Cape Town insider tips
How to save money plus other advice on Cape Town
If you’re travelling here with foreign currency, for the most part Cape Town is really affordable. The British pound for example has been hovering at the 1 pound to 10-11 rand mark for the past few months - which means generally speaking you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Here are some suggestions for making your money go even further while visiting the ‘pretty city’.
Eating and drinking
- Gourmets, you’re in good hands here and you’ll find that the quality of our food compares favourably with international eateries. The norm for tipping is 10% at everyday eateries and up to 15% at smarter spots. Be warned that a large majority of mainstream restaurants will endeavour to sell you the seafood platter of the day - it’s usually the most expensive item on the menu!
- On a budget but determined to have a meal with an ocean view? Pop down to Camps Bay Beach and order a pizza from Butler’s Pizza (www.butlers.co.za) to be delivered to you while you’re watching the sun go down.
- Markets are always a great place to nosh down and you’ll be able to fill up on samples at the Neighbour Goods (373-375 Albert Road, Woodstock; 082 370 4075; www.neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za; Open 8.30am-4pm Sat.) and Earth Fair (South Palms Centre, Main Road, Retreat; www.earthfairmarket.co.za; Open 9am-2pm Sat, 3pm-8pm Wed. ) markets with the greatest of ease.
- I used to work really close to The Company's Garden - it’s a great place to loll about on the lawns while enjoying a sandwich or a cold drink you’ve picked up from a deli or convenience store.
- Increasingly Cape Town is suffering from traffic congestion and though getting from A to B is relatively easy, I’d recommend the MyCiTi airport shuttle (0800 65 64 63; www.capetown.gov.za/en/MyCiti/Pages/default.aspx) as a really budget friendly and easy way to get to and from the airport (about a quarter of the price of a metered taxi or airport shuttle).
- As I mention in my How to get around Cape Town guide, unmetered taxis are a cheap way to get around for short distances as are the Rikkis (0861 7455 47; www.rikkis.co.za) that buzz throughout the city centre and surrounding suburbs.
- The city is really walkable, especially if you choose to explore the central business district. Long Street and Kloof Street (the former becomes the latter and vice versa) are only a few kilometres along and both are easily reachable from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and Green Point.
Sights and attractions
- A great way to hit all the sights without too much hassle is to book a berth on any one of the open top City Sightseeing buses. 120 rand gets you a one-day ticket that gets you to around 20 sights - there are various other ticket offers available and if you buy your tickets online (021 511 6000; www.citysightseeing.co.za) there’s a discount. In the summer months the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway offers really good sunset specials and if it’s your birthday you ride for free.
- The Natural History Museum (Company's Garden, Queen Victoria Street; 021 481 3952; www.iziko.org.za/sam) and South African National Gallery (Company's Garden, Queen Victoria Street; 021 481 3970;www.iziko.org.za/sang) both charge nominal entrance fees for adults and children up to the age of 16 enter for free.
- For an absolutely free, bird's eye view of the city, head for Tafelberg Road under the mountain and drink in the gorgeous vistas, likewise for an unbeatable view down onto Camps Bay Beach settle on a bench just over the crest of Kloof Nek Road and survey the surroundings - picture perfect sunset moments are guaranteed.
Other useful tips
- For those who consider shopping a sport, whip out that plastic. Expect to pay substantially less for high-end labels (Hugo Boss, Jimmy Choo and the like) but don't expect to find the latest seasonal wares, our stores are about a season behind (except for Louis Vuitton where every store around the world is in sync). Leather is well priced here as is clothing but, in my opinion, the best value is in diamond and jewellery purchases. Whether buying stones or finished products - from wholesalers or jewellers, you'll pay a whole lot less than in other cities around the world - be sure to get your conflict free certificate to complete the feel good experience.
- As I’ve mentioned in my Cape Town, the city has a First World sheen but we are still very much part of a Third World country with its accompanying issues. This means your heart strings will be pulled on many an occasion, particularly if walking Long Street, where many street kids tend to gather in the hope of earning money. The problem is that monetary handouts invariably end up in the hands of drug dealers and people who use the kids to earn money. If you would like to help, considering donating to projects like The Salesian Institute (www.salesians.org.za) and The Homestead (www.homestead.org.za) where funds are used to rehabilitate and rehome displaced children. Your hotel concierge can facilitate donations. Many visitors arrange large collections of clothing to be taken to township orphanages and homes and again these kind of generous donations are best arranged through a facilitator - trekking a suitcase filled with clothing and stationery to a township tour creates headaches for the operators.
- The city has spent enormous amounts in making our city safe for both citizens and visitors. There are CCTV cameras throughout the central business district and you will see neon-bibbed Central Improvement District officers on patrol throughout. As with any major city, it’s important to use your smarts. Keep cameras close to you, avoid unrolling large wads of cash in the street and flashing iPhones and Blackberries around and be aware of your surrounds. Pick pocketing does happen and even more so at night. Some areas like Woodstock and Salt River, while certainly on the up in the gentrification stakes, are still tricky and you should be aware of this - walking around here at night is a no no.