This Cape Town travel guide for women gives practical information about many aspects of your trip, including specific topics like safety, packing tips, what are the less-touristy places, where to eat and stay, shopping and more.
Some of the questions that this guide answers are:
– Do I need a visa to travel to South Africa?
– What is the weather?
– Is the water drinkable?
– Can I drive in South Africa?
– Do I need a power plug adapter?
– What about money & payments?
– What languages are spoken in SA?
– Is Cape Town Safe for Solo Travelling Women?
Why Visit Cape Town? Here Are Some Good Reasons:
It is said that Cape Town is the most beautiful city in South Africa. But Cape Town is much more than this. It is the safest city in South Africa to visit and offers a great variety of tourist attractions. The city has an eclectic atmosphere with many different ethnic groups represented. It is rich in architectural styles and various traditional cuisines. Cape Town is easy to travel to because of the international airport and an increasing number of air companies offering direct flights.
Do I Need A Visa To Travel To South Africa?
It is very probable that you may need a visa to enter South Africa. This list of countries whose citizens are exempt from South African visas can help you. Additionally, consult with your authorities on this matter before planning your trip because the visa process is fast and clear but you may need time to prepare all necessary documents.
What Is Weather In Cape Town?
Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate with warm summers and moderate winters. Be advised that summers are dry but sometimes with strong winds.
Is The Water In Cape Town Drinkable?
The tap water in Cape Town is safe for drinking and even has a pretty good taste.
Can I Drive In South Africa?
Renting a car is the best way to explore Cape Town and its surroundings. You can drive in SA using your driver’s license from your home country but it has to have a photo, your signature and be in English too.
Driving in SA is on the left-hand side of the road. Consider this before deciding on renting a car.
Do I Need A Power Plug Adapter?
What About Money & Payments?
The official currency is RAND (R).
At many places like hotels, restaurants and shop you can pay with a card. However, you need cash for your bargain deals at the souvenirs markets and other purchases on the go. You can use all major bank cards for ATMs as well. It will not cost you more than the fees applied by your bank.
Tips are usual in South Africa and 10% of the bill is a norm.
What Languages Are Spoken In SA?
South Africa has 11 official languages and one of them being English makes it a very easy destination to travel to.
Before Your Trip To Cape Town
Read as much as you can about the South African culture and history because it is what makes the country a complicated and sensitive place today. Check all necessary practical information, especially if you have special needs or medical condition. Make a list of your points of interest because you will not have time to see everything, as often happens. And buy travel insurance!
Safety Tips for Visiting Cape Town
Safety is a big issue in South Africa. Follow these safety rules:
- Use ONLY ATMs in malls or inside other buildings. Often, when an ATM machine is on the street in front of the bank office, there is a security guard; in this case, you can draw money safely as well.
- Most common crime is theft. Be vigilant when you use ATM, care luggage or shop on the streets. Also, stay cautious when you use public transport.
- If you rent a car, be aware that often there are people crossing the highways, especially when the road passes by townships ‘areas.
- NEVER walk (especially alone) at night. Even during the day, walk only in areas where you see local people walking.
- Use your common sense all the time to keep you safe!
Read more about what neighbourhoods to avoid, transport and taxis risks, pickpockets and other on Safe Around website.
HEALTH & VACCINES
You do not need a vaccination against malaria for visiting Cape Town. However, if you extend your trip to other parts of SA like some parts of Kruger National Park you will need to be cautious and use repellent and cover your skin, especially at dawn and dusk.
It’s easy to get a sunburn without noticing it. When you do, it is too late! The South African sun in summer is very strong and you should take preventive measures – bring a sunscreen at least 30 SPF.
If you travel to Cape Town in summer (i.e. November – March), be careful with the indoor air-conditioning. The difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures can make you sick very quickly!
FLIGHTS TO CAPE TOWN
Many airlines have direct flights to Cape Town. (Agoda is a good place to start your search for deals.)
For international flights check Qatar Airways for the best price, KLM for a style.
If you travel via Johannesburg International Airport, be careful to not leave any valuables and items of the first need in your checked-in luggage. The baggage theft and delays are very common at this airport.
