Crime - theft, Cape Town
Obviously most people that visit will leave unscathed but I will not lie to you - there are a LOT of shady and questionable characters hanging around.
As it is to be expected in a third world country with high unemployment and low education there is crime - just be smart. DO not walk by yourself at night, wear $$$ clothes or jewelry or act rich.
I saw 1 mugging and 1 attempted mugging during the week I was there. Police and security are everywhere but stay aware of your surroundings.
There are lots of pushy touts in the tourist areas, best to just ignore them.
Cape Town tries to look and act European but it is Africa and remember that and you will be fine.
Be careful when using the ATMs. If anyone approaches you and offers to help you with the "hard to use" machines, refuse their help and do not let them touch your card. A common scam occurs where the individual pretends to help you, but really steals your card, watches as you type in your PIN, and then pretends that your card has become stuck in the machine. By the time you realize what has happened, the individual has already handed off your card to a partner-in-crime who is withdrawing cash from a nearby machine.
Beware the pickpockets! Zips are a speciality for them, especially around Cape Town railway station. You are best off taking a throw-away camera, so at least it's only some pictures you lose if you are robbed.
We were having a fine time on Christmas day 2005 and decided to eat at Tasca de Belem Restaurant in the VA Waterfront in Cape Town. Big Mistake! We had our meal and when the bill came, we thought nothing of putting our credit card in the bill folder. A few minutes later the so-called assistant manager who took our card told us there was no payment in the folder. We insisted we had put in our credit card, but they basicaly accused us of trying to get a free lunch. We ended up at the Police Station, however while this was going on, our card was being swiped all over the VA Waterfront. They managed to get one charge through, almost $600 at an Edgards clothing store. To top things off, we talked to the owner of the restaurant who was totally rude and told us that we should essentially just get over it. Not so simple as we had to get a police report and file a notarized affidavit back in the states so as not to be liable for the charges. Moral of the story is, never lose sight of your credit card (as paranoid as that sounds) and avoid this restaurant! Terrible service, rude owner and thieves on staff!
There are many street kids in Cape Town, and elsewhere in South Africa, a worrying sign of the increasing social problems of the country. These kids can be dangerous and care needs to be taken if you are approached by a number of them in a pack. They are particularly quick at being able to get access into pockets and bags in search of money and other valuables. Be cautious when street kids are around.
Street children is a growing tragedy around the world - and they do not choose to be there, but empathy is litle consolation if your money is stolen.
If you want to help street children, there are plenty of outreach and shelter groups across South Africa that can really do with a donation!
Please take care when visiting the beach areas and walking trails in and around Cape Town. Numerous robberies and assaults have been reported in 2005.
Contact the local newspaper archives and any other source you can think of available on the internet to do research about the areas where you intend to travel.
NEVER HIKE ALONE! They kill for as little as a cellphone in South Africa!!!
Please be aware of the crime. Do not carry your whole camera equipment, your jewellery and a big amount of money with you.
Although Cape Town is a beautiful city, its crime rate is not to be underestimated. For your own safety please do not walk alone, especially at night.
One huge problem in Cape Town is the constant begging. They are everywhere you go, especially at traffic lights. Most people drive with their window up, especially at night, as some of the people begging get quite cloooooose...
Just be straight with them, say 'I cannot help you, sorry', try not to enter into conversation with them, as they are the most amazing story tellers!
If you really feel sorry for him/her buy him a loaf of bread and give it to him/her.
Plse dont get me wrong, there are legitimate beggars out there, with a genuine need. But most beggars are begging out of choice, they want no responsibility, are alcoholics and often drug addicts too.
There are shelters and churches and charities throughout South Africa that take them in, so they need not beg.
Their are not enough jobs anywhere in the world, and Capetown is no exception. Half of the world's population lives on $1-$2 dollars a day, and lots of them are in South Africa.
Crime is the only way they can survive, so don't display all your flash, ie cell phones, name brand purses, jewelry, etc. Be very careful as crime is a serious problem.
There is no enforcement of the laws, so this leads to people taking calculated risks that could kill you. Do not go out walking at night. Take a taxi to your destination and take one home. This is very important.
Do not drive without taking lessons to know how to handle car hijacking. It is best not to drive at all. It is possible to visit without driving, as I have been in Cape Town for 5 1/2 months and have never driven a car.
The best thing you can do for yourself before you arrive is to understand what you are walking into before you come here.
Read the wonderful book of Sampie Terreblanche, "A History of Inequality in South Africa. 1652-2002" published by University of Natal Press.
Beware of pickpockets in all busy areas, especially markets. My friend had her mobile phone taken out of her pocket. They weren't worried about her feeling it as once they had it they dissapeared into the crowd.
I think if you are aware as you should be in any place you would be fine. I carry my wallet in my front pocket and when in a busy place put my hand in my pocket to hold it.
It never hurts to be wary. It seems to have worked for me so far!
The reason I had not visited South Africa earlier was because of concerns over personal safety. To be honest I was almost paranoid. When I first arrived I was a little concerned at seeing walls and fences around the majority of properties and burglar bars everywhere over windows and doors.
I'm pleased to say that generally my fears were unfounded. Walking around in the daytime is fairly safe and I didn't feel threatened. After dark I kept in busy areas and took taxis to get around.
While in Cape Town an Irish couple staying at the same place as me were mugged. This sounded really bad at first but when I heard the details it seemed that they had just been stupid. They had been to a club or something late and decided to walk back at around 3am. They were both the worse for drink and the girl had been swinging her handbag around while teetering around drunk in high heels.
Acting like this is not advised. Get cabs after dark and don't have anything about your person that will be attractive to a potential thief.
One afternoon in front our hostel just outside the centre of Capetown, in a seemingly decent neighbourhood, the car window of some other travellers who stayed here, was smashed. As they had just arrived, everything was still in the car and when they returned from some shopping, everything was taken out in broad daylight...
Alarmed by this brutal theft, we took the few last things out of our car so it showed empty for a would be little burglar. The next morning, it appeared that our car window too was smashed.... Nothing was taken as there was nothing to take, but we were annoyed by having to switch our car at the rental office (which was swapped without any cost or discussion > good to you, Budget!!).
As for our fellow travellers who had been robbed of all their stuff: a few hours later all their bags were found on a church yard just around the corner.... the thieves had only taken some useless traveller's cheques.
This sort of crime is a serious problem in Capetown and it seems that the authorities have lost control over coping with it.
Basically as anywhere else. Be streetsmart, don't flash jewlery or wads of money. Don't let conmen fool you. All of my friends there have experienced an incident sometime be it just pickpocketing or robbery at point-blank. If you have a car there'll be the selfelected guards who 'help' you find parking by directing you into a space you found yourself anyway. As you leave the car they'll ask for money. It's strongly recommended to hand over up to R5 or so unless you want to find your car scratched or bumped. If it's a rental car think of what your waiver covers it might be worthwile to pay!
Be carefull at nights when you go out. Stay in the center, if going out do not go on your own to certain quarters but stay in group.
Beware of drunken drivers.