My wife just found out yesterday that she has to go to Capetown for work for a week in July. I plan on tagging along. I was wondering if any S.A. dopers had (a) tourist suggestions, both for me going solo during the day and the two of us together (say, a day-trip or two for the weekend), and (b) any general travel advisories (safety, culture, food, etc.)
Obviously I’m not South African, but I’ve been to Cape Town and its surroundings. I’ll just drop a list of suggestions and leave the real work up to the experts.
[ul]Table Mountain is a must. You can walk up, but there’s a lift going up too. Fanastic view!Stellenbosch is the capital of the wine region, an hour way from Cape Town. Gorgeous city, great atmosphere. Big university, lots of wineries to visit.Hermanus is a nice fisherman’s town 2 hours east. It’s famous for the southern right wales, but I think July’s no the season for them. There’s a tiny place near Cape Town with a shitload of very smelly penguins. I forget the name… Simonstown or something? I seem to recall a reference to Simon van der Stel.Mosselbaai! Quite a drive, but that town’s very cool. Excellent Batelomeus Diaz museum, and the famous Post Office tree. The entire Garden Route (Cape Town to Port Elisabeth) is gorgeous, but seeing as your wife wil be in CT all the time, it’s not practicle.[/ul]OK, that ought to be a start!
Eh. It’s pretty bad in some areas. To put it bluntly: if you’re a white boy with a rental car that says “BUDGET” on the trunk, don’t drive into Soweto. But a lot of it is not unlike, say, the US: you got your good areas and your bad areas. Usually, crime is a big city problem, although travelling through Transvaal and Transkei can be pretty dangerous too. Or so I’ve heard: I deliberately chose another route.
Avoid the bad areas of town in Cape Town, and you’re A-OK. Skip Jo’burg altogether, I’d say. Other than those two, I’ve only found Port Elisabeth to be a tad grim. The rest of what I’ve seen wasn’t scary at all in terms of crime.
My homeland!!! My home town!!! I have to respond!!!
Agreed - Table Mountain is the thing that I miss most about the city. A constant prescence, but always changing… You will be there in the rainy season, so be very careful if you go walking on the mountain - the weather can change very rapidly, and with precipitous drops, the mountains kills several people each year. Take a warm jacket and don’t wander off the paths if it gets foggy!! There is a lovely resturant at the cable car station on top of the mountain, but it may be closed in the winter.
True, but I prefer the smaller wineries that are “off the beaten track”. Try Franchoek and Paarl for a less touristy feel - maps avaliable at all tourist info places. The University part of the city is very nice - big old buildings, lots of oak trees.
Yeah - September is the best time for the whales, but the area is well worth a visit, although I prefer the coast from Gordon’s Bay to Kleinmond to Hermanus which has become a little over-crowded. There is a lovely little botanical garden in Betty’s Bay that is well worth a visit.
This is Boulders Beach which is just beyond Simonstown on the False Bay side of the peninsula - lots of fun, but watch out, they bite!!
Agreed again!! Coldfire is clearly a person of taste and breeding!! My favorite haunts on the Garden route are Sedgefield, where my Gran lived and we still spend our summer holidays and Victoria Bay, where I lived and worked (at Carmel Guest Farm) for 3 months after leaving high school.
Other options [ul][li]A trip up the West Coast to Langebaan (about an hour North of Capetown) and the Posberg Nature Reserve as well as beyond to little fishing villages such as Paternoster and Eland’s Baai. This is heading into a semi-desert area, but filled with little Namaqualand daisies when the sun is out.Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (which blends into Newlands Forest) on the slopes of Table Mountain.Rhodes Memorial is an easily reached vantage point on the slopes of Devil’s Peak which gives a Cape Point Nature Reserve - the supposed meeting point of the Altantic and Indian Oceans - provides a dramatic end to the PeninsulaNot that it will be beach weather - although even in winter there are some glorious days - but the beaches along the Atlantic seaboard (Camps Bay, Fresnaye and especially Cilfton) are the places to be seen. Having drinks on Clifton beach as the sun sinks into the ocean is a student favorite.St George’s Cathedral and the Company Gardens in the heart of the city make a peaceful break-away from the busy CBDGreenmarket Square is a hawker’s paradise, it was once the haunt of artists and crafts stalls. Some still remain and there are cheap quality goods to be had, but it has become increasingly commercial.Township tours have become popular of late, but I cannot vouch for their quality or worth.[/ul][/li]Check out http://www.cape-town.org/default.asp for some more ideas…
As for crime - it is bad, but not horrendous. Like travelling in any country, try not to brand yourself as a tourist, and ask the locals of areas to avoid. As in all cities, the poorer areas are the dangerous ones, and unfortunately, in South Africa, the poor areas are the black areas (townships). Carjacking is a problem, as is mugging and rape. Unfortunatly, there is not a quality system of public transport in Cape town, and what there is is not safe to travel on after dark. Cape Town is a lot better than Jo’burg or Durban, and smaller towns like Port Elizabeth are better still.
Living in Cape Town I find myself an authority in this area of expertise!
Firstly expect rain. July is winter in Cape Town and it’s been raining regularly on and off for a while now so it might be a bit wet when you are here.
Regarding crime: I don’t know when Coldfire was last in Cape Town but thanks to the liberal use of outdoor cameras in the CBD crime has plummeted.
Of course don’t go wondering through the deserted areas of town (which is the same in any city) stick to the areas of the CBD where there are clubs/restaurants etc and you’ll be more than safe. I’ve never ever been on the receiving end of any crime in the CBD itself, in the 23 years I’ve been alive. Remember if you act like a tourist waving a huge expensive camera around you’ll be a target in any city you go to in the world.
Regarding travel: Public transport in Cape Town is not the best. There isn’t a very big rail network, and it’s been a while since I used the busses so I can’t comment. I wouldn’t suggest using the minibus taxis to a tourist as they are not regulated and are notoriously bad drivers and usually don’t cater to tourist destinations. Normal car taxis are very expensive but thanks to the exchange rate this might not be a big issue. However renting a car is usually your best bet. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about the taxis when you’re driving.
Regarding things to see: Well there is a lot to do. Cape Town is celebrating it’s 350 year anniversary this year so there are plenty of museums, etc. Remember there are a number of other towns all within 1-2 hour driving distance of the city centre which are worth checking out. If you have a weekend the aforementioned Garden Route is very nice. There’s also Cape Point, Kirstenbosch National Gardens, The Waterfront, the south Peninsula, Southern Suburbs and the West Coast.
There’s also a lot of nightlife in the town (not so much during the week, but packed on the weekends). Lot’s of restaurants and a wide variety of clubs although they are concentrated in certain areas (Upper Long Street, Kloof Street, The Waterfront and other places).
Regarding culture: It’s pretty much a mish mash of European and African. Everyone speaks English and most people are willing to help out tourists with directions etc. Cape Town is the tourism capital of SA and we value the business they bring in.
There are a number of websites about Cape Town so check these out to get started:
New question: My wife wants to go to Victoria Falls. How easy is it to get there from Capetown? Eyeballing the atlas, it looks like it’s a good 1000 miles (and two countries) away. Is this a realistic weekend trip? I’ve seen some package itineraries route you through Johannesburg in time to explore the Falls by the afternoon. Is this cheap/easy to charter individually, or is it a lot more expensive and/or time-consuming?
Thanks again–I’m sure as I read/research more, I’ll have even more to ask.