"You can't go to Cape Town - it is dangerous!" - is what I kept hearing before I left. As a female Norwegian nomad that just visited Cape Town solo for the first time for a whole month, I learned a lot of interesting things I would actually have loved to know before I went. I want to share some of my finds with you guys so you can start planning your first trip to this amazing destination.
What to bring:
You will need an adapter for your electronic devices. I bought mine at the airport before I went. I also brought a branch outlet so that I only would need that one adapter, but still be able to charge 3 devices. My Airbnb host actually had European adapters at home, and several cafes also offered this - but still nice to have just in case.
As a Norwegian it would be very expensive for me to use my "normal" mobile data in South Africa, so I needed a South African sim card. You can get an actual card from the Vodaphone stalls you see everywhere - but as the digital person that I am, an E-sim fitted my needs better and seemed easier.
I got the app Airalo (I bet there are several to choose from) - and installed an e-sim through that app. You can set it up, buy a package of data and activate it. I paid 30 euros for 10 GB data that lasted me the whole month (I used WIFI wherever possible)
Take some cash with you, but not too much. I took 1000 rands from the airport ATM. That is around 55 euros and is nice to have for tipping guides you use for tours and so on, sharing a bill with someone, buying heart stickers from homeless people (more on this later). Some cafes/restaurants does not accept cash, so no need to take hundreds of euros.
Prepare for load shedding:
Load shedding is the term used for South Africa's planned power outages. Depending on where you choose to stay in Cape Town, the power will go out from 0 - 4 times a day. (Rarely more) A normal load shedding last around 2 hours. Some areas close to the hospital and so on never gets load shedding, and some restaurants/cafes/gyms has generators. You can prepare for when this will happen in your area by downloading the app Load Shedding Notifier, and add your area. That will make you able to charge your phone, wash clothes and dry your hair and so on in time before the power goes out.
Most Airbnbs has chargeable lights you can use in your rooms/bathroom so you can see what you are doing during load shedding.
If you need WIFI, go to a cafe that has a generator. Some cafes does not have a generator, and will only offer cold drinks (not coffee) and snacks during load shedding. Light a candle and relax, I promise you will get used to this surprisingly fast.
The second I sat foot in the airport after getting my luggage, I was met by around 25 taxi drivers who all really wanted to drive me to my home. This was quite intense - I heard prior to traveling that you should only take Ubers in Cape Town, and taxis are not safe. I was worried because of this, but randomly met a South African couple going in my direction.
They said taking a taxi is fine, but they took his card, took a picture of it, and also made me text them as soon as I got to my destination after them.
I had a long chat with the driver who said he was sad the drives had a bad reputation. He was a great driver and I never felt unsafe at all. I landed at midnight and finding an Uber seemed stressful, but I think Uber is better than taxis in general here because you get to see who is picking you up and also the rating. It is also much cheaper. I paid 300 rands for the taxi, and 170 for the uber on my way back. In the city I paid around 2 - 5 euros per trip with an uber.
I got several warnings about the safety in Cape Town, but I felt generally safe. I would recommend you to take the same safety measures that I did:
- Do not walk alone after dark. Get an Uber door to door.
- The Uber driver will lock all the doors when you start driving. This is not to lock you in, it is to make sure nobody enters the car/opens the trunk when you stop at a red light. You should also do that if you rent a car. I never witnessed anyone trying to do this on a red light, but they say it is a thing.
- Do not wear flashy jewellery or wave your money around.
- Do not walk in sketchy alleys
- Stay alert of the surroundings, do not walk while looking at your phone/not paying attention
I felt unsafe in the beginning because of all the warnings I got before traveling, but it didn't take long before I felt safer, and nothing bad ever happened to me during my stay. The people are nice, most areas has walking guards all night, and most apartment buildings has gates, camera surveillance and guards 24/7.
I heard about a scam they call the "baby formula scam", where a person asks you to buy them expensive baby formula and they return in to the store to get the money after. Not dangerous, but still, nice to know.
Where to stay?
I fell in love with several areas here, but I stayed in Green Point. It is nice and quiet, but still had lots of cafes and shops. I will probably go for Green Point next time also.
My new friend stayed in Bree Street in CBD, which is more vibrant with restaurants and bars.
Sea Point is also beautiful, located near the promenade and packed with food options. Camps Bay is near the amazing beaches, a little more expensive than the other spots I mentioned.
Eat and drink:
As a food blogger, I obviously focused on finding the best food when I was in Cape Town. Food is the reason we travel, right? Check out my Cape Town Guide and the Story Highlight on my Instagram for all the food recs. I had some amazing meals here! FYN was definitely a highlight (they also rank no. 37 in the world right now on Worlds 50 best)
What to do?
