Port Elizabeth City Hall building.

Is Port Elizabeth Safe for Tourists?

Port Elizabeth, recently named “Gqeberha” but still locally known as P.E., is a fantastic tourist destination along the southeast coast of South Africa. This gorgeous locale is a part of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan and is undoubtedly a powerhouse of the Eastern Cape.

Port Elizabeth is without question one of the best places to live in South Africa, and for good reason. Tourists often overlook this seaport city for the more popular coastal cities like Durban or Cape Town, but as any South African local will tell you, P.E. deserves a top spot, too.

The city was established in 1820 but became more well-known in 1913 after the Kimberly Railroad finished construction. Since then, P.E.’s beautiful beaches, friendly residents, cultural diversity, and rich history have all added to its coastal charm.

Why Visit Port Elizabeth?

Whether you’re visiting to experience the culture of the locals or to enjoy the best views the Eastern Cape offers, P.E. has got you covered. For starters, it’s not too far off from the breathtaking Garden Route (around a two-hour drive from Storms River Village).

A surfer walking along a beach in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

You can’t visit without experiencing a good beach day, where you can enjoy anything from surfing to sunbathing. Besides that, you can enjoy Stanley Street’s bustling nightlife and food destinations, see the wildlife in game reserves, or visit historical museums.

Port Elizabeth is also home to the famous Route 67, a showcase of 67 public works of art. These artworks are dedicated to the 67 years that Nelson Mandela spent fighting for the freedom of South Africa and her people.

Is Port Elizabeth Dangerous?

Now, let’s not shy away from the truth – you’ve likely heard all kinds of stories about crime in South Africa, and you’re asking yourself, is South Africa safe? The World Population Review, in their crime rate by country statistics, found South Africa to have the third highest crime rate worldwide.

But the crime rates differ depending on which province, city, or area you are in. Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism notes that Port Elizabeth has been recognized as the safest city in Africa. While no statistical evidence supports that claim, P.E. is definitely one of the safer options in the country.

Like any South African region, P.E. has a high crime index. So always take the necessary precautions and be weary of your surroundings. Better safe than sorry.

Two people walking together on a path/sidewalk.

Dangerous Areas in Port Elizabeth


Bethelsdorp is a small historical town just outside of Port Elizabeth 13.2 miles (21.3km) and was one of the first locations discovered by London missionaries in 1802. The community maintains several buildings protected by the National Monuments Act, like the Van Der Kamp Memorial Church, that uphold the town’s history.

Despite this, Bethelsdorp is still considered one of the top three hotspots for crime in P.E., ranking highly in attempted murder, attempted assault cases, and robberies. Gender-based violence is also an issue here, similar to the rest of the country. Overall, tourists should avoid this area.

New Brighton

New Brighton is the oldest informal settlement in Port Elizabeth and sits just north of P.E. Central Business District (CBD). It’s home to significant memorials and locations in remembrance of the struggles that the Apartheid era represented. The Red Location Museum, for example, represents the history of Nelson Mandela Bay.

Like Bethelsdorp, New Brighton is in the top three crime hotspots in P.E. and ranks highly for numerous crimes. Crimes like murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, robbery, and carjacking all run rampant in this area. Pickpocketing is also a significant problem, even in broad daylight.

A generic image of a masked thief breaking and entering.

Is it Safe to Live in Port Elizabeth?

To put it simply – yes, it is safe to live in Port Elizabeth. Like the rest of South Africa (and the world, for that matter), crime can be prevalent in P.E., but as long as you stick to some basic safety precautions, you’ll be okay. Plus, some areas are more dangerous than others. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying what P.E. has to offer.

Now that some of the more dangerous areas in P.E. have already been discussed, we can take a turn toward the safer and more welcoming neighborhoods you’re sure to love.

Safe Areas in Port Elizabeth


Summerstrand is a beautiful seaside neighborhood around 3.7 miles (6 km) from the city center. It’s alongside stunning beaches, boardwalks, aquariums, clubs, and places to spend your time having some fun. Simply put, Summerstrand is among the most highly recommended and upscale locations in Port Elizabeth

The locals here are friendly and welcoming, so you’ll quickly make new friends. It’s considered one of the best tourist locations and one of the safest neighborhoods in the city (and in the country, for that matter). You can’t go wrong staying in this prime location.

Aerial view of Summerstrand in Port Elizabeth.


For a quiet lifestyle, away from the hustle and bustle of tourist central, Millpark is your go-to area. It’s a small garden suburb that boasts gorgeous trees, parks, and sports clubs. Millpark is one of the more upscale areas but doesn’t have a ton of residents, so there is rarely any traffic or noise.

The residents are warm and welcoming and enjoy a simple life. Like any location, there is still some crime, but Millpark is considered among the safest neighborhoods in P.E. It is also a go-to area for families with children and pets.


Walmer is another upscale neighborhood that is only a 10-minute drive away from nearby beaches and is also close to Port Elizabeth International Airport. It’s certainly more on the posh side and sports the classic vibe of a suburban neighborhood.

Walmer is the middle ground between Summerstrand and Millpark. It’s far away enough from busy areas to be peaceful but is still close enough to prominent locations to have some things to do. Again, this neighborhood has some of the most friendly residents in the city, and crime occurs less frequently, making it one of the safest areas.

