Cape Town A - Z

Adrenaline
To all the adrenaline junkies out there: rest assured you are well catered for in Cape Town. There is outdoor activity galore like abseiling, bungee jumping, shark cage diving, sand boarding, sky diving or kloofing. Most of the organisers are based in Long Street. Take your pick and get your kick!
African Penguin
Boulders Beach penguin colony – which is south of Simon’s Town – is home to approx. 3.000 African penguins, also known as black-footed or jackass penguins. Jackass? Yup – jackass as in donkey – let’s put it this way: penguins are not what you would call blessed singers and their mating call sounds like a donkey braying. Boulders Beach is ideal for penguins: shrubs that provide shade and a fine sand beach that allows them to dig breeding burrows with their feet. Penguins have been added to the list of endangered species and here in Boulders Beach they are not exposed to predators. The penguins live in a fenced off section and wooden walkways allow visitors to see the penguins in their natural habitat.
Beaches and Ocean
Cape Town is on the Atlantic and no matter how inviting the water may look, it is flipping cold and swimming is generally out. Camps Bay beach was the first beach in Cape Town to attain “blue flag” status. The international blue flag status signifies that the beach is not only safe and clean but also has a high environmental standard.
Camps Bay
Vibrant Camps Bay is the most popular suburb of Cape Town and sun-worshipers, beach-goers and surfers alike flock to its sun-kissed sandy white beach to show off their skills or laze in the sun. Connoisseurs of fine food and drink can indulge their senses in the world-class restaurants, funky bistros and cocktail lounges lining Camps Bay Promenade. Choose from a wide range of seafood, sushi, local cuisine and excellent South African wines. If a dose of culture is what you are looking for, check out the program at the Theatre on the Bay.
It is a mere 5 minute drive to the Table Mountain Cable Car Station or up to Signal Hill – Cape Town’s no. 1 favourite spot to sip sundowners and watch the magnificent sunsets on the Atlantic Ocean. It is only 10 minutes by car to Cape Town city centre, the V&A Waterfront, the Two Ocean’s Aquarium, the antiques dealers, bookshops, cafes and pawnshops on Long Street.
Camps Bay is the ideal starting point for excursions by car or bike to the Cape Peninsula, into the winelands or along the Garden Route.
Car Guards
Eager car guards offering their services dot the streets everywhere – they don’t only help you to find parking but they also direct you into the parking space and watch your car while you are away. The parking guards do expect a tip for services rendered – depending on how long you are away that should be a minimum of R2
Climate and Weather
Cape Town is in the Southern Hemisphere meaning that the seasons are opposite to ours. So in short, midsummer is December/January and midwinter is July/August. In summer Cape Town has a very pleasant Mediterranean climate without larger temperature fluctuations…and in winter…well yeah….it rains (a lot).
Creepy Crawlies
Yes, we have that as well. Spiders, snakes and scorpions – we are deep down south after all. But you don’t necessarily have to look with your hands, do you?
Crime
Unfortunately the media paint a very dire picture. However, petty crime - pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, car break-ins etc. - is a fact of life. Exercise simple caution: do not carry too much cash or expensive jewelry at any given time, do not leave anything in the car, do not walk alone in the dark and most definitely do not attempt to venture into townships without a dependable tour guide.
Driving License
In general, car hire companies will accept your photocard driving license – however please note that the fine print on your contract usually states that you only have liability coverage in case of an accident if you are in possession of an international drivers license. You can apply for an international driver’s license at your local traffic department (in Germany that would be the Landratsamt). International Driver’s Licenses have to be registered and in case you still have a paper license you need to exchange that for a photocard license before an international driving license will be issued. When driving in South Africa you need to carry your German driving license and your international driving license.
Golf
There are more than 300 registered golf courses in South Africa – many of which are in the Western Cape Region. “Milnerton” and “Mowbray” are considered as two of the best courses in and around Cape Town. Milnerton boasts a picture postcard view across Table Bay; Mowbray’s world-class golf course is the host of various international tournaments and is situated 5 kms from the Cape Town city centre.
