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Cape Town Gay Travel

Plan your Cape Town gay travel adventure with wolfyy. Recommendations for gay nightlife, pristine beaches and restaurants, plus LGBT travel safety in South Africa.

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The Gay Travel Experience: Cape Town, South Africa

I never expected to find such a large gay population in Cape Town. Once I found this newfound gay scene, I explored every bit I could. I made a few gay friends along the journey, trying out Cape Town’s fantastic gay bars, serene beaches and vibrant waterfronts.

Cape Town Gay Travel

There are numerous reasons to add Cape Town gay travel to the top of your vacation list. Besides the fact that Cape Town is a popular LGBT destination, a trip to South Africa is an easy introduction to African culture for those have yet to visit the heart of Africa. The pace of life is relaxed, locals are cheerful and you can’t beat the prices.

Cape Town Gay Travel

Cape Town gay travel is hugely popular with Europeans seeking to escape winter in the north. Seasoned American travelers also fancy the sun-drenched coastlines. I found gay travelers from the UK, Spain and Canada. I even met up with an old friend from New York City who just began his own trip around South Africa.

Cape Town gay beach

Local gay South Africans happily mingle with the tourists around the city. At the gay bars, I met a few South African guys who were glad to talk with a tourist like me! It’s always nice to be welcomed by affable locals.

Cape Town gay attractions
Cape Town gay attractions
Cape Town gay beach

Lastly, being a gay tourist in Cape Town was easy. The city is known for being an LGBT-friendly destination. There was even a Cape Town Pride concert the day I arrived. Homosexuality is legal South Africa, and while the country-wide public approval of homosexuality is low, Cape Town differs with a more progressive and open culture.

Cape Town Gay Travel: Where to Stay

The greater Cape Town area is huge, but tourist activity concentrates just north and west of the true city center. The city has various neighborhoods surrounding the scenic Signal Hill and Table Mountain. Each offers a unique vibe. Here are some of the best Cape Town neighborhoods for gay travelers.

Green Point / Mouille Point: Best Neighborhoods for Travelers

In my opinion, the best Cape Town neighborhood for travelers is Green Point / Mouille Point. They have great access to popular beach areas, great restaurants and Cape Town’s gay nightlife. Plus, the area is one of the safest.

Green Point Neighborhood
Green Point Neighborhood
La Splendida hotel

I stayed at Hotel Splendida in Mouille Point for part of my visit. I was very comfortable at La Splendida. The rooms are clean and modern. The hotel’s location made it easy to grab an Uber toward the attractions on my list.

La Splendida hotel

De Waterkant: Cape Town's Gay Neighborhood

The official Cape Town gay neighborhood is De Waterkant, an area with a comfortable urban feel. The streets are walkable, accommodations are plentiful and most gay bars and clubs are here. De Waterkant is not as dense as the high-rise areas of downtown, but dense enough to enjoy a neighborhood stroll.

Neighborhoods in CT South Africa
where to stay Cape Town
Neighborhoods in CT South Africa

While De Waterkant is known as the Cape Town gay area, I would not specifically prioritize staying here over another neighborhood for a few reasons. Even though it’s the gay district, this doesn’t mean that most local gay men in Cape Town live here. You’ll likely find gay travelers in the area though, given the proximity to gay nightlife.

where to stay Cape Town

City Bowl: The Heart of the City

Southeast of De Waterkant, the City Bowl neighborhood encompasses the central business district. There is always a bustle in the streets. Lots of unique restaurants offering different African cuisines, coffee shops and markets are steps away.

city bowl neighborhood

City Bowl will likely have the least expensive hotels in Cape Town. I stayed here at the Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel for the last few days of my trip. I opted for City Bowl since incoming cooler weather made beach areas less desirable. Quick access to a variety of restaurants was also convenient.

Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel
city bowl neighborhood
Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel

Out of the central Cape Town neighborhoods, City Bowl is the least safe. However, it is by no means equivalent to the dangerous neighborhoods outside of central Cape Town. I wouldn’t say you should avoid the City Bowl neighborhood. But, if you choose to stay here, always pay attention to your surroundings and avoid wandering around at night.

Be sure to check out the Safety Tips section of this guide for detailed neighborhood safety information and how to stay safe in the city center.

