Cape Town safety tips for travellers

Dalene Ingham-Brown 29 November 2012
Part of the Cape Town Holiday Collection
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Cape Town is a safe place for travellers to visit. Every year approximately 1.8 million travellers will be able to tell you the same thing. At the end of the day these Cape Town safety tips are the same ones you should use when visiting any popular city in the world; if you practice general street smarts, you'll never have cause to feel unsafe.

Often international travellers consider South Africa to be an unsafe destination. A lot of this paranoia has stemmed from sensationalist media and crime statistics based mainly on the poorer township regions.

All you need is a bit of common sense and to follow our streetwise safety tips below.

Here are a list of easy, no-nonsense Cape Town safety tips for travellers:

Car safety

  • Keep your car doors locked
  • Wind windows up when in stationary position
  • Put valuable items in the trunk and glove compartment
  • Don’t leave GPS accessories in clear view when away from your car
  • Ensure rented cars are fully serviced and topped up on fuel
  • If you are lost, stop and ask for directions at the nearest  fuel station
  • Be wary of loiterers at traffic lights
  • Park in secure parking lots or where car attendents are present (remember to tip them only once you have returned to your car. About R5 is suffice)
  • Manually check your doors are locked

Train safety

  • When travelling by train hold onto your bag, don’t put it on the floor, the seat next to you or on your back
  • The safest time to travel is at peak hours of 07:00 - 09:00 and between 16:00 - 18:00
  • Don’t travel on trains after dark

Areas to avoid

  • Only venture into the townships if accompanied by a tour guide
  • Avoid the townships at night
  • If walking alone steer clear of isolated areas or dense roadside bushes and ditches

Outdoor safety

  • Don’t flaunt your wealth, conceal cameras, mobiles, laptops, wallets and expensive accessories and don’t carry large amounts of cash
  • Zip up your bags and lock if possible, keep a firm hold on handbags
  • If hiking and climbing, do so in groups and carry a mobile phone with you
  • Be wary of opportunistic pick-pocketers when walking on busy streets or in crowds
  • Take note of the specific opening and closing times of tourist spots to avoid being stranded
  • If you are approached by a vagrant, give them food rather than money, however you are not obliged to give them anything

Safety after dark

  • Avoid poorly lit and isolated areas
  • Don’t walk the streets alone
  • Park as close to your destination as possible
  • Stay on the main streets and avoid side roads and shortcuts
  • Ask locals or your host advice on where the best spots to go out are
  • If intoxicated get a taxi home, don’t walk

Safety for woman and children

  • Avoid driving alone after dark through rural areas
  • Ensure your children carry mobile phones at all times
  • Know your children’s schedules
  • Teach your children basic safety rules such as not talking to strangers

Emergency Numbers

  • Police (Tourist Assistance Unit) - 021 418 2852
  • Ambulance - 10177
  • Fire Brigade  - 021 461 5555
  • Mountain Rescue - 10111
  • Sea Rescue - 021 405 3500

As a past traveller to Cape Town put it on World Traveller, “Go out on the streets, and have a great time. Keep your valuables protected, your wits about you, and don't let the ridiculous reports in the press interfere with having a wonderful experience in this city!” With knowing these Cape Town safety tips for travellers there is really no need to feel unsafe. Cape Town is safe for tourists.


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