Are you traveling to Cape Town, South Africa soon and not sure if you should be concerned about your safety? Maybe you’ve seen or read some reviews about this city but like any reviews they’re mixed. Having lived in this city for 12 years, there are places that even I as a local would not want to visit and try to avoid. So, I know a thing or two about keeping safe here. In this article, I will provide local insight into how to stay safe in Cape Town, the areas to avoid, the areas to stay in, and provide some safety tips for use during your trip here.
I personally have friends who come here as tourists from the US & Europe every summer who have never experienced crime here in South Africa. This is not to say crime doesn’t exist, but it’s to show that if you use the right judgment and know the areas to avoid, you can have a great, fun, and safe stay here in Cape Town.
Is Cape Town Safe for Tourists?
Cape Town is considered safe for tourists and travelers. However, like many cities, there are areas where crime is high and you should exercise caution. If you know which areas to stay in and which to avoid you will have a safe stay here. But, it’s not uncommon to see gang-related activity and political demonstrations in Cape Town so keep up to date on local safety recommendations when visiting.
Cape Town is one of the major cities in South Africa and the local government is very big on service delivery. This is evident in how well the city responds to criminal activity.
We would recommend that you follow the advice on your government website at all times, but as a local, I can attest to Cape Town being safe to travel in. Before you visit, please get a good travel insurance plan as you would for any other country.
Cape Town Safety – Interactive Map
Safest Areas in Cape Town
Here are the safest areas to stay in Cape Town:
- Camps Bay, Clifton & Surrounds
- V&A Waterfront
- City Bowl
- Green Point
- Sea Point
Camps Bay, Clifton & Surrounds
Probably because this suburb is one of the richest neighborhoods in the city, it’s the most popular hangout spot for tourists as well as the rich and famous. This is because it has the cleanest beaches, opulent mansions, and upmarket restaurants and is well equipped with security cameras and great police presence.
The most upmarket shopping mall in the city and frequented by tourists, celebrities, and locals too, here you will find all the high-end brands. It’s very much like walking down Champs Elysees, Paris. It’s also the only place to catch a ferry to Robben Island. So you can imagine that security is tight around this mall and its surroundings.
Probably one of the best hang-out spots and, in terms of holiday accommodations for tourists, it is close to most attractions like Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and is literally a ten-minute drive to Camps Bay. The City Bowl has a really vibrant nightlife with many cool hang-out spots, live shows, and restaurants.
Dangerous Places to Avoid in Cape Town
Cape Town can be dangerous, here are the most dangerous areas to stay here:
- Mitchell’s Plain
- Hanover Park
All the above areas are well-known for gun violence, drugs, and related crimes and they are not tourist-friendly. If you must go there bring a friend along, preferably a local, or go in a group during the day.
Mitchell Plain is a former township and it’s an area that’s characterized by gangsterism and drugs and you often hear reports of stabbings, robberies, and murders. Even within Mitchells Plain itself, there are areas that are more dangerous than the others such as Tafelsig, Eastridge, and Beacon Valley so it’s best to avoid going there. Unemployment is high and so is the number of school dropouts and drug addicts and this contributes to crime.
Khayelitsha is about 25km outside of the city center. It’s an area that is very vibey with braai places (hang-out spots that sell barbecue meat and alcohol) on almost every street corner so it’s popular even with South African tourists from outside of Cape Town. The people are very friendly yet it’s an area plagued with robberies, murders, assaults, and muggings which makes it one of the most dangerous areas and for that reason, I wouldn’t recommend that you go there unaccompanied.
Nyanga is very similar to Khayelitsha in culture and type of crime, just slightly smaller and located right across the airport as you land at Cape Town International.
Hanover Park has one of the highest murder rates, and drug and alcohol abuse. Described by one of the residents as “like living in hell” I wouldn’t go there as a tourist. I don’t even go there as a local so avoid at all costs.
Situated within the area called Cape Flats Manenberg has the highest murder rate in the country. They say if you live in Manenberg you are 3x more likely to be murdered than anywhere else in the country. This is mainly due to the gang and drug culture that is so pervasive in this place. Unemployment is rife and so are school drop-outs and so most turn to crime as a way to earn a living.
Are Uber & Bolt Safe in Cape Town?
Both Uber and Bolt are safe to use in Cape Town. You can see the driver’s reviews before you accept a ride and can additionally check the number plate of the car to see if it’s the correct one. However, there are some instances of car hijacking in Cape Town and even Uber drivers will refuse to drive to certain areas.
InDriver is also another option and is cheaper, but they only take cash. You can negotiate your price and if they accept it, you’re set. When using InDriver at night, you should exercise more caution for security reasons.
As a local, I use both Uber & Bolt all the time safely, but haven’t used InDriver. I have a friend who does, however, she cautions against using them at night for security reasons.
