Last Updated on September 1, 2023 by thecapetownblog
Cape Town is an amazing city, and it makes me sad that some travellers decide not to come here for safety reasons.
Look, I get it. Once upon a time, I would have told you the same thing. But although Cape Town is statistically a very dangerous city, you’re fairly unlikely to come to harm in the Mother City if you use your common sense.
I’ve put together a list of 11 safety tips to help keep you happy and healthy while in Cape Town.
How dangerous is Cape Town REALLY?
This is a multi-faceted topic, but the long and short of it is that Cape Town is a safe travel destination.
In Cape Town, a lot of the crime is gang-related and contained to certain areas of the city, so the risk to you as someone who will probably be sticking to the nicer parts of town is lower than the official statistics would make it seem.
Yes, you do need to have your wits about you here. No, it’s not safe to stay on the beach and party after dark like it is in, say, Thailand. But you really don’t need to be afraid when visiting Cape Town, you just need to know what’s up. It makes me sad when people are fearful of visiting Cape Town, because it’s such an incredible place.
The chances are that the worst thing to happen to you here could be getting mugged. But there are steps you can take to prevent this, and unfortunately, you can get mugged anywhere in the world.
In short, pays to be careful in Cape Town, but you don’t need to be scared!
1) Stick to the “good” areas
This will probably come naturally to you anyway, as all of the best things to do in Cape Town tend to be in the safer areas of the city.
Generally speaking, the city bowl and Atlantic Seaboard are pretty safe. That’s not to say there aren’t social problems here, because there are. But they’re much, much milder than they are in the townships outside of the city, like Langa, Guguletu, and Khayelitsha.
In a nutshell, the best areas (and safest) to explore are:
Camps Bay is a really popular tourist area. It’s a beautiful and swanky suburb, and although you shouldn’t wander off of the Victoria Road strip alone late at night, it’s generally pretty safe around here.
You’ll definitely want to visit the Clifton beaches too, and these are totally safe during the day. Obviously, don’t leave your belongings unattended while you take a dip, but other than that, you’ll be fine.
Sea Point & Green Point
De Waterkant is a small enclave close to town. It’s known for its pastel coloured houses, pretty cobbled streets, and boutiques shops and cafes. There’s always security around here and it’s a pretty wealthy little pocket of the city. I lived here for several months and I even felt safe enough to walk alone at night.
The V&A Waterfront
The Waterfront is another upscale area with a ton of things to do, including shopping, eating at seafront restaurants, visiting fancy cocktail bars, shopping, wine tasting, and riding the Cape Wheel. It’s also home to the amazing Oranjezicht Market, which is one of the best places to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning in Cape Town!
The CBD/City Centre
You will need your wits about you in the CBD, but it’s fine to walk around here during the day. I wouldn’t recommend wearing headphones, though, or taking your phone out if you can avoid it. At night, there’s some great nightlife around here on Bree Street, but just make sure to head out as a group.
Again, Bo Kaap isn’t the safest place to visit after dark, but you should definitely go check it out during the day. It’s the Cape Malay part of the city, so it’s a diverse and historically working class area that now gets a lot of attention thanks to its brightly coloured houses. You’ll probably want to take some photos here, but just be mindful of your surroundings when you take your phone out.
Kloof Street in Gardens is home to some of the city’s best nightlife, but it’s also one of the worst areas in the City Bowl in terms of homelessness. You’ll be fine around here during the day but do keep an eye on your belongings. At night, it’s okay to walk up and down Kloof Street with friends while the bars are still open as there are usually plenty of people around, but don’t veer off down any side roads – especially alone.
And last but not least, Tamboerskloof is a lovely neighbourhood with lots of cute cafes, Victorian houses, and great views over the city (depending on how high up you go, anyway). It’s here that you’ll find Table Mountain and Lion’s Head – aka two of the city’s most famous attractions. However, you should be careful when walking around residential streets, and always take an Uber around here after dark.
Kalk Bay is hippie central. It’s a super artistic seaside suburb that’s famed for its artsy scene. There’s definitely a slow pace of life in Kalk Bay and I love to come here to check out local boutiques and hang out in the cafes.
The tidal pools are great, too! I really like eating at the Brass Bell, which overlooks one of the biggest pools.
Muizenberg is a surfer’s paradise. The beaches here are great for swimming because the water is warmer on this side of the peninsula and the waves are much gentler. Lots of people come here for surfing lessons!
2) Use Uber, Not Bolt
Uber is safe to use in Cape Town. I have taken countless Ubers alone in the wee hours of the morning and I’ve never had any problems. In fact, Uber is the best way to get around in Cape Town.
However, I don’t recommend using Bolt. I believe that they don’t have as strict safety standards as Uber and I’ve seen quite a few reports of assault floating around social media and Facebook. This isn’t my personal experience, but this is the reputation that Bolt has in Cape Town, so it’s best to just stick to Uber.
3) Don’t Walk Alone at Night
Once the sun sets in Cape Town, take an Uber. It’s as simple as that.
I love exploring the city on foot and I walk alone all the time during the day. But once night falls, I get my butt in an Uber. It’s just not worth the risk.