Clifton: A Beachfront Paradise

If you love waking up to an ocean view, Clifton is your spot. Private residences straddle the cliffside, overlooking blue ocean water. The area is residential, so your best bet is a vacation rental or Airbnb. The Cape Town gay beach is also here. More on that in the beaches section of this guide.

best neighborhoods in Cape Town
best neighborhoods in Cape Town
Clifton neighborhood

Since this clustered residential area straddles a cliffside, the Clifton neighborhood lacks restaurant life. There are no establishments within walking distance, including convenience stores. For restaurants and shops, you’ll need to catch a short taxi ride to an adjacent neighborhood. Otherwise, food delivery options are plentiful.

Clifton neighborhood

Camps Bay: Cape Town Gay Travel with a Local Vibe

Camps Bay is about as far south as I would recommend staying in the city. A three-minute drive south of Clifton, the Camps Bay neighborhood has a lively streetscape. Lots of busy bars and restaurants line Victoria Road.

Camps Bay Streets
Cape Town gay travel
Camps Bay Streets

Camps Bay is very walkable, full of life and is quite safe. South of here, neighborhoods become largely residential. If you stay south of Camps Bay, expect to travel a little farther by taxi to get to most attractions in the city.

Cape Town gay travel

Cape Town Gay Travel City Experiences

Even after two weeks in Cape Town, I still hadn’t finished all the activities I had planned to. There’s so much to cover. 

This section includes my recommended travel experiences within the central Cape Town area. In the following section, I’ll mention Cape Town gay travel experiences outside the city, best for day trips.

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Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront

Dubbed “South Africa’s most successful real estate development,” the V&A Waterfront is by far the liveliest part of Cape Town. Tourists and locals stroll a maze of quaint pathways passing performers, gift shops, and tons of waterfront bars & restaurants.

V&A waterfront
V&A waterfront
waterfront restaurant CT

Adjacent to all the outdoor establishments at the V&A Waterfront is an enormous shopping mall called the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre, which has some upper level restaurants with views of Table Mountain. If the weather is too cool to sit along the water, you can cozy up here.

waterfront restaurant CT

As you meander the rest of the waterfront area, keep a look out for sea life in the harbor. Adorable sea otters play along the promenade of Alfred Basin. I saw them near the Old Port Captain’s Building.

Work Out at the Sea Point Outdoor Gym

Need to get a workout in? This is the spot to do it! The Sea Point Outdoor Gym is a series of playgrounds with fixed bars and other workout equipment along the ocean promenade in Sea Point.

outdoor gym Sea Point
outdoor gym Sea Point
waterfront area

You’ll likely run into other travelers keeping in shape, or even locals just making the best of the summer. This area is very safe, but I would still never leave any items unattended.


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Beach Cubs: Meet Some Cape Town Gay Travel Buddies!

Sometimes a beach club is a great alternative to a beach day, especially if you prefer having a full bar and food at your disposal. There are two main beach clubs in Cape Town: Shimmy Beach Club and Grand Africa Café. 

Shimmy beach club

Many times you’ll find other Cape Town gay travelers at beach clubs, since they’re an upscale alternative to the gay beach for a day of sun and cocktails.

I loved Shimmy Beach Club for the beautiful glass-wall pool, friendly staff, and modern design. I spent a long afternoon here relaxing in the sun and having dinner.

Shimmy Beach Club
Shimmy beach club
Shimmy Beach Club

During the day, the crowd at Shimmy Beach Club is sunbathers and friends relaxing. After dark on weekends though, Shimmy Beach club turns into a bustling party spot! Look out for awesome performances on the Shimmy Beach Club Upcoming Events page.

Grand Africa beach club

The Grand Africa Beach Club is a great second option. While they don’t have a pool, they have a lot more space for you to spread out on a sofa or lounge chair. Grand Africa is a better choice if you have a larger group of friends and/or don’t need the pool. They have pretty large private couch sections.

Cape Town Gay Travel Experiences Outside the City

Much of what Cape Town has to offer is outside the central city area. Luckily, Uber is everywhere so getting between destinations is simple. You should consider renting a car if the more remote spots interest you.

Cape Town Gay Travel
Cape Town gay traveler
South African penguin

Explore Tidal Pools: A Cape Town LGBT Favorite

Few travelers make a point to see these wonderful structures that dot the Western Cape. Tidal Pools are manmade structures that hold ocean water for people to swim in. High tides refresh the water as the sea level rises high enough to meet the pool’s elevation.

