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Is safety an issue in South Africa, especially around Cape Town?


Jul 16th, 2010, 08:47 AM
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Is safety an issue in South Africa, especially around Cape Town?

Let me start by saying that I am not a timid traveler. I apparently project an image of ‘leave me alone’ to potential troublemakers and I have never had a problem even when doing things people have told never to do. With that out of the way, I’ve been reading a lot about South Africa and talking to a couple of people who have been there about what’s interesting and if there are any problems to be aware of.

One woman friend says she has never had a problem going anywhere in South Africa as long as she uses a little common sense. A guy I know says a buddy of his was nearly killed three blocks from his hotel in Joburg by a couple of street people. One guidebook even talks about problems in Cape Town (this is where we would be spending most of our time) a couple of years ago.

I really do not want to take taxis everyplace or have to be concerned about walking in certain neighborhoods or at certain times of day. Walking around cities is the best way to get to experience them. Has anybody returned recently with any comments regarding safety or lack thereof?
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Jul 16th, 2010, 12:03 PM
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Walking in daylight, as part of a group, no problem. Walking alone, especially at night or in the wrong areas, not advisable. Same with hiking up the mountain even. As part of a group, no problem. On your own it's a bit risky, regardless whether you have a "leave me alone" image. Knowing where you can go and what streets to avoid, and using common sense like your friend said, is the main thing. A lone tourist with a money pouch and a camera around his neck strolling down an inner city street at night, will make himself a target for a mugging in any major city around the world, not just in Cape Town. In general, most tourists are pleasantly surprised once they get here and report that they felt a lot safer than they were expecting to. A lot of world cup visitors also reported on this. So much talk and negativity before the event in the international media about safety in South Africa (no doubt hoping something will go wrong so they can have a juicy story). And most visitors returned saying they don't know what all the fuss was about, South Africa is calm, stable, safe, well organised, and very friendly toward tourists. I think you will find the same. I have done plenty of walking around Cape Town, even alone, and never had a problem.
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Jul 16th, 2010, 12:40 PM
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The same as wildwings............support his/her experiences.

Just relax and use common sense as you do in any city!

Happy travels!

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Aug 7th, 2010, 08:18 PM
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i never felt in danger in SA at all, but i was always careful as i would be in any unfamiliar place....there are pockets of trouble, like JNB so you just stay away....

i would not walk on the streets at night alone or even just two of us if i were in a deserted area....in the main tourist areas i feel it is ok...

we saw very few street people...

many neighborhoods hire guards so that tells you something...
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Aug 8th, 2010, 08:13 AM
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Use your common sense wherever you travel. CPT is as safe as many major cities anywhere, as is much of JNB. But at night, it's best to take a taxi if going a distance from your hotel. And, if a solo travelers, it's a good idea when going out to let your hotel know to where.

Don't stop in the middle of a street to look at your map. Go into a shop to do so. Don't walk down an empty street just because it looks safe... if no others around, go elsewhere. No fancy jewelry, flash cash and watch that big camera that reads: "tourist"

CPT is a lovely city and as safe as most any anywhere around the world. Just be street smart!
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Aug 8th, 2010, 08:34 AM
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Thanks for the responses. The types of answers being given are exactly the reason I asked the original question.

Sandi, everything you say not to do except "no fancy jewelry etc" are exactly the sort thing I do and with which I have never had a problem. I have walked down dark unlit streets in Egypt, France, Italy and the USA and never experienced a problem and never even thought about it. The reason I raised my initial question was that a guidebook gave advice much as you have given.

The idea that at night it's best to take a taxi is the thing that bothers me most. After all of your 'donts' you say Cape Town is as safe as most anywhere around the world. There's a big contradiction here; it's not as safe as anywhere around the world if you can't do these things.
Will probably just go ahead and go and act as always. If nobody hears from me again after the middle of November, you'll know I should have taken your advice.

Anyway, thanks again.
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Aug 8th, 2010, 10:09 AM
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Cape Town is totally different than Johannesburg so don't get put off on the safety issue. I love Cape Town and its environs-people are friendly and very helpful. I think that you will be fine there using regular big city caution.

Johannesburg-I would be very careful! I fly there for work every month and the horror stories from passengers on my flights makes me cringe(one woman told me that she has lost 15 friends and relatives in the past 3 years to carjackings,holdups,etc.)

Security is very high for us at our hotel in Johannesburg and we are told to NEVER be out alone in daylight or at night in groups by our corporate security.We have had problems even at our hotel with thefts and walking into our rooms with alternate keys which is strange as this is a 5 star hotel?Johannesburg as a city looks like any American city with tall buildings and lots of concrete so really not much to see. The people are very nice despite its growing problems.
South Africa is a wonderful country and one that I hope people take the time to savor as it is a gem!
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Aug 8th, 2010, 12:43 PM
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Thanks for your comments, Dutyfree, this pretty much coincides with what I've been able to discover. The opportunity to visit someplace I've never been with such an interesting history has fairly well determined that we're going.