Health and Vaccination Information
Routine vaccines like DPT and hepatitis are recommended. There is no malaria in Cape Town or the Western Cape. However, you should take precautions and malaria prophylaxis if you intend to travel to malaria risk areas like the Kruger National Park, the Lowfelds or certain areas in KwaZulu-Natal. A yellow fever vaccination is a requirement for travelers coming from or passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America. Medical care in South Africa is generally up to European standard if you consult private medical centres and you will also find a lot of highly- qualified German specialists in Cape Town.
Language
South Africa has 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, IsiNdebele, IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, SePedi, SeSotho, SeTswana, SiSwati, TsiVenda und XiTsonga. English is generally understood in Cape Town, but please bear in mind that South Africans have a very harsh pronunciation and yes, it are true: South African grammar is something you’ll have to get used to!
Money Matters
The currency used in South Africa is the Rand denoted in Rand ( R ) and Cents (c ). R 1 = c 100. The following denominations are used for coins: c1, c2, c5, c10, c20, c50, R1, R2 and R5; and the following denominations are used for banknotes: R10, R0, R50, R100 and R 200. Credit cards are widely accepted, VISA probably being the most popular mode of credit payment (petrol stations have come to accept payment by credit card – however, please do not rely on that). We recommend to carry only a minimum amount of cash. You can withdraw cash from ATMs – however (as everywhere else in the world) please remember to be security-conscious and take precautionary measures to protect yourself against theft or fraud.
Nude Bathing
Skinny dip? Topless bathing? Just don’t - and keep your swimming costume on - there are only a few designated beach spots that permit nude bathing.
Phone
Your German mobile phone will work in South Africa – but please, all you Germans out there, don’t you ever call your mobile phone a „handy“ (that is just another “false friend”) – call your mobile phone what it is: „mobile phone“ or „cell phone“. However, it is cheaper to rent a mobile phone or to buy a pre-paid card.
Country code for South Africa: 0027
City code for Cape Town: 021
Please remember to always dial the city code – even if you are in the same city.
Restaurants
Being the food capital of South Africa, Cape Town boasts a wide variety of excellent and world-renowned restaurants. Discover your very own eating out experience: enjoy the ethnic and culinary diversity – indulge in tasty food and great wines at pleasantly affordable prices. Restaurants will allow you to bring your own wine (if it is not included on their wine list) and will charge a “corkage fee”.
Scuba Diving
Float through deep kelp forests together with seals and penguins or dive the fabulous tropical reefs off KwaZulu-Natal – South Africa boasts an amazing diversity of sites due to the cold Benguela Current on the west coast and the warm Agulhas Current on the east coast. The dive sites in South Africa offer a great marine biodiversity and are considered to be among the best in the world. The most anticipated dive event of the year is the annual Sardine Run between June and July when billions of silvery sardines migrate northwards covering a distance of roughly 650kms. This obviously creates a feeding frenzy in which predators partake…..seabirds, dolphins, zambezis, hammerheads and the great white. Just to give you an idea: the sardine shoals can be 5km long and 1km wide.
Shopping
The number 1 place to go for a successful shopping spree is the „Victoria & Alfred“ Waterfront. Boasting 270 stores, more than 50 restaurants and fast food outlets, various pubs, hotels, cinemas and museums, it is Cape Town’s most popular tourist attraction. You can easily spend all day here, browsing shops, buying souvenirs and knick-knacks or you can just simply sit in the sun, enjoy a cup of coffee, stop and listen to the numerous bands and musicians or watch the seals enjoying a swim in the marina. Oh, btw, if you cannot go without German beer, there is also a “Paulaner Garten” – erm, yes and they do have a German master brewer.