Cape Town tidal pools

Central Cape Town has only one tidal pool in Camp’s Bay. But, there are a bunch more within a reasonable driving distance. Check out the Cape Town Tidal Pools Instagram Page for some inspiration.

tidal pool Camps Bay
Cape Town tidal pools
tidal pool Camps Bay

I recommend the Dalebrook Tidal Pool in Kalk Bay because there are fewer tourists and the vibe is so relaxed. This area is completely for a day trip and there are many restaurants along the water in Simon’s Town. Not too far away you can visit Woolley’s Tidal Pool (to the south) and the St. James Tidal Pool (to the north).

Boulders Penguin Colony & Cape of Good Hope

Seeing the African Penguins is one of the most popular things to do in the Western Cape. Cape Town City Tours operates group tours to see both the Boulders and the Cape of Good Hope in the same day

South African penguin

Since I did not rent a car, I joined a tour group. However, if you have the chance, I suggest driving on your own and exploring the coast. There are so many impressive sights along the journey toward the Cape of Good Hope.

Boulder penguins colony
Boulder penguins colony
Cape Town Gay Travel

The Boulders Penguin Colony is about a one drive from downtown Cape Town. Even though seeing the penguins tops every tourist’s Cape Town bucket list, I couldn’t pass up seeing adorable African Penguins! Look out for wild ostrich and baboons along the ride, too.

Cape Point South Africa

Don’t forget your windbreaker while traveling to the areas south of Cape Town. The winds here can be intense. They change drastically depending on the day and season, but I endured some whipping sand during my visit to see the penguins. Luckily, I had a hood I could tighten snug around my face. Sunglasses will be helpful, too.

cape of good hope 2020
Cape Point South Africa
cape of good hope South Africa

The Cape of Good Hope is a very popular tourist spot, as it the southernmost point in the western cape. I visited with the City Tours bus, and it seems it mainly a place people line up to take a photo near, which felt rushed and inauthentic. 

cape of good hope South Africa

However, the stop our bus made beforehand to Cape Point was absolutely breathtaking. High up on the cliffs, there are lots of neat perches where you can see the cerulean water crash along the rocks far below.

Beaches in Cape Town

Beautiful blue water is normally something you’d find in a tropical climate, but Cape Town has its fair share of azure beaches. While the water is much colder than the Caribbean, the swaths of cyan are just as pretty. Here are some of the best beaches on Cape Town.

South Africa best spots

Clifton Beach: My Cape Town Gay Travel Favorite

Clifton Beach is without a doubt the crowd favorite. The softest, whitest sand in of all the Cape Town beaches is here. The shore is clean, calm and there is plenty of space to spread out.

Clifton Beach

To get there, you must descend the cliffside pathways from Victoria Road. While it’s not a treacherous journey, you will need to traverse about 8-10 minutes of stairs.

Clifton Beach
best beaches Cape Town gay travelers

Cape Town’s strong winds usually kick up a ton of sand, but here you’ll enjoy protection from the cliffside. It adds to the long list of why Clifton Beach is so popular.

best beaches Cape Town gay travelers

The Clifton beaches follow a naming convention of Clifton 1st through Clifton 4th. These names are only for locational convenience, as they are not physically separated.

Clifton 3rd: Cape Town's Gay Beach

Gay guys love to hang out at Clifton 3rd Beach. Clifton 3rd has been the gay spot for many years. As you’re walking along the shore, you’re bound to find a crowd of gays clustered here.

Clifton third steps to gay beach
Clifton third steps to gay beach
Cape Town gay beach

The vibe at Clifton 3rd is not at all similar to what you find in places like Puerto Vallarta, Tel Aviv or other gay party destinations. Instead, you can expect a more serene, friendly experience without any commotion.

Cape Town gay beach

Every time I visited Clifton 3rd Beach, I had a wonderful and relaxing time. I even met another American that was with a group of friends nearby.

Camps Bay Beach

If you’d like to avoid the tourists that usually focus on Clifton, yet still enjoy a beautiful beachfront, then check out Camps Bay Beach. You’ll find many more locals hanging out at Camps Bay Beach. The beachfront here is much easier to reach since you don’t have to climb down many steps.

Camps Bay Beach
Camps Bay Beach
Camps Bay safety

While Clifton is my favorite beach in Cape Town, Camps Bay Beach offers more convenience. There are plenty of restaurants and food stalls and ice cream shops right along the street.

