As I deplaned in Cape Town after what felt like my favorite layover during this whole Girl Takes Mundo trip (London) I couldn’t help to take in the initial sights of Cape Town, the lush African Savanna grasslands where the great cats prey and where the African elephants were roaming wild while in the distant background the sounds of drumbeats could be heard and a group of schoolchildren sang, “Hakuna Matata”.
If this is the description you think of when thoughts of Cape Town, South Africa come to mind than I’m here to tell you, you’re WRONG! This isn’t Disney’s “The Lion King” after all. This is Cape Town, a thriving and despite the current water crisis a very developed city. You’ll have to travel farther away from Cape Town to get your Disney Lion King fix unfortunately.
I enjoyed this city greatly and was surprised with how much you could see and do without going too far away from the city center. I was here a total of 10 days and only covered half of the list compiled for me by Ronnie, the friend I met and traveled with in Cambodia. (See what Ronnie and I got ourselves into in my Cambodia post here.) Big shout out to her as many of my suggestions come from her original list as she was born in South Africa and visits Cape Town regularly.
I did get to experience some of the effects first hand of the drought affecting Cape Town which I mentioned earlier. If you weren’t aware the Western Cape is experiencing the worst drought in the century. The government is urging everyone to only use 50L of water a day to ensure they can beat “Day Zero” also known as the day no potable water will be available in the Western Cape. I certainly feel as tourists are feeling the effects less as I personally only saw the campaigns, had to replace washing my hands for hand sanitizer and having to master 90 second showers with a bucket in the shower to collect water to be used for watering plants. On the other hand, I do hear certain neighborhoods have their water supply shut off for periods of the day but suspect these neighborhoods aren’t the higher elite neighborhoods.
And to be completely honest and speaking only for myself, while I will sing the traveling praises of Cape Town and highly recommend this place for a visit there are aspects of Cape Town that I can’t say I enjoyed.
Firstly, while apartheid ended over 20 years ago it’s something that has not been completely erased as it is still felt in the city. Beautiful mansions compared to shacks or affordable housing make neighborhoods and townships look like night and day in Cape Town. Class and race seem to sadly go hand in hand with the lower class being black. When speaking to locals about my observations they all have their reasons and each side tends to blame the other. Which confirms my instinct that the post effects of apartheid are still here and they may always be. In the end and as it should be in the whole world, we should be seen as humans and not categorized by our color. Nor should our color predestine our social class.
Secondly, while I had been warned about traveling solo as a female in Africa and more particularly in Cape Town I figured these concerns were being exaggerated. I like to consider myself a seasoned female solo traveler who knows the tricks, tips and trusting your gut feeling. What are my accreditations you ask? I’ve traveled to many places by myself in all parts of the world. But maybe, it was the constant reminder that I shouldn’t walk alone, talk to strangers, keep my things close/safe and that theft here comes with violence. Add the fact that for the first time I found myself feeling vulnerable since I was having strange encounters with people. Cape Town certainly played with my mind as that the effects of Cape Town came with me to Namibia and gave me concerns traveling to Madagascar. As a traveler you are constantly learning about yourself and growing with each place you visit. Thus, I feel I needed this reality check since my thoughts when hearing the concerns of traveling in Cape Town was, “This doesn’t apply to me, I’m a professional”.
But not all was bad in Cape Town. (Don’t forget I did say I recommend this place.) While in Cape Town, I was able to do what I love to do for others…shopping! I don’t hype it enough but while traveling I welcome anyone to take advantage of me being in all these amazing cities for all their personal travel shopping needs. I was taken up on this in Cape Town and after discussing with this persons their needs, preference and taste I was able to pick up a fabulous Nappa leather handmade wallet from Research Unit, a South African utilitarian brand that individually hand crafts each piece by members of disadvantaged communities. There are many shops like this in Cape Town making shopping for unique pieces all that more fun. To learn more about me being a global personal shopper click here.
And without further ado, this is how I kicked off my “to be continued Girl Takes Mundo trip” in Cape Town.
- No jewelry.
- Don’t be on your phone walking on the street. Especially at night.
- Give leftover food to people when you can but not Money.
- Tipping is 10% of your bill here.
- Get around by renting a car if you have enough people and know how to drive on the other side or feel comfortable in trying. This is the most logical option.
- Using Uber is also available but obviously this starts adding up especially if you are traveling solo and you can’t spit the fare.
- If traveling solo taking the bus system is a great option to getting around. The bus system, My Citi is reliable, safe and easy to use. Each passenger needs a My Citi bus card ($35 Rand or $3 USD) and you add money to the card which gets deducted by how far you go. (FYI: 0 KM – 5 KM trip max is $13. 90 Rand ($1.20 USD) during peak times AKA during morning and afternoon commutes or $9.10 Rand ($.78 USD) anytime out time of this peak time. https://myciti.org.za/en/home/ )
- Trains can be used to visit places like Muizenberg and Simons Town for $27 Rand ($2.27 USD) round trip in “first class”. It’s recommended you get in a passenger car that has a fairly good amount of people, guard your belongings including not using your phone and make your return to Cape Town before 4:30 PM to ensure you don’t get robbed. (Tip: The feminist in me hates saying this but women’s safety is really the priority here but if traveling solo I would not recommend the trains as this is where I felt the most at edge while traveling in Cape Town.)