A memorial statue in a park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Warnings & Dangers in Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth is about as safe as you can get in South Africa, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some dangers to look out for. It’s essential to be wholly prepared before traveling to any city, so do your research and stay safe.

In P.E., you can expect similar crimes as in other cities, including petty thefts, ATM scams, armed robberies, or carjackings. However, the larger scale and more violent crimes that plague the country are less likely to affect travelers, especially in populated tourist areas.

Overall Travel Risk (6/10)

Travelers from all over the world have heard about crime rates in South Africa, which are pretty high, so there will always be some travel risk. However, P.E. is one of the safer cities in South Africa.

There are similar crimes across the country and in this city; things like robbery and pickpocketing, bribery and corruption, or fraud are widespread. P.E. also has a high risk of mugging or kidnapping, especially at night.

However, there are a few specific crimes and issues to look for. Here are five common traps that you should be wary of that tourists (and locals) fall victim to.

A man travelling witch a luggage bag behind him, with a sunset backdrop.

Unofficial Guides or Police

A common scam in P.E. is people pretending to be tour guides or police officers. Fake tour guides have been known to take visitors of popular parks on unknown trails, where other assailants are likely waiting to rob you.

The fake police situation is less common, but you might still find people posing as so-called “tourist police.” Rest assured; there is no such thing. Fake police also come in the form of false traffic cops pulling you over for violations and attempting to rob you once you’ve stopped.


You should always be aware of and prepared for pickpockets, especially at night or in crowded spaces. Local criminals are likely to target passersby if they see an opportunity, and unfortunately, some don’t care if it’s daytime, so you must always remain alert.

Ensure you don’t leave your belongings unattended or have your valuables in your hand or on display as you walk. Having your purses, backpacks, cellphones, and cameras (anything of value) on display is a prime opportunity for a pickpocket to run by and grab them from you.

Fake Accommodations

When booking accommodations for your stay in P.E., you might come across some fake listings on unaccredited sites like Facebook Marketplace. They can appear quite convincing, with identical copies of existing lodging sites, but sometimes the photos and descriptions are made up.

These fake sites are made to get you to “book” your stay and transfer the money, essentially robbing you. It’s always best to book your accommodation from the location’s official website or use trusted sites like booking.com or Airbnb.co.za.

An accommodation in Port Owen, South Africa

ATM and Credit Card Theft

One of the more common scams that both locals and visitors of P.E. (and South Africa in general) have to deal with is ATM and card fraud. This usually happens when your card gets stuck in the ATM, and a stranger offers to help.

The ATM is usually tampered with in some way to make this happen, so if it gets stuck, call for the bank’s help, freeze, or cancel your card immediately. Also, be careful when typing in your ATM pin, and look for people standing too close, especially in malls or crowded areas.

Tips for Staying Safe in Port Elizabeth

It may sound scary to hear about some common crimes and scams around the city, but there are always ways to avoid them. Here are some tips for staying safe around the city:

  • Avoid traveling alone: If you’re walking around the city, having someone with you is always safer.
  • Keep valuables out of sight: If you walk around and have your phone or fancy camera on display, that’s just asking a thief to run by and take it.
  • Don’t let strangers help you at an ATM: If your card gets stuck, don’t allow a stranger to help; instead, call the bank or someone that works there to help.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: You should always keep your guard up in a new city and be on the lookout for sketchy areas or potential dangers.
  • Learn essential contact numbers: It’s always a must to know some emergency phone numbers to call.

A person using an ATM.

Is Port Elizabeth Safe | Frequently Asked Questions

Is Port Elizabeth Safe to Walk Around?

Walking around is generally safe if you take the right precautions. Try to walk along busy streets with a group of friends, and avoid walking around with flashy jewelry or your phone on display, either.

It’s recommended that you avoid walking around Port Elizabeth at night altogether. If you do find yourself having to walk at night, make sure to steer clear of darker and isolated paths, and always travel with a buddy.

Is Port Elizabeth Known As the Friendly City?

Whether you’re a South African local or a tourist looking up information on Port Elizabeth, you’ve likely heard it’s often called ‘the Windy City.’ But did you know it is also called ‘the Friendly City’?

Port Elizabeth locals are amiable and welcoming when it comes to tourists and visitors.  You’ll probably find plenty of people eager to help you along your way or engage in polite conversation.

Sign that says "welcome".

Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in Port Elizabeth?

Most definitely! Like most places in South Africa, Port Elizabeth has perfectly drinkable tap water. In most major cities and towns in the country, the water goes through several purification processes before reaching the taps in your home or holiday accommodation.

However, this is only true for urban areas. In some rural areas, you must take extra precautions before drinking the water, like boiling it or using purifying bleach granules.

Is Port Elizabeth Safer Than Cape Town?

It’s certainly a long way from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, but how does safety differ in the two cities? While Port Elizabeth is up there in terms of being one of the safer places in the country, evidence suggests Cape Town is safer.

Numbeo statistics show that Port Elizabeth has a slightly lower score for safety than Cape Town (by a score of 2.88). So technically speaking, Port Elizabeth is not safer than Cape Town.

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