There are so much to do in Cape Town, and always something happening. Here are a few suggestions to get your imagination going:
- Hiking: Table Mountain, Lions Head, Kloof Korner and so many more. The hiking scene here is just one of a kind. You get above the clouds and the nature is breathtaking. Be smart and go in a hiking group. If something happens and you are alone, it can be dangerous. Try to hike when it is still daylight, or bring flashlights. Bring a lot of water, and some snacks.
- Kayaking with dolphins. I went on a kayaking experience at 7 am and we saw so many dolphins. A little earlier in the year I hear you can also see whales! I was there from nov. 17th until dec. 13th and I was just a little too late to see them.
- Free walking tours. Cape Town has lots of history, and by talking a free walking tour you can learn a lot while seeing the areas where it all happened. Remember to tip your guide! It seemed to be custom to tip around 100 - 200 rands.
- Go on a sunset cruise on a catamaran
- Karaoke at Bokeh is a must!
- Visit one of the many food markets like Oranjezicht or Mojo
- Attend a fire dancers party at Clifton beach (announced a few days in advance on Facebook and the nomad groups) Bring food and drinks and stay until the stars come out.
- Have a beautiful beach day on one of the Clifton beaches or camps bay beach. The water is freezing so unless you love freezing water, don't expect to be swimming around. Renting a sunbed is around 60 rands. (Not a must)
- Visit Simonstown and the penguins
- Visit Cape of Good Hope
- Attend a silent disco at the beach
- Go to a jazz concert in the basement at Athletics Social Club
- Have drinks at the hidden bar (The Gin Bar) or a glass of wine at Open Wine
- Go to a summer concert in Kirstenbosch botancal garden
- Have a wine tasting day in one of the wine regions: Take a hop on hop off bus in Stellenbosch, the wine tram in Fransschoek, or the red bus in Constantia.
- Weekend getaway to Paternoster or Hermanus
- Enjoy a sundowner - The sunsets here are one of a kind
- First Thursdays: This is such a fun concept. The first thursday in a new month, several galleries open for free entry, bars move their furnuture outside, the DJs are outside, the streets close down, and its a whole big outdoor party,
- Eat, drink, dance
How to meet other nomads/new friends?
I posted that I was headed to CT in a Facebook group called Cape Town Digital nomads. (7700 members) From that, I was added in the following Whatsapp groups: NGG Social, Nomad Gig Guide, NGG Hikers and Cape Town Social life. Here people will post and plan events together and I met so many great people through this.
Attend a group tour: On both free walking tours or other guided tours, you will most likely meet other solo travelers. I met a friend on a free walking tour and we ended up staying in the same house in the end!
Social media: I often meet people through Instagram because we see that we are in the same area. This time I actually met a new friend through TikTok, and we had so much fun!
Stay in a shared Airbnb: I met so many new friends by choosing to stay in the same house as my host, and another person in the other bedroom. I became friends with the other person, the host, and even the hosts friends. We all went hiking together, and even to restaurants and events.
Remember - strangers are just friends we don't know yet.
From 10 percent is custom, depending on you level of satisfaction.
The poverty and the contrasts:
A huge shock for me as a Norwegian, and as a former social worker, is to experience the huge economic differences here in Cape Town. There are a lot of poor and homeless people here, and they stay directly on the streets or in small tents they build with different materials under brigdes or trees. They are living in conditions we do not see the same way in Norway.
It is hard to write something here without sounding like a complete white rich asshole: Is it uncomfortable for me to see them struggle on the street while I enjoy my champagne on the terrace? Am I trying to be the great white saviour by giving a person a bottle of water? There is something disgusting with this whole scene, right? I know. Makes me feel ashamed. And how is it even about me, why do I feel ashamed? Truth is, we are human, we are going to feel something when we see this. This could be me, it could be you, if the cards were dealt differently. No matter what you feel, try to think about it, reflect on your feelings. Respect these people no matter what.
The gouvernment has completely failed their people here, and no - there is nothing we as tourists can do to fix this whole issue. I just want to tell you what you could consider doing, even if it feels small:
- Bring leftovers or food you buy extra from a restaurant with you in a box and give it to someone (they will most likely ask for your box when you pass them).
- Buy the Heart stickers from the homeless who sells them (20 r per package) it is part of a project to help them get income
- Have some musli bars or water with you in the car (if you have a car) and give it to the beggars standing at the red lights
- Bring stuff to donate such as toiletries, clothes an so on - and get in touch with local township projects, like www.uthandosa.org - a little goes a long way. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to make the donation. Everything is appreaciated. They work with old age homes, schools, nurseries, after school projects and so on.
- At least smile, acknowledge peoples existence and say good morning.
I hope this helped you feel prepared for your trip - safe travels to amazing Cape Town!
Questions? Do not hesitate to reach out.