Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media
Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens need a valid passport, sufficient funds for length of stay, and a return or onward ticket to enter South Africa and can stay up to 90 days. Yellow fever certificates are required for visitors traveling through the yellow fever belt of Africa.
Time: Cape Town is seven hours ahead of U.S. eastern standard time.
Security: “Street crime is a problem, but not a major threat if you apply the simple rules for any big city in the world. Don’t take back streets at night. Don’t go into the townships alone. Leave valuables in the hotel safe. Keep cameras close and bear in mind the hoary old advice about not looking too much like a tourist (ditch the safari clothes!).”—Marc Zandhuis, editor in chief, CapeTownMagazine.com.
Money: Cape Town’s currency is the South African rand. For current conversion rates go to OANDA Currency Converter: www.oanda.com/convert/classic
Phone Calls: Cape Town’s area code is 021. For phone calls to Cape Town from within South Africa, dial 021 seven-digit phone number. For phone calls to Cape Town from outside South Africa, dial your country’s international access code 27 21 seven-digit phone number.
When to Go: Peak season is between October and January. Temperatures average 64-80°F (18-27°C) with a cooling wind most days. The coldest months are June to August, when you can expect plenty of rain, usually in the morning and clearing by afternoon. The Cape’s spectacular displays of wildflowers are at their best from late August to September, also the start of whale-watching season.
Getting There: Ten major airlines fly to Cape Town International Airport (CPT), which is located about 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) east of the city center off the N2 highway. A shared taxi costs between $13 and $17, a private taxi around $30.
Getting Around: Hiring a car or using taxis, both private and the shared minibus variety, are the best ways to get around the city. The roads are excellent and outside rush hours (7-9 a.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m.) generally traffic free. Safe, on-street parking is available for a small fee paid either to an official parking marshal or unofficial minder. For weekday visits outside the city, use metro commuter trains (www.capemetrorail.co.za). Keep in mind that there are few (or no) trains after 8 p.m. Monday-Friday or after 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Tips: “Don’t worry too much about what to pack as Cape Town is not a particularly formal place and most items of clothing are cheap enough for you to afford to buy here if need be.”—Patrick Farrell, editor, Cape-I magazine.
On Table Mountain: “The easier trails can be done in trainers [sneakers] but ankle-high boots are the best for serious walking. Remember to take a hat and a warm (preferably windproof) jacket. It’s very important to stick to recognized paths and to make your way down long before nightfall. The mountain has a harsh reputation for sudden changes of weather.”—Patrick Farrell.
Swimming: “The sea looks inviting but can be freezing cold, especially on the Atlantic coast. Remember to swim only at beaches where lifeguards are on duty.”—Marc Zandhuis, editor in chief, CapeTownMagazine.com.
Sunscreen and Hat: “Never go anywhere without them or else the African sun will burn you within an hour.”—Marc Zandhuis.
Tap Water: “South Africa reportedly has the best tap water in the world. It’s perfectly safe to drink it.”—Patrick Farrell.
Cape Town Routes Unlimited
Official tourist information site covering everything from hotels to adventure sports activities. www.tourismcapetown.co.za
Internet magazine in English, Dutch, and German versions. Carries up-to-date reviews of a wide range of attractions, restaurants, hotels, and bars, and insightful features on local life, including maps, online music, and videos. www.capetownmagazine.com
Annually updated reviews of the best places to dine around the Mother City. Check out their award winners for the hottest new tables. www.eatout.co.za
Iziko Museums of Cape Town
Details on the 13 museums, galleries, and historic properties that compose the cream of Cape Town’s cultural heritage. www.iziko.org.za
John Platter South African Wines
Online version of the most comprehensive and authoritative South African wine guide. Essential reading if you plan to explore the Cape’s vineyards and their products. www.platteronline.com
One of Cape Town’s English daily newspapers, the Argus is a popular read. Their website gives access to the same publishing group’s Cape Times. www.capeargus.co.za
Tune into this lively talk radio station at 567 medium wave to hear what’s on Capetonians’ minds. www.capetalk.co.za
Mail & Guardian
Weekly national newspaper. Best for investigative reports, in-depth features, and expert arts reviews. www.mg.co.za
Glossy bimonthly magazine with interesting features and comprehensive cultural events listings. www.capeetc.com
Despite title, this political news magazine is a monthly publication combining investigation and satire. www.noseweek.co.za
Shop National Geographic