Guide to Visiting Cape Town

Johnny

Of all the places cities I’ve been to, Cape Town is in my opinion, the most naturally beautiful city in the world. The beaches, mountains, and ocean live in perfect harmony and the scenery it produces is unmatched. Throw in world class restaurants, stunning sights like Table Mountain and Cape Point, and the most beautiful wine country in the world, and it should surprise no one when Cape Town reaches #1 on lists of best cities in the world. Cape Town can be visited year round as the weather is mild but the summer season is certainly the better choice!

**I visited Cape Town many times after the first (like any sane expat living in South Africa should). Read up on my second write up of Cape town!

***After visiting Cape Town numerous times, I’ve compiled all my experiences into an updated Guide To Cape Town as of 2018. 

 

Getting to and around Cape Town


Cape Town is a breeze to get to from Johannesburg. Regular flights on Mango, Kulula, FlySAFair, South African Airways and British Airways make it an easy getaway from the boring city life of Jo’burg. Flights can be as cheap as 1600r round trip and being only two hours long, I see myself coming here very frequently as the summer months approach.

 

Taxi from Cape Town International Airport

The best way to get to the city center is a cab. The cost for a cab to the city is about 250-300r to the city center and a bit more to the camps bay area. There are plenty of cab drivers waiting out front of the airport but make sure the rate is decided upon before getting in. Nowadays, there is Uber all over the city and UberX offers some extremely affordable rates and is certainly my preferred method to travel around Cape Town!

 

My Citi Airport shuttle

The best alternative to cabbing it to the city is the My Citi bus. Created only a few years back, this service will shuttle you from the airport to Cape Town’s downtown for only 50r. It runs every 20 minutes and the service stops running around 8pm. The only downside with this service is unless you’re staying right next to the drop off spot, you’ll still need a cab afterwards to get you to your end destination which could be another 100r thereby reducing your savings over a cab.

Nevertheless, if you have the time to spare and/or cash strapped, there are multiple bus routes within Cape Town and a transfer or two will likely get you to your destination. If you’re staying somewhere downtown like Long Street, this may be the perfect transportation for you.

The my citi bus of Cape Town.

The my citi bus of Cape Town.

 

 

Rent a car in Cape Town

The one great thing about south Africa is how reasonable and easy it is to rent a car especially for foreigners. For about R300 a day, you can rent a car in Cape Town. If you can drive manual, lower end and cheaper cars are available for even cheaper (R200). As for Cape Town, it is much more of a walking city than Johannesburg and most other cities in Africa. Depending on where you stay, you are walking distance to many things. Nevertheless, with the lack of public transportation and the city still being pretty large, having a car will make doing things much easier.

Avis in Cape Town airport

Avis in Cape Town airport

 

Depending on how many days you stay, it may be much more economical to actually rent a car because right away, you’ll save 600R for taxi prices to and from the airport. While you can get around Cape Town by foot or cab, there are plenty of amazing day trips right outside the city that will require a car. You will save a lot of money driving yourself than by joining a group tour.

 

Exploring the Mother City


There is an incredible amount of things to do and see in Cape Town. It is such a beautiful city and it isn’t hard to see why every South African has such a huge affinity for this city. From having a drink near the waterfront, hanging on the beach in camps bay, taking a day to enjoy the wine farms, or taking a scenic drive to the edge of Africa at Cape Point, you’ll need at least a week here to see everything. Thank goodness I live in South Africa and will be returning often to this great city to try and as much as I can. No matter how long you stay here, you should always try and make the most of your time here and see whatever you can. The following is the list of what I did in my first visit and hopefully every subsequent visit I can add more things to the list.

 

Weather makes all the difference

I was repeatedly warned by friends to avoid Cape Town during the winter as arriving for the first time on a rainy day would set a bad example. Well it’s true. Cape Town is a completely different city when the sun is not out. The beauty of the city comes from its rugged mountains juxtaposed with the beautiful ocean and beaches. On a cloudy day, however, the clouds will hang low and the mountains will be out of sight. The first day I set food in Cape Town, it was rainy and fog was everywhere. Bleh. Nevertheless, I think this was actually a good thing as when the weather finally cleared up the following day, I had that much more appreciation of Cape Town’s beauty.

