s the short answer: yes, I’d say it is.

But you need to use your common sense, trust your guts and keep your eyes open to stay out of trouble. This is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it’s definitely worth spending time there!

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Is Cape Town safe? Read this post to learn the best Cape Town safety tips - via @clautavani

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