Cape Town is a popular tourist destination for many reasons. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful and scenic cities in the world with so much to see and do. Cape Town offers stunning natural beauty, white sandy beaches, traditional fishing villages, and several must-see destinations. It appeals to tourists for any kind of holiday or vacation.
Despite being Africa’s favourite city, Cape Town has had its share of struggles. This had a lot to do with South Africa’s history of political, racial, and economic instability. Hence, though the city has progressed greatly since such times, there is still a common perception that Cape Town is a dangerous city.
The truth is Cape Town is just like every other city in the world. It has its share of crime. It is a thriving yet developing city with almost equal levels of poverty and wealth, and this drives mostly opportunistic crimes like petty thieving. But also like those regular cities, being aware of your surroundings and concerned about your security keeps you safe each day. Safety is an important issue for tourists travelling to any destination and applying a few simple precautions can make your time in Cape Town the best holiday ever.
Read on for some safety tips to help you enjoy a hassle-free stay in Cape Town.
Driving in Cape Town
As a tourist travelling to Cape Town, preparing to adjust to a more flexible law system is a great approach. You can hire a car to make your stay more comfortable and ease transportation. Car hire in the city is reasonably priced.
Driving in Cape Town is like driving in most African cities. It is good to know the rules of the road but more important to keep an eye out for people’s behaviours. Don’t get carried away with obeying the traffic signs because other drivers won’t do that every time. Make sure your car is not too close to the car in front of you. Leave some space in-between. Ensure that you can see people when they cross the road and don’t be shy to hoot the car horn. Try to relax and don’t panic when you make a mistake. Know that speed is measured in Kilometers in Cape Town and not miles.
It is always a good idea to keep your doors locked and windows up while driving in Cape Town. Any valuables or cash you have on you should be out of sight in the vehicle.
Drunk driving is not acceptable or safe because it puts you in a vulnerable position. If you have had a drink or more, you can take a taxi to your location.
Public transport in Cape Town
If you don’t hire a car during your stay in Cape Town, you can cope perfectly with the various forms of convenient public transports in the city. There is a reliable bus transport system called MyCiti and cabs or taxis services like Uber, Taxify, and Unicab. You will need a bus card to use the MyCiti bus and it is most efficient during the day. The bus can get you almost everywhere, but having a good knowledge of the routes beforehand is the best way to use the MyCiti bus system. Uber is easy to use and saves you from having to negotiate fares with the driver- this is common with regular taxis in the city. You are fully aware of the Uber fare before you use the vehicle and can be assured of your safety. It is important to confirm that the driver you meet is the driver scheduled to pick you up.
Cape Town is a city with extremely friendly locals. Greeting, smiling and helping each other is a part of the society’s culture in Cape Town. To preserve your safety and avoid getting lost, you can always ask questions. Ask friendly people in busy areas or preferably security officials in uniform like the CCID. You can also walk into any shop and ask the attendants for help or direction. Being courteous and kind with the locals can enhance the success of your vacation.
Another important tip is to avoid lonely roads. It’s not strange to find yourself leaving a busy street and walking into an empty one. Don’t choose such moments to be brave in this city. Go back to the busy street and ask for directions or advice.
Don’t be flashy
Like any other bustling city flashing your valuables around can make you a target for petty crime. First, try to limit the number of valuables you carry. This includes phones, cameras, jewelry, and cash. Keep them out of plain sight and don’t get carried away bringing them out and exposing where you hid them. Leave most of these expensive things at home. Wear clothes with tight pockets that make it difficult for pickpockets to access your items. Don’t keep your wallets and phones in bag packs, then hang them behind you. Try to be inconspicuous and act less like a clueless visitor. If you have to use your phone or camera in public often, keep a tight grip on them. Hang the camera on your neck or tightly on your wrist. Also, do not be too focused on a phone in a busy area; look around you and make purposeful eye contact with anyone looking at you.
Cape Town qualifies as a cashless society because we do not encourage you to carry large sums of cash around. As a tourist in Cape Town, learn to hold as little cash as possible, but enough to buy you a coffee or anything simple that interests you. Cape Town has ATMs in almost every corner, so when you need to spend or pay for something, it’s easy to withdraw and immediately rid yourself of all that cash.
There are several ATMs in Cape Town, but this doesn’t mean you should use just any of these units. Debit card crimes and fraud occur from time to time and the best way to avoid this is by using ATMs that are part of a respected store or a bank. Protect your PIN and personal information. More importantly, do not accept help at the ATM from a stranger. If you find yourself in a tricky situation, call on a man in official uniform like the CCID or security guard for the building.
Crossing the road in Cape Town
As mentioned earlier, you have to adjust to the flexible rules in the city. Crossing the road in Cape Town can differ from crossing roads in other cities. As a tourist, you must remember that the traffic signs do not mean everything. Drivers drive on the left side of the road in Cape Town. Hence, it’s logical to look mostly right when crossing, but it is also advisable to look both left and right in the city. Check both sides before and during your crossing regardless of if it’s a one-way street or if the traffic lights are red for crossing. You can safely cross the road if there are no cars in sight.
Accommodation in Cape Town
Tourists in Cape Town have a broad range of accommodation options to choose from. It is always better to sort out accommodation before you arrive at your travel destination but remember to consider factors like location, safety, and cost. Try to make research on each option and avoid choosing places in the middle of the city. While staying at such a location may sound harmless and fun, it is the heart of the city and in Cape Town, such places have a nightlife that some people may not be comfortable with. The best accommodation choices for your visit should be around or outside the city.
Have zero tolerance for walking in the city at night, especially when you are alone. If necessary, take a taxi from your home or hotel to where you need to go at night and do the same when it’s time to go back to your room. You can enjoy your visit to several places during the day, but visiting similar open places at night is not ideal.
A decent amount of crime can be found almost everywhere in the world. Being a tourist usually means you know very little about your destination city and have come to explore it for fun and adventure. It is possible to visit the best parts of Cape Town and have no reason to worry about your safety. However, if you are a tourist who wants to see most of the city, especially on the street levels, then you need to stay alert. When you appear vigilant and let others who watch you see you watch them too with boldness, you become a difficult target for any petty crime.
If you become a victim of pickpockets or any criminal activity on a personal and physical level, give up your valuables and walk away because they are never worth your safety. You can also make a report immediately to the CCID in the area. Be open to meeting people and being friendly with them. Make the most out of the welcoming spirit in Cape Town.
Don’t hold back on your travel plans to Cape Town. The city is beautiful and certain to make you fall in love with it.