By global standards, Cape Town is a small city and the City Bowl itself (the area situated underneath the mountain and including the central business district) is also easily walkable (except for the really hilly bits). That said, though our public transport system has taken a while to get up to speed with other city capitals, we’re getting there and there are plenty of ways to easily get around.
The local overland train service is the Metro rail service (0800 65 64 63; www.capemetrorail.co.za). It runs from the recently overhauled Cape Town Station to the city’s outlying regions - parts of the northern suburbs to the Cape Winelands, the city’s townships and to the southern suburbs. Sadly, it does not run along the Atlantic Seaboard. The average ticket between say, five stations will set you back 8 Rand (children under 12 pay half price and the return price is around one and a half times the one way) so it’s a cost effective means of travel, but here’s the caveat, despite drastically improved security measures, travelling alone out of peak hours is not necessarily the best idea. After hours it's a no no too.
One of the trips I recommend to visitors is the Cape Town to Simonstown return where the 45-minute long train trip takes you through the southern suburbs all along the False Bay coastline to the pretty village of Simonstown - hop off in Kalk Bay for a browse and some lunch if there’s time or perhaps a swim at St James Beach or Fish Hoek Beach beaches.
There are two taxi systems in South Africa and this goes for Cape Town too: metered and unmetered. The first runs much like metered taxi services around the world on a pay per kilometre basis (expect to pay around 15 Rand per kilometre) and you’ll find them at major landmarks, Cape Town Station and dotted around the city at dedicated taxi stands. Rikki (0861 7455 47; www.rikkis.co.za) taxis offer a quick and easy share ride system at much lower rates - look out for one of their yellow phone booths in the central business district, make your pick-up call and wait to be collected - you may have to wait to drop off other passengers en route to your destination.
The second means of taxi transport is with our unmetered taxis - here you’ll pay a fixed ride rate (around 7 Rand, destination dependant) and you’ll hop into a minibus that stops all along the route as and when passengers demand (much to the ire of other road users), picking up customers. Despite their cavalier road attitude, for inner city toing and froing in the day, such as getting to and from the Atlantic Seaboard beaches, these taxis are a boon for careless visitors - they’re generally safe, they’re quick and they’re cheap.
The main bus route operator in and around the city is via the Golden Arrow bus company. While its latest project, the MyCiTi (0800 65 64 63; http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/MyCiti/Pages/default.aspx) buses, is due for roll out in the near future (you’ll probably notice the dedicated lanes being built all over the city), the MyCiTi airport transfer service is up and running and departs from the Cape Town Civic Centre terminus (close to Cape Town train station) every 20 minutes and likewise from the airport terminus. Expect to pay 50 rand for a one-way ticket to the airport.
Specially geared for tourists are the City Sightseeing Buses (021 511 6000;www.citysightseeing.co.za) that operate on a number of sightseeing specific routes in and around the city, affording visitors a hop on and hop off city exploration opportunity. Buses leave from the Two Oceans Aquarium in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront every 20 minutes, starting at 9am until 5pm.The website is really useful for planning your city sightseeing.
A new initiative undertaken by the city improvement district is the arrival of bike lanes. You’ll find the pilot cycle path for this system operating for 16km between the city and the seaside suburb of Blouberg. A new lane has also recently been opened in Bree Street which runs the length of the central business district. Many hotels have bikes available to use or you can also hire a bike or moped from local setup Downhill Adventures (www.downhilladventures.com).
With the recent major overhaul of Cape Town International Airport (086 727 7888; www.acsa.co.za) the city is much more geared for tourists - this was proven with the 2010 FIFA World Cup that saw thousands of fans stream in through the airport gates. Situated around 20-minutes drive from the central business district (around 20 kilometres away), it’s best reached by car (try the budget friendly MyCiTi bus shuttle). I use Magic Bus (021 505 6300www.magicbus.co.za) for my private transfers and I pay around 300 Rand for a 30-kilometre ride from my home to the airport.
For more information see Cape Town flights.