I do walk down Kloof Street at night with friends, because it’s a party street and there are always people around. Plus, if you’re walking 200 meters from one bar to the next, you can hardly call an Uber for that. Obviously, common sense applies, but in general, you’re better off taking an Uber after dark.
4) Leave the Beach at Sunset
Cape Town’s beaches are perfectly safe during the day, but I don’t recommend hanging around for too long after sunset. To be honest, this isn’t really a big deal because the temperature usually drops pretty fast after sunset, so you probably won’t want to hang around for long anyway!
5) Don’t go out on Long Street
Long Street is another of Cape Town’s biggest party streets, but it has a really bad reputation for pickpocketing, as well as more violent muggings. Pickpocketing rings operate around here and if you go out on this street, you have a strong chance of coming home minus your phone.
There are tons of other great places to enjoy Cape Town’s nightlife, so I recommend heading out elsewhere.
6) Don’t leave your valuables in the car
If you’re planning to rent a car in Cape Town, don’t leave any valuables in your car. Car break ins are very common in Cape Town. In fact, when I borrowed my friend’s car she even advised me not to leave jumpers or jackets in the car, because they might attract thieves. When you get out of the car, take everything with you, even if you won’t be gone for long.
7) Use the ATMs inside banks or shopping centers
To be honest, if you’ve got a fee-free credit or debit card (like Monzo) then you won’t need to use ATMs very often. When you do, though, try to use ones inside banks or shopping centres. There will be security around just in case.
When you use ATMs on the street you might be approached by beggars while you’re withdrawing money, which can be intimidating, or scam artists might come and try to “help” you.
8) Don’t carry a ton of cash
You can pay with a card or your phone pretty much everywhere in Cape Town, so there’s no need to carry lots of cash around with you. Why take the risk? I usually just take my phone out because at least if that gets stolen, I’ve still got my wallet and physical bank cards to fall back on.
9) Don’t leave your belongings unattended when you swim
The beaches in Cape Town are very safe during the day. However I still don’t recommend leaving your belongings behind while you take a dip in the ocean. Friends and I usually take turns because since the water is freezing so you can’t stay in for long!
And if you think you’re a good judge of character, you can always ask some kind-looking nearby strangers to watch your stuff while you swim.
10) Avoid taxis
The word “taxi” means something different in South Africa than it does in the rest of the world.
A taxi here refers to a public shuttle bus. It’s a very cheap form of transport, but taxis drive incredibly erratically and scam foreigners.
You’ll definitely see taxis around, but you definitely don’t want to be on one. They’re not safe for tourists.
Be careful at the airport, because taxi agents will come up to you and offer you a taxi, quite possibly hoping that you’re a first-timer who doesn’t know what a South African taxi is. They’ll charge you an exorbitant price and you may or may not get dropped off in the right location – it’s the luck of the draw, really.
Taking an Uber to your hotel from the airport is cheaper, faster, and safer. I have had taxi drivers approach me and tell me that they’re “an offline Uber” or try and get me into their taxi telling me that they were my Uber driver. This may happen to you too, but just politely refuse and walk away until your ride turns up.
11) Get a SIM card
I think it’s always a good idea to get a local SIM card when you travel, but it’s especially important in Cape Town because
A) there’s not that much public WiFi available and
B) there’s not great public transport here, so you’ll need data to call an Uber.
Plus, then you’ll be able to use Google Maps to help you get around and stay in contact with friends. You’ll definitely be safer with a SIM.
Vodacom (which is called Vodaphone in some countries) is to have the most reliable reception. You can buy a 30-day tourist SIM for R10 (£0.50) from the airport, right next to both domestic and international arrivals.
They have lots of 30 day bundles available and you can always top up again if you’re staying in the country for longer than that – I used my 30 day SIM for well over a year! The only annoying thing is that you have to go to a Vodacom or Cellucity store, because you can’t top up online using a foreign credit card.
The prices are as follows:
- 1GB = R85 (£4.25)
- 2GB = R149 (£7.50)
- 4GB = R249 (£12.50)
- 6GB = R349 (17.50)
- 10GB = R449 (£22.50)
Cape Town Safety FAQS:
Is Cape Town or Johannesburg safer?
Cape Town is safer than Johannesburg for travellers.
Crime statistics are pretty bad in both cities, but remember that those also include the townships. As a tourist or digital nomad, you’re probably not going to be going anywhere near those.
Instead, you’re most likely going to be sticking to the downtown and central areas where all of the fun stuff is. In this case, Cape Town is much safer.
Crime in Cape Town is more concentrated in certain areas, where as in Johannesburg it just seems to be everywhere!
Lots of my born-and-bred Capetonian friends have told me how unsafe they feel in Johannesburg, and Cape Town is generally considered to be a much better place to travel and live.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Cape Town?
Yes, it’s totally safe to drink tap water here! I’ve been drinking it for years, and so has everyone else I know, and we’re all fine!
Is it safe to swim at the beaches?
Yes, most of the time. Sometimes, the waves at the Clifton and Camps Bay beaches can get rough but there are always lifeguards around. If the waves get too dangerous, they won’t let you go in the water. And Cape Town is home to lots of blue flag beaches, which means that the water is super clean!
For more essential info about Cape Town, check out: