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Health and safety

All large cities can be unsafe, and Cape Town is no exception.

We’ll cover safety and security during Orientation. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to be vigilant and avoid risky situations for yourself and your group. A list of emergency numbers is included in the UCT Orientation welcome packs.

Enter the IAPO REFERRAL number into your phone (+27 76 346 2397 from outside of South Africa and 076 346 2397 from within South Africa) and call for help in the event of a critical incident.

Don’t forget to enter all the details provided by your medical aid scheme into your mobile phone so that you have them with you at all times.

Please be aware that South Africa has a high incidence of HIV and AIDS (approximately 25% of men and women). Please behave appropriately and responsibly – your health and safety are your responsibility.


Emergency contacts

UCT offers emergency support for students if needed. We recommend you save the following numbers:

Campus protection services: (+27) 21 650 2222
IAPO emergency referral contact (all hours): (+27) 76 346 2397
General administrative queries (office hours only): (+27) 21 650 2822


Your safety

When walking on campus, we recommend students use the preferred pedestrian routes, which have safety bollards along the path. The nine emergency bollards, which are evenly spaced along the routes, are covered by CCTV and have an intercom linked directly to Campus Protection Service (CPS). Each bollard has a very distinctive flashing blue light on the top for easy identification.

If you are walking anywhere on campus after dark and feel unsafe, you can contact campus security to escort you to your campus or student housing destination.


Dos and don'ts

  • Don’t carry large sums of cash, cameras or other valuables in plain sight. Never leave your belongings unattended.
  • Keep your important documents in a safe place and carry around photocopies of your passport and other crucial documents. 
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and the people around you: avoid using earphones when in public..
  • Avoid using public transport after dark.
  • Don’t buy illegal drugs in South Africa, even if you are offered them on the street. Students have been the victims of crime in this kind of situation.
  • Do not leave bags or items visible in your car when you park it on the street.
  • The Western Cape does still have an abundance of wildlife, and if you explore Cape Town’s surrounding areas you are very likely to come face-to-face with wild animals, particularly baboons. Remember that all wild animals are dangerous. Baboons may be used to humans and unafraid of us, but that does not mean they are tame. Do not feed them, do not approach them and if you come across a troop of baboons on the road, keep your car windows closed. Baboons associate humans with food and might try and get into your car to raid it.
  • Do not hike, climb or swim in the ocean alone; always prepare well.
  • If you go hiking or climbing , take a fully charged cellphone with you and let someone know exactly where you are going and when you expect to be back. Cape Town’s weather is fickle and many a hiker has been stranded on the mountains in adverse weather conditions.


Your health

High-quality tap (faucet) water is available across the city and is both palatable and safe to drink straight from the tap.

The sun’s rays are extremely harmful and should not be taken lightly. Even if you don’t feel hot, or it is overcast, always wear sunscreen (and preferably a hat) when you are outdoors.

Cape Town is a malaria-free city; however, if you travel north up to Mozambique or even to the Kruger National Park and surrounding areas, anti-malaria pills are recommended. Check with your GP or a travel clinic for more information.

If you are an adult, you won't need any inoculations unless you are travelling from a yellow-fever-endemic area, in which case you will need verification to prove your inoculation status when you arrive in South Africa.

If you suffer from any allergies or medical condition, you should wear a medical ID bracelet, which is called a MedicAlert bracelet in South Africa, obtainable from MedicAlert.

Medical facilities at UCT, as well as in the greater Cape Town area, are world-class. Should you require medical attention, consult your medical aid provider for advice. There are several private and public hospitals within a 2-5km distance of the university: UCT Private Hospital; Claremont Medical Centre; Kingsbury Hospital; Rondebosch Medical Centre; and Groote Schuur Hospital.

UCT’s Student Wellness Service helps all students to maintain their emotional and physical well-being.