Camps Bay safety

Sunset Beach

Looking for seclusion? You’ll certainly find it at Sunset Beach. The narrow beachfront is popular with kite surfers, windsurfers and of course, sunset lovers. Since Sunset Beach is not protected from the wind and it’s a bit farther from central Cape Town, you won’t find too many people here.

sunset beach dunes
sunset beach dunes
Sunset beach

If you have a day during your Cape Town holiday when the winds are weak, going for sunset wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s quite peaceful and the view of Table Mountain during sunset is marvelous. You can get a taxi or drive your own car directly up to the beachfront.

Sunset beach

Beaches Outside Central Cape Town

There are dozens more beaches in the Cape Town area. However, most of these beauties are either a longer drive away, or aren’t as suitable for sunbathing or swimming.

Misty Cliffs

One of the most spectacular sights along the Western Cape is a stretch of seaside called Misty Cliffs. You’ll need to rent a car to get here; it’s a bit desolate. I learned of this area while on the tour bus going down to the Cape of Good Hope.

misty cliffs
misty cliffs
barnacles

Personally, I would have loved to get off the bus to explore the Misty Cliffs area. Blue water, a stunning adjacent rock outcrop and a tourist-free oceanfront will make your eyes open wide.

barnacles

Fish Hoek Beach

You’ll surely appreciate Fish Hoek Beach if Misty Cliffs piques your interest. An endless expanse of roaring ocean waves collides with a completely deserted shoreline. Fish Hoek Beach is a sight for the adventurer.

Simon's Town Cape Town
Simon's Town Cape Town
day trip

If you’re on your way toward Kalk Bay (awesome tidal pool here) or Simon’s Town, I’d certainly make a stop at Fish Hoek.

day trip

This spot is not so much a place to relax, but instead a beautiful display of nature. You’ll also need a car to get to Fish Hoek Beach.

Lagoon Beach

Lagoon Beach offers stunning mountainside views and calming sounds of the rolling ocean. Unfortunately, this area is not safely swimmable due to water pollution flowing through the adjacent river outlet. This pollution is actually a highly contentious issue amongst Cape Town residents and the local government.

Lagoon Beach Pollution
Lagoon Beach Pollution
Dangerous beach sign

If you’re looking for a beachside running route though, Lagoon Beach may be a great area to start. It’s a little desolate, but you can start from Lagoon Beach and make your way toward Sunset Beach.

Dangerous beach sign

Cape Town Gay Bars & Clubs

The gay nightlife scene in Cape Town is quite lively, another reason why travelers love this city so much! While it’s not the gay party capital of the world, your Cape Town gay travel itinerary definitely has to include a few nights out partying. Below are the local gay nightlife mainstays.

Cafe Manhattan gay bar

Café Manhattan: Easygoing Hangout

Cape Town gay travel is not complete without a visit to the Café Manhattan. This classic bar is great for any gay traveler, whether you’re hanging solo, in a group, or with a significant other. Its unpretentious, comfortable and an easy place to meet friends.

cafe manhattan Cape Town gay bar
Cafe Manhattan gay bar
Cape Town Gay Travel

There is plenty of room to socialize inside. Café Manhattan also has an outdoor terrace that looks over the street. There are a bunch of tables to gather around, too. The ambiance is quite popular with everyone.

Cape Town Gay Travel

Specialty cocktails at Café Manhattan are on the sweet side, so I stuck with basic mixed drinks and beer. Prices at this quintessential Cape Town gay bar are higher relative to the others, but nonetheless everything is affordable. Don’t forget to check out Cafe Manhattan’s Facebook Page.

Crew Bar: Cape Town’s Original Gay Club

Anyone who has experienced Cape Town gay travel in the past decade will probably tell you about a night out at Crew Bar. Crew Bar is Cape Town’s original gay club. Several of my friends have told me stories about nights here.

gay club Cape Town

I did not get a chance to go to Crew Bar myself since I spent the entire night at Pink Panther Nightclub (see below section). But, the general consensus amongst gay travelers is that Crew Bar is usually a great time, but can have an off night every so often. Check Crew Bar’s Facebook Page for event information.

Crew Bar gay club
gay club Cape Town
Crew Bar gay club

As a reminder, if you browse reviews for gay bars in Cape Town, you may come across individuals claiming that the venues are not safe. While every situation is different, the majority of muggings in the city happen because people are hanging in the street outside of an establishment.