Now just need to pick the exact dates and which miserably long flight is least offensive. Any suggestions on that would be welcome.

Den-Atl-Jnb-Cpt seems best but 15+ hours in coach is a killer. Next best alternative is via Amsterdam but that one's 11 and half.

First/business is temptingly affordable, but I've already been told "no way".
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Aug 19th, 2010, 10:58 PM
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Johannesburg is also a very interesting city and is very African next to it's beautiful, fairer, Euro Centric Cape sister. Jozi is a vibrant, colourful, noisey, Egoli (place of gold) and I love it's energy, although I probably could never live there (I love the sea too much), but a visit to Jozi is very interesting. Kwazulu Natal is another beautiful region that always gets overlooked because people believe that The cape is the only place to visit in Sa, sad but true. Enjoy your trip, I think you will be pleasantly surprised, CT is safe!
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Aug 20th, 2010, 09:05 AM
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I'm not sure why South Africa has such a scary reputation -- maybe because of "the legacy of apartheid"? Anyway, while the crime rate is high, the crime rate against tourists is low. I follow South Africa news closely, and almost never read or hear of tourists being harmed.
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Aug 20th, 2010, 10:47 AM
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I just did the JNB-ATL flight...16 hrs in coach..NOT FUN! I'll go thru Amsterdam next time.
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Aug 21st, 2010, 09:09 AM
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I believe that SAA and Delta,Continental have the only nonstops from the US to Johannesburg.If you can use miles or get a good price for a ticket in Business Class- I would.
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Aug 21st, 2010, 12:00 PM
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I am curious myself about safety in CapeTown and would like to hear from those very familiar with the city.

A few years ago, I spent a week at Kensington Place, a lovely hotel in Higgovale. Actually, it was more than lovely--it was among the most charming hotels I've had the fortune to visit.

Their website gives an idea of the exact location:


While there, we were advised not to walk around the hotel in the evening, and to take radio cabs to get to restaurants at night. Were those who offered that advice being over cautious since we were tourists, or do you think that there is a very real possibility of an untoward event taking place around that neighborhood?

Whatever the response, I plan to return to that city as soon as possible, because it swept me away! So I am asking more for curiosity than any thing else...

Many thanks!
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Aug 21st, 2010, 05:44 PM
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I spent my time in Simons Town, about 40 minutes from Cape Town and felt completely safe alone at any time. I was out at dusk but not dark. The presence of the large naval base there cannot hurt.

No problems at all and it was convenient for what I wanted to do: penguins at Boulders Bay, Baboon Walks with Baboon Matters, Great White Shark viewing at Seal Island in False Bay, not far from Cape Nature Reserve.
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Dec 26th, 2015, 03:08 PM
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I have lived in New York and San Francisco, and admittedly this is my first time traveling outside of the "first world" (not that Cape Town is supposed to be rough...) and am a decently built 33 yo man who has never had problems. The first night, literally outside my hotel, a homeless man masquerading as a hotel employee tried to grab my suitcase to extort a "tip" from me.

Then, the next night, walking down a busy street from De Waterkant to Greenmarket Square, one man ran after me complimenting my style, trying to compare shoe sizes with me. I tried to shake him off and keep walking; another guy started doing it. They were physically grabbing me and trying to keep me close to they could pickpocket or mug me. Luckily it was near a club with bouncers outside where I waited for a cab (but again--the fact that this happened outside a club with bouncers and lots of people on the street is also insane). Then the cab tried to charge me 50 rand for the 3-4 block ride.

This city is not safe. If they're not trying to violently rob you, they are trying to fraudulently gauge you. Do not walk anywhere at night. Maybe if you are in a large group with a sufficient number of sober males.

The above responses are completely irresponsible.
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Dec 26th, 2015, 03:25 PM
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There are now two police cars with their lights flashing outside my hotel. Which is right on Greenmarket Square.
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Dec 26th, 2015, 03:28 PM
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And another thing!

Two separate drivers have now insisted on dropping me off only right at the door of my destination. So, apparently even the professional drivers in this city think it's not safe to walk at all at night, no matter how close you are.
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Dec 26th, 2015, 08:21 PM
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bigwaku - Why bring up a five year old thread? You obviously have issues - but no one is irresponsible. Stay aware of your surroundings, like everywhere on the planet. Cape Town is FAR from third world.

Did you ever leave the Upper West Side? Maybe if you lived in NYC in the '70's and '80's you'd have a different perspective. I visited SF and was harassed and threatened while walking in a nice neighborhood with my cousin (two young women) - but would never say it was unsafe because of a one-off incident. There are a$$es everywhere. Calm down.

And another thing! I was in Paris during the riots in 2009. People burning cars, yelling, protesting. Cops with big guns, lights, sirens everywhere - even right outside my hotel!! Don't visit there - way too dangerous, especially now. Hey - look at that! There's a cop car with flashing lights up my block (really - pretty great timing). I'd better move. Too dangerous. Eek!
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