Useful and interesting information for visitors coming to Cape Town and South Africa
Sawubona – Welcome to Cape Town
“You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town” – this is the City of Cape Town’s tourism slogan. And the multi-ethnic metropole at the other end of the world lives up to expectations: gorgeous weather, beautiful people, a mountain in the middle of the city and a whole ocean at its doorstep. No matter if you are seeking culinary delights, heritage and attractions, the utmost adrenaline rush or culture and arts, you will find what you are looking for. Apart from that, Cape Town means winter sun without jet-lag. We have put together an A – Z with tips and activities in and around Cape Town and South Africa. Happy days and enjoy life!
Adrenaline junkies rest assured – in Cape Town you will get your money’s worth! Adventures galore from abseiling on Table Mountain, shark cage diving, sand boarding and skydiving to canyoning and zip-lining. Just check with one of the adventure travel agencies in Long Street. Cycle enthusiasts can choose to take part in the annual Cape Town Cycle Race at the beginning of March – the world’s largest timed cycle race – a 109 km route across the peninsula.
The penguin colony „Boulder’s Beach” (south of Simon’s Town) is home to approx. 3000 of nature’s adorable tux wearers. They are also called “jackass penguins” – yup, “jackass” as in “donkey” due to their “lovely” donkey-like braying calls. And Boulder’s Beach is the ideal habitat for penguins: shady bushes and a flat sandy area, where they can build their burrows. The African penguin is an endangered species and at Boulder’s they hardly encounter any foes. The area is fenced off and you can view the penguins from wooden walk-ways and platforms. But as cute as they are, they can also be a smelly issue…penguins feed on fish and that is what they smell like.
You will find „friendly” car guards everywhere who are happy to guide you in and out of a parking spot – and obviously they expect a “tip” for their services. Well, this is complicated: the “car guards” are “self-employed” and do not act on the City’s behalf. So, it is up to you if you want to give them something or not. If you do give, make it a few coins. The official “parking marshals” in designated parking areas around town have an identification badge, a handheld meter device and collect the tariff amount; a sign on the street lists the tariffs.
Sun worshipers, beach goers and surfers flock to sandy Camps Bay beach while food-lovers will find their fill at the numerous cafés, bistros and restaurants along the palm-fringed promenade of Cape Town’s most popular suburb. The restaurants offer a great selection of culinary treats ranging from seafood and sushi to local favourites…not to mention the excellent South African wines. Camps Bay is a “blue flag” beach and can get crowded, especially around Christmas.
Chapman’s Peak Drive
Chapman’s Peak Drive, which winds its way from Hout Bay to Noordhoek, is one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives – the 9km route with 114 curves is a true paradise for nature lovers. We counted…there are around 100 curves, not sure if it really adds up to 114. Take this route in the late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky, enjoy the amazingly beautiful landscape and take pictures at one of the viewpoints. Chapman’s Peak is a toll road – this year it is R42 one way.
The seasons in the southern hemisphere are opposite to those in Europe. The summer months are December, January and February whereas the winter months are July and August. October and November are beautiful spring months. In April, the days get shorter, the nights get cooler but during the day it is truly beautiful. In summer, we have a temperate Mediterranean-like climate whereas in winter it rains.
Unfortunately, the media paint a dire picture. However, petty crime (pickpocketing, car burglary etc.) can occur anywhere – same as in Europe. Stay safe out there and observe the usual safety tips: do not carry large amounts of money, do not display expensive jewelry and do not leave anything in the car.
The South African currency unit is the Rand. 1 Rand = 100 cents. Coins are denominated in 1c, 2c, 5c (which are no longer minted but still a legal tender), 10c, 20c, 50c, 1R, 2R and 5R, bills are denominated in 10R, 20R, 50R, 100R and 200R. Credit cards are widely accepted – but VISA is probably the most commonly used card. Exchanging foreign currency is a tedious affair – you need your passport and a lot of patience. It is less time-consuming to draw money from an ATM – make sure to talk to your bank to activate your card for use in South Africa.
An International Driving Permit is recommended but you also need to have your foreign driver’s license with you. Some car insurance companies may not cover damages if you cannot present an IDP.
Visitors from Germany, Austria and Switzerland require a passport that is valid for at least 30 days after the intended departure date and a valid return ticket (print-out is sufficient). A 90-day visitor’s permit is issued on arrival – it is required that you have two blank facing pages in your passport. Children under the age of 18 need a passport and an unabridged birth certificate; children traveling alone or with only one parent require a “consent to travel” signed by the parents, or respectively, the parent not traveling with the child. As entry requirements can change, make sure to double-check with the airline or your consulate before traveling.
