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What To Know Before Visiting Cape Town

Muizenberg Beach, Cape Town ©South African Tourism/Flickr
Muizenberg Beach, Cape Town ©South African Tourism/Flickr
As South Africa’s most popular coastal destination, Cape Town has a multitude of things to see and do. However, it’s always best to learn a few things about your destination. Read on for nine things to know before you go.

Put on your most comfortable walking shoes

Walking is arguably the best way to see Cape Town, and the healthiest! Thankfully, many of the city’s cultural and tourist attractions are within walking distance of hotels in the CBD. You could easily walk from the Company’s Garden to Long Street, Bree or Kloof Street, but be warned, most Cape Town streets run uphill so you’ll need to be fairly fit if you want to see the city on foot. If you’re not feeling up for walking, the MyCiti bus system is an excellent way to travel between sites.

Long Street, Cape Town © South African Tourism/Flickr

Be mindful of your possessions

As with many developing countries, South Africa has some issues with crime, so when venturing out be vigilant and know where you are at all times. Don’t wear any expensive jewelry or accessories when you walk around town, or at least make sure they’re not visible on your body. Don’t walk with your cell phone in your hand, keep cash in your pockets instead of a handbag, and don’t carry lots of money (credit cards are ideal). Stick to busy areas and never walk alone.

Tours of the city

Cape Town has a plethora of bus, boat and walking tours that will enable you to see many attractions in a short space of time. CitySightseeing’s red Hop-On Hop-Off double-decker bus system stops at all the major points of interest and offers informative audio-commentary in 15 languages. It makes for a great outing, especially during summer when you can sit on the roofless second floor and enjoy the sunshine and wind through your hair.

The famous flower sellers of Adderley Street, Cape Town © KNewman1/WikiCommons

Tap water is drinkable

South Africa’s drinking water is among the best in the world and is safe for drinking and cooking. If you visit in summer, keep hydrated and wear a hat and sunblock when out in the sun.

Learn the lingo

It’s useful to know some of the slang and lingo to help you acclimatize to this multi-cultured city. South Africans love to speak a mix of English and Afrikaans, Xhosa and English and many more iterations, so it can be quite confusing, but not impossible to get the hang of.

Booze and braais — sharing is caring

As with all South Africans, Capetonians love their tipple as much as they love to braai. Many Cape Town braais are bring-and-share events to save one couple or friend from having to foot the entire bill. If the host has not implicitly said that it’s a bring-and-braai, it’s good manners to take something anyway, like your own XYZ, a bag of crisps, or a salad.

Cape Town Braai © Maurits Vermeulen/Flickr

Cars drive on the left

As a former British colony, cars still drive on the left side of the road, so bear this in mind when hiring a car or crossing roads.

Rugby and cricket are huge

Rugby and cricket are South Africa’s national pastimes and an intrinsic part of local culture. On any given weekend, Capetonians can be found watching their favorite sport, a beer in hand and lamb chops on the braai. During a big game, it’s not uncommon to find eerily quiet roads, and bars filled to capacity with avid supporters. If you’re not a rugby or cricket fan, best avoid Newlands and Rondebosch when a game is on at one of the stadiums there.

Rugby match at Newlands Rugby Stadium, Cape Town

Don’t swim too far out

The warm waters of False Bay are teeming with a variety of marine wildlife — that includes the great white shark, which is commonly found along the South African coastline. Though rare, a number of shark attacks have been recorded since 1960. Shark spotters are stationed at several False Bay beaches to alert swimmers and surfers to leave the water if a shark is sighted. For your safety, swim at beaches where shark spotters and lifeguards are stationed, like Muizenberg and Fish Hoek Beach, and avoid swimming in murky water or alone.

Muizenberg Beach, Cape Town ©South African Tourism/Flickr