Cloudy Cape Town day

Cloudy Cape Town day

Sunny Cape Town Day

Sunny Cape Town Day

 

Full day wine tour with wineflies.co.za


Cape Town is famous for its wine farms and rightfully so. I’ve been here for a half year now and have drank countless bottles of quality south African chardonnays and pinotages. Being in Cape Town, I can finally see where its all done. Wine was introduced in this region hundreds of years ago as the first Boer settlers found the land in this region very favorable to wine production and brought over French wine making knowledge to cultivate this new land.

Over time, hundreds of different wine farms sprung up (some ones you may have heard of are Stellenbosch or Franschhoek). With the full day wine tour, there are numerous companies that do these and they all work in similar fashion. They will drive you around to different wineries and included in the price will be a wine tasting of the different types of wine that specific winery has.

Wine with cheese pairing tasting. The fun begins.

Wine with cheese pairing tasting. The fun begins.

We did about 6 tastings in total at various different wine farms and I must say it was a spectacular experience. At the first tasting, you are acutely aware of what they’re trying to tell you about how to smell wines and tasting for certain things. By lunchtime and 3 wine tastings later, you could care less and you’re so drunk by that point that all wine tastes great.

 

Beautiful winelands in Franschhoek.

Beautiful winelands in Franschhoek.

I’d say that I had the equivalent of 1.5 bottles of wine throughout the day and certainly got my moneys worth. In total the tour was 600r which includes being picked up around 8am and being dropped off back in Cape Town around 5pm. It’s easy to drive yourself to wine farms and did tastings on your own without doing a tour through one of these companies but then you’d have to worry about drinking and driving and what would be the fun in that? Plus our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic which made the experience that much better. Add this to the list of do it again things!

All in all, after visiting Cape Town numerous times, I would recommend doing your own tour. Not only are there more stunning wine farms to see, but you get to control the tempo and timing. Read about my perfect one day wine farm guide.

 

Visiting Cape Point


Certainly one of the best reasons to have a car is to be able drive to Cape Point without having to pay for a day tour. There is no point to do a day tour here in my opinion as all you do is just walk around once you get here. When you do get here however, the view is breathtaking. Cape Point is the southern tip of Africa, also known as the Cape of Good Hope. It is in fact, not the furthest most southern point in Africa as that honor goes to Cape Aguilas about 200km east. It is however, the first point where if traveling by boat, you’d have to turn your ship in order to stay along then coast line.

This is Boulders Beach, home of the African Penguin. Make a quick pitstop here to see penguins chilling on the beach.

On the drive to Cape Point, make sure to stop here.

The drive to Cape Point is incredibly scenic. Whether you take the west coast via Chapman’s peak or the east coast via the m4 highway, you will not be disappointed with your decision (I would highly recommend the Chapman’s peak drive). Then drive takes about 1 hour from Cape Town and perhaps a little longer depending on how many stops you want to take to soak up the beauty.

There is an entrance fee to Cape Point of 100r a person but it is totally worth it. Along the drive, you’ll see absolutely beautiful mountains blending in with the Atlantic ocean all the way down to Cape Point where you’ll be faced with the decision of climbing Cape Point or hike the Cape of Good Hope. I chose the Cape Point climb but hiking the latter will be reserved for a later visit (and a later blog post).

Cape Point is truly breathtaking.

Cape Point is truly breathtaking.

 

Climbing Cape Point is relatively easy and the end goal is a light house at the top of the hill. All throughout the hike, there will be numerous areas with great photo opportunities so make sure to take your time to soak it in and get as many photos as possible. You’re at the edge of the world here and who knows when you’ll ever be back!

