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Is Cape Town Safe? | Travel Tips & Safety Concerns

Is Cape Town Safe? | Travel Tips & Safety Concerns

Located in South Africa, Cape Town is a top destination for people looking for a unique vacation spot. As a port city nestled right on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, there are many incredible beaches for people to enjoy and endless amounts of fantastic seafood for consumption.

Cape Town is a popular location for tourists as one of three capitals within South Africa and the home to the country’s Parliament. But is Cape Town safe? This question is one of the top concerns for those considering a trip to the country.

To help with the planning process, we have compiled a guide of travel tips and safety concerns for prospective travelers to reference. Continue reading to learn more about Cape Town!

Is Cape Town Safe to Visit in 2022?

Coastline of Cape Town South Africa on a sunny day for a piece on is it safe to visit

Dereje/Shutterstock

While many desire to visit Cape Town, South Africa, for its beautiful landscape and quality attractions, most don’t realize that the crime rate within the country is very high.

Although many of these occurrences are considered non-violent, a fair amount can turn that way at a moment’s notice. Among the crimes you should be careful of are rape, armed robbery, grab-and-go theft, carjacking, and mugging.

Additionally, you can be subject to political rallies and demonstrations frequently occurring in the city. Another element you should be conscious of is the number of gangs residing within South Africa.

Because Cape Town is the most popular city in the country, gangs are frequently in the area. 

Lastly, an area of concern you want to be aware of when traveling to Cape Town is the amount of human trafficking that has occurred throughout the years. The majority of the cases are female, with many of those being children.

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Crime in Cape Town

As was highlighted above, the level of crime in Cape Town is significantly higher than in other areas of the world. Although it isn’t at the top of the lists for the most crime incurred, even within South Africa, it does see its fair share.

This level has also seen a steady incline for the past three years. While you may experience petty thefts in the city, you can also fall victim to more severe crimes during your visit.

Therefore the need to be vigilant of your surroundings and be in the presence of a group is high. As tourists, you will stand out from the crowd, which will draw more attention your way. In situations like this, you can become targeted for criminal behavior.

The types of violence travelers to Cape Town can experience include rape, armed robbery, mugging, and many others. In these instances, tourists and women are targeted.

Locals often view tourists as naïve and seek them out in public areas and popular sightseeing attractions. This fact is especially true for mugging, pickpocketing, and robbery.

While it’s not a 100% guarantee for safety, there are a few things you can introduce into your travel routine that will provide an extra level of protection while you’re out and about.

These items include:

  • Carrying copies of identifying information close to your body
  • Informing others of your whereabouts
  • Bringing a fully charged cell phone on your excursions
  • Having a list of emergency numbers for the area you’re in
  • Only walking around outside during the day
  • Asking the front desk at the hotel for information on the different neighborhoods throughout the city

Including the above in your routines will help you to be more mindful of your surroundings. If someone is looking at you for a potential crime, seeing that you have a heightened awareness can deter them from committing the acts.

Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods

Khayelitsha pictured with huts on the hillside for a piece titled Is Cape Town Safe to Visit

cape town, south africa, february, 10, 2020: shacks in informal settlement in khayelitsha township/Nikolai Link/Shutterstock

As we highlighted above, one of the top things you can do to provide safe conditions for yourself while traveling in Cape Town is to avoid bad neighborhoods. A great way to identify these areas is to inquire at the front desk of your hotel.

Conversing with the staff will give you a better idea of which places are acceptable for tourists and which aren’t.

It’s true that high areas can undergo revitalization over time and come out with a reduced crime level as a result. This fact is true in other countries as well.

However, when it comes to South Africa, the common neighborhoods to avoid in Cape Town include:

  • Kleinvlei
  • Cape Town City Center 
  • Stellenbosch 
  • Kraaifontein
  • Nyanga
  • Mitchells Plain 
  • Khayelitsha

If you find yourself in one of these areas, stick to brightly lit areas and try to make your time in the neighborhood as brief as possible, but without drawing attention to yourself.

Continually monitor the activity around you and keep your cell phone in your front pocket for easy access. It can also be a good idea to call someone on the phone while you’re in the neighborhood and stay on the line until you’re back in a safe area.

By doing this, you’re alerting another person to your whereabouts. Therefore, if something happens, they will be aware.

Gang Activity

The violence surrounding rival gangs in Cape Town is common, and the country has been working for years to reduce or eliminate that threat. Unfortunately, they haven’t yet been successful, and the groups remain within the city and the country at large.

It’s necessary to note that the typical time for these events to occur is at night. During that time, there will be members walking throughout different areas of the city with handguns.

At times they may seek out specific people from rival groups, or they may be on high alert and ready to defend their territory if necessary. About 11% of all murders committed in Cape Town are due to gang activity.

While they have gotten a fair amount of members off the streets and into prison, the violence doesn’t end. Many in prison still have authority over their designated group.

Because of this, messages get relayed to those on the streets from inside prison walls. To provide for yourself in the safest way possible, avoiding the bad neighborhoods listed above, and not venturing out after dark are the two best possible scenarios.

Traveling in a group is critical if you have to go out at night. You’re less likely to be approached if you aren’t alone and instead are surrounded by others. 

Political Rallies

Political rally with lots of police for a piece on is Cape Town safe to visit

Cape town/South Africa- October 21 2020: Picture showing End SARS protesters in Cape Town South Africa protesting against police brutality in Nigeria in solidarity with citizens back home in Nigeria/Sunday Oladokun/Shutterstock

An increase in the number of political demonstrations has been taking place in the past few years. These events typically take place in highly trafficked areas or in front of government buildings.

