Cape Town, the mother city, situated at the gateway of South Africa, is currently one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Warmed by the African sun, bustling and beautiful, the cosmopolitan nature of Cape Town means that one never tires of the multitude of tourist attractions, entertainment, restaurants and adventures.
Hop on the revolving cable car to the top of Table Mountain, visit the V&A Waterfront – situated in the heart of a working harbour, take a ferry to Robben Island – most famous for having been the isolated prison of former South African president Nelson Mandela, hang out on the beach or Camps Bay Village, tour the Cape Winelands or stroll through Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Cape Town has a rich cultural history as is represented by its Rainbow Nation.
- If the rush of conquering the mountains by foot is not enough, try abseiling off the top of Table Mountain to a ledge more than 100m below. www.abseilafrica.co.za
- White water rafting in the region is reliant on the weather, and good rains or melting snow can result in thrilling white water activity. www.felixunite.com
- If kloofing (leaping anything up to 25m off gorges into water below) is your thing. Thunderfalls on the Steenbras River Gorge near Gordon’s Bay is one of the places you should head towards.
- Sandboarding, a combination of surfing and snow skiing, is gaining popularity and can be experienced on the dunes up the coast just north of Cape Town near Atlantis. www.downhilladventures.com
- Paragliding or hang-gliding – the Cape Town environs offer a number of sites ranging from Lion’s Head overlooking Camps Bay, Sir Lowry’s Pass, Gordon’s Bay and Noordhoek to name a few. www.flycapetown.co.za
- Horse riding: There are beautiful horse riding trails on the unspoilt beaches of Noordhoek. Contact Sleepy Hollow Horse Riding – Tel. 021 789 2341 or 083 261 0104. www.sleepyhollowhorseriding.co.za Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch also offers horse riding – Tel. 021 809 1100.
- The waters south-west of Cape Point offer some of the finest and most exciting game fishing in the world for yellowfin and longfin tuna, Atlantic bigeye, dorado, yellowtail and broadbill swordfish, the gladiator of the deep.
- Big wave surfing is cool at Big Bay, Blaauwberg, which hosts several national and international surfing competitions. For the ultimate in big wave, ride Dungeons off Hout Bay, which can produce a ’25-footer’ in the right conditions. For surfing spots check out www.wavescape.co.za
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Banks are open from 09:00 to 15:30 on weekdays and 08:30 to 11:00 on Saturdays. Automated Teller Machines (ATM’s) are readily available in cities and towns.
- What do you want to get out of your trip to the beach?
- If you want a long invigorating walk, try Noordhoek or Bloubergstrand.
- If you want children in a safe environment where you can watch over them easily, try St James, Fish Hoek, Boulders, Hout Bay, Camps Bay or Gordons Bay.
- If you are looking to meet attractive people of the opposite (or same) sex, try your luck at Clifton, particularly first or second beach.
- And if you are looking to taking off all your gear, then Sandy Bay is the traditional spot.
- Big Bay, Bloubergstrand, Kogelbay at Gordons Bay, as well as Outer Kom (Kommetjie) and Long Beach at Noordhoek are draw cards for serious surfers. Surfer’s corner at Muizenberg is the ideal place if you want to try surfing, lessons are available for beginners. www.wavescape.co.za or www.roxysurfschool.co.za
Boat trips and Charters
- The Cape Peninsula provides a wide range of yachting and boating choices.
- Unsurpassed scenery with Table Mountain, Robben Island and Blaauwberg’s white beaches make yachting here a truly unique experience. Regattas are held every Wednesday in summer, starting from the historic Royal Cape Yacht Club, tel: 021 421 1354. www.rcyc.co.za/
- Rivalling Table Bay in the scenic stakes is False Bay where two yacht clubs operate – Gordon’s Bay Yacht Club, tel: 021 856 3263 and False Bay Yacht Club, tel: 021 786 1703 in Simon’s Town.
