1) When to visit ?
I will start this section by telling you that I visited Cape Town for just over a month from the end of June to the start of August. This is South African winter, with July and August being the coldest and wettest months. I was travelling to Cape Town to visit my boyfriend, and also travel around the city. One thing I will tell you now, is that if you travel during South African winter you will want to add a few more days or even a week to your intended visit time, this is due to the amount of days it rains. For example the first 5 days I was in Cape Town I did not see the top of Table Mountain, it was covered in thick cloud the whole time. Also visiting the beaches and going on walks will be far less enjoyable if you go on a rainy day, so take this into consideration if you do travel at this time. I also loved travelling at this time, because there were noticeably less people, of course the global pandemic is contributing to this, but during the week there really were very few people around which is my preferred way to travel.
Between March and May and September and November are good times to visit Cape Town this is because these are at either end of peak season, therefore the weather is not so hot, there are less people and you can enjoy lower prices for accommodation.
Cape Town’s summer is between November and February so this is the most popular time to visit but also when prices are hiked up.
So pick a time thats suited to you, but my advice would be not to completely dismiss winter, especially if you are more flexible with time, as you still get many beautiful days but with far less people.
What a difference two days makes. Photo 1: A cloudy V&A Waterfront. Photo 2: A chilly but sunny Llandudno Beach
2) How long to stay?
I touched on this a little above but I stayed in Cape Town for just over a month. I definitely had days where I wasn’t exploring, and days where the weather was too bad to leave the house. But a month in South African winter has been a perfect amount of time to spend here, with me now being excited to return to Zambia.
I am thinking of putting together some trip itinerary for you guys at a small cost to make planning your trips to Africa and Asia a little easier. However for Cape Town I would advise spending anywhere between 5 days and 10 days, if travelling in good weather season. I personally think 5 days would be pretty rushed and crapping in a lot each day, whereas 10 days would allow you to really explore and see a few more places along the way.
3) Getting around
Now I don’t think I have ever recommended hiring a car, but for Cape Town I would say it is really helpful. I am always a budget traveller, choosing to stay in hostels, or walk to destinations instead of spending money on transport, but I felt a little unable to move easily in Cape Town so in the month I hired a car for a couple of days on two separate occasions.
Rent a car
There are plenty of hire car companies in Cape Town, ones that you can pick up from the airport too, all the usuals Avis, Hertz and Budget. I will give you some prices now for Budget, which is the company I used. They have locations at the airport, in Wynberg (the suburbs) and in the centre of Cape Town. I used this company just based on price, they were the cheapest by quite a bit. Below is a breakdown of the price for renting a car from Budget
Friday 9am – Monday 9am
A Suzuki (cant remember the model but it was cute and Chelsea blue)
600km mileage limit
1,061 Rand (US$72)
Now for me this feels expensive but I know for many this would be affordable. I really believe it was necessary especially to do the Cape Peninsula, and some of the further afield beaches such as Muizenberg, or day trips to Hermanus or Stellenbosch.
When I wasn’t hiring the car I would usually use one of these ride-hailing apps, it felt like a much safer way to travel around Cape Town. Uber, although well established in the area for me seemed way to expensive, with rides being anywhere from 20-40 Rand (US$1.40-2.70) more expensive than DiDi and Bolt. DiDi a Chinese based company that I was very accustomed to using in China, is new to Cape Town as of 2021. Did you know DiDi in Chinese actually means little brother (弟弟)? So when you take a ride with DiDi I suppose you’re getting a ride from your little bro! Because they are new and trying to compete with Uber, the first 4 or 5 rides I took were all free! Winning! Then after that I was receiving big discounts on each ride. After a couple of weeks however the discounts stopped rolling in so I turned to Bolt which was cheaper than regular priced DiDi and MUCH cheaper than Uber.
Now as in many places in Africa, there are these little buses you can take, more like a mini bus. I take these when I am with my boyfriend as I feel a bit more confident at using them. But they don’t really tell you on the bus where they are going, so you have to ask and make sure you’re on the correct bus. They also just stop most places that people request along the route. Although I personally had no problems in Cape Town when I used these buses (or taxi buses) I did consciously stay clear of them after a while because in Bellville, Cape Town there were and still are a number of revenge shootings of taxi bus drivers. This is due to two competing companies (one government owned) arguing about who has the rights to drive these routes. The shootings have resulted in a number of deaths and many injuries and the issue is still ongoing. So personally, although I was not any where near this area I was still staying clear of these types of buses.
