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A question that comes up a lot when talking to people about Africa is “Is Cape Town Safe for Solo Travellers?”
And my answer is always the same: “It’s complicated.”
For most of you, you’ve probably heard of South Africa for its high murder rates and crime.
Not the greatest turn on for newbie travellers.
But although this may be true for some parts of South Africa, there are actually some incredible parts of South Africa that are awesome for travellers to visit.
I actually loved my experience travelling solo in Cape Town. It’s a really cool travel destination.
In case you’re thinking of travelling to Cape Town, there are some things you need to know. Here are 9 safety tips that I learned, to help you stay safe whilst travelling solo in Cape Town.
9 Safety Tips for Solo Travellers in Cape Town
It is true that if you’re travelling through South Africa solo, you will need to be on your guard most of the time.
Solo travellers can be considered easy targets for petty crime and theft, however there are simple things you can do to reduce your likelihood of becoming a target.
From my experience, keeping to the touristy spots in the city, staying away from the “burbs” or city outskirts and taking the right precautions can definitely help.
1) Be Careful Walking Alone & Stick to the “Safe Zones”
There are various sections of Cape Town that are safe for solo travellers. But like other cities, there are also some areas you should avoid or be very careful in.
When I was travelling through Cape Town on my own, I was always very cautious of my belongings, my location and the parts of the city I was walking.
When arriving to Cape Town, you should start by asking your accommodation about any places of the city that are safe or unsafe for solo travellers.
This is always one of the first things I do when staying in a new country or city.
I also take the time to look over a city map and get familiar with the layout of the city because it allows me to walk with greater purpose and confidence, rather than constantly referring to a map or looking lost.
It can also give you greater closure on where you can feel more relaxed if walking alone, versus where you need to be on your game and focused.
I also avoided walking around the city at night, especially when by myself. I didn’t want to unnecessarily increase my risk of becoming a target or getting lost.
My final tip on this is TRUST YOUR GUT. If something feels off, then it probably is.
Our intuition is a powerful thing and there’s no harm in removing yourself from a situation if you feel uneasy, vulnerable or exposed.
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2) Stay Somewhere That Allows You to Meet Other Travellers
If you’re still worried about whether Cape Town is safe for solo travellers, my second tip is to deliberately stay somewhere where you can meet other solo travellers.
When I travelled solo to Cape Town, I deliberately made the effort to stay in highly reviewed hostels, meet other travellers and make friends.
This enabled us to team up and explore the city together, rather than walking on our own.
If you’re worried about putting yourself out there and meeting new people, ensure to check out the article below for some tips.
3) Don’t Wear Flashy Jewellery or Expensive Clothing
When I travelled to Cape Town, I was very lucky that I didn’t have anything stolen.
There were some travellers at my hostel in Cape Town who had their passport, wallet and all different things stolen. Sadly it was often due to negligence and naivety on their part.
Most travellers find that with proper preparation and precaution, you can reduce your likelihood of becoming a target.
Try to avoid standing out from the crowd, and leave expensive and sentimental jewellery at home, or lock it in your accommodation safe.
4) Tips to Secure & Protect Your Belongings
The first thing you must remember when trying to stay safe in Cape Town, is that you are not in your home country.
Stolen hand bags, cameras and phones are common in Cape Town, as well as all over South Africa.
The “snip and run” tactic with over-the-shoulder handbags is a common thieving technique all over the world.
That’s why, I always make it a habit to hold my hand on my bag or position it at the front of my body whilst walking through a new city, no matter where I’m travelling.
Tips for Protecting Your belongings 101:
- NEVER EVER leave your passport and other critical documents in your handbag unattended.
- NEVER keep your wallet or cash loose in your back packets
- ALWAYS have backups of cash, credit cards and even a photocopy of your passport in your luggage or room safe.
- ALWAYS lock your valuables, passport, tech, and other critical documents in your accommodation
That way, if you get pickpocketed or have hand bag / back pack stolen, you’re not completely F**CKED.
5) Avoiding Bag Theft in Cape Town
When I was travelling in Cape Town, I met some locals on a tour who were warning me of the importance of not being on my phone in public.
I thought they sounded paranoid, but after one shared their story, I realised that I wasn’t in Australia anymore and I had to be careful.
One girl had her smart phone snatched FROM HER HAND whilst on a phone call in the street. A man literally came up from behind her, grabbed the phone and dove straight into a taxi never to be seen again.
I then met a traveller who was freaking out in my hostel because she’d had all her stuff stolen on New Year’s Eve.
Her passport. Her bank cards. Her Cash. EVERYTHING!