Crew Bar is in the city center, so always take an Uber to and from the venue. It’s always better to err on the side of caution. Read more about safety in Cape Town in this guide’s Safety Tips section.

The Pink Panther Nightclub

Pink Panther Nightclub has become the most popular Cape Town gay club in recent years, stealing away some of the spotlight from above-mentioned Crew Bar. I spent the latter half of a Friday night at the Pink Panther gay club and I had a blast.

Pink Panther Cape Town Gay Travel

The DJ was fun and the bartenders, clad in their pink booty shorts, were super friendly. This seems to be a theme in Cape Town gay nightlife…everyone is friendly!

Pink Panther Cape Town Gay Travel
gay club Cape Town

When you approach Pink Panther, don’t be put off by a dim entrance with a perhaps intimidating man standing in a doorway. Upon arriving, it looked to me as if the club was empty, but once you climb the stairs and pass through security, you’ll find the crowd.

Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest times to visit Pink Panther Night Club, per the advice of my South African friend Neil. Every now and then, the bar will host a Thursday night party.

gay club Cape Town

Gay clubs in international cities tend to have a decent social media presence at least on one platform. Pink Panther though, doesn’t post too much about their events on Facebook. Don’t get the impression that there isn’t anything going on though.

Just because they aren’t advertising much doesn’t mean there isn’t a party. I can guarantee that on weekends, especially during the summer, you’ll find a sizeable crowd.

The Station on Bree: Fun & Gay-Friendly

My good friend Neil owns an awesome bar called The Station on Bree. He’s a South Africa local, who I actually met on a trip to Fire Island Pines in 2018.

Cape Town gay friendly bars

In the heart of the City Bowl neighborhood, The Station on Bree serves food late into the evening, with plenty of outdoor space to enjoy South Africa’s summertime weather. The bar is open until 4am on weekends, but the crowd definitely peaks around midnight. Check out The Station’s Entertainment Calendar for scheduled performers and DJ’s.

The Station on Bree City Bowl
Cape Town gay friendly bars
The Station on Bree City Bowl

If you are in Cape Town at the beginning of the month, try to attend First Thursdays. Lots of bars, including The Station, close down the street for a giant monthly festival. 

Cape Town Gay Cruising & Saunas

There is one noteworthy Cape Town gay sauna. Frequented by both locals and tourists, Hothouse Steam and Leisure is the local cruising spot. While I didn’t visit Hothouse myself, local gay guys including my friend Neil mentioned that it’s the go-to sauna.

best season to visit

Hothouse is in a convenient location in the middle of the De Waterkant gay neighborhood. It’s not far from both Crew Bar and the Pink Panther Nightclub. Remember though, while it is close enough to walk, you should always travel by car late at night to be safe. See additional information on the Hothouse Sauna Facebook Page.

waterfront area

Restaurants in Cape Town

Cape Town’s beautiful summer weather makes eating outside a spectacular ritual. There is such a grand food scene with cuisines of all types. For most tourists, there’s a wealth of opportunity to try food from different African cultures.

Sotano brunch food

Here are my top Cape Town restaurant recommendations for my fellow gay travelers and LGBT allies.

Sotano: Mediterranean Dining

Sotano is the perfect Cape Town brunch spot. They are located in Mouille Point, part of Hotel Splendida. If you visit in the warmer months, Sotano has a tranquil outdoor deck seating area with views of the waterfront. It very much embodies the majestic, calming Cape Town vibe.

Cape Town LGBT travel Restaurant Sotano
Cape Town LGBT travel Restaurant Sotano
Sotano brunch food

For brunch, Sotano has all the satiating food you’d hope for. Delicious Mediterranean food that’s not too greasy, but still filling. The restaurant is open decently late until 11:00 PM. They also have a lovely indoor lounge with tables and a full bar. Definitely a classy spot to stop for drinks!

Sotano Dinner La Splendida

Beefcakes: Drag Shows & Dinner

Some may call the establishment cheesy, but I’m always down for a spectacular drag show! Beefcakes is in the De Waterkant Cape Town gay neighborhood. The restaurant is definitely a mainstay “classic” gay tourist spot here. Every gay traveler who’s been to Cape Town knows of Beefcakes.

