South Africa’s enormous city of Cape Town offers many wonderful things for visitors to do and see. One can visit a raft of museums and galleries, admire the beautiful wineland areas, relax on stunning beaches, enjoy a plethora of terrific water sports, visit the iconic Table Mountains, enjoy a varied and rich culinary scene, experience the eclectic and lively night scene, and much more. There are, however, several pointers for staying safe in Cape Town. Whilst problems in the city may not be quite as bad as commonly portrayed by the media, it really is better to be safe than sorry.
Follow these tips on staying safe in Cape Town and make sure that you have a trip to remember for all the right reasons:
Be Careful When Entering the Townships
The Townships are the areas where black people were forced to live during the days of segregation throughout the apartheid period. A visit to the Townships is a good way to learn about apartheid, the mixed cultural make up of Cape Town, and the poverty that many people still have to ensure today. Some Townships, however, are not safe for visitors. If you stray into a Township area inadvertently, you should leave. The best way to see a Township, in terms of safety, respect, and educational value, is as part of an organised tour.
Be Aware of Car Jackings
If you plan to rent a car when visiting Cape Town, remember that some areas are prone to car jackings, which can be quite violent. Speak to people at the rental company and staff at your accommodation to find out which areas in particular you should avoid. Extra caution should be taken at night. Smash and grab thefts can occur when you are stationary, for example when waiting at a junction and a traffic light. Avoid having anything on display on the seats and be wary of people who walk into the road towards your vehicle. Keep your doors locked when not moving.
Do Not Carry Valuables
Leave all your valuables and important papers safe in your hotel when you venture out and about around Cape Town. Avoid flashing displays of wealth, including expensive electronics. Try and keep your camera concealed as much as possible. Avoid looking like you have anything that is worth stealing.
Be Cautious When Using Public Transport
Visitors should not hitchhike or accept a lift from strangers under any circumstances when in Cape Town. Minibus taxis are cheaper than regular taxis, but are also a lot more dangerous, due to erratic and unsafe driving. They are also often very crowded and so can be a prime stomping ground for pick pockets. Local trains are not advised for tourists. Thieves are common, and very little will deter them from taking what they want – there have been reports of people having had earrings ripped from their ears, and necklaces snatched from around the neck.
Avoid Walking Around at Night Time
Whilst most areas of the city are fairly safe during the daytime, at night it is always better to take a taxi – call ahead and pre-book one to meet you to prevent you having to search the streets for one. Stick to well lit and busy streets when you must walk around in the dark. During the day, watch out for what locals call strollers – they are glue sniffing and drug addicted children and adults, and they are also very adept thieves.
Listen to Shark Warnings
The waters off Cape Town’s beaches are known for sharks. When swimming, surfing, or doing other water based activities, stay alert and heed all warnings about shark sightings.
Other tips for staying safe in Cape Town include only going into the mountains in groups, never accepting help when using a cash machine, and taking care not to cause fires in the hot, dry areas. Most visitors enjoy a terrific time in Cape Town – make sure that you are one of them!