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help! traveling to cape town - need advice

edited June 2011 in - Southern Africa
I was wondering if anyone out there had information or opinions on traveling to Cape Town. My friend and I are aged 20 and 22 (one male, I being the younger female), and are planning on traveling alone. After looking up hotels and flights, I decided to go to a travel agent to get some more information about activities and legitimate places to go. She basically told me Cape Town isn't that safe, and when going to Africa one should take a guided tour. The problem with that is we just wanted to stay in the city, and explore near by areas, go cage diving, take day trips etc. Most tours only offer long trips all across Africa.

I have a little traveling experience, I've been to Europe twice once on a tour and the other independently, but with an experienced traveler. My friend doesn't have much experience at all.

If anyone out there has experience in Cape Town, please let me know what you think. Is it safe to stay in the city in a hotel, wander about especially for a young looking girl?


  • edited 4:02PM
    Hi. I have lived in Cape Town for 36 years. There is no such thing anywhere in the world as a 100% "safe" city; it's more a case of comparative safety when deciding where to travel to and what to watch out for once there. Whatever you do don't believe everything you see in the media or for that matter what your government's foreign affairs departments might tell you on their websites about travel safety. If you accepted everything they put out you wouldn't set foot outside your front door!

    Cape Town is in my view probably about half way down the ladder on a "City Safety" scale if such a thing existed when comparing it to other world cities. It is certainly safer than Johannesburg and other African cities such as Nairobi, Cairo or Lagos. Our family have NEVER had any sort of security problem in Cape Town all the years we have been here.

    That said a simple application of good old common sense is needed whilst here (as in just about anywhere these days).

    A few "don'ts". No fancy jewellery, keep cameras and mobile phones out of sight as much as you can. Don't open a wallet or purse with a lot of cash in it when others can clearly see the contents. Avoid carrying lots of cash around with you - there are 100s of ATMs in and around Cape Town but employ normal ATM vigilance when using them (hide your PIN entry from onlookers, don't take "advice" from so called helpers, only use ATMs in bright, busy areas and watch for ATMs that look like they might have been doctored with hidden cameras; ones near banks are the most unlikely to fall into this category). Don't walk at night alone or in deserted or poorly lit areas (get local advice from your accommodation). Perhaps most important of all - dress and behave as if you are NOT a visitor/tourist. Even if you're lost or need directions rather go into a shop, hotel, cafe etc and look PURPOSEFUL and busy!

    Cape Town is not rated as South Africa's favourite amongst almost all overseas visitors without reason. It has everything you will need and a cross section of things to do, places to visit that is unequalled anywhere else in Africa.

    Of course there are plenty of hotels in and around Cape Town from 6 star down to -3! Maybe you should look at staying in one of the 100s of B&Bs where you will receive more personal service and advice and where there are some excellent deals to be had. Just keep in mind that from early December to mid February and around Easter time is peak tourism season here. Check or for all types of accommodation info.

    Good luck - enjoy Cape Town!
  • edited 4:02PM
    That's some great advice, especially the bit about looking purposeful. As a younger female expat, I've wandered around some fairly dodgy areas in Cape Town and Durban by myself and gotten away with it by following guidelines like these. If you've travelled in Europe you have a general idea of how to act in a foreign city, so be smart.

    Don't worry about coming to Cape Town. It's fairly safe and you'll have a great time here! Most younger travellers and backpackers like to stay in or near Long Street, which is the heart of the city's nightlife and provides easy access to other areas of interest. The website Coasting Africa has a great list of backpackers and budget accommodation.

    If you're still looking for information on things to do in Cape Town, check out the Cape Town Travel Guide from Word Travels.
  • edited 4:02PM
    Being from Cape Town myself, I can assure your client that as long as they stick to the basic rules such as not walking around alone after dark and not walking around with cameras, purses etc that invite people and inform them that they might have money it is safe. I walk around in Cape Town by myself all the time.

    Please let me know if we can put together a proposal for them – if you want us to do that, please give me the following information:

    • Double / Twin or 2 x Single rooms
    • Dates of travel
    • Number of nights
    • Specific day tours that they will be interested in
    • Level of accommodation required (3 / 4 / 5*)

    Hope to hear from you shortly
    I would love to help you. Please let me know what your budget is for accommodation? What dates are you planning to travel, and how long would you like to stay in CT? I can recommend a lovely B&B in Greenpoint, within walking distance of the V&A Waterfront – I can also arrange any activities that you are interested in. I definitely recommend the shark cage diving, I have done it before and it’s awesome. I can also arrange guided tours for you. Cape Town is pretty safe, but it’s important not to walk around with all your travel documents – like anywhere else, there are always pick-pockets around. All hotels provide secure safes in the room or at reception.
  • edited 4:02PM
    Cape Town is a wonderful city and I have been there twice and never faced any problem. It is quite safe like any other travel destination as far as you use basic safety precautions. As a traveler you need to be alert of whatever is going on your surroundings and avoid roaming around at night.
  • edited September 2011
    There is so much to see and do in Cape Town, theres the beautiful white sandy beaches to unwind at, the cape point natural reserves and of course the table mountain cable way up to the top of table mountain. No matter what you decide to do in Cape Town and in South Africa, you will truly be spoilt for choice. After you have been to Cape Town you should head off for a South African safari.
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