How to Stay Safe in Cape Town: Tips for Tourists
Is Cape Town safe for tourists to visit? Yes! However, …
Like any major city, Cape Town has crime. Stick to a few simple rules as discussed in this guide and chances are you will find Cape Town as safe as most popular tourist destinations. After all, if Cape Town was a no-go destination, travel experts wouldn’t recommend it as one of the world’s top cities to visit.
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Cape Town is a busy city. Like many world cities and popular holiday destinations, there are safe areas for tourists and then there are areas that tourists should avoid.
In this comprehensive guide, Nox Rentals helps you to put together a safe travel itinerary for an incident-free vacation, and choose accommodation in Cape Town that’s safe and secure.
How to stay safe in Cape Town
South Africa’s crime statistics certainly do nothing to put tourists at ease. However, these stats are often viewed out of context. We believe Cape Town – one of the most beautiful cities in the world – has a lot to offer tourists.
Yes, crime exists. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may be affected by crime. Tourists sometimes, unfortunately, are mugged in the city and it happens that valuables are stolen. But this can happen anywhere in the world.
If Cape Town were a no-go holiday destination due to crime, it would not continue taking a place on listings of the best cities around the world and receive noteworthy accolades and awards every year.
Serious crimes such as murder and rape are usually restricted to the poverty-stricken areas around Cape Town, which are best avoided by tourists. Most tourists never get exposed to dangerous areas, which are nowhere near the popular holidaymakers’ spots, such as the Atlantic Seaboard.
Your streetwise attitude will go a long way to ensure your safety in Cape Town. This, along with what you carry on you while sightseeing will play an important role in your experience of how safe Cape Town is. Stick to a few simple rules as discussed in this guide and chances are you will find Cape Town as safe as most popular tourist destinations.
Where should I stay in Cape Town?
If you are wondering where you should stay in Cape Town, the most important thing is to find accommodation in one of the “safe areas” that are popular amongst tourists.
Booking your stay through a reputable agency such as Nox Rentals will ensure you find a luxurious holiday villa or apartment in a upmarket neighbourhood out of harm’s way on Cape Town’s awe-inspiring Atlantic Seaboard.
Is Cape Town safe for a family holiday?
Cape Town is a fantastic holiday destination and families always enjoy the many adventures this beautiful city has on offer.
The upmarket accommodation that you have booked through Nox Rentals will have adequate safety features. However, remember to close windows, lock doors and arm alarms when going out. Also be sure to know how the alarm system is operated and where the panic buttons are located.
Should you feel threatened at any time during your stay, press the panic button and a security company will come to investigate.
Safest areas in Cape Town
Some of the safest areas to stay in Cape Town are along the Atlantic Seaboard. Tourist-friendly suburbs that provide upmarket accommodation in Camps Bay, Clifton and Sea Point are wonderful to visit and the holiday homes include sufficient safety features to ensure your safe stay in the Mother City.
Dangerous areas tourist should avoid
Avoid the areas just outside Cape Town, known as the Cape Flats. These include areas and suburbs such as Nyanga, Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plein, Macassar, Delft, Blue Downs, Hanover Park, Elsies River, Bishop’s Lavis (not to be confused with Bishopscourt, which is a prime leafy area in the Southern Suburbs) and Langa.
While you may find cheap accommodation options on the Cape Flats, we recommend tourists rather book their accommodation in the more affluent areas on the Atlantic Seaboard (as listed on our website here).
Safety tips for an incident-free holiday
Awareness is key. We aren’t saying you should not enjoy a carefree holiday, but just be aware that crime can happen. It’s hard not to get caught up in the moment of your holiday relaxation, but don’t forget to keep your bags and wallet safe, lock up your holiday home or rental car, and of course, rather do not flaunt your jewellery or an expensive watch.
ATMs and banking
Do not draw money at ATMs at night, especially not in a deserted street. Visit one of the many upmarket shopping centres and draw cash where there are security guards on duty.
Never allow a stranger to “assist” you at an ATM. If you need assistance, wait for banking hours and do your business inside the bank.
If you need to visit a bank or foreign exchange counter, go to a shopping complex such as the V&A Waterfront or Gardens Centre to do your banking business.
Once you have withdrawn cash, do not flaunt it but put it away safely before leaving the ATM machine. Keep an eye on any suspicious looking individuals.
Driving a car
It is generally safe to drive in Cape Town. A few common sense rules apply, such as keeping the car windows rolled up while driving in the City Centre and making sure the car doors are locked before setting off on your journey.
Do not display handbags, cell phones and wallets on the passenger seat or anywhere that it is in the eye of passers-by. Rather lock your valuables in the car’s boot.
Parking and car guards
When parking in Cape Town, you are likely to encounter a “car guard”. These are unemployed persons who wear a security bib and are self-assigned to make sure your car is parked safely until you return.
You are under no obligation to pay them. However, car guards are generally good people who are desperate to earn a living and would appreciate a tip.
As a guideline, a car guard expects to receive around R10 per parked car, given to him or her before you drive off. Generous tourists can tip around R20 or R50 at a time, but do not feel compelled to tip and especially not if your car guard seems to be under the influence of any substance.
When approached by a car guard, a friendly smile and greeting will go a long way in securing goodwill. But do not simply place your trust in the car guards – you still need to make sure your car is locked and that you do not have any valuables on display inside the car.
If you are parking on the street or in a shopping complex, you need to pay the parking meter or fee, regardless of whether you have paid a car guard.
The Cape Town Municipality has also appointed parking marshals in the CBD. They have small handheld machines, which calculate the parking fee due and you need to pay them the nominal amount they charge to park in a valid parking bay on the street.