- Charter a boat for an adventurous and thrilling game fishing safari. www.capecharters.co.za
- Choose between sedate harbour trips, cruises into Table Bay of False Bay, or lengthier outings in vessels ranging from luxury cruising boats to speedy state-of-the art catamarans or traditional turn of the century sailing vessels. Sunset Cruises are extremely popular particularly in summer, with many including dinner and drinks. www.waterfrontboats.co.za
- Embark on a fully guided tour across to Robben Island. Once you have arrived at this famous World Heritage Site, you’ll be taken around the prison where Nelson Mandela was held captive. www.robben-island.org.za
Cape Town International Airport
Situated conveniently only 20km’s from Cape Town center, Cape Town International Airport is the main gateway to the Western Cape. Tel: 021 934 0407. www.acsa.co.za
All major car hire companies operate from the airport and have city depots. Several small car hire companies offer competitive rates. For car rental rates please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Public phones use telephone cards. The cards can be bought at post offices, airports, bookshops and supermarkets.
Mobile phones can be hired from the airport and various other outlets www.cellucity.co.za. Sim cards are available in all major supermarkets.
Internet Cafés are springing up like mushrooms in the city. Charges are reasonable.
Conversions – distances and temperatures:
Distances are given in kilometers (1 mile = 1.62 kilometres)
Temperatures are given in degrees Celsius (Centigrade) (20°C = 68°F)
Major international credit cards such as American Express, Bank of America, Diners, MasterCard, Standard Bank Card, Visa and their affiliates are accepted.
One Rand (R) = 100 cents (c). Notes issued R200, R100, R50, R20, R10; coins R5, R2, R1, 50c 20c, 10c. Currency exchange rates are available at banks and published daily in the press.
Travellers who want to unwind between tours or simply get away from the effects of stress can have aromatherapy, reflexology, wraps, massages, hydro-therapy and expert beauty treatments. What better way to de-stress than a week at a retreat or spa? Cape Town Spas
Drive on the left and give way to traffic approaching from the right. The general speed limit is 120km/h on open roads and 60km/h in urban areas. An international driver’s license is required in SA as the license must include a photograph as well as the signature of the holder.
Duty Free Shops
Duty-free shops are situated at Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban International Airports.
Current is 220/230 volts at 50 cycles per second. A three-point round-pin adapter is required, so take an adapter. Most hotel rooms have 110-volt outlets for electric shavers and small appliances.
Golf deserves a special mention as the Cape has some of the world’s most striking and challenging courses. Many of them have been designed by leading players like South African champion Gary Player. The Arabella Country Estate near Hermanus features one of the world’s top courses, a luxury hotel and a sybaritic spar. At last count there were 55 golf clubs in the greater Cape Town area!
- Clovelly, 021 784 2100
- King David, 021 934 3056
- Milnerton, 021 552 1047
- Rondebosch, 021 689 4176
- Steenberg, 021 715 0227
- Westlake, 021 788 2020
Out of town
- Arabella, 028 284 0000, Kleinmond
- Atlantic Beach, 021 553 2223, Melkbosstrand
- De Zalze, 021 880 7300, Stellenbosch
- Eirnvale, 021 847 1906, Somerset West
- Paarl, 021 863 1140, Paarl
- Pearl Valley, 021 867 8000, Paarl
- Stellenbosch, 021 880 0103, Stellenbosch
Cape Town has excellent gyms. For more information visit: www.virginactive.co.za
Vaccinations for cholera and small pox are not required, but travelers from a yellow fever zone must have a valid certificate. Visitors to game parks must take anti malarial tablets, available at pharmacies (drugstores).
There are first-rate medical and dental facilities in Cape Town. As a result, many foreign visitors combine tourism with dental procedures, laser eye surgery, or cosmetic surgery that cost much less here because of the favorable exchange rate.
There are 11 official languages in SA. English is the language of administration and is widely spoken. Other languages are: Afrikaans, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
Passports must be valid fro six months after date of departure from SA. Visitors must have a return ticket.