The prices between Bolt and Uber in South Africa are usually competitive, although I find Uber to be slightly pricier than Bolt. The great thing about both is that if you are a regular user you get discounted prices, so I always compare prices between the two apps before I call a ride to see who’s giving me a better rate.
Uber may also be more reliable and have more cars available, there have been times when I get a message that says “Bolt has no cars at the moment”. This doesn’t happen all the time, but if you’re in rush hour or a busy place, Uber is usually more reliable and more expensive.
Below is an example of the rates given by both Uber and Bolt for the same trip from Cape Town to the airport (20km+ drive).
Is Cape Town Safe for Solo Female Travel?
Cape Town is safe for solo female travelers as long as you exercise caution. Don’t let your guard down and entertain strangers, stay in groups as much as possible, especially at night, and try not to walk alone when it’s dark. You should also avoid being overly friendly and try to dress like a local so you don’t stick out as a tourist.
I have a female friend who comes here every year from the US and she has never felt unsafe while walking around or catching an Uber. Like most cities around the world, one has to always be vigilant. Human trafficking is always going to be a concern and not just in Cape Town. I always advise people to act like they know where they’re going, or better yet, look like they belong.
For instance: if you are lost, don’t look like you are lost. Continue in the direction until you can naturally change your path without looking like you have no clue where you are.
As a female traveler, this advice has helped me everywhere I have been in the world.
Another thing to be aware of is strangers, don’t be easily convinced to go somewhere with them, no matter how much fun their plans sound like, and always watch your drink when in a bar or club, as there are reports of females whose drinks got spiked with drugs in order to abduct them. South Africa has a high percentage of female rapes, so always be alert, and don’t walk alone at night.
Is Cape Town Safe To Live?
Yes, Cape Town is safe to live as long as you exercise caution. People are friendly here, and there is an amazing community of work professionals and good people. Unfortunately, crime rates are high, but if you follow the advice here, you will be fine. I have lived here for 12 years and other than usual safety concerns, I don’t walk around fearing for my life.
As I said above I have lived here for many years, I walk around pretty much everywhere within walking distance. I go for jogs in the morning and to the beach when I can, and I have no reason to fear. Of course, this is not to say I live a carefree life. I think crime is always going to be a concern in this country where the unemployment rate is very high.
Criminals are always looking for easy targets, so I change my routine regularly and don’t keep my phone visible. That means I don’t go jogging at the same spot every day or week. I keep within fairly-populated roads and I don’t walk alone at night. I use Uber and Bolt for long trips and I alert my family when I feel uneasy about my driver. I also try to contain my activities to the “safe” areas.
Having said that, if I do get invited to events that take place in areas with safety concerns, I always ask to go with a friend or have someone waiting for me when I get there. In those cases, I don’t drive myself so as not to put myself at risk of hijacking, so I take an Uber/Bolt.
Ubers will additionally sometimes refuse to go to certain areas (for a good reason), and if they don’t want to go there, we recommend you don’t bother either.
Take a look at this discussion on a popular forum below:
Is Cape Town Safe For LGBTQ Travelers?
Yes, Cape Town is safe for LGBTQ travelers. There is a large LGBTQ community in Cape Town, probably the largest in the country and so Cape Town is very LGBTQ-friendly and welcoming.
There are so many bars and clubs in the city, where the LGBTQ community is predominant. Once in a while, you may hear of hate crimes being committed (like in many parts of the world), but generally speaking, Cape Town is very welcoming to LGBTQ travelers. Just exercise caution and follow the same advice given in this article.
What Dangers Should You Be Weary of When Travelling in Cape Town?
- Gangs – Sadly this is one of the top crimes that Cape Town is known for. It is true that there is a lot of violent gang activity in this city. In 2022 it was reported in the news that there were 175 murders that were committed due to gang-related activity within a space of three months in this province. Totally shocking and unparalleled, however, it’s important to know that gang-related crime is prevalent in certain hotspots within the metro and if you never visit those areas you wouldn’t have to worry about being caught in the middle of it.
- Robberies – The city has its fair share of robberies. It was recently hit by a spate of armed robberies in the malls where robbers would break into one of shops, mostly jewelry stores, and rob the employees at gun point. These kinds of crime seem to be on the rise around Christmas time.
- Highjackings – Sadly, this too is a common crime in Cape Town and countrywide. I personally had a close experience but thanks to quick thinking managed to escape it. Criminals sometimes throw a stone at your car to break a window in the hopes that you will stop so they can attack you. Drive to the police station if this happens to you. In fact it’s always best to hire a driver to drive you around or to use Uber and other shared drive services. If possible, and when it is safe to do so, don’t stop at the traffic lights in the middle of the night, especially if driving in the suburbs as there are often criminals lying low to attack. These criminals usually break the window of an unsuspecting driver and steal whatever is lying within easy reach and make a run for it. Don’t try to run after them. Go to the police station and report the crime.