Beggars and street children
Well-meaning tourists often do not realise that the money they give to beggars and street children are the reason why this social problem persists. They often choose life on the streets because of the easy money they make to support their substance abuse habits.
While it is not easy to turn a blind eye, it is best not to engage with beggars and street children. There are organisations in South Africa, such as The Haven night shelter, which takes care of homeless and destitute people.
Cape Town has a lively nightlife. When you go out, it is always best to buddy up and have a friend at your side.
Party streets such as Kloof Street, Long Street, Loop Street and Bree Street in the city centre, as well as De Waterkant and Sea Point are popular, but always exercise caution especially after dark in busy streets such as Long Street.
Make sure you stay in well-lit areas and avoid dark alleyways and deserted places. If you want to partake in a Lion’s Head full moon hike, do not chance it by yourself but book with an organised group or a guide to ensure your personal safety.
Do not dwell around the beaches, mountainside or any other isolated areas at night.
When you are sightseeing, stay safe on the streets of Cape Town by dressing casually and do not advertise the fact that you are carrying electronic equipment, your cellular phone, tablet or wallet.
Pickpockets can lift your wallet or phone out of your pocket without you realising that you have been targeted, so a money pouch tied around your waist is recommended.
It is best to leave expensive jewellery at home. Capetonians generally sport a very relaxed dress code and you can rather invest in some inexpensive craft jewellery to wear when on holiday in Cape Town than wearing expensive jewellery.
Every person on the street knows you have a cellular phone. If you are also carrying a camera around your neck, you have been earmarked as a tourist. Wait until you are in a shopping complex or coffee shop before putting your electronics on display.
If you take pictures with your cellular phone, get a handy grasp attachment that you can wrap around your wrist to keep your phone safe.
Protect your travel documents by locking them in your room’s safe before you venture out. Carry a certified copy of your passport in case you need it on your travels.
Keep a spare set of certified copies in your suitcase to ensure you have identification in case your passport is lost or stolen.
Cape Town’s tap water is safe to drink. But, we do not recommend that tourists drink water from natural water sources, such as mountain streams and rivers, unless you are in the company of a qualified guide who confirms that the water is safe for drinking.
Tourists are requested to be mindful of the continued water crisis facing Cape Town and other parts of South Africa. The southern tip of Africa is a drought-stricken area and as such, great care should be taken to conserve water.
Forget about getting face to face with a lion or elephant in Cape Town. You will only find these animals in conservation areas and nature reserves. However, Cape Town has a variety of small wildlife that you may spot while exploring the city and surrounds.
There are Rock Dassies (hyrax) on Table Mountain and chances are quite good that you will encounter Chacma baboons on the side of the road during a visit to Cape Point or any of the mountain passes in the Cape. These animals are fun to watch but remember they are wild animals and can be dangerous. Never feed them, try to touch them or get in their way.
Creepy crawlies also abound (Cape Town is in Africa, after all!) and you may encounter insects and spiders. When hiking, check that you do not become host to a tick, which attaches itself to your skin. You may find mosquitoes in Cape Town, but apart from being a nuisance, they are not carriers of malaria in the Western Cape. Spiders and scorpions also do occur in natural environments so if you are camping or picnicking, shake out shoes and clothing as a precaution.
The Western Cape is also home to a variety of snake species. While the chances are quite slim that you would encounter any of them, take care not to step on a snake when hiking in the mountains and never try to catch them.
Cape Town has abundant natural beauty and hiking in the mountains are a popular and highly recommended activity. It is safe to hike on the main mountain trails in a group of at least four people.
As a tourist, we recommend you join a guided hike with a reputable guide. The mountains can be treacherous and what looks like a beautiful day from the city can easily turn into an icy cold windstorm on Table Mountain.
Always carry sufficient hydration, some food and a warm jacket on a hike.
Township tours are a popular tourist activity, but how safe is it to venture into the informal settlements?
Be cautioned that it is not safe at all to venture into a township by yourself on a DIY or self-drive township tour. Informal settlements can be confusing and apart from getting lost, you may stumble upon the wrong company and put yourself in danger’s way.
If you are keen to experience everyday life in an informal settlement, book a township tour with a reputable operator such as Camissa and ensure your safety while you are sightseeing in these areas.
How to find help when in trouble
Despite your good intentions and precautions, it can happen that you face a security or safety crisis while on holiday in Cape Town. Here is what to do:
1.) If you’ve booked accommodation with Nox Rentals, you can phone us 24/7 for assistance.
Upon check-in, you will receive three telephone numbers for Nox Rentals that you may dial at any time, namely Nox Rentals’ office number, your dedicated host’s cellular number and the senior hosts’ number. Save these numbers on your phone to dial in case of an emergency. Whether your emergency is related to your accommodation or not, Nox Rentals will answer your call and send for help.
2.) Your rental villa or apartment will have an alarm system linked to a security company.
Save the number (which will also be displayed on a placard at the property) on your phone and dial them should you have any safety concerns while at your holiday rental.
3.) The police emergency number in South Africa is 10111, not “911”.
Should you require an ambulance service, dial 10177. You can also dial 999 in an emergency to be connected with the Police, Fire Brigade and Ambulance Services.
Secure your stay today
Cape Town is one of the world’s top holiday destinations for families who seek to explore a new place and culture and who are looking for adventure in a beautiful natural setting.
If you are still concerned whether it is safe for you to visit Cape Town, feel free to contact us and speak to one of our consultants who will put your mind at ease.
Browse Nox Rentals’ exclusive selection of luxury holiday homes and apartments located in the best area to stay in Cape Town: Camps Bay.