Arguably the most modern and “European” city in all of Africa, Cape Town is a stunning seaside metropolis. Perfect for an adventure, vacation, or simply a stop on a trip through Africa, Cape Town provides something for every type of traveler. In addition to adrenaline sports such as paragliding, shark cage diving, and skydiving, Cape Town also boasts an incredible food and wine scene in combination with a rich, and recent, tumultuous history.
Currency & Languages
Mostly Afrikaans and English.
When To Go
South Africa has a very ideal climate with warm, dry summers and mildly rainy winters. It would be easy to compare this climate to a, slightly cooler, Southern California beach town. Summer in South Africa lasts from early December through March, with average temperatures ranging from about 52-79°F. The coldest months of the year are June and July, with an average of about 46-68°F.
Weather wise, any time of year is pretty ideal in Cape Town. That being said, shoulder seasons, with less tourists and great weather, are from March to May and September to November. The rainiest month is June, which is important to note simply because many tourist activities, such as shark cage diving, can be canceled (or miserable) due to poor weather conditions.
How to Get There
Cape Town International Airport (CPT) is an incredibly easy airport to fly in and out of. It is relatively close to the city and you can hire cars, taxi, or bus directly into the city for an affordable cost.
If you are traveling from outside of Africa, it is likely that you will fly directly into Johannesburg’s airport (JNB). This airport is pretty miserable. If you have a layover, get your boarding pass printed before reaching the airport to save time, and make sure to go through the correct passport control for your onward journey (there is a separate one for arrivals and domestic departures in different areas of the airport).
Technically, you can bus (18+ hrs) or train (27+ hrs) to Cape Town for under $20. Unless you are on a SUPER tight budget and are experienced traveling overland in Africa, I would not recommend these options purely due to poor safety at the bus and train terminals in Joburg. Just take the airplane.
Where to Stay
Great Neighborhoods of Cape Town
Greenpoint– Relaxed part of town located close to the V&A Waterfront and Cape Town Stadium. Completely safe to walk around as a women alone, especially during daytime. This part of Cape Town is great for families and those seeking a relaxing trip, however, a taxi will be needed to get downtown. You can also Uber in Cape Town!
Downtown/Long Street– Fast paced, city environment with bars, shopping, restaurants, and more. Typical city environment, with a little bit of 80s and 90s flare. Long Street is filled with backpackers and bars.
Camps Bay– My favorite place to stay in Cape Town. Stunning, higher end area directly along the beach with a backdrop of Table Mountain on the other side. Perfect for watching the sunset, visiting restaurants, or learning to surf!
There are excellent, affordable, and safe Airbnb options in Cape Town, especially in Camps Bay, enjoy!
The B.I.G. Backpacker’s hostel in Greenpoint provides everything you will need. From a safe, friendly environment to tour bookings, they will take care of you. B.I.G is great for backpackers, families, and couples. However, this is a hostel for the active, if you are looking for a place to relax for a day or two, another option may be better for you. Luckily, Cape Town undoubtedly has some of the best hostels in Africa, there is no shortage of choice.
The top hotels in Cape Town are the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel and One & Only Cape Town. There is also a Starwood Hotel, a Westin, Hilton hotels, Proteas, Holiday Inns, and Radisson Blu hotels if you are looking to stick to a loyalty program. Hotels range from about USD $80 to $800 per night, depending on your style of accommodation.
Where to Eat and Drink
V&A Waterfront Food Market– Excellent selection of food within a breezy marketplace. This food market has everything you need for a quick and easy lunch.
Bay Harbour Market at Hout Bay– Friday night only! Arguably the best night market in Cape Town, Hout Bay market offers live music, excellent food options, and clothing, crafts, and jewelry for sale in a massive space on the harbor. Unless you are staying in Hout Bay, you will need to taxi or Uber, but it is completely and absolutely worth it.
Orphanage Cocktail Emporium– Orphanage has the best cocktails in South Africa (bold statement, I know). This is a dimly lit, cozy, eclectic bar with drinks made to order and food that looks incredible. The bartenders and staff are quirky hipsters that probably do not believe they are hipsters (which makes them even more so). Get there early for a spot and, if you want to stay to eat, call in advance to hold a table.
El Burro– Great modern Mexican restaurant in Greenpoint with excellent design, food, and drinks.
Mama Africa– Typical African restaurant where both locals and tourists (okay, mostly tourists) go to eat. If you have never had African food or feel like you are surreally in Europe during your stay in Cape Town, this is a great stop. They also have live music and an impressive spread of game meats (anyone fancy some ostrich?) Make a reservation.
Cappello– Excellent bar with authentic African music and incredibly friendly locals. Don’t be afraid to dance and don’t come here if you believe the apartheid is anything remotely positive. Cappello offers incredible live music that leads people to dance on the streets late into the night.
Basic Do’s and Don’ts of Cape Town
DO a tour with Lucky and Lost to see penguins, the Cape of Good Hope, colorful houses of Bo Kap, and hang out with awesome tour guides!
DO learn about the history of Cape Town before you go and while you’re there.
DON’T be insensitive about the apartheid and racism issues in the country. The apartheid is technically over, but much of the racial tension is still very present.
DO take the hop on, hop off bus to explore the best parts of Cape Town.
DO get off at the World of Birds stop on the hop on/off bus so you can play with the baby monkeys at the back of the exhibit!
DO consider going to the Botanical Gardens, it is actually worth it.
DON’T mess with baboons, they’re dangerous.
DO take photos with the penguins at Boulders Beach, they’re models.
DON’T flash valuables or money. DO take out cash, many places do not accept card.
DO watch your purse and wallet, even more than you would in a normal large city.
DO go to Stellenbosch on a wine tasting tour. (If you are traveling solo, it is a great way to make friends!)
DO go out of your comfort zone and try adventure sports.
DON’T drink too much on Long Street. People get robbed, mugged, and worse late at night there. Even if you are a large and strong man, still do not walk home, period (take a taxi or Uber).
DO climb Lion’s Head to watch the sunrise on a clear day.
DO experience all the different beaches Cape Town has to offer.
DO go shark diving, assuming the weather is okay.
DON’T go shark diving if the weather is bad and you get seasick.
DON’T go on a township tour just to take pictures of people living less fortunate than you (DO go if you have never seen poverty in Africa and need to witness a tiny glimpse of a massive picture).
DO have fun! xx