Cape Town Waterfront

Traveling To Cape Town in The Middle of a Water Crisis : Should You Go?

One of the biggest stories of the last year has been the Cape Town water crisis. If you live under a rock I’ll give you the abridged version : Cape Town is running out of water!

We’re in a lot of travel groups online, and one of the biggest questions people ask is whether or not they should cancel their trips to South Africa. I’m here to tell you NO! Keep that trip to South Africa, travel to Cape Town, and enjoy it!

As a tourist you’re not nearly as affected as locals, and other than the advertisements reminding people to cut down on their water usage and the drain stopper pulled from your hotel bathtub, you wouldn’t realize there was a crisis to begin with. Shops are open, restaurants are still bustling, and tourists are still out in full force. 

V&A Waterfront Cape Town
It’s a beautiful day on the V&A Waterfront!

I won’t sugar coat it though, locals have it hard in this entire situation. Most have a big bin of grey water in their apartments to use for flushing toilets and a bucket in their shower to catch the soapy water to reuse for laundry. Our friend Bernard, who owns Vagabond Kitchens in Cape Town ( a must try when you’re there! ) has had to switch to paper plates and plastic cutlery instead of his traditional plating. Though the plates increase his overall costs and decrease the customer experience, water is just too precious to use on washing plates. 

Currently the Western Cape is at water restriction level 6b, which means each resident is only allowed 50 liters per day. That’s for EVERYTHING. Washing clothes, cooking, showers, you name it. One of the nice things though is there has been no price gouging on bottled water anywhere, and it’s always been readily available at supermarkets. We’ve heard they’ve been limiting people on the number of bottles they can buy per day, but we didn’t see any signs stating this in any supermarkets.

Cape Town Water crisis CPT
As soon as you land at CPT you’re reminded to be water conscious.


It’s taken a lot of adjustments and sacrifices by everyone, but because of their dramatic decrease in usage, day zero has been pushed from April to July.

Cape Town water crisis
Each piece of foam represents one day of water for the Western Cape.

UPDATE : Recent news has stated that as long as the region keeps at their current usage, then day zero should be pushed back to 2019. That’s assuming rainy season will be in fact, rainy.

If there’s one consolation in the situation, it’s that when the crisis is over the city will be much better for it. It’s times like these where inventions are born, and I’m sure more than one will be born out of this by the time it’s over.

Exhibit at the V&A Waterfront showing water usage across activities.

I’ve seen a few people say one of the reasons they want to postpone their trip is because they don’t want to use up precious water that could go to locals. That is a nice gesture and I understand where it’s coming from, but by not going you’re actually causing more damage to the local community than good.

Tourism accounts for a small percentage of the total municipal water usage but it plays a much bigger part of the local economy, accounting for 7.5% of the local GDP. According to Wesgro, the official tourism agency for Western Cape, tourism supports over 200,000 direct jobs across the province, as well as a further 100,000 indirect jobs. Those jobs are all dependent on you, the tourist, actually showing up and visiting the beautiful region where these locals live and work. Without tourists these jobs are gone and so are the paychecks that locals need to survive. Cape Town runs on tourism, so instead of not going at all, just be conscious of your water usage while you’re there.

Every hotel we’ve stayed in along the Western Cape has had reminders to use less water!

We spent five nights in Cape Town and loved every single minute. It’s a wonderful city going through a difficult time, but that will only make it stronger in the end. It’s also made us think a little more about our own water usage, both in South Africa and at home.  So my advice to those of you thinking of skipping Cape Town is please don’t! We heard a lot of warnings from people when they heard that’s where we were heading, but most of these warnings came from people who hadn’t even been to Cape Town.  It’s a beautiful city with SO MUCH to offer, and trust me, the reward far outweighs the risk. 

“If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”



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