How stay safe in Cape Town

When you are traveling to Cape Town or through South Africa you want to make sure that you stay safe. The last thing you need on your travels is to get your money, phone or documents stolen. Luckily there are a bunch of very easy ways to stay safe when traveling to and around Cape Town.

Yes, South Africa does have crime, but that doesn't mean you need will become a victim. Follow these basic tips and stay safe when you travel to Cape Town...

I’m going to share my tips on staying safe while you enjoy traveling around Cape Town and South Africa in general. These tips are incredibly easy to implement.  I think every country has its fair share of problems with crime, especially focused at tourists which tend to make easy targets. So knowing how to avoid dangerous situations in general will make traveling to any country a little less scary. You don’t have to be afraid of visiting South Africa at all if you know how to stay safe.

When traveling to Cape Town keep in mind that South Africa does actually have a high crime rate. I’m not going to lie.

This may be attributed to the high levels of poverty in the country, this means that theft will be your biggest concern most of the time. I’ve lived in Cape Town for the last 9 years now and most of the incidents of crime I hear about happening to friends and people around me, are simple theft. A phone gets snatched here or a parked car will get its window broken so that they can get whatever was left on the seat. Things like that. The thieves seldom tend to get violent, especially if you cooperate and give them what they want.

Now, I don’t want to scare you off from traveling to Cape Town or South Africa in general. In fact incidences like these rarely happen, but you also want to be prepared so that you don’t fall victim either. Living in ignorance will only make you more vulnerable. I think most of these tips hold true for anywhere in the world you travel too. It’s far better to be vigilant and safe so you can enjoy traveling, than ruin your trip because you let your guard down too much.

Don’t show off what you have

Don’t be flashy with your gadgets when traveling to Cape Town and South Africa in general. You never know who is watching you or keeping track of where your stuff is, so hide your phone and don’t wear expensive jewellery. You also want to make sure you keep a firm grip on your valuables like your hand bag or camera at all times. This will make it more difficult for anyone to snatch it from you. This alone can act as a deterrent for theft.

If you are at a restaurant, never put your handbag on the ground or anywhere you can’t see it at all times.

The most common way for theft to occur in Cape Town is the ‘grab and run’ where someone will come up to you from behind and grab your phone out of your hand. They usually wait till you are distracted, on the phone or texting. This can happen literally anywhere, in the bathrooms, in a mall, on the street. I have even heard of it happening to someone while she was sitting in her car.

Be safe in your car

This brings me to car safety. When you are in a stationary vehicle for whatever reason, always lock the doors and keep the windows up. This way any would-be thief can’t simply pull open the door to grab your stuff, or lean in to grab your phone while you are texting or talking on the phone.

Never ever ever ever pick up hitch hikers when traveling in and around Cape Town. Your intentions might be pure, but theirs may not be. Don’t risk it.

When parking your car

Again, you always want to keep your doors locked. Make sure you have locked your car when you park it anywhere. This is too much of a temptation for opportunistic car thieves.

Also make sure that you never leave any items at all in your car. So if, for example you go for out for supper and park your car somewhere, don’t leave your jacket or bag or camera in the car. These are a big temptation for would be thieves and almost guarantees the car will be broken into.

Whenever you park your car anywhere check that you haven’t left anything in the car. If you think you will get cold later on then take that jacket with you or put it in the boot of the car where no one can see it.

Stick to touring during the day

Don’t walk alone at night, even if you are guy. This may sound obvious for some people, but it may not be for everyone, especially if you are lucky enough to live in a very safe country. Many crimes in South Africa happen at night, when the would-be criminals can take you by surprise or corner you in a dark area where no one else can see what’s happening.

Don’t assume that because an area looks like a posh or safe area that there won’t be any crime there.

If you are going out at night, go in a group and go to a well-lit area. Stick to areas where there a lot of locals or security guards as these tend to be safer options too.

Safety on the mountain

Cape Town is home to some beautiful hikes for all fitness levels. Some of my favourites are around Table Mountain and Lion’s Head and I highly recommend them, but as with everything in life there is some level of danger, and not just from getting hurt or lost on the mountain either.

When it comes to crime, yes, it happens on the mountain too. Usually thieves seem to look for lone hikers who make easy targets, but it’s not uncommon for small groups to get mugged or cars to get broken into for whatever happens to be on the seat.

Keep yourself safe by only hiking during the day and with a decent sized group of people. You are less likely to be targeted if you outnumber them. Take the most popular paths, where there are lots of locals. These tend to be the safer hiking trails.

Load these emergency number onto your phone when you go hiking just in case you find yourself stuck or injured on the mountain.

Emergency numbers:

  • Main emergency number: 086 110 6417
  •  SAPS (South African Police Service): 10111 (02110111 on cell)
  •  CT Emergency Services: (021) 480 7700
  •  CT Central OPS Centre: (021) 467 8002

Be vigilant when…

The number one thing that has gotten me out of potential mugging situations is being vigilant.

Be aware of your surroundings, especially if someone is following your or watching you. Know where you are on a map and know where you safe zones are.

These will be busy places with security guards. Don’t ever get lost alone in the city either. If you are walking somewhere and you think you are being followed do something unexpected, like cross the street and walk on the opposite pavement. If they copy you then you know that you are being followed for sure. Keep an eye on them and try to walk faster than they are. This lets them know that you are onto them and more often than not they will give up.

If they still follow you make your way to a busy space with security guards or walk into a shop. If you notice that they are hanging outside the shop waiting for you ask the shop assistant to call for security. Don’t feel shy to do so either. Trust your instincts here.

Be cautious with your stuff

Cape Town markets

Don’t take your phone or wallet out in public spaces like markets. You are showing people what you have on you and where you keep it, and if you are distracted while looking for something in your wallet, this is an ideal time for the thief to grab it right from your hand.

Wait till you are in a safe space like in a restaurant or in your car before you answer that text or check your bag for whatever. If you want to tip a car guard then do so after you are in your vehicle. He won’t mind.

Keeping stuff in your hotel room

Lock your luggage and keep your valuables in the safe provided by hotels. They are there for a reason, use them.

I also always lock my bags when I leave the room. I prefer to use combinations locks that are difficult to ‘pick’ so that if I don’t have to worry about looking after keys.

Who you gonna call?

Emergency numbers that you need to know when traveling to Cape Town:

  • Main emergency number: 086 110 6417
  •  SAPS (South African Police Service): 10111 (02110111 on cell)
  •  CT Emergency Services: (021) 480 7700
  •  CT Central OPS Centre: (021) 467 8002

If you are traveling to Cape Town soon and want to keep safe then it’s worthwhile to keep in mind that most crimes in Cape Town are opportunistic and they are just after your stuff.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are being mugged then the rule of thumb is don’t be a hero. Yes it sucks having your stuff stolen, but it’s better than being injured on your trip. Give them what they want to avoid any violence. No possession is worth your life.

It really does pay to always be vigilant and keep hold of your valuables. Know your surroundings and make yourself a difficult target. This makes you less likely to fall victim to crimes in when traveling to Cape Town and South Africa in general.


little extra travel tip:

So, this little trick is one my mother actually taught me. She keeps a small handbag with her for essentials, but then she also has a small stash of money in her boot just in case. The last thing you want is to be caught in a strange country with no money to get a taxi to get back to your hotel.

Extra resource

The South African Police Service also has some safety advice you can follow.

Did you find this article helpful? Do you have any other travel safety tips that work for you? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to share or pin this article. Sharing is caring 🙂

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