Fixed: 1 January, 21 March, 27 April, 1 May, 16 June, 9 August, 24 September, 16 December, 25 & 26 December. Variable: Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The nicest surprise about Cape Town’s Restaurants is how affordable they are in world terms. Enjoy an award-winning South African wine. In Cape Town you can eat and drink exceptionally well for R190 per head. Even on a tight budget there are delicious affordable alternatives. For recommended restaurants in Cape Town: http://www.campsbayapartments.com/cape-town-restaurants/ and for a list of restaurants in Camps Bay: www.campsbayapartments.com/restaurants/
Cape Town’s major malls have been made considerable efforts to safeguard tourists and residents against crime. Surveillance cameras monitor activities in the central business district and security guards watch over major shopping centers. Nonetheless, tourists should take the sensible precautions they would in any major city.
Avoid carrying large sums of cash, displays of jewelry, cameras or video cameras, leaving belongings unattended, and in general take advise from locals on where to park after dark. Take special precautions at lonely lookout points, especially at dust or after dark. Keep the car doors locked at all times and wind the windows up, lock valuable items in the trunk.
Street children and beggars may approach you for a handout. Many social workers counsel against giving money to the children as it is usually gets handed over to an older figure or is used for sniffing glue. If you wish to do good, rather give food.
Cape Town has several world-class shopping malls. They are well designed, beautifully merchandised, atmospherically controlled retail outlets selling brands as familiar to shoppers in Milan, Paris, London and New York as they are to shoppers in Cape Town. The major centers include The V&A Waterfront www.waterfront.co.za, Cavendish Square www.cavendish.co.za in Claremont, Tyger Valley www.tygervalley.co.za in the Northern Suburbs and Canal Walk www.canalwalk.co.za at Century City (the largest in the Southern hemisphere, rivalling any in the world for its variety of merchandise).
Cape Town is a treasure house for some of the best craft markets in the country. On weekends, open air markets such as the ones in Green Point, Hout Bay, Kommetjie, Rondebosch and Constantia offer hours of browsing and are the source of the best original hand-made crafts.
Two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time.
It is customary to tip waiters, waitresses, wine stewards, taxi drivers, porters and caddies. Depending on service, the amount should be around 10%. Porters expect R5 – R20 per bag. Petrol station attendants anticipate a tip if they have gone beyond just filling your tank, a suggestion is to tip R5.
Top Tourist Attractions
Via the cableway, for stunning views of the city, its seaboard and nearby Lion’s Head. If you have the time, a walk up the mountain from Kirstenbosch or Constantia is recommended. But keep an eye on the weather. www.tablemountain.net
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
This working harbour, shopping and entertainment complex is South Africa’s top tourist attraction. While there, visit the Two Oceans Aquarium, with more than 300 species, including sharks, turtles, penguins and seals. www.waterfront.co.za
The Atlantic Seaboard
Take a drive to Cape Point (www.capepoint.co.za) via Clifton, Llandudno, Hout Bay and Chapman’s Peak (if it’s open) and Kommetjie for breathtaking views. Return via Simon’s Town (famed for it’s penguins), Fish Hoek and the Constantia vineyards to complete a circuit of the spectacular peninsula.
The National Botanical Gardens at Kirstenbosch
One of the world’s finest, offers over 5000 plant species in its gardens and hothouses (tel: 021 799 8783).
Formerly the prison of Nelson Mandela and the other black political dissidents. A trip to the island is a sombre, sobering but unforgettable experience. www.robben-island.org.za
The Company Gardens
Take a walk through the first garden in South Africa (1652) and see the Houses of Parliament, the Tuynhuis, Cape office of South Africa’s President, and other splendid Dutch buildings.
The Castle of Good Hope
This five-pointed fortress, still a military headquarters but also housing a museum, gallery and restaurant, is the oldest occupied building in South Africa.
- Groot Constantia, one of the oldest and most beautiful wine estates, where winemaking in South Africa began.