For low-cost flights within the country, check Mango.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN CAPE TOWN
The cheapest way to explore Cape Town is to take the bus. Be aware that the buses you need are My Citi buses, branded in blue and red. Don’t make mistake to take the green ones (unless you want a real “local” experience, not necessarily in a positive way). To use these buses, you will need the Oyster card. You can get ti at bus stations. There are kiosks where you can buy it (cost R90) and load it with an amount of your choice. When you travel, validate your card when you board or leave the bus.
Another very popular option to get around in Cape Town is Uber. Uber is preferred by the locals because it is a cheaper option to the licensed taxis and it is safer than the numerous unofficial taxis.
Licensed taxis are not the best choice because they are expensive.
RENT-A-CAR WITH A DRIVER
Very good option (but not cheap tho’) is to rent a car with a driver. This is an amazing opportunity not only to see the places you are interested in seeing but also to get a closer look at the local’s favourite places. The driver is not just a driver but also your tour guide. He knows Cape Town very well and can bring you to places that are not usually frequented by tourists and at the same time he knows which parts of the city are safe and which are not. In addition, you will not get stressed by the hectic traffic, the left-hand side driving and lose time for finding the directions.
I can recommend the small company we used – with very professional and trustworthy drivers. Prices are for half or full day but you can negotiate other arrangements as well. Contact the owner Rafiq (who also drives some of the clients):
WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO CAPE TOWN
I can give you advice only about summer travel as my trip to South Africa was for the New Year.
- You need a suitcase that can be securely locked, especially when you leave your belongings in the hotel. Never leave your most valuable things unprotected.
- As for beauty and medical products, you can find everything in SA in case you forgot some of them at home.
- Bring comfortable clothes that are suitable for hot weather. Long sleeves are not a bad idea because they will help you protect your skin from the strong sun. Cotton clothes are always my preferred choice.
- You need a brimmed hat (you can buy a nice one in South Africa!), sunglasses and a scarf (the air-conditioning in cars, buses, hotels and restaurants create a huge difference between outdoor and indoor climates that is almost as a shock for the body).
- Closed shoes, as well as some sandals, will be of good use. Here are some ideas for shoes for women travellers in case you need a new pair.
WHERE TO STAY IN CAPE TOWN
Manhattan Suites in Century City
During our trip to Cape Town, we stayed at Manhattan Suites located in Century City. The place is far from the city centre but feels like an oasis of safety in comparison with other parts of Cape Town. It offers fully equipped hotel apartments. It is a very quiet hotel and the staff was friendly and helpful. Just a few minutes walk from it is one of the largest malls of Cape Town. You can find everything there – shopping, restaurants and cafes, pharmacies, ice cream stalls, cinema, etc.
The kitchen is a big advantage and you can reduce your expenses for food. Breakfast is included in the price and served in the restaurant next to the lobby.
You can check for prices and availability here.
Dolphin Beach Hotel in Cape Town
If I knew about this hotel before our trip, I would book to stay here! It is an old but very popular beach hotel in Cape Town. The reasons for its popularity are its location (it is, as far as I know, the only hotel with direct access to a beach in the city) and the beautiful cabanas that give you a feel of exotic island vacation but also bring some privacy. The beach is something you need to see even if you are not going to book a room here. Its white sand and morning serenity are a perfect addition to one of the best views in Cape Town – the Table Mountains is just across the water.
You can book this hotel here.
RESTAURANTS IN CAPE TOWN
Food in South Africa is delicious and various. You will find juicy tropical fruits, sweet pastries and tender steaks everywhere but not forget the traditional Malay dishes that come always with a curry. I found that the best places to taste the various food choices in Cape Town are:
Cape Town Fish Market
Spur Steak Ranches
This is another restaurant chain where you can taste the world-famous South African steaks without breaking the bank. You have a large choice of meat and dishes. Once again, the staff is very kind and helpful (give them a tip!). More about Spur here.
Ostrich farms and ranches are a must-do for the first time visitor to South Africa. There are two reasons for that: there are not many places in the world you can taste a good ostrich steak; the quality of food and service is impressive.
The two places I have visited are:
This farm is located not far from the Cape Point and that’s the way it is easy to visit. It offers a beautiful setting and spacious vistas. The restaurant does not work on Thursdays!
This is said to be the best place to taste an ostrich steak in Cape Town. I can confirm that it is a yummy experience. The menu is limited but the dishes prepare with undoubted professionalism by the chefs. Surprisingly, this is not an expensive meal. You are served in a beautiful outdoor setting under the shadow. No need for a reservation.