There are roughly 500 golf courses in South Africa – many of them in the Cape region. Milnerton, Pearl Valley and Clovelly are generally regarded as the most beautiful courses. Milnerton boasts fantastic views of Table Mountain, Pearl Valley is close to Franschhoek – which means you can easily plan for a day of golf and wine tasting. And Clovelly is close to Simon’s Town.
Cape Town and the Western Cape are malaria free areas and medical services in the Mother City are very good and of high standard. Make sure you have travel health insurance in place and do not underestimate the sun.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens were established in 1913 to preserve indigenous plants. Situated on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, the cultivated 36 hectares area contains over 7000 species of plants, including the famed protea. During the summer months from November to April, Kirstenbosch showcases the “Summer Sunset Concerts” on its outdoor stage. Don’t miss out when you are in town. National and international artists draw a crowd of round about 5.000 music-lovers per gig. Shows start at 5:30pm – make sure to be there earlier to secure your spot on the lawn. Grab a picknick basket, blanket and some wine and enjoy this unique experience in a more than special place with majestic Table Mountain in the background.
There are 11 official languages in South Africa: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, SePedi, SeSotho, SeTswana, SiSwati, TshiVenda und XiTsonga. You can easily get around with English in Cape Town; however, bear in mind that this is not the first language for most people and accents can be harsh.
The „neighbourhood markets“ in the Mother City are a very Capetonian thing. Meet up with friends in a relaxed and casual setting, indulge, listen to music or buy local crafts and knick-knacks. You will most likely meet us at the Hout Bay Harbour Market on week-ends, either on a Friday night between 5 and 9pm for some live music or Saturday/Sunday morning for breakfast. On a Saturday and Sunday the market is open till 4pm.
Ocean and Beach
Cape Town is on the Atlantic Ocean and no matter how inviting the water looks, it is very cold. Camps Bay beach was the first beach in South Africa to achieve “blue flag” status. This internationally recognized eco-label states that the beach is safe and clean and environmentally sustainable. But this does not mean that there are no sharks. Sometimes you can spot seals, dolphins or even whales. Topless tanning? Nope – not really. And what about the surfers and kite-surfers? Hop into your car and head over to Muizenberg, Blouberg or Langebaan. It is roughly 30 minutes by car to Muizenberg, which is also labeled “surfers’ corner”. Fun for everybody, no matter if you are an absolute beginner or have already mastered the waves. Rent a wetsuit and a board in one of the surf shops and go for it. Muizenberg is synonymous for its bright coloured beach houses which are actually changing rooms. And yes, there are also showers and a few bistros. Going up the west coast, you can easily reach Blouberg beach in 30 minutes. Even if you don’t kite-surf yourself, the view of iconic Table Mountain is mind-blowing. Enjoy coffee and snacks on the promenade and watch the kite-surfers…Kite-surfers… this means it is windy here. And then there is Langebaan – further up the west coast – roughly a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Cape Town. The sheltered lagoon makes this a great spot for kite-surf beginners.
Cape Town is without doubt one of the best food cities in the world. Due to its unique history and multi-ethnic heritage, the Mother City offers a broad variety of flavours to food lovers – something for every taste. Wine at restaurants is very affordable – and you can even bring your own wine, but you will have to pay a „corkage“ fee. Don’t know where to go? Browse the “Eat Out” Website – as there is no Michelin star grading on the African continent, foodies rely on the verdict of Eat Out magazine.
The infamous prison island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for almost two decades is a South African National Heritage Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When visiting Robben Island, factor in at least three hours. The ferry crossing roughly takes half an hour, a bus will then take you to the historical sites on the island before concluding with a visit to the prison through which former inmates will guide you. The island is flat and located some 7km out in the Atlantic – it can get very windy and chilly.
Meet the seals or penguins in the kelp forest or dive coral reefs in tropical waters – South Africa has an amazing underwater fauna and flora due to the cold Benguela current flowing up the west coast and the warm Agulhas current along the east coast. The dive sites in South Africa are diverse and are rightfully regarded as some of the most interesting dive spots in the world. The biggest adventure though is the annual Sardine Run in June and July when millions of sardines migrate up the east coast and cover roughly 1000km. And the biggest, most incredible shoal on earth is like a floating buffet for all predators: gannets, dolphins, whales and sharks.