- Pickpockets – Common robberies are also on the rise with pick pocketers taking their chances on both tourists and locals, especially in the CBD. It was recently reported that robberies went up by 53% in the CBD. My advice? Don’t walk around with valuables in full display, like cameras and cellphones. Avoid the busiest parts of the CBD, especially lower CBD close to Cape Town train station.
- Criminals posing as “traffic police” – Although not as common as the other crimes there are incidences that have been reported of this happening at various spots around the metro. If not sure, especially at night, keep driving and find the nearest police station to stop at. If those are real police officers they will follow you there, however if they are not, they’ll realize what you are doing and abandon the plan.
- Scammers – In the previous post on what to pack, I mentioned that whatever you do do not listen to anyone who promises to take you to a money exchange person, you will be robbed. Only exchange money inside the bank or in a forex bureau. Also, beware of those who are selling cheap knockoffs of anything. Only buy from real shops or reputable tourist shops inside the mall.
- Hiking spots attacks – Now and then we read in the news about tourists being attacked while hiking up the mountain. My advice is to not do this alone but rather in a group. Be vigilant at all times and use the popular hiking trails instead of unused trails.
Things You Should Be Weary Of When Visiting Cape Town
Cape Town recently went through one of the worst taxi strikes the country has ever seen. The taxi owners were not happy with some of the legislation that the city passed that directly affected them and so they decided to go on a full-on strike. This brought the city to its knees basically because it impacted everything else, the food deliveries, workers who work in the city couldn’t travel to their jobs which meant no staff in many establishments including hotels, and general movement around the city was seriously limited as Uber couldn’t operate during this time as well.
Unfortunately, this isn’t something that you can plan for ahead of time as you wouldn’t know but the taxi association usually makes an announcement or would issue a warning maybe a week in advance if they are planning something like this. Do check the news for any upcoming strikes or political rallies and if possible reschedule your travel.
Since I mentioned political rallies above let’s talk about them. South Africa is a politically charged country and the citizens are often unhappy about one thing or another when it comes to the government and service delivery, so strikes or rallies often happen. Again this is not really something that you can know in advance but like I said above, check the news at least a week or two before you travel to know what’s happening on the ground. It’s fair to say that sometimes these political demonstrations can become violent and should you find yourself walking into such a situation it’s best to leave as soon as possible. Don’t try to take pictures or videos of what’s going on as you may get seriously hurt or have your camera confiscated.
Gang activity is mostly localized and by that I mean there are areas in Cape Town like the Cape Flats and District Six that are hotspots for this type of activity. This is not to say it’s not possible for this to spill over to other parts of the city but your best form of defense is to keep away from the well-known hotspots. The gang-related shootings are usually sparked by fights over territory and unfortunately, families and anybody who’s around at the time these shootings happen will most likely get injured or killed. Even though most of the shootings happen at night it’s not uncommon to hear about an incident that happened in the daytime. The city of Cape Town police are doing their best to prevent crime and they have a visible presence in most high-risk areas but it’s still best not to walk around these places unaccompanied. Better yet, avoid it completely.
This is a crime that targets mostly women and children and since Cape Town has one of the busiest ports in the country, you can see why traffickers would target this city for this type of crime. If you are a woman traveling alone be extra vigilant. Don’t be overly friendly with strangers and don’t be easily convinced to go anywhere with them, especially if a person says they need your help with something. Always have your phone within easy reach and carry an extra battery in case it runs flat. Stay in groups in the evenings and when traveling outside the city center. And if you are driving, don’t stop for hitchhikers or anyone who’s asking for help!
Getting Around Cape Town – Public Transport Safety
When getting around Cape Town you might be wondering if public transport is safe for tourists or not. Public transport is mostly safe in Cape Town. If you want to get around using this option, I recommend using the MyCitiBus as your main form of travel. Golden Arrow is also a good company but not as smooth and the drivers are more reckless. I’d recommend avoiding the train as they are very dated, have not been kept well and are usually quite dangerous to travel on, especially at night in Cape Town.
If you want to travel, stick to the MyCitiBus, Golden Arrow if you have to, and if you need to get out of the city use the Local Taxis. However, don’t expect a smooth journey on these as the drivers are quite reckless and the buses are not kept in good condition. If you can, it’s best to rent a car or motorbike. If not, renting a driver is a fantastic option too.
FAQ – Your Questions About Safety in Cape Town Answered
Thola is a research psychologist who left the field in 2019 and has been writing professionally for various magazines including her own blog ZuluSingleandFab since then. She also writes as a ghostwriter for various clients and has published 5 books to date. Her love of writing started during the COVID-19 lockdowns when she created her website to share her travel stories and her health and fitness journey. A gym enthusiast and lover of healthy food, she published a book, “Fit and Fabolous at Fifty” on Amazon Kindle in 2020 and is currently in the process of writing her second book about her life experiences from leaving a powerful corporate job to working as a freelance writer.