Cape Town

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Living in Cape Town

Don’t get intimidated by rumors: living in Cape Town has often been described as one of the best expat experiences worldwide! This is no reason, however, to let your guard down: our expat guide to Cape Town has details on crime, safety, healthcare, and much more.
Be sure to visit Table Mountain to enjoy a picturesque view over Cape Town.

About the Capetonians

At the time of the last official census in 2011, the city had about 3.7 million inhabitants — on an area that included many suburbs that are not officially within city limits. This number is a lot higher than the last census, as there has been a steady flow of people from rural regions of South Africa opting for a new start in Cape Town. Seeing how the city is also highly attractive for expats from all around the world, they are surely another factor contributing to the fact that Cape Town is popular amongst all kinds of different people.

With almost half of the city’s residents, the majority of people living in Cape Town are coloured, an ethnic category that is a remnant from apartheid times. About a quarter was classified as being black African, and about 16% of residents living in the city at the time of the last census were white.

Communicating with the Locals

Three languages you are bound to come across in Cape Town are, ordered by the number of speakers, Afrikaans, Xhosa, and English. The last one is, for all intents and purposes, still the most dominant language of everyday life, and you will most certainly not run into any problems communicating only in English. Which language you hear most is partly also influenced by which neighborhood you live in, as the speakers tend to be rather localized due to various reasons past and present.

The Sad Reality: Crime in Cape Town

In our article on living in South Africa, we have discussed one of the country’s major issues: crime. Living in Cape Town, chances are that you will also witness criminal activity. However, the actual impact of crime on Cape Town remains somewhat controversial. While there are many voices proclaiming the city to be one of the murder capitals of the world and advise expats against going to Cape Town, many expats and locals maintain that, as long as you come prepared and stay vigilant, there is not much to worry about.

What cannot be denied, however, is the fact that murder, theft, burglary, robbery, and rape are very much part of everyday life for a large portion of the populace. In many parts of the city, crime is rampant. For the most part, these are the suburbs expats do not consider when looking for apartments — and with good cause. We have taken a detailed look on Cape Town’s neighborhoods in our article on moving to Cape Town.

There is, of course, a myriad of reasons which made crime a sad reality of life in the city. Many of the old divides that decades of apartheid rule have firmly instilled as a normal aspect of living in Cape Town and South Africa in general can still be felt today. The number of people living on less than 1 USD a day is still high in Cape Town. Countermeasures have long been taken and are showing effects, so there still is hope to get the problem under control and ensure a safe, dignified life, both for citizens and expats.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

If there’s something you’re still not sure about, check out the InterNations Forum.

Pascal Tremblay

"Fortunately, I received lots of supportive tips from other InterNations members before moving to Cape Town."

Nora Godfrey

"Here in Cape Town, InterNations consists of a great crowd of expats. Not just anyone can join the site, and I am happy about that."

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