Dos and Don’ts

Tours: “Don’t miss taking a township tour run by people from the townships, or staying a night at one of the several township guesthouses. Both are good ways to get away from the glossy brochure images of the city, and to experience Cape Town as the majority of its residents do.”

Tipping: “Wages aren’t what they are in Europe and North America. Most workers are very poorly paid and unemployment is high, particularly among Cape Town’s most disadvantaged communities. It’s customary to pay tips to those who help you, not just waiting and hotel staff, but also to people minding cars on the street, petrol pump attendants, and so on—every little bit helps.”

Taxi Etiquette: “If you use a shared taxi or minibus to get around town, it’s considered polite to help pass the money for fares from fellow passengers forward to the driver.”

Shopping: “Save some of your shopping for township-made souvenirs. Monkeybiz bead dolls and the papier mâché bowls of the Wola Nani project (www.wolanani.co.za) are just two examples of some of the great buys to be found.”

Preservation: “The Cape’s natural environment is as fragile as it is stunningly beautiful. While walking in Table Mountain National Park, tread lightly and completely banish the idea of lighting a fire or striking a match here as disastrous forest fires can result.”

Phrase Book

isiXhosa (isi-Kho-sa) is what the Xhosa people call their language, one of South Africa’s 11 official languages. Here are four essential isiXhosa words to know and use when visiting Cape Town:

Molo: Hello

Unjani: How are you? Pronounced oon-jáni

Enkosi: Thank you. Pronounced en-kósi

Hamba kahle: Go well. Pronounced hamba ka-le

Other useful terms:

Bru/Bra/Boykie/Bhuti: Four informal ways to refer to a male friend

Howzit? How’s it going? Can also be used for hello

Lekker: If you really love something or it’s totally cool then it’s lekker

Fynbos: The hardy vegetation, unique to the Western Cape, which coats Table Mountain National Park. Pronounced fain-bos

Rikkis: London-style taxis that act as shared taxis and shuttle travelers around the city and mountain at a set price per person

The Tablecloth: The bank of cloud that tumbles, like dry ice, off the plateau of Table Mountain

Sangoma: Traditional African healer, a kind of doctor whose treatments uses herbs

Jol: Meaning party, either as a noun or verb. If you’re looking for one, Long Street on a Saturday night is a good bet

Ubuntu: Take a township tour or spend the night at one of the guest houses there and you’ll experience firsthand this isiXhosa word that can translate as “African hospitality” but means so much more. Pronounced Oo-bun-too

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