Now I don’t have personal experience with this service, but I did see the buses going around town and up to Table Mountain. It seems to be a good option if you’re wanting to go to all the popular spots but do not want to hire a car.
The website claims to offer 30 stops across 3 routes. With the package for the 3 routes for 1 day costing 199 Rand (US$13.60) for SA citizens or SADC (ID required) and 235 Rand (US$16.10) for other visitors.
I personally have never really used these buses as they feel immediately restricting. For example if you were to use the Table Mountain tour route, and go up the Cableway a lot of hours of your day would be spent up the mountain and perhaps not utilising the other stops too much.
But feel free to check out the options for yourself, there is a link to their website below.
My CiTi Bus
The My CiTi Buses are also helpful, particularly if you are staying in the downtown area. The routes cover the main downtown area, as well as reaching the popular sunset beach Bloubergstrand in the north and Camps Bay Beach (the most southern point the bus reaches.
An example fare from Wale Street (Bo Kaap Colorful houses) to Camps Bay beach would be 15.60 Rand (US$1.10) in peak time and 11.50 (US$1.10) during the saver period.
4) Little details
SIM Cards & Data
In this day and age a SIM card is often needed or at least highly helpful for any traveller. I picked up a Cell C sim card from a mini mart/ corner shop store a couple of days after arriving in Cape Town. Side Note: I think I am officially becoming American, I just wrote mini mart before I wrote corner shop! I definitely spent too long teaching little Chinese babies Americanisms. Anyway I would advise you get your SIM card from one of these corner shops (back to British) because without a proof of address you will have difficulty buying one from a proper shop. I think the SIM card was around 10 Rand (US$0.68), then I topped up 100 Rand. For data prices you can see the Cell C price list below for your reference. When you top up you just get one of these small pieces of paper and you type the number in and bish bash bosh your data is on.
5) Where to Stay
Well this depends on a number of things, your budget, your length of stay and your location preferences. As I was staying for a month I decided to book an Air BnB. As I needed to be located nearer to the University of Cape Town I found an Air BnB in Wynberg. I was travelling during COVID so there were less people willing to let you stay in their homes (less properties available), and due to the longevity of my stay there were only a few feasible options in the area I wanted. You can also try Home Stay to find places to stay around Cape Town (see link below). Generally speaking a lot of these home stays and Air BnB’s seem to be located in the suburbs in places such as Wynberg, Rondebosch, Kenilworth and Newlands, which are pretty safe areas.
Of course your location depends on what type of accommodation you want to stay in but here are a few areas that you may want to consider. The V&A Waterfront is a good area to start and one where you can easily move both on foot and by car to other locations near to the sea front. The so-called City Bowl area (named, I expect due to the shapes the mountains create) is also an option if you want to be in a good distance for visiting most places. I have heard advice to avoid the famous Long Street as there are petty crimes here, especially when the bars are open. I also personally felt a little uncomfortable around Strand Street, but it was not terrible. More on safety later.
My advice would be too see where all the places are that you want to visit and then find a middle ground for your accommodation, especially if you are not looking to hire a car and just walk and use public transport.
6) Day Trips
One of the things I love about Cape Town is that the city itself has so much to offer but also that there are plenty of day trips, or even overnight trips to do from the city. Here are just a few examples of potential day trips you can research when visiting Cape Town.
- Hermanus (Whale watching)
- Cape Winelands Area
- Gordan’s Bay to Betty’s Bay
7) Safety in SA
Unfortunately it seems we cannot mention this beautiful country without a quick mention about crime and safety. I would say I found Cape Town to be very safe, but I appreciate that is my personal experience and you must always be vigilant. I must also tell you here that I was solo-travelling most of the time and I never felt unsafe. I mentioned above that Strand Street I felt like I was having to be a bit more vigilant, there were lots of people coming up to me whilst I was waiting for my taxi to arrive and I didn’t feel fully comfortable, but still no problems were actually experienced.
My safety advice is more focused on the walking and hiking trails. There were a few times, whilst travelling alone around these outdoor areas that I perhaps felt I would have liked to be with someone. Hiking in Newlands Forest for example was absolutely fine for the trail I did, but if I’d have wanted to travel much further I would have like to be with someone because there was no phone signal. In general any hikes around Cape Town (and there are a lot) I would advise you to go with a guide or a group of people and really plan your trip.
In terms of walking around with photography equipment (for me my camera and drone) and personal belongings I think as long as you’re sensible and don’t flash your equipment you should have no problems. My top piece of advise for carrying things in general as a solo traveller is to have a bum bag that you can put across your body, easy, convenient and better for safety.