Areas to avoid, Cape Town
I hired a car for 2 months in Cape Town and got lost many, many times. I never had any problems but when I told some of the locals about my little side-trips they were horrified.
Not all the dangerous areas are easy to see townships like Khayhelitsa and Guguletu. Somebody else said Mitchell's Plain is a 'shanty town' but it looks like pretty much anywhere else in Cape Town if rather run-down. I drove through here obliviously, and apparently it's one of the most dangerous places in South Africa with very severe gang-related problems.
Other places I was told it wasn't wise to be in:
Green Point/Sea Point (at night)
City Centre (at night)
Atlantis (an industrial city north of CT)
Don't be nervous though. If you are sensible Cape Town is a safe place.If you are driving just remember to keep your car doors locked and when stopping at traffic lights leave a gap between you and the car in front so, if needs be, you can make a quick getaway.
I have no idea whether the stories you hear about South African townships are true or not, but apparently these are some of the most dangerous places on earth and tourists are not to go there on their own.
There are many townships in and around Cape Town, most of them in the area south-east of the center called Cape Flats.
Having said that, visiting a township in South Africa is a must for tourists. It's important to see and understand that South Africa is not just Camps Bay and the Garden Route, just make sure to have trustworthy local guidance and don't visit on your own!
I was abosolutely horrified to read the one "warning" on the dangers you face when living in Cape Town. Having lived here for almost 25years I can assure you that I have never had to face machine gunfire, had a lazer aimed at me whilst driving or any of the other horrors that the writer describes and YES, I have had to travel through some of the areas that he/she mentions including the Cape Flats on numerous occassions.
Cape Town, like any other city in the world, is as safe as you make it by using common sense.
Common mistakes made by tourists:
1. Carrying camera's and other expensive electonic gadgets in your hands where they are clearly visible - pop them in a handbag/backpack to avoid tempation.
2. Don't wander around with a map looking lost - go into the nearest shop/resturant and ask for assistance.
3. Don't catch lifts in the minibus taxi's - these are dangerous even for the locals but as a tourist, you are vulnerable. Rather use a metered taxi or, in daylight hours, a bus or the train. The train which runs on the southern line i.e. from Cape Town to Simonstown is relatively safe, well patrolled and used by hundreds of local commuters but like any other country, try and sit in a carriage where there are other people and use the Metroplus option.
4. Anyone visiting the townships should make use of guided tours and should do so in daylight hours. Where there is poverty, there is opportunism - it's as simple as that.
5. Don't wear loads of jewelry - if you look at the locals you will have an idea of what you should or shouldn't wear. Again, there is a small criminal element wherever you go and Cape Town is no different.
6. Popular tourist destinations such as the Waterfront are perfectly safe and well patrolled but don't walk back to your hotels at night unless the hotel is within the Waterfront complex.
7. Keep your doors locked and your windows up when driving at night and if lost, drive to the nearest petrol station - most petrol attendants in RSA are very efficient in giving directions.
Cape town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world - not only do we have a floral kingdom, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world in Table mountain but we also have a history and the quirky mix of the rainbow nation - popping down to Kalkbay harbour to listen to the fishwives haggle, walking through Kirstenbosch National gardens, sipping wine at a little bistro near the sea, viewing art in the national gallery or even feeding squirrels in the company gardens. It's a city that lives and breathes by day and by night.
Be sensible, follow the example of the locals and try to use common sense but most of all, enjoy this beautiful city.
Crime and safety are among the main issues of people travelling to South Africa. However, there is no reason to be that concerened about it like in Johannesburg, for example. Just follow a couple of rules and you will be able to move safely and comfortable around Cape Town:
-Ask for and listen to local advice
-Do not visit the townships and outskirts without any local guide
-Do not visit areas like the Bo-Kaap or the city center around the train station at night
-Use public transport only on routes within the city center, to the Waterfront or to Sea Point. If you want to use public transport on other routes, do it only with locals you know.