The tour is very interesting – first, you start with a visit to the small museum that has the purpose of teaching you more about the animals and the African culture connected with them, before actually seeing the ostriches outside in the back yard. Enthusiastic and kind guide will show you around and will provoke you to ask questions and be more curious than you expected.
Try Malay Food at Bo-Kaap
I didn’t try the food in Bo-Kaap, the old Malay neighbourhood famous for its colourful houses. It is said that here you can taste the best curry in the city. You can visit some of the restaurants in Bo Kaap or, if you are a traveller who loves learning and cooking, you can join a cooking class followed by lunch. I also heard about food stalls that take their corner places in the neighbourhood in the evenings but didn’t see them myself as I was there during the day. The only information I found online was this article about Warida and her famous samosas. It is probably worth trying to find more about Bo Kaap street food when you are in Cape Town.
SHOPPING IN CAPE TOWN
Shopping is expensive in South Africa but there are goods that you can find only in this country, so it is totally worth the money. Especially as often the quality is greater.
Unique South African Products – Clothing & Outdoor Accessories
My favourite shops were Cape Union Mart because it is where I found the trousers and shirt that I wore during my stay at a safari lodge in Kruger National Park. In the shops of this brand, you will find a whole range of products for active outdoor travel, all of the high quality. Old Khaki is another chain (although, it is owned by the same group) where you can find typical South African style clothing.
South African Souvenirs
Green Market Square is the place in Cape Town where you will find traditional African souvenirs like jewellery, fabrics, paintings and wooden figures. As it is also the most popular market, always bargain to get the best price possible!
SOLO FEMALE TRAVEL
It is possible to visit Cape Town safely as a solo female traveller. However, you should not forget that South Africa is not considered safe in general. In comparison with Johannesburg that has a bad reputation in terms of crime level, Cape Town is a good place to visit and feel safe. You need to take precautions, be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. These guidelines will help you to feel more secure during your trip:
- Try to blend in and behave as if you know where you are going
- Inform yourself about every place you want to visit – is it safe, how to go, what to do and what not, etc.
- Ask for guidelines only hotel staff or people you know/trust – hotel front desk, tour guides, police, friends, etc.
- Never take a taxi that has not the taxi identification – only official taxis!
- Use Uber, it is quite popular in Cape Town, and use your common sense
- Stay away from places or groups gatherings that feel alarming
PLACES TO VISIT IN CAPE TOWN
Cape Town offers a very eclectic travel experience. From wine tasting to stepping on the Cape Point, trough travelling among different cultures by tasting the local cuisine, the city is like a pot full of treasures. Following is a list of the places I recommend you to include in your itinerary but you can read more about them in my blog post Things to Do in Cape Town.
Most popular (touristy) places
South Africa is a very popular tourist destination and Cape Town is the most visited of all destinations within the country. This makes it difficult to find out-of-the-beaten-path places. However, I will try to point you out what are the most crowded and less crowded sites in and around Cape Town.
V & A Waterfront (free) Here is the visitor’s information.
Table Mountain cable car (ticket) See this option for Cable car ticket and a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket.
Cape Point & Cape of Good Hope (ticket)
Best option to shorten the long waiting time in line for tickets, buy tickets online. When you arrive at the place, there are two lines. To go early in the morning also helps to beat the crowds.
Boulders Beach is where you can see the black-footed penguins of South Africa. You can combine the visit to the last two places in a day tour.
Less popular places
The ostrich farms came looks to be less popular among tourists. They are unique for the destination and very interesting places to visit and there are fewer people to share the space with. Bo Kaap with its many streets, even if it is a very popular spot, doesn’t feel crowded and you can easily feel like walking the streets alone.
Lion’s Head and its Signal Hill is the place where local people go for a romantic picnic at sunset or a family outdoor gathering on weekends. Although, don’t go there or stay after the sun sets as the hill is not considered safe at night. It is free of charge to enjoy it but if you want something more adventurous, you can join the people who come here for paragliding.
Dolphin Beach is the best place in Cape Town for a magnificent view of Table Mountain and its spacious location makes it perfect for a long walk or a stress-free picnic.
Your Cape Town holidays will be an unforgettable experience that will lead to a better understanding not only of South Africa as a country but Africa as a continent. Enjoy your time, take a moment to feel the serenity on the beach, taste the spicy curries and tender beef steaks. There is no better-spent money than the ones creating memories.
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