Where To Visit
- Cape Point – Where Pacific & Atlantic ocean meet.
- Boulders Beach – This is where you can see and swim with penguins.
- Simons Town – Oldest Town in Cape Town by the Coast with great shops, restaurants etc.
- Muizenberg – Where the colorful changing rooms are.
- Table Mountain – New 7 nature wonder in the world.
- Beta Beach Buckhoven
- V&A waterfront
- Camps Bay – Beach Town
- Clifton Beach
- Bree street
- Long street
- Woodstock – Check out Saturday Market in this neighborhood.
- Wine Region/garden route
- Lions Head – Mountain
- Kirstenbosch – Botanical Garden
Things To Do
- Hike up Platterklip Gorge (2-3 hour hike, depending on pace) to the top of the mountain. Go on a day that IS NOT windy, preferably in the morning, bring plenty of water and take the cable car down the mountain.
- Go to the Woodstock Saturday market in Old Biscuit Mill market. (Saturday’s from 9AM – 2PM)
- Take a surfing lesson at Lifestyle Surfshop in Muizenberg.
- Eat at Gaslight Cafe in Muizenberg after your surf lesson and grab drinks at Tigers Milk.
- When visiting the colorful changing rooms in Muizenberg visit St. James as well. It’s only a 20 minute walk away from Muizenberg along the St. James pathway for a surfer free beach and where I thought the more picturesque changing rooms are.
- Go to a concert or movie in the park if in the summer at Kirstenbosch, the botanical garden in Cape Town.
- Go paragliding or catch a sunset here off Signal Hill.
- Drinks at Caprice in Camps Bay.
- Breakfast at Lola’s in Long Street.
- Dinner in Madam Taitou on long street for Ethiopian cuisine. I personally recommend the veggie sampler for a variety of delicious items.
- Lunch at Food Lovers Market is perfect for the undecided person as they offer an array of grab and go items sold by weight.
- Long, Bree, Kloof streets for great nightlife, restaurants and bars. It’s also cool in the day for shopping.
- Visit Simonstown, one of Cape Towns oldest town to see the penguin colony in Boulder Beach. $75 Rand ($6.40 USD) gives you access to swim with them and entrance to the viewing area. It’s recommended to take the train which gives you a beautiful ride along the coast but reference my safety tips in the transportation section above. $27 Rand ($2.30 USD round trip in “First Class”)
- Snorkel with the seals in Hout Bay and after go eat fish and chips at Fish on the Rocks.
- Go to Bo Kaap, the Cape Malay Quarter to see the colorful houses.
- Pick up souvenirs at Green Street Market. (Open every day)
- Check out a wine tour. City Sightseeing Tours has a great day tour for an affordable price which includes tastings with visits to Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and a stop at Bloubergstrand. https://www.citysightseeing.co.za/cape-town/products/cape-town-live-guided-day-tours/cape-explorer-cape-winelands-tour
- Visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.
Places To Stay
I admittedly played Goldilocks while in Cape Town in terms of accommodations. See my journey below.
Began my stay in an eco lodge called Lighthouse Farm Lodge which was big, had great rooms, very friendly staff and was very clean but didn’t have a social aspect and if you don’t have a car this is a bit away from the city.
Moved for the weekend to a known party hostel, Carnival Court Backpackers in order to meet people and enjoy the nightlife that Long Street is known for. Facilities are clean, spacious and have helpful staff but if you think you will sleep…good luck! Either you can sleep through noise or so tired that you end up sleeping through the noise. The bar is right beneath the rooms and with thin walls there is no way you can avoid the sound. Even after the hostel’s bar closes the sounds of the late night bars on Long Street will keep you up. Followed by the noises of people fighting post all the bars closing. You won’t see the dust settle from the night until 6 AM during the weekend (this includes Sunday going into Monday morning).
Once the weekend ended I once again relocated to yet another hostel. Two Oceans Backpackers may lack in facilities but they make up in a social environment where everyone quickly will know each other and hang out. It’s location is still also a big plus as it’s just minutes away from the train/bus station, on the quieter side of Long Street and a short walk away from Bo Kaap and Green Street market. I admit that I wouldn’t have stayed here due to its facilities but I was tired of hostel hoping and with only a couple days left in Cape Town I opted for the company of other travelers over facilities.
So sadly for this Goldilocks, I never found the perfect place for me but if I returned would stay in a hostel called “Once Upon a Cape” situated on Kloof Street or “Big Blue Backpackers” near Green Point as I heard better things about these and many of the guests staying for longer holidays in Cape Town we’re relocating from “Two Oceans Backpackers” to stay at “Big Blue Backpackers”.