Waterfront, Long Street and most areas of Sea Point are safe and lively places to go out. Be careful and don’t do anything you would not do in any other big city of this world. Follow this rules, use your common sense and enjoy a safe trip to one of the most interesting places on this planet.
I actually just just joined to be able to respond to a post about how dangerous Cape Town is. It painted a picture of lazers on highways, gun battles, physical attacks, having to break peoples fingers and the need to carry a knife, amongst others.
I don't know what this person was smoking while watching a Schwarzenegger movie, but this is not the Cape Town that I, my family, my friends and work colleagues, and public in general, know. There are some very dangerous places in Cape Town that are not of any interest to tourists, and unfortunately the poor suffer most from this violence in some of these areas of the townships where there is a gang problem. The black townships have a thriving B&B and tourism trade and these places are not just the dens of evil that people think. People of all races are welcomed and tours are safe.
Cape Town certainly has more petty and violent crime than many other major western cities and also less than many cities in Brazil , West Indies etc. All that is needed is some extra common sense. If you want to walk around with an expensive camera around your neck in deserted places, leave your valuables on your car seat while walking around, stagger around drunk in the middle of the night flashing money etc then you will probably find trouble. Just common sense. It does not take a genius to look at surroundings and work out that there might be some questionable characters about. Millions of people have visited CT without incident, and have also never, never experienced the absolute chaos that was discribed in a previous post. I drink a lot of beer and go out a lot, and never to fancy places or even the Waterfront and I have never had a problem.
I overheard a local, of the same school of thought, telling the same horror stories to a newly arrived, middle aged English couple soem time before the world cup. The predictions of violence, crime, chaos, traffic etc just went on and until I had to intervene, and waded in full blast. I chatted to the English couple for a long time and just said that they should just be sensible, use logic and make sure they enjoy themselves.
They now come back regularly and e mail me, still laughing at the idiot with the horror stories...... who now will never mention the world cup because of the success.
I've been living in Cape Town from may to june 2013 and none of the things many mention here happened to me. I drove by night, stopped at robots, walk by myself in the dark and nothing, really nothing of this happened. I'm really surprised of what's written here. I've met only gentle people always ready to help in case of need and never asking me (or trying to steal me) something. Sergio from Italy
I can't believe what I am hearing. No wonder so many tourists get mugged and hi jacked in SA. You should avoid places like the Cape Flats, Mitchells Plain, Guguletu ect at all costs, these places are extremely dangerous!I am definitely NOT a racist, but if you want to be in a dangerous area, go there.
BE CAREFUL AND STAY AWAY!
I come from a small town outside Cape Town. I have gone overseas and know how it feels to be a stranger in another country. Personally I do not recommend visiting any places at night in Cape Town unless it is in a crowded area. But be extra careful of pick pocketing.If you know a local in the area they can give you advice specifically for that area. Do not use any form of public transport at night (especially trains) If you have to use the train, preferably use it during peak times (before 10:00 and between 15:00 to 17:30) when there are many hard working people on the trains. South Africa is a multi-racial country and any tourist can easily blend in depending on where you find yourself in Cape Town. However, try to hide your phone / camera / wallet from any public viewing because this will make you an easy target (for any tourist or South African). Especially look out for people that have worn out / torn / dirty clothes because they are likely to beg for money or ask you the time (where they will try to take your phone if you check the time). If you are willing to give someone money, always keep spare change (coins) in your pocket to prevent you from taking out your wallet where it might get stolen. And on more positive note:...Cape Town is probably the most beautiful city in South Africa and if you have the time, do visit the scenic wine town of Stellenbosch (just 50 km East of Cape Town)
Capetown is only slightly safer than the other major cities of South Africa (i.e. Jo'burg & Durban). I walked everywhere alone, even through the deserted downtown on a weekend, but I look back now and feel quite lucky nothing happenned to me. Stick to main roads when walking around, or travel in groups. Avoid taking short cuts through public parks, as some of my fellow travellers got mugged while doing so.