Cape Town Drag Show

The weekday show time is 8:30 PM and Monday nights are movie night. The food options are a bit limited, but that’s to be expected given they serve the entire restaurant at once. They offer traditional bar food, as well as a vegan option.

Beefcakes Drag bar
Cape Town Drag Show
Beefcakes Drag bar

The crowd at Beefcakes is about half women, and half men, at least on the night I went. The restaurant tends to be popular with women for large group outings. The best part about Beefcakes aside from the hilarious drag show is the cheerful staff.

drag brunch de Waterkant

In places like New York City, it’s not common to find smiling and patient bartenders or servers. But here in Cape Town, it was refreshing to be able to chat with the waiter, especially as a solo traveler.

Beefcakes bar South Africa
Beefcakes bar South Africa
drag brunch de Waterkant

If you’re planning to eat at Beefcakes, I would first check the Beefcakes Cape Town Website to make sure you have the correct show start time. Secondly, I would make a reservation if you’re traveling in a group. The restaurant will fill up, especially on weekends. Don’t forget to tip!

La Parada: Delicious Tapas

Why not enjoy a little Tapas one night? The best in Cape Town is definitely at La Parada. There are two locations: one at the V&A Waterfront and the other in City Bowl.

La Parada Tapas Restaurant

The atmosphere at La Parada is so comforting. Both locations have indoor/outdoor seating. Servers are friendly and willing to help you choose between equally enticing small plates. They offer early dinner specials too, making a huge amount of food quite affordable. I got five plates of tapas for 300 Rand ($17 USD), plus tip.

La Parada Beer
La Parada Tapas Restaurant
La Parada Beer

If you’re a beer drinker, you should try the Jack Black Cape Pale Ale. I loved it, and there’s nothing better than supporting local breweries.

Addis in Cape Ethiopian Restaurant

One of my favorite restaurant experiences in Cape Town was the authentic Ethiopian restaurant, Addis in Cape. Friendly and attentive service made experiencing traditional Ethiopian cooking so much better. It was actually my first time eating traditional Ethiopian food!

Addis in Cape Restaurant
Addis in Cape Restaurant
Ethiopian Restaurant Addis

I got to try real Injera, a type of spongey flatbread. They served a giant stretch of the stuff over a traditionally large dish. The waiter then brought a small dish of water to rinse my hands and showed me the proper way to eat it (as to not let me make a fool of myself).

Ethiopian Restaurant Addis

Piano Bar: Lunch, Live Music & Cocktails

Get ready for some live music! Piano Bar is quite popular among Cape Town restaurants and they attract an eclectic crowd. The space is quant, entertaining and open pretty much all the time.

Piano Bar breakfast Cape Town Gay Travel

I stopped by for an early lunch and enjoyed the cozy terrace. Mornings are quiet, but the evening cocktails and jazz crowd is much livelier. Whether you go for a midday snack or drinks and a show, Piano Bar’s menu will have something delicious.

Restaurant in de Waterkant
Restaurant in de Waterkant
Piano Bar breakfast Cape Town Gay Travel

If you’re planning a trip to Cape Town, check out Piano Bar’s event lineup. I didn’t get to visit again for a show, so if you’ve been, let me know your thoughts at the bottom of this Cape Town gay travel guide.

Coco Safar: Espresso Bar & Restaurant

Coco Safar is both a breakfast patisserie and a traditional dinner restaurant. They have cozy seating with a street-side elevated terrace which lets fresh air flow through the restaurant. The ambiance is quite chic, too. The dim lighting and calm atmosphere make Coco Safar a great evening date spot.

Coco Safar Restaurant
Coco Safar Restaurant
cocktail bar de Waterkant

If you’re walking through the Sea Point neighborhood in the earlier part of the day, grab some coffee at the Coco Safar espresso bar. This is a separate section from the restaurant.

cocktail bar de Waterkant

Cape Town Gay Travel Safety Tips

Safety in South Africa is such a huge concern for travelers, so I’m dedicating an entire section to giving you the pertinent facts and quelling any fears. There is a lot of old, outdated and misleading information on the internet concerning crime and safety in Cape Town.

Solo gay Travel in Cape Town
Cape Town Safe Places
Solo gay Travel in Cape Town

As someone who stayed in different Cape Town neighborhoods and walked through many others for two weeks, I can definitely offer advice for when to take extra caution and when to not be worried.

Is Cape Town Gay Travel Safe?

