Cape Town travel tips

Cape town

Be in the know before you travel to Cape Town

This week, we’re highlighting Cape Town – a city in full summer-swing, with everything from hiking mountains to swimming in the ocean to indulging in wine tours.

We’ve been chronicling a two-week trip to South Africa in our blog with images and tips for how to travel and what to expect.

If you’re looking to find cheap flights to Cape Town, or are planning a winter sun getaway any time soon, we’ve put together a list of first-hand tips that you might not get from a travel guide.

Here are a few pointers to keep you safe, efficient and in-the-know around Cape Town:

Tipping. Ten percent is expected for taxi drivers and bartenders, and 10-20 percent is expected at restaurants, largely depending on service quality.

Know that few things will be exact. Things in Cape Town are very relaxed, so if you have precise questions, expect blurry answers. When someone says they will do something “just now” it doesn’t mean “immediately,” it means “some time in the near future.” In the same light, taxi drivers rarely use meters, so before you get in, negotiate a price to avoid getting overcharged.

Trains are cheap, but slow. Taking a train to the Fish Hoek or Simonstown beaches cost less than R70 ($10), but can take up to three hours with late start times and extended waits at stops along the way. Hiring a car will take around 40 minutes and cost R300 (around $45). The tradeoff is, you can split the car with other people to bring down the price, save two hours of your sun time, and easily carry your beach gear without crowding in with others.

Strategize ATM visits. Theft at ATMs is common, so some banks are protected by armed guards. Use ATMs in the daytime, in open places. It helps to be with a friend, or to choose an ATM that has a guard next to it. Take out as much as you can, R2000 (around $300), and stash it in a few different safe places at your accommodation. Don’t carry all of it with you outside.

Drink up! Wine tours are essential in the Cape Town area, especially to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Pinotage (a red combination of Pinot Noir and Hermitage) is unique to South Africa, and commonly served at restaurants.

More Cape Town links:
Cape Town photo gallery
Curious about Cape Town: A quick change of plans in South Africa
South African microcosm: Cape Town’s kaleidoscope