At the time, I felt absolutely terrible for her and was so thankful that it wasn’t me. But, we later found out that her negligence and naivety were partly the reason they were stolen.
Firstly, she’d been drinking, dancing and partying all night on the beach.
Second, she’d left her hand bag (with all of those critical items inside it) unattended on the sand rather than locked in her room safe. An absolute NO GO in South Africa.
6) How to Prevent Getting Pickpocketed
Pick-pocketing is another common crime that happens in South Africa.
To reduce the likelihood of this happening to you, avoid placing your wallet and phone in your pocket or having a handbag/backpack that does not zip up.
I took this even further by having a lock on my backpack zips so that people couldn’t even open my bag if they tried.
Sure, you may consider this paranoid or inconvenient, but throughout my whole year of travelling I never had anything stolen.
7) Avoid Looking at Maps in Public
One of the greatest tips I was told before I travelled solo, was to avoid looking at a map or phone for long periods of time if lost in a new city.
This is because by doing so you’re practically screaming “I’m a lost tourist” to everyone nearby. This can mark you as a great target for scammers and pickpockets and put you in a vulnerable position.
Instead, familiarise yourself with the city map and where you’re wanting to go BEFORE you leave your accommodation.
I also like to fold the map up into quarters so I can hold it in my palm as I’m walking and it’s less obvious that it’s a map.
Alternatively, download a map app to your iPhone that doesn’t need data or wifi to work, such as Maps.me.
Maps.me is one of the best travel apps that I recommend for solo travellers because it doesn’t need wifi or data, once you’ve downloaded the relevant map to your phone.
Therefore, you don’t need to refer to a physical paper map or brochure when exploring a new city, and it tracks your location so you know exactly where you are.
- You must to download the maps to your phone first at a time when you do have wifi or data (eg. At home before you leave or in the hostel), otherwise it won’t work.
8) Safe Transport Options in Cape Town
Public transport in South Africa is unlike that of other developed countries. It’s practically non-existent.
To my surprise, Uber was actually a really common and safer form of transport in Cape Town. Just ensure that the person you book with has a good number of positive reviews.
Uber is also a great alternative when you have met a couple of other travellers and want to explore the city together.
The fares are pretty cheap and I felt that it was a safer option compared to taxis because it’s trackable, the fee is automatically direct debited and the drivers are given reviews.
There are also parts of Cape Town where it’s safe to walk.
I spent a lot of my trip walking between the main tourist sites to save money and get some exercise, and didn’t have any problems.
9) How to Stay Safe When Self-Driving
One of the best ways to travel around and visit South African wildlife and national parks is to hire a car and road trip.
However, in South Africa, car-jacking is a pretty common crime. Especially, when people are stopped at traffic lights (robots), intersections or stop signs at night.
Here are some important things to consider when driving in Cape Town:
- Avoid getting out of your car or leaving it on the side of the road unattended to take photos
- Leave enough space between you and the car in front so you can escape if needed
- Don’t stop at traffic lights, top signs or intersections at night
- In an intersection without street lights, the first vehicle that arrives has the priority.
- Like Australia, South Africans drive on the left.
If you’d like to read more about what you should and shouldn’t do when driving in South Africa, ensure to check out the article below.
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Is Cape Town Safe for Solo Travellers?
In my opinion, Yes.
Based on my personal experience I believe that Cape Town is a safe tourist destination for Solo Travellers. BUT, you still need to do your research, be street-smart, prepared and take the right precautions.
You should never be naïve and blasé when travelling in South Africa full stop, whether alone or not.
In summary, I recommend that the best ways to stay safe are to:
- Be careful where you walk and avoid unsafe zones of the city or the suburbs
- Try to meet other travellers in your accommodation that you can team up with
- Avoid bringing attention to yourself by wearing flashy or sentimental jewellery
- Secure and protect your belongings by locking them up, having zippable bags or leaving them at home entirely
- Consider using Uber to get to places that aren’t walking distance from your accommodation
- Spend only short moments looking at your smartphone in public, eg. To check a map.
- Avoid wearing expensive clothing, bags or sunglass brands
- Avoid leaving your bag unattended whether it be on a chair, at the beach or anywhere else for that matter. Even if you’re only a few meters away.
- Avoid walking around at night or in the evening when the sun’s going down
The greatest truth is that if you stand out from the locals and look like a tourist, you could be setting yourself up to be a target.
If you haven’t started preparing for your trip to South Africa, or haven’t travelled solo before – ensure to get our FREE Solo Traveller Starter Pack below.
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