DSC05222 DSC05212

DSC05197

 

Hiking Lions Head


As always, I’m a huge fan of places where I can get aerial views of the city. The two big ones in Cape Town are Table Mountain, famous for its peak being a flat surface of a few hundred meters, and lions head. I originally intended to do Talble Mountain as there is a quick and easy cable car that goes to the peak but we went on a day that was the first sunny and clear day in 4 days. Rule of thumb for Cape Town is if you’re trying to go to table mountain which is easily affected by clouds after a period of rainy days, prepare to wait a long time for this cable car queue. We were told the queue would be 2-3 hours and with ambitions of heading to Cape Point, this would not work.

Action shot climbing down Lions Head

Action shot climbing down Lions Head

 

On to the next option of lions head, a mountain right next to table mountain but shorter and the peak reachable via hiking only. You can come at any time of the day and there was no one patrolling this hike that I could see. We came here around sunset around 6 which is what I recommend. The hike is not the easiest of hikes as you’re really ascending a good distance to the top. Proper shoes are a must, although I did the hike in boat shoes which I do not recommend. You’re climbing your way through some proper rock formations and will need to use your arms quite a bit. The hike took me about 45 minutes total.

That view is something else. Very special without a doubt.

That view is something else. Very special without a doubt.

When you do finally reach the top, the view is out of this world spectacular. You can view the entire city from here and what a beautiful city it is! The ocean in the background certainly doesn’t hurt and you just feel like you’re on top of the world. There are a few rocks you can stand on to take the the best pics and I made sure I got a proper photo shoot in in. Because the hike is not easy, you can see when you reach the peak that the people hanging out here are younger folks whereas the line at table mountain consisted more of elderly folk and families.

Panorama on Lions Head.

Panorama on Lions Head.

 

Shark Cave Diving in Gansbaai


Another activity I’ve been anxiously waiting to do is shark diving with great whites. Cape Town just happens to be a 2 hour drive from the great white shark spotting capital of the world at Gansbaai (pronounced Hans bye). There are about a dozen different companies that do trips from Gansbaai daily and they will take you out into the ocean for 2-3 hours to catch a glimpse at these amazing animals. They will either pick you up at 4-5am so you can go on an early morning viewing at 7-8am or will come get you Around 8 or 9am to do a noontime viewing.

I went in November which is approaching the summer but the water is freezing no matter what time of year you go. Even in the afternoon, the temperature is still around 15 celcius. Don’t worry however, they provide wetsuits which will keep you warm, and eye masks so you can see clearly. Only thing you have to bring is an underwater camera ( these can also be rented) and your bravest self.

Great white coming near the cage.

Great white coming near the cage.

Closeup shot of the shark

Closeup shot of the shark

Once you’re out at sea, the crew will pick a good spot and throw a mix of dead fish water into the ocean to attract these guys as they have an acute sense of smell. We waited about 15 minutes and we could see our first great white! The first time you see one of these things in the open water is something else. You know these are huge fishes but when you finally see one up close, you are still amazed by just how big they really are.

Once the first shark is sighted, the cage is loaded up 7 divers at a time and the crew will continue to throw more dead fish water mix to attract more sharks. One of the crew will also throw a dead tuna head on a rope to try and bring the shark closer to the cage. When the shark does come, all the divers will submerge themselves to get a view that is even more spectacular by seeing the sharks face to face. Words can only do so much so its better I just post some pictures and videos. I ended up diving 3 times and we saw 8 different sharks in total. The cost is around 1350r for the dive and another 350r for the shuttling between Gansbaai and Cape Town. Totally worth it and certainly something I will do again.

Video of the day

 

Where to eat in Cape Town


The culinary scene in Cape Town is fantastic and is the class of South Africa. All the top restaurants of SA are in the Cape Town and Wine country areas and you’ll be hard pressed to find a reason why this isn’t the case. With such limited time, I was only able to go to a few but I plan on being a Cape Town restaurant connoseur by the time I leave this country. For now, the restaurants I went to on this specific trip were the following and every subsequent trip to Cape Town, I hope to visit more restaurants.

