Current day South Africa is truly unique, it is seen as the gateway to Africa and attracts people from all over the world.
South Africa and especially Cape Town are well known to be a rich and vibrant melting pot of races and cultures from all over the world. South Africa has eleven official languages, the predominant language used for communication across cultures is English. English is typically understood and spoken by most people in all the major cities and tourist areas. In fact, English is also the accepted language for business and all official, email and other documentation regarding travel, transport and accommodation etc. will be in English.
Other languages spoken by locals of Cape Town and surrounding areas include Afrikaans and Xhosa. Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch with an estimated 90%+ of the Afrikaans vocabulary ultimately of Dutch origin. Xhosa, on the other hand, has its roots in the Nguni Bantu language and is famous for its click consonants. In the Marvel film Black Panther, the language spoken by the fictional African nation of Wakanda is Xhosa.
South Africa is a very affordable destination for visitors traveling from the US or Europe. For example, dinner for two and a good bottle of wine at a top restaurant typically costs less than 40 dollars. This in combination with a high quality of service, amazing accommodation, top restaurants and world-class wines makes Cape Town one of the best cities in the world for tourists.
The currency used in South African is called, Rand. At the time of writing (July 2019):
1 USD is equivalent to about 14 South African Rands
1 GBP is equivalent to about 17 South African Rands
1 Euro is equivalent to about 16 South African Rands
Most retailers, restaurants, gas stations etc. will accept the major credit or debit cards as payment. Just be sure to check that the cards you intend on using have been authorized for international transactions by your bank. Some of the local traders may however only accept cash, so be sure to have some available, especially when visiting the many markets. Recently, other methods of payment like SnapScan have become more popular, and are frequently used at restaurants and markets.
Getting around Cape Town and surrounding areas is pretty easy, the roads are in very good condition and well signposted plus you have the added benefit of being able to use Table Mountain as a reference point, so the chance of getting lost in the city is highly unlikely. There are several methods of transport available to visitors, and depending on your vacation or business plans, certain options or even combinations of these may be most practical and convenient.
If car rental is an option for you, I would recommend this above all other options as it will give you the freedom to explore the city and surrounding areas at your own pace. If you are travelling with your family and small children then this is pretty much the way to go. If you require a car with automatic transmission, be sure to specifically ask for this when making the booking as the default is typically for manual/stick shift. From personal experience, I have learned to book my car through a reputable travel booking sites such as AVIS, Hertz, Europcar and Budget car rental.
If you are planning for a short visit of a day or two and are not planning on travelling too far out of the city then I would recommend using a combination of Uber and the MyCiti Bus service. Uber has gained popularity in Cape Town and waiting times of 8 minutes or even less can be expected. The MyCiti Bus services a large area of Cape Town and it would be best to check the site for a more comprehensive guide to all the fees, routes and times.
Unfortunately, the railway system is quite unreliable and frequently has delays of more than an hour, also, some of the train routes are known to suffer from incidents of crime, so unless you are familiar with the routes or travel with a local, I would not recommend using the trains.
A good tip when traveling is to download an offline map of the area you expect to be exploring onto your mobile or tablet. This will allow you to navigate your way around the even when you don't have signal, see the how to guide.
When looking for accommodation in Cape Town it can easily become overwhelming as there are thousands of options. These can range from the very exclusive high-end hotels to hostels, self-catering and b&b establishments, all with varying levels of comfort and hospitality.
Besides, the location of these accommodations may be far from the sights and experiences you are looking for during your travels.
Websites and apps such as trivago, Booking.com, Travelstart and Airbnb list a significant number of the available options and this is definitely the best starting point when you are looking for accommodation. Besides, these sites list up to date reviews from previous visitors, which is definitely a valuable source of information. Also, we are continuously updating our blog with our latest adventures and will include our personal accommodation selections.
If you are still unsure whether a particular accommodation will fit your requirements, please send us an email and we will be happy to check it out for you.
Its always a good idea to do a bit of research before you leave for your vacation, this way you wont waste valuable time trying to decide what to do for the day and where to go for dinner. Below we provide a list of books, guides and other essentials so you can get the most out of your trip to South Africa and Cape Town.
If you require any further information please let us know, we will do our best to assist.