Many people will gather to fight back against regulations and laws put into place by officials. There are also issues being taken with corruption at the government level. At times this can speak to collusion between local gangs and politicians.

When rallies occur that can affect the lives of gang members, those groups are likely to also be involved negatively. As the subject at hand is highly personal to those advocating for change, or those who benefit from the current legislation, there are times when these rallies become violent.

When this occurs, you may observe fighting, assault, or even gun violence as a result of the hostility among the group. If you find yourself in an area with some kind of demonstration or rally, it’s best to vacate the premises as soon as possible.

While many of these remain peaceful, the environment can change in an instant. You don’t want to be part of a violent struggle where you or your family can become severely injured or killed. 

Human Trafficking

One positive thing to note about human trafficking in South Africa is that the cases are steadily declining. While the country hasn’t been able to vacate the United States government’s watch list, they’re making significant efforts to reduce activity and become a safe environment free from such risk. 

Although that’s a positive step in the right direction, it doesn’t mean that the area is free from harm at this current time. The amount of human trafficking is still high today, and most cases involve children and females. 

Because Cape Town is a prominent port for boats, it’s common for kidnapped individuals to be smuggled into the country. These people are later inserted into the sex trafficking trade and held captive by those in charge of the operation.

However, the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t mean that only those who enter the country by boat are victims of trafficking. As tourists, you could be at an increased level of danger during your visit to Cape Town.

Being abducted can happen anywhere, whether it be out in public, at your hotel, or just pursuing a grocery store. Proper safety precautions are essential to avoid something happening to you or a loved one.

Things to Consider

There are many things that you must keep in mind when traveling to Cape Town, South Africa, including:

  • Choosing a hotel or resort in a safe area of the city
  • Paying with cash when possible but being discrete about having it on you
  • Keeping all personal items close to your person, including copies of identifying information
  • Locking up your original forms of identification in the hotel room safe
  • Consider traveling with a group or at least one other person; there is safety in numbers
  • Carrying a fully charged cell phone whenever you go out
  • Having a list of needed phone numbers to call in case of emergency
  • Alerting others to your whereabouts and itinerary to have accountability 
  • Avoiding travel through dangerous areas of the city
  • Only walking around during the daytime
  • Keeping your eyes peeled at all times when out in public
  • Avoiding public demonstrations, no matter the topic

Knowing these elements can help you to have a safe and enjoyable experience during your time in South Africa.

Frequently Asked Questions

Woodstock district pictured on a cloudy day, one of the safest neighborhoods in Cape Town

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – March, 16 2019:Old Biscuit Mill, Cape Town, South Africa/Finn Stock/Shutterstock

Planning a vacation to Cape Town, South Africa, can be stressful. To help prepare for travel, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions about the area.

Why is Cape Town dangerous?

There are several different reasons for the level of danger that Cape Town possesses. While the amount of crime is paramount, there are also significant concerns about gang activity, human trafficking, and violent robberies. 

These issues have been commonplace in Cape Town for many years. However, the crimes have ebbed and flowed depending on current circumstances within the city.

Government officials and non-profit organizations have been working diligently to get the problems under control and continue to do so to hopefully decrease the risk to tourists and locals.

Where should you not stay in Cape Town?

Circumstances in different neighborhoods can change over time. While there may be concerns about a particular area today, it could become revitalized later on down the line, and the threat may be reduced or non-existent. 

With that being said, there are a few neighborhoods that you should avoid when staying in Cape Town. These areas include:

  • Kleinvlei
  • Cape Town City Center 
  • Stellenbosch 
  • Kraaifontein
  • Nyanga
  • Mitchells Plain 
  • Khayelitsha

Due to the high level of gang activity, crime, and violence, many recommend staying away from these neighborhoods if possible. 

Is it safe to go out at night in Cape Town?

No, it’s highly recommended that you stay inside at night in Cape Town. While not all neighborhoods are considered dangerous, the period when gang activity is most prominent is after sundown.

Because of that, you want to be in a safe place and preferably indoors at that time. If you find yourself out at night, it’s critical to be in the company of others.

As a foreign traveler, you should stick to the safer neighborhoods in the city, some of which include:

  • Woodstock
  • Clifton and Camps Bay
  • De Waterkant
  • Sea Point
  • City Bowl
  • Green Point
  • Bo-Kaap

Is Cape Town or Johannesburg safer?

Both cities fall under the same advisory put in place by the United States government. According to their statement, one should exercise additional caution when visiting the country.

However, previous travelers, as well as residents of the country, have their own sets of opinions. Many people offer up the information that Cape Town is the safer option.

While Johannesburg used to be the more popular tourist destination, increased crime has deterred travelers from visiting. Locals also speak about the difference in cleanliness between the two major cities, citing that Cape Town is better cared for than Johannesburg.

Is Cape Town safe for solo female travelers?

Although several governments worldwide have deemed Cape Town safe for travel while abiding by appropriate precautions, there are some concerns when it comes to traveling alone.

Rape is a common crime in the city, and human trafficking is also a significant concern. Traveling solo, regardless of gender, is strongly recommended to avoid in any country or destination.

However, a higher level of concern comes with females traveling on their own. Many of the crimes target women and children. As such, the standard recommendation is to always travel in numbers. 

So, Is Cape Town Safe to Visit?

You won’t find Cape Town at the top of the list of unsafe cities for tourism. However, several concerns come into play when traveling to this popular vacation destination.

If a trip to Cape Town, South Africa, is on your bucket list, be sure to abide by all suggested safety guidelines in order to have a wonderful experience. Happy travels!