 

Hussar grill, camps bay

South Africa is famous for its steaks and on my first night here I as in the mood for some. Located in the expensive area of Camps Bay, this restaurant is perched at the top of the hill and is the highest rated restaurant in the Camps Bay area on TripAdvisor. The ambiance is old school steakhouse and gets very busy. This place makes some amazing steaks all for a price that will seem like a bargain to the out of town visitor. If you’re staying in camps bay and want steak, this is the spot to be.

Half KG steak at Hussar Grill.

Half KG steak at Hussar Grill.

Chapman’s Peak hotel

The other cuisine South Africa does great is seafood. Located right on the ocean, Cape Town is a paradise for seafood lovers. Chapman’s peak hotel is in hout bay, about 20 min drive south of Cape Town and is right along the way if you fancy going to Cape Point. They specialize in seafood and everything here is great, especially the grilled calamari. Make sure to also try Kingklip, a white fish common in SA, if visiting from another country.

Some absolute top notch seafood for cheap at Chapman's peak hotel.

Some absolute top notch seafood for cheap at Chapman’s peak hotel.

 

Carne

An Italian themed steakhouse, this place is more about the meat than the Italian food and that’s fine with me. The waiter will bring around a platter with the raw meat of all their cuts for you to buiup your appetite. The food doesn’t disappoint and is a great steakhouse in downtown Cape Town.

At Carne. A man can never have enough steak.

At Carne. A man can never have enough steak.

Pigalle

One of the highest rated restaurants in Cape Town, this seafood restaurant is very fancy and the prices follow suit as well. The food is very good but the prices are much higher than the other restaurants I went to in Cape Town and after becoming so used to bargain prices for food I’m normally used to paying a hefty premium for back in america , I don’t see the need to end so much. Prices at this restaurant are at least 25% more expensive than other similar quality seafood joints.

 

Caprice

I’m sure I will write about this place again. It’s not quite a restaurant, although it does serve top of the line bar food. It is an absolute Cape Town institution on a Sunday day/night. Everyone and their mothers told us to come here. We came here on a Saturday afternoon with dreadful weather and it was still happening. Sunday night was insane, and all of Cape Town seems to congregate here which leads me to wonder what the hell do people do for a living in this city? Nevertheless, if you want some good nightlife on a Sunday, come to this place.

Caprice on a Sunday.

Caprice on a Sunday.

 

 

Staying in Cape Town


Cape Town is a world tourist hotspot. Its not undiscovered by any means and the city receives thousands of visitors monthly. There is a huge plethera of accommodation options ranging from a 10$ a night hostel to luxury resorts going for up to a thousand dollars a night. Location is not as important as in other cities because the city is still too spaced out with no public transportation so you’ll need to drive or cab to whenever you want to go. Camps bay is the poshest and most expensive neighborhood in Cape Town with houses averaging close to a million dollars for even the most meager of living spaces. Everyone told me this is the hotspot to stay and I can see why. It is incredibly beautiful especially if you have views of the beach, very safe, and plenty of restaurants to keep you occupied.

I ended up getting a studio apartment on airbnb in Camps Bay for around R1,500 a night. I thought this was a decent deal as most other options were much more. The apartment was mediocre and tiny and you can really see that this area commands a premium. Having stayed here already and driven around Cape Town, there are accommodation options for half the price for an apartment twice then size no more than 10 min from the Camps Bay area that I would certainly consider next time. Lodging REALLY takes a steep price discount when you head towards the downtown and waterfront area.

 

You stay classy Cape Town


Because I’ll be seeing your shortly. I think if my work were located in Cape Town instead of Johannesburg, I’d likely want to stay forever. Alas, it is not but thankfully I can really visit Cape Town whenever I want with little planning and visit it I will. Plenty more Cape Town posts to come!

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Showing 2 comments
  • Avatar
    ASHUTOSH KUMAR
    Reply

    Nice Article, I will check again your next post. I got a lot of information from your post. your are a good Blogger. Thanks you. I am Waiting to read your next Blog.

  • Avatar
    L
    Reply

    have you tried actual scuba diving with sharks? I wanted one not in cages. Anywhere close to Cape Town?

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