Cape Town is completely safe to visit as long as you can maintain a basic level of vigilance. First of all, the geographic area of Cape Town is huge, and the truly dangerous neighborhoods are far outside the central Cape Town area. They are nowhere near where tourists stay.

Safety in CT South Africa

Check out this map of overall safety in Cape Town, noting the green-shaded coastal area by the “Cape Town” map label. This spot is where the tourists visit. It’s far away from worryingly dangerous neighborhoods like Khayelitsha, shown in the center of the red mass to the southeast.

Cape Town Gay Travel
Cape Town Gay Travel
Safety in CT South Africa

News on Cape Town safety can easily confuse someone who’s unfamiliar with the city. This Economist article points out how violent crime in Cape Town is spiking, which is technically true, but it’s not occurring anywhere near Cape Town’s tourist scene.

These dangerous suburbs are 20 to 30 minutes by car outside the touristic area of Cape Town. You really shouldn’t have any reason to visit them as a vacationer. In the next sections I’ll discuss specific neighborhoods within central Cape Town you can bet on for safety, and which are less desirable.

The Safest Places for Tourists in Cape Town

Clifton, Sea Point, Green Point, the Waterfront and the shore along Camps Bay are all quite safe Cape Town neighborhoods. By day, you won’t have any issues walking around these areas. Of course, keep your wits about you and if something feels dodgy, just leave. By night, always use an Uber to get around. More on that in the Safety Tips section.

Where to stay safe Cape Town
Where to stay safe Cape Town
Cape Town safety by neighborhood

In general, the downtown and inner-city areas attract more crime. For example, the City Bowl neighborhood is not as safe for tourists, but it’s not so dangerous that you must avoid it. I stayed here for part of my trip, and I didn’t have much to complain about.

Cape Town safety by neighborhood

Every city has troublemakers though, so just remain vigilant. In City Bowl and De Waterkant, you’ll likely encounter street beggars, some of them teenagers. When they ask you for something, do not engage with them no matter what. Just keep walking.

Cape Town Neighborhoods to Avoid

Many suburbs outside of Cape Town have sky-high crime and murder rates that you should completely avoid. I’ve never talked with a tourist who has ventured far outside the city into one of these historically crime-ridden areas, but every now and then you hear sad news, like when 11 American tourists were robbed at gunpoint while out in Khayeshelita in January, 2020.

Cape Town Gay Tourism Safety Tips

As a precaution, all travelers in South Africa should travel by car after dark. Uber is reliable and widely available throughout South Africa. I specify Uber because many locals also say to avoid taking regular cabs. There is not much reason to take the Cape Town My Citi busses either, especially when Uber is so cheap.

Security fence
Security fence
Cape Town LGBT travel safety

The large majority of Cape Town theft occurs when people are walking alone in the dark. Avoid hanging in the street outside bars or clubs, especially in De Waterkant or City Bowl. If you’re waiting for a taxi, stay inside until it arrives.

Cape Town LGBT travel safety

Secondly, avoid paying any mind to beggars on the street. They’re most prevalent in the denser areas of the city, away from the waterfront. By giving them your attention, they can take advantage of your distraction by having someone else pickpocket you.

Cape Town LGBT travel tips

Never let anyone help you with an ATM transaction. The booths are small enough to fit only one person for a reason. Many tourists have been robbed of their wallet/bank cards by individuals lurking around ATM machines who offer help, but then run off with your stuff after seeing your PIN code.

LGBT safety tips
LGBT safety tips
Cape Town LGBT travel tips

For peace of mind as well as guaranteed security, you might as well make use of safety boxes if your hotel offers one. I only had one at my hotel in City Bowl.

Cape Town Gay Travel Tips

Hopefully the advice I offered in the prior section doesn’t scare you. The Cape Town gay travel experience is wonderful, so it’s best to be aware of potential bad situations so you can plan for the best.

Cape Town Gay Travel

Here are some more upbeat tips and notes for your Cape Town adventures.

Things Get Quiet After Dark

You’ll certainly notice that as soon as the sun sets in Cape Town, everyone seems to vanish from the streets. This is largely a function of the dramatic drop in temperature and perhaps as a safety precaution. Regardless of whether they’re locals or tourists, everyone in Cape Town seems to stay indoors and only take taxis after the sun goes down.

