Cape Town. Useful Information for low cost travellers.

We visited South Africa during a 3 months roadtrip through southern Africa
(South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland).
October – December 2015

Average exchange rate: 1€ = 14 Rands

Cape Town is famous for a right reason: the location is wonderful.  If you have to visit only one town in South Africa (or in black Africa), Cape Town is probably the best choice.
Allow at least 3 or 4 days to visit this city and its surrounds (better if you have a week).

Views from the Lion´s Head. Wonderful!


  • Enjoy the scenery and the atmosphere! The mountains, the ocean and its changing views. Cape Town is in an amazing location. The views are top wherever you go around. 
From the northern beaches, like Melkbosstrand or Bloubergstrand, you´ll get the famous view of Cape Town. From the waterfront, from the southern beaches, from the Table Mountain and the Lion´s Head. Fantastic! Go and have a look and enjoy! And then head to the Cape peninsula and surrounds for more views.
Cape Town has a special atmosphere and so does its region, Western Cape. It´s true you often feel you are not in black Africa, it looks more like a European city and there´s a big white population in the area. The city is organised, mixed of people, multicultural, modern ideas.  Rich areas but also big and poor townships.
  • Walk around the Waterfront. Expect to see many many tourists around you walking the V&A (Victoria & Albert) Waterfront.

Close to Cape Town´s port, recently re-new, for good and for bad.Close to the World Cup Stadium, now it´s a nice area to walk around, where all the tourists go. But ugly and huge shopping malls, mixed architecture. Fortunately there are still a few old buildings, an old bridge.
Many restaurants with terraces (prices are quite correct for the location) and many shops. There´s a big Pick n´Pay supermarket in the shopping mall. Many expensive activities (helicopter flights, tourist boats, pirate boat, etc.). 
Also a few museums to keep the organised tours busy.

  • Know about Mandela and the recent history.  Even if you don´t go to Robben Island, you can get an idea about the recent history, specially walking around the waterfront. There are 2 free Mandela´s and history exhibitions there. One at the Mandela´s Gateway, the new building where the ferry-tours jetty to Robben Island is. Another one in the old jetty house (just near the shopping mall) from where Nelson Mandela was sent to the island.

Price to go to Robben Island: 250 R (around 20 €) for the ferry crossing+bus+prison entrance, tours last around 3,5 h. Departures depending on weather (9:00, 11:00 and 13:00 usually) from Mandela´s Gateway in the V&A Waterfront.

  • Enjoy the Beaches.  There are many beaches around Cape Town. The ocean is rough. Famous surfing beaches north of the city. The sea is cold. There are many tidal pools (free) on the beaches to have a safe swim.
          Complete information about beaches:

  • Climb the Table Mountain, the icon of Cape Town.A must-do in Cape Town.
Views from the Table Mountain
If you like hiking or want to save same money, you can go by foot. It´s free (the Table Mountain National Park has no entrance fee, except Cape Point and Boulder´s pengouins). 
Really recommended!  
The Table Mountain is high, around 1.000 m. Bring warm clothes. It´s really cold and windy up on the mountain, all year round.
We had to wait 3 days in november, as the Table was cloudy. It´s quite often like that. It worth waiting!  Complete information of the national park: sanparks,

The shortest and most used track is  via Platterklip Gorge (other routes are in the back of the mountain, from the Botanical gardens area, longer, less people). 
We were up in 1h40. In total (with the walk on the Table to enjoy the views & up and down way) it´s around 4h30
It´s quite steep, lots of steps. Your body will be sore in the next days (ours was even if we are quite fit). Very well signed and many people climb every day.

The track starting point is on Tafelberg Rd, just left of the lower cable station.  There´s a big parking near the lower cable station  or you can park your car on the side of the road (just in the track area). It´s safe, rangers and police are always around. Also public and tourist bus reach the lower cable station. Tafelberg Rd is now closed a few km up.

You can check with google maps all this area. Here´s the detail map we´ve done.

Price for  cable-car to go to the Table Mountain:
Long queues for the cable car. Booking on line is a bit cheaper but also long queues to jump on the cable. One way or return tickets (around 8 €/ 15 €).
215 R/110 R (return/one way) and 205 R/ 105 R (online), 172 R/ 88 R (Wild Card).

  • Climb the Lion´s Head. Fantastic views all over the trek, 360 degrees views. Even better than Table Mountain ones in our opinion, and easier.You won´t regret it! Really recommended!
Views from the Lion Head

The trail is very well marked. Last meters are rock climbing. Around 2h30-3 h return. Access by Signal Hill Road, there´s a parking or you can park on the sides of the road where the track starts (it´s safe, controlled by rangers and police). It´s also part of the Table Mountain National Park (free), there´s an information cabin.  There´s also another trail from Signal Hill.Many people climb the Lion during full moon nights. 


The views from Signal Hill, where the road ends, are also good. The tourist bus reaches this place.
From Signal Hill, they shoot the Noon Gun, every day, free (we did not go).

  • Walk around the center. The City Bowl (center) is quite compact so perfect to walk around.   
You can do free walking tours in the center if you want. We saw the guys with the umbrellas.Note: on the week-ends, the central area is less crowded, quite empty streets. Parking right in the center is not free, but just go a bit further and you will find free ad safe places to park your car.

Not so many beautiful things around. It´s more for the atmosphere. You can walk around the commercial area, Adderley Street (Railway Station) and Long Street, with pedestrian streets and stalls (Green Marquet, St George´s Squares), many souvenirs shops, pubs and a few old Victorian buildings.
Visit the Company´s Gardens and colonial buildings, some government buildings and also museums, and Jewish area (we did not visit the museum). The National Library is free.