Another shopping Mecca not to be missed is Canal Walk Shopping Mall in Century City which is about a 30 minute drive to the north-east of Cape Town. It was opened in 2000 and is the largest shopping venue in Africa consisting of more than 400 stores, various restaurants, coffee shops, entertainment shops and a very impressive food-court. This is the ideal shopping destination for a rainy day – shop till you drop and bend your card to the max…
Table Mountain
Cape Town’s landmark, majestic Table Mountain, towers 1086m above the Mother City. The views from the top across the Cape Peninsula and the Atlantic are absolutely stunning and breath-taking. It is home to more species of flowering plants than you will find in England. You can either explore Table Mountain by cable car or the hard way on foot. If you decide to hike up the mountain, plan 3 hours, start early, stay hydrated, and remember to bring a wind-jacket and don’t be surprised if you encounter the wily rock dassie, the closest biological relative to the elephant. The rock dassie is a little rodent with pretty large teeth and, we are not talking nice and cuddly! Table Mountain National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site and is one of the most popular nature reserves in South Africa.
Tipping
Tipping is customary in South Africa. The minimum wage for restaurant staff is very low and waiters and waitresses should be tipped 10% - you can obviously tip more for exceptionally good service. As a guideline: porters R2 per item, taxi drivers R10 and R 2- 5 for the nice petrol attendants that wash your windows and check your oil.
Two Oceans Aquarium
The Two Oceans Aquarium was opened in 1995 and is one of things you must see while you are in Cape Town. With more than 4000 living sea animals including penguins and seals, it showcases the incredible diversity of freshwater fishes and marine life found in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. And I am pretty sure that not only kids will enjoy the sensory experience at the touch pools where you can touch anemones and urchins. The magnificent Kelp Forest Exhibit shows local marine life off the coast. The star attraction is the 2 mio. litre “Open Ocean Tank” - there are several great viewing points from which you can watch sharks, rays and turtles swim overhead. And if you are a certified diver and if you are feeling especially brave, you can actually dive in the predator tank.
Traffic
In South Africa everyone drives on the wrong side of the road, meaning we are dealing with left-hand traffic; also speed bumps are widely in use to calm traffic (however you won’t find any caution signs to alert you of speed bumps ahead)! And ohh ja, traffic lights are called “robots” – so if you read something like “robot ahead”, this does not mean that R2-D2 is waiting to greet you.
The three most important rules:
    • All vehicles must stop at a four-way intersection with a stop sign – whichever vehicle stops first has priority
    • Roundabouts – remember: left-hand traffic – so circulation is clock-wise – and indicate when entering and exiting the roundabout
    • And watch out for all of those pedestrians
Speed limits:
    • In towns: 60 km/h
    • On provincial roads: 100 km/h
    • On freeways: 120 km/h
Speed controls and speed traps are quite common and fines for violating speed limits are heavy.
Visitors Visa
Visitors from Germany, Austria or Switzerland must have a passport valid for 30 more days after the return from South Africa. You also need to have a return ticket proving your day of departure from South Africa (a print-out of your e-ticket is sufficient). The visa is valid for 90 days and your passport should also have at least two unused visa pages. Children must carry their own children’s passport and an unabridged birth certificate; children travelling alone or with one parent should carry a consent letter for the trip.
Whale Watching
The best time for whale watching is from September to October and Hermanus is “the best land based whale watching spot”. Other hot spots are Simon’s Town and Muizenberg. Hermanus Bay which is roughly 130km from Cape Town is the nursery for many south whales and Hermanus also has the only whale crier in the world informing the tourists where whales can be seen. The southern right whale is the most common whale found here and every once in a while you can even spot one in Camps Bay.
Wine Tasting
Another experience not to be missed is a visit to the Cape wine-lands: do a wine-tasting and learn about the reds, whites and excellent bubblies of the region. Superb wine farms set against majestic mountain backdrops offer fantastic wine-tasting combined with excellent restaurants. South Africa is ranked the seventh largest wine producer world-wide. Employing close to 300.000 workers, the wine industry is an important component of the economy. South African sparkling wine made by traditional Champagne method is called “Cap Classique” or “Bubbly” – and make sure not to miss out on the Franschhoek Champagne Festival on the first week-end in December!
Time Zone
South Africa Standard Time is two hours ahead of Greenich Meantime. South Africa does not utilize Daylight Saving Time, meaning that there is no time difference in summer and during German winter time, South Africa is one hour ahead.