V&A Waterfront at night
V&A Waterfront at night
Table Mountain good weather

This also coincides with the fact that people eat dinner rather early in South Africa. If you’re a Spaniard who usually heads to dinner around 10:30 or 11:00 PM, you’ll be in for a surprise! Beyond 11:00 PM, most restaurants are closed.

Weather Forecasts are Usually Wrong

Everyone checks the weather forecast before heading to a beachside city for holiday. If you see colder than expected summer temperatures or bad weather forecasted during your trip, I would honestly ignore it. Cape Town weather forecasts are very unreliable!

Table Mountain good weather

South Africans will laugh if you mention this. They know it’s true, and they will tell you why. The Western Cape experiences very unpredictable weather patterns. Additionally, temperatures vary drastically over the course of the day. In summer, mornings may be quite chilly, while midday temperatures will have you thirstily running for the pool.

Grand Africa hot weather
Cape Town Gay Travel
Grand Africa hot weather

Definitely pack layers, even for summertime. You’ll need typical light clothing for the sun, a windbreaker jacket for mornings and sunset, and a slightly insulating jacket or light sweater for cooler nights.

Don’t Forget to Tip

South Africa embraces a tipping culture, as is common in Britain and the United States. Make sure to tip service staff with your bill. A 15-20% tip is most common. Servers will ask you how much tip you’ll leave when they run your card. Responding with a percentage is perfectly fine to avoid doing math on the spot.

Cape Town Safe Places

Watch Out for Load Shedding

If you’re planning to visit Cape Town during their summer months, keep in mind the likelihood of experiencing the phenomenon of load shedding. This just means certain sections of the city go without electricity for a small portion of daylight hours.

Western Cape
Western Cape
load shedding near stadium

Normally, this is not much of an issue since restaurants can still cook with gas-fired grills and many establishments have private generators. If you decide to book an Airbnb or other home share rental, you might be more affected than you’d like. This is not a one-time event. It’s something scheduled to happen daily.

load shedding near stadium

Most hotels and commercial spaces will have generators, which may persuade you to avoid Airbnb. But, if two to three hours without internet connection in the afternoon doesn’t bother you, you’ll be fine.

Pack Your Snacks for the Beach

I quickly discovered while walking the shores of Clifton that there are no beachside bars or restaurants. There wasn’t even a grocery store remotely close to Clifton Beach.

Day trip from CT

Vendors wade through the beachgoers selling snacks, drinks and ice cream. Sometimes they’ll set up a table stand. So, make sure you have cash for the beach.

Poverty Plagues Suburban Cape Town

While Cape Town gay travel is a culturing and relaxing experience, let’s not ignore the massive poverty that surrounds the city. As you will see on your trip from the airport, huge numbers of people live in squalor.

South African Poverty
South African Poverty
Poverty South Africa

Massive neighborhoods built from sheet metal line the areas alongside highways outside central Cape Town. In fact, the large majority of greater Cape Town’s population lives in severe poverty. Many are without proper sanitation or even a police force.

Poverty South Africa

While this article was published back in 2014, The Guardian provides an eye-opening narrative of how these individuals survive.

Interesting Facts about Cape Town

Cape Town’s relentless wind is dubbed “The Cape Doctor,” and for very good reason. The clean air we enjoy throughout the city of Cape Town is not because of low pollution levels; it’s because the strong winds carry it away!

Blue water beach
electrified fences South Africa
V&A waterfront otters

It’s impossible to miss how electric fencing surrounds every residence in Cape Town. Blatant armed response security signs are posted everywhere. It can be a little jarring if you’ve never seen this before. The current is not enough to kill you if by chance you came into contact with one, but you’re still getting shocked!

electrified fences South Africa

Remember that crime here used to be much worse, especially in the 1990’s. Imminent danger of robbery required people to take the most extreme of measures to secure their homes and businesses. Electric fencing remains popular today as the best way to protect property throughout South Africa.

Cape Town LGBT Travel Restaurant

The Western Cape province has three official languages: English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Locals speak dozens more indigenous languages and dialects, so it’s almost impossible for a westerner to pinpoint which language is being used.

cape of good hope 2020
Cape Town LGBT Travel Restaurant
V&A waterfront otters

Before experiencing Cape Town, I expected to largely hear Afrikaans language during my visit, which has influence from Dutch, German and English. While most South Africans know this language from learning it in school, it seems that just about everyone uses English instead.

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