“But isn’t it dangerous there?”
— Every person ever who hears you’re traveling solo to Cape Town, South Africa.
Okay, maybe “every person ever” is an exaggeration, but so is “dangerous.” Travelers need to exercise caution anywhere in the world, and this especially goes for solo travelers in a developing nation that is far and different from home. But most incidents can be avoided if you abide by the guidelines we’ll be sharing right here in this article, so rest assured knowing you’re mitigating any risks to the best of your ability. No concerns should hold you back from experiencing the magic of Cape Town!
Cape Town is one of the most alluring destinations for solo travelers as it truly has something for everyone: breathtaking nature, abundant adventure, fascinating wildlife, amazing food, fun bars, trendy cafes, friendly people, and an affordable cost of living. In Cape Town, you can be whoever you want to be. The city comes with a bit of edge and unpredictability, but that adds to its excitement, and as solo travelers it pushes us out of our comfort zone to make us all the more savvy and empowered.
Keeping in mind basic safety precautions combined with some local intel, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to experience Cape Town to its fullest and you’ll most likely fall in love with the city while doing so. Here are some tips to guide you on your way.
Meet new travel buddies
Safety comes in numbers, so it’s always advisable (and fun!) to make some new friends or acquaintances while in your destination. Cape Town attracts tons of solo travelers from backpackers to digital nomads and expats, and someone is always keen to buddy up for an activity.
Choose community-based accommodation options such as Atlantic Point Backpackers or Work Wanderers Coliving Retreat to stay with like minded travelers who can accompany you on your hike or city explorations. Connect with other solo travelers on a Facebook or WhatsApp Group, as there is usually someone looking to catch some live music or hit the wineries. Or attend one of the many social gatherings such as the Old Biscuit Mill Neighbourgoods Market or outdoor yoga with Om Revolution, and you might strike up a conversation that could lead to future meet-ups.
Use Uber for transportation
Uber is a reliable ridesharing app that allows you to get to your destination with a vetted driver and a secure platform, complete with On Trip Reporting and Share My Trip features. Uber prices in Cape Town are relatively low compared to many other world-class tourism destinations, with $5 USD getting you pretty much anywhere in the city, and a trip to the outskirts costing less than $20. Bolt is also a good option. This will allow you to avoid taking untrustworthy taxis or crowded busses that may pose risks.
Get a local SIM card
The key with Cape Town is to be mindful of time and place, so it always helps to be connected in case plans go awry. Having a local SIM card will add an element of safety to your trip, eliminating the need for Wi-Fi in the event that anything urgent comes up, like needing directions, connecting with your travel buddies, or ordering an Uber. South African telecommunications networks like Vocadom and MTN sell SIM cards and data packages are available at grocery stores, pharmacies, and more.
Avoid walking at night
A simple and non-negotiable rule for visiting Cape Town: don’t walk at night. Not even for a couple of blocks. Just don’t do it. Crime rates increase at night, and it’s best to play it safe and book that Uber.
Be cautious with where you walk during the day
Cape Town is made up of beautiful and diverse neighborhoods that each offer their own unique appeal, but caution must be exercised whenever wandering solo, and certain areas are best to be avoided. Areas that err on the safe side are the affluent Camps Bay and Bantry Bay neighborhoods, as well as the Atlantic Seaboard suburbs of Sea Point and Green Point, especially along the Promenade or V&A Waterfront. Solo travellers must exercise more caution in neighborhoods like Woodstock, Bo Kaap, and the CBD, and are best to avoid the Cape Flats and township areas while alone.
Mind your belongings
Basic safety rules apply everywhere when traveling solo, and none are exempt in Cape Town. Maintain awareness of your valuables by hovering your hand over your purse while out in public, which is ideally a crossbody bag worn in front of your body. Never leave your drink or any belongings unattended, even if it’s your cell phone sitting on the table at the cafe or on your lap at a traffic light while windows are open.
When pulling your phone or camera out to snap a pic (which you’ll want to do all the time in Cape Town!), be mindful of your surroundings and don’t wave your fancy electronics out in a crowd. Venture out with minimal belongings and cash and you’ll lower the risk of losing them.
Keep your distance
We’re all experts at social distancing now anyway, so keep this in mind for the streets of Cape Town. Whether you’re out for a leisurely stroll on the Promenade, hiking on Cape Town’s epic mountains, or out for a night on the town, keeping a safe distance between yourself and passers-by will lessen your chances of getting pickpocketed or having an encounter that makes you uncomfortable. Feel free to step aside or cross the street and stay in your own little bubble of safety.
Trust your gut
When it comes down to it, your intuition often knows if you’re in a situation that could be unsafe. Many people who have experienced crime in Cape Town say that they know they were pushing their limits — they shouldn’t have been walking in that area alone, they shouldn’t have been using their phone outside that bar, they got a funny feeling from some men on a street that felt a little too quiet. Listen to your gut and know that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, so adapt and pivot to the best of your ability. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
At the end of the day, Cape Town is loaded with adventure for the taking, check out our Guide to Having an Adventurous Time in Cape Town for more.