There is this chemical plant or something just beside the highway when you enter the city from east ( from Somerset West), and when you drive by it it really stinks even if you close all your windows.I dont know what kind of idiot decided to place that thing at the entrance of the city. stinky welcome, huh
On the whole I had a lovely time in Cape Town where I was staying with family. However I decided to take the Red Bus City tour of Cape Town, and felt as I would be with a group of other fellow tourists it would be ok. However I did not count on being the only tourist waiting for the bus, which was extremely late, outside the District 6 museum!!! Although the museum was extremely thought provoking, I felt extremely vunerable whilst waiting for the bus as I soon attracted the attention of some local drunks! Before I knew it I was surrounded by 4 guys harrasing me for money, grabbing my wists etc!! Luckily one of the employees from the museum saw and helped me back in where I waited inside for the bus. I urge anyone who does the bust tour, if you are doing it by yourself ask if you can join other fellow tourist when getting off a stops. This incident really did ruin my stay in Cape Town unfourtunately, as I felt so scared and vunerable, a feeling which I am not used to.
I was mugged and stabbed in my back several times - while leaving work in the middle of the CBD (it was already dark but I was parked where hundreds of cars were earlier. Lucky to only have a punctured lung. That was several years ago - when people heard, I started hearing their stories. Almost everyone personally (directly) knows someone who has been affected by violent crime here. I don't know anyone who has not been a victim of petty crime. And then a few days ago a collegue was stopped by "police" at night when driving home from work. When he realised they were not police he drove on - and was shot at....
There are birds called ostriches here - and there are a lot of people who have a similiar habit of sticking their heads in the ground.
I found Europe to be a totally different story - far far safer.
My fiance was supposed to be going to Cape Town to work and I must say that reading these types of comment on various travel forums has really helped her/us to make the decision. It's almost hilarious. I'm sure the guys on here who make out that death is a certainty as soon as you step off the plane are exaggerating as is the norm about any big city. I've heard some nonsense about London a few times.
But on the other hand the list of "Basic" precautions listed here and other forums is ridiculous. Some of the best I've heard are:
don't stop at red lights at night
don't go out at night by yourself (seriously?!?!)
don't go out at all by yourself (my god?!)
don't use a phone outside
don't use a map outside
check your car for people hiding in it when you get back to it
don't wear anything of value
carry a fake bag to give to muggers
don't take public transport
lock your car doors while driving
keep your windows closed at all times
And these are from those reviewers telling you NOT to worry about South Africa.
You guys know that isn't "basic" right? That's not normal for any SAFE city.
I would like to point out that if you plan making a trip to Cape Town make sure you include a trip to the Cape Flats, Mitchells Plein is definitely not the most dangerous place in the world. I worked in South Africa for a year in Transkei, and 3 months in Cape Town. I spent three months working for a child protection organisation and travelled across many different areas of Cape Town. There is definitely a real threat of crime and you should be mindful but not paranoid. I do not speak as a lucky tourist, I was car jacked in Transkei and mugged in Cape Town centre.
If you do plan making a trip to any area that is not entirely geared up for tourists you should seek local peoples advice and maybe visit with someone who knows the area. However be mindful of some local advice as you will find that some Cape Tonians have never ventured to the cape Flats despite living in Cape Town their whole lives and have an unfounded and, I hate to say it, but racial fear of the area. You will find people very helpful from all racial backgrounds. If you are wanting to understand a little bit about south africa then you must visit the Cape Flats or other township areas, otherwise I believe you will be visiting a fantasy world that isn't half as exciting, vibrant or colourful. However if you do want a relaxing, care free holiday which I often do, then the Cape Flats is possibly not the easiest of places to visit.
Last peace of safety advice, if you are worried about where you are or your situation, make friends, and show respect, tallk to the person nearest to you, this is often easier to do in South Africa than other places, and you will find just how hospitable friendly and welcoming 99% of the population are from all backgrounds.