Walking around, you can find maybe free exhibitions.

Walk around Bo-Kaap, the malay muslim neighbourhood. If you have time and nothing else left to do, go on the slopes of Signal Hill to see this district. Steep streets with colourfull houses, small mosques, but not too much more. For us nothing very special.

Waterkant, between the center and the waterfront is the gay friendly neighbourhood. Not many areas  like this one in Africa.
  • Visit the Woodstock Market, along Albert Road. Industrial neighbourhood now becoming an alternative and creative place with antiques shops, galleries, etc. Around Old Biscuit Mill. Market on Saturday morning (till 14:00), very crowded.
  • See the Old Victorian houses at Tamboersklo. We loved this area.We visited this part of the town because we lived there, we enjoyed the quiet residential place. Great views of the city and Table Mountain. Also some small hostels, but not so cheap. Nice area.Small steep streets on a hill with old victorian houses.


You have many more activities to do in Cape Town, paying.We didn´t do any, just walk around the places, but the references and prices are:

  • As mencionned before, Robben Island (around 20 €) and the Table Cable-car (around 15/8 € return/one way).

  • Kirtstenbosch Botanic Garden: entrance fee 50 R. 10 km from the city center (behind the Table).

  • Museums around Company´s Gardens. A few streets south are the Castle of Good Hope (military museum inside) and District Six Museum (Apartheid museum in Cape Town, around 40 R fee).

A few streets south are the Castle of Good Hope (military museum inside) and District Six Museum (Apartheid in Cape Town), but we did not visit (around 40 R fee).

 Turkish baths (around 50 R/h) in Long Street.
  • Museum Bo-Kaap, 30 R. 
  • Township tours: we don´t agree with this kind of things... Tourists paying to go and see how poor people live. Allthe way to the airport, you will see the townships... and all over South Africa.
In the surrounds of Cape Town you have many things to visit, and you need extra time. Read the other article (menu sidebar) with complete information.


Many lodges, backpackers, etc. in different neighbourhoods and surrounds. Cape Town has not the cheapest prices of South Africa, but competition is hard.
Most of the places have websites so it´s easy to find information online.

If you are looking for a cheap place in Cape Town, you can check Cape Town Magazine or the backpackers  guides like Coast to Coast.

Many backpackers lodges in Cape Town, some will allow you to camp in the garden (the cheapest option), A dorm costs around 130-180 R in average (10-12 €).
Check for exemple this cheap place. African Heart Backpackers

There are also campsites, usually on the coast. There are 13 municipal campsites, many in False Bay (prices/site 2people, between 120 and 200 R, depending of the season), so not in a central location, more than 20 km away. Complete information on
Views from Ben´s House. Amazing. Thank you !!!

Couchsurfing in Cape Town:

There´s a big CS community. The city is very spread out so some hosts live 10 km or more from the center.

We stayed with Nic in Century City, and with Ben in Tamboerskloof and Pieter in Somerset West. Thank you very much !!! Great!


Many restaurants, pubs, all kind of foods, very big offer. Prices are usually quite correct, even around tourist spots like the Waterfront.

If you want to save money, cook yourself. Most of the backpackers have kitchens.
This is what we did, in the couchsurfing houses.

There are many supermarkets all around the city. You will find all the South African supermarkets brands in Cape Town. Prices are OK.

 Water is safe to drink in the city. But ask before just in case.


Public transport is quite good, specially compared with the rest of South Africa.

New buses and routes, MyCiti, new system similar to Bogota´s Transmilenio.
You need a smart card (no cash on the bus), which costs 35 R, that you charge (also valid for cable car). Price per km, quite cheap. The main hub is Civic Centre (Railway station in the center). 
Also serving the airport and Table Mountain and as far as Hout Bay on the peninsula and the surrounds.

Also trains around Cape Town and the area (great to go to Simon´s Town, Swellendam). Ask for the schedules as many stop the service quite early. 

Also “hop on- hop off buses”. 170 R/day or 250 R/2 days (online booking).
Many tourists use them, as also going to the surrounds.
And shuttle vans...

Driving, parking in Cape Town:

We did not use the public transport as we had a rental car ( So we drove around, easy and safe. 
There are no toll highways or road around Cape Town, except the tourist Chapman´s Drive in Cape Peninsula.
Many rental car companies in Cape Town. It´s a good place to rent a car in South Africa.Good roads and highways, good signs. Easy. 

Parking. Except at the city center and the waterfront where you have to pay, parking is free and easy to find a place. If climbing to Table Mountain (cable or walk) and Lion´s head, there are free parkings on the road.

We also found Cape Town and its surrounds safe. No problem to park your car, just put your stuff in the boot and take your valuables.

   Free wifi in Cape Town  

At the informations centers, like in the city center (near Green Market Square), in the Waterfont, etc., all around the city, good information for tourists (maps, accommodation, tours, etc.) and they have free wifi.
Company´s Garden are supposed to have free wifi but it did not work.

  National Parks and Reserves in Western Cape  

There´s a mixed managment of the parksand reserves of this region. Some are under national managment, with SAN and other ones under regional management with Cape Nature.
In both cases, most of the reserves and parks are included with the Wild Card.
Complete information on the websites. 
Remember that The Table Mountain National Park is free when visiting the Table! But there´s a fee at Cape Point.