- Stellenbosch, second oldest and best preserved town in South Africa, known as the ‘Eikestad’
- town of oaks. Call in at the tourist office for information on the Stellenbosch Wine Route.
- Paarl, the pearl of the Cape, at the foot of the Du Toit’s Kloof Pass. Also at the heart of an extensive wine route.
- Franschoek, a beautiful valley studded with fruit farms, wine estates and some excellent restaurants. www.franschhoek.org.za
Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope tour
Join us on Africa’s premier tour route to the majestic meeting place of the Indian & Atlantic Oceans. Sir Francis Drake the explorer called it “the fairest Cape that we saw in the circumference of the Globe” This tour offers a full and exciting day out.
- Hout Bay, optional 30-minute cruise to the seal colony in a glass bottom boat.
- Cape Point nature reserve
- Cape Point
- Cape of Good Hope
- Optional stop for lunch at Fish Hoek Galley – swimming in Indian ocean possible.
- Optional stop at the penguin colony in Simonstown.
- Kirstenbosch botanical gardens.
Paarl, Franschoek & Stellenbosch
Start off with a visit to the Afrikaans language monument situated high on the slopes of Paarl Mountain to get an overview of the day’s itinerary. After a city tour of Paarl we join the team at the Nelson’s Creek wine estate for a cellar tour and wine tasting. This estate made history by being the first to assist it’s workers to produce their own wines – bottled under the New Beginnings label. We then make our way to Franschhoek for our optional lunch stop at the Ballon Rouge restaurant.
- View over the winelands from the Language Monument
- Cellar tour and tasting at Nelsons Creek*
- Stellenbosch city tour
½ Day Cape Town townships tour
The day tour offers an insight and interaction with cultures, communities and individuals living in our colourful society. Witness every day life in a demanding environment and share in their hopes & achievements. The tour continues to the townships of Langa, Guguletu, Crossroads and Khyelitsha. This is the real Africa. Here traditional healers, traders, markets, shebeens and the church play an important role in the community. Buy arts and crafts and take back a souvenir of this amazing African experience.
Free Cape Town walking tours
Cape Town Free Walking Tours starts from Motherland Coffee Company, Mandela Rhodes Place. On the C/O Wale St & St George’s Mall, Cape Town. www.freewalkingtourscapetown.co.za
- Uber in Cape Town is extremely convenient. Download the App www.uber.com/
- Airport transfers. For rates please e-mail email@example.com
- Minibus taxis have to a large extent taken the place of buses and trains. Most Cape Townians take minibus taxis every day and they offer convenient but sometimes hair-raising fast transport along major routes. Boarding points are whenever and wherever you can get the driver to stop – usually with no warning.
If you’re not feeling that adventurous, call for a conventional private taxi (ask for fares beforehand).
There are a lot of companies running guided tours of the city and surrounds.
All major car hire companies operate from the airport and have city depots. Several small car hire companies offer competitive rates. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for car rental rates.
Tap water throughout the Cape Metropolitan Area is safe for human consumption.
Most tourists visit Cape Town during our long summer from October to March. A Mediterranean climate with little rain and 11 hours or more of sunshine a day. The wind does blow and if you’re after a tan or the beach, remember that mornings are usually much less windy, and that certain beaches ( Clifton, Boulders and Bikini Beach) are more protected than others. And if you’re tanning, remember to take sensible precautions, where a hat or cap and lather in sun block.
Conventional local wisdom informs that spring (September) and autumn (April/May) are the smart times to rent a house or apartment in Camps Bay. They are usually balmy in-between seasons, when nature is at its showiest. If you’re into flowers (August – September) or whale watching (June – November), or seeing the vineyards at their best, these are great seasons to be in the Cape.
Although Cape Town winters have days of rain and wind, they often produce perfect temperate days or even weeks. When it’s not raining, winter becomes the perfect ‘secret season’. Accommodation rates are usually lower at this time.