Making calls with your European card can get very expensive, so you may want to get a local SIM card. Remember to take your passport.
International country code for South Africa: 0027
Dialing code for Cape Town: 021
When making calls, you always have to dial the city or area code, even if you are in the city/area.
Click HERE if you want more information on local SIM cards or to rent a pocket router.
The „Victoria & Alfred“ Waterfront is Cape Town’s top destination for a shopping spree: over 450 retailers and more than 80 eateries and fast food outlets, pubs, hotels, cinemas and museums. Take your time, browse the stores, buy souvenirs and knick-knacks, go for coffee, listen to the musicians and watch the seals paddling in the yacht harbour. Canal Walk Shopping Mall is in Century City, along the N1 just north of Cape Town. The mall opened in 2000 and is the third largest in Africa: more than 400 stores spread out on two stories, various eateries, cafés, a food court and various entertainment stores make this the ideal place to spend a rainy day…and lots of money.
Iconic Table Mountain in the middle of the city is probably South Africa’s most famous landmark. The view from the flat-topped mountain at 1086m is breathtakingly stunning: take in the Atlantic Ocean, all of Cape Town and the Peninsula. On Table Mountain you will find more plant species than in Ireland, Wales and Britain combined. You can either hike to the top or take the cable car. When hiking, factor in three hours, start early, take water and a wind jacket. Table Mountain National Park is one of South Africa’s most popular national parks and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will probably be able to spot the „rock dassie“ somewhere on the slopes – this furry little fellow is the closest living relative of the elephant. Try Table Mountain’s smaller brother, Lion’s Head, if you are looking for a somewhat more relaxed hike. It will take you roughly an hour. When you get to the top, you are rewarded with 360° views – from Sea Point to Robben Island all the way up to Milnerton beach. Capetonians also like to do a full-moon hike – this is definitely not for the faint-hearted as this involves some climbing before you get to the top. Local lore says if Lion’s Head is shrouded in clouds on a beautiful day, there will be rain – and this is true most of the times. Or continue on that road to Signal Hill – a popular spot for sundowners. Take a picknick basket and blanket, have a glass of wine, watch the guinea fowls until the sun slowly dips into the sea – beautiful.
South Africa is on the same time zone as central Europe but there is no daylight saving’s time, so when Europe switches to winter time, South Africa is one hour ahead.
Tipping is expected and standard in South Africa. It is common practice to tip 10% (and obviously you can give more if you are really happy).
Do you want to enjoy a really sophisticated and special Tour then try Africa VIP Tours. They are safe, reliable and offer stunning Cape Town Tours.
Traffic in South Africa drives on the left-hand side of the road. And you will find “speed bumps” everywhere – get used to it.
The most important rules:
- everybody has to stop at crossroads, whoever was there first, drives first
- be mindful of pedestrians – they jaywalk everywhere
- speed limit in urban areas: max. 60 km/h
- speed limit on public roads outside of urban areas: 100 km/h
- speed limit on freeways: 120 km/h
Two Oceans Aquarium
When at the V&A Waterfront, make sure to visit the Two Ocean Aquarium, which was opened in 1995. The Aquarium is home to some 3000 fish and water creatures from the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, rivers and fresh water lakes including penguins and seals. You can literally get your hands wet in the „touch pools“ and experience what it is like to touch sea-weed, anemones etc. The “Kelp Forest” exhibit shows the marine diversity along the coast. The highlight of any visit to the Aquarium is the recently revamped “Predator Tank” with sharks, rays and turtles…the Aquarium is also happy to arrange dives for certified divers.
You can spot whales along the South African coast from June till the end of October/November. Hermanus (roughly 130km from Cape Town) is probably one of the best places for whale watching. See if you can spot the whale crier – he blows his horn when he spots whales. The whales come here to calve but you can also see whales everywhere along the coast, even in Camps Bay.
Visiting a wine farm is one of the must-do things when in Cape Town. Go to Constantia, Stellenbosch or Franschhoek in the heart of the winelands, easily accessible within an hour’s drive. Most of the wine farms also have fantastic restaurants offering culinary delicacies. Indulge, enjoy your wine tasting and take in the stunning scenery. Wine is an important economic sector and South African is the seventh largest wine producer in the world. If you like “bubbles”, try some MCC (Méthode Cape Classique) – South Africa’s very own sparkling wine made in the traditional French method.
The creative travel team at Lake Attersee, which specializes in the organization of high-quality travel. No matter what you are looking for, the team will give you competent advice and find the right offer.