Cape Town, with its stunning beaches and vibrant cultural scene, is at the top of many bucket lists. But for lots of female travellers, it can feel like a scary or daunting destination. Just because you haven’t found a partner you’re keen to travel with or can’t seem to get your friends to commit, doesn’t mean you can’t visit your dream destination solo. I’ve been living in Cape Town for 10 years and I’ve finally put together my top 10 tips for solo female travellers visiting Cape Town.
I love to travel solo as often as possible (my first solo trip was to India!), so I understand how exciting, freeing and sometimes lonely the experience can be. Although travelling solo offers you the opportunity to be completely and wonderfully selfish, it can also sometimes feel isolating and there are some destinations that seem too daunting to visit on your own. So here are my tips for making the most of your solo trip to Cape Town.
Top 10 Tips for Travelling Cape Town Solo
1 Be careful when walking around – Although the city of Cape Town is safe for walking around in the day, it’s not advised to hit the streets at night. Even in the day, it’s easy to stand out as a visitor, so remember to keep your belongings close to your body, and don’t entertain anyone who wants to invade your personal space – its better to be rude than to be pick pocketed. Don’t wander off into small side streets alone and when your sixth sense starts to kick in and say “this situation feels uncertain”, trust it.
2 Avoid the local taxis – Rather use Uber. Regular taxis in Cape Town have a terrible reputation for being unsafe and chronically overcharging travellers. Always remember to check that the registration of your driver and the car on your app match up and make sure to get into the right car. It’s also a good idea to share your trip with someone back home who can keep an eye out for you on the app on their side.
3 Book a few Airbnb Experiences – This is my favourite way to see a new city when I’m travelling by myself. Airbnb Experiences lists a huge variety of amazing activities and experiences hosted by locals in Cape Town – from surfing lessons to food tours. Booking an experience with a local is a great way to meet new people and avoid the feelings of loneliness that sometimes come when you’re travelling alone – no matter how much you love your own company.
4 Hang out at a hostel – I prefer to stay in hotels or Airbnbs personally, but hostels are a great place to meet other solo travellers. Even if you don’t stay at a hostel, they normally have fun bars or restaurants where you can meet other travellers. I recommend Once in Cape Town, which has an awesome rooftop bar and fun activities on offer every day which you can join if you don’t feel like hanging out alone.
5 Be aware of the scammers – There are a few popular scams that you’re likely to encounter while walking around solo in Cape Town. Not because Cape Town is particularly dangerous, but because it’s a major metropolitan city where tourists present soft targets. If you have a car, make sure you check the doors when you lock them before you walk away – “remote jamming” prevents your car from locking so that criminals can grab what’s in your car when you walk away (oh, also don’t leave anything at all on the seat of your car – if you have anything you need to leave in the car, pop it in the trunk). It’s also popular for scammers to walk up to you pointing at your shoes, joyfully yelling something like “look we have the same brand!” while sidling up really close and casually grabbing your purse.
6 Turn down unwanted help from strangers – This might sound counter-intuitive, but if someone offers help without you asking, its likely their intentions aren’t good. Whether you’re standing in front of an ATM, waiting for a taxi, or walking down the street, anyone who walks up and offers to “help” you figure out how to draw cash or show you a shortcut to your hotel, should be met with a stern “I know what I’m doing, thanks!”.
7 Enjoy the fancy restaurants – While most of the city’s top restaurants are booked out months in advance, one of the many joys of travelling solo is the opportunity to grab a “table for one”. Cape Town’s culinary scene is world famous, and our top restaurants offer the opportunity to indulge in fine dining at a fraction of the cost of other major cities. Take a chance, call up the likes of The Test Kitchen, Short Market Club and La Colombe and see if they can squeeze you in. Treat yourself!
8 Backup all your documents – If you’re nervous to travel solo, planning ahead and making sure you eliminate as many mishaps as possible will really help with your anxiety. Take two credit cards with you and avoid carrying cash. Keep your cards in different places, so if one gets lost or stolen your backup doesn’t go missing with it. Keep backups of your passport, visa and other travel documents on a Google Drive, so no matter what happens you can access them from any device that has internet access.
9 Don’t hike alone – Although Table Mountain and Lion’s Head are recommended on just about every list of “things to do in Cape Town” I would not recommend going by yourself. They are both tough hikes, and even if you do stick to the recommended route, the weather can change in a moment and travellers get lost on the mountain every year. Rather book to join a hike on Airbnb Experiences, or join up with a group at Once in Cape Town.
10 Visit the winelands – Although a day trip to Stellenbosch or Franschhoek is always worth it, I’d recommend rather spending a night or two if you have the time. Both wine regions have beautiful towns, so staying central will allow you walk or cycle around and see the shops and restaurants between visiting wine farms. You can use Uber to visit tasting rooms, or join a wine tour and farm-hop with a group. The Franschhoek Wine Tram is a great way to get around – they have various routes to choose from, and you can hop on and hop off wherever you feel like it and stay as long as you like!
Where to Stay in Cape Town Solo
I always find when I’m travelling solo that I want to be as central as possible. Maybe not in the very heart of noisiest part of the city, but close enough to be able to walk as often as possible, and pop out for a coffee or a drink whenever I feel like it.
Seapoint is a beachside town that runs along the stunning Promenade where you’re likely to find locals running, jogging or walking at almost any time of day. The area teeming with restaurants and bars, with lots of hotels, hostels and Airbnbs to choose from. Its very walkable, and close to some cute little beaches as well as the iconic Seapoint Pools.
If you’re into the more “rough gem” neighbourhoods (like I am!), you’ll love this street-art-craft-beer-coffee-roastery rich neighbourhood. Located just outside the city, Woodstock has a great creative energy and a few really cute Airbnbs. It’s the kind of place where you can spend the day tapping away at your laptop, drinking great coffee and overhearing advertising agency execs taking “out of office meetings” with clients.
Famous for its colourful houses, Table Mountain views and close proximity to the city, its the Bo-Kaap’s Cape Malay culture and the sound of the call to prayer that rings out several times a day that really makes this neighbourhood special. Its a quick walk into the heart of the city, but I’d recommend taking an Uber instead – especially at night.
This beachside neighbourhood makes even locals feel like they’re on holiday. If you’re after easy access to the (freezing cold) ocean, white sand beach and lots of bars and restaurants, this is the neighbourhood for you. Its not walking distance to the city, but a cheap Uber drive will get you there in a few minutes.
The Silo District
For views, shopping and access to one of Cape Town’s top tourist attractions – the V&A Waterfront, the Silo District is perfect. I stayed at the Radisson RED and LOVED it, so would definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to be in the middle of the action.