Getting Around Cape Town
The best way to get around Cape Town is by car. Although signage can be a bit confusing, the city is relatively automobile-friendly, with ample parking and fewer congestion issues (when compared to cities of similar size). You can rent a car at the Cape Town International Airport (CPT), which is located about 12 miles southwest of the city center. Renting wheels will also spare you from Cape Town's unreliable public transportation system and pricey taxis. However, if you don't want to worry about dealing with a car, the city's rikkis (shared cabs) provide an affordable (albeit slow) alternative to metered taxis.
|On Foot||Cape Town is a sprawling city, but individual neighborhoods such as the city center (also known as the City Bowl), Bo-Kaap, and the Waterfront are walkable. Just make sure to carry a detailed map, as street names can be inconsistent. Although you'll feel perfectly safe walking around during the daytime, try to avoid doing so after dark. Tourists can be targets of petty crimes, like pick-pocketing. If you are walking around after sunset, do so in a group.|
|Car||You'll get the most out of your trip to Cape Town if you have your own set of wheels. Because public trains and buses are unreliable and usually stop running fairly early in the evening, renting a car will allow for exploration without worrying about getting stranded across town. However, you will need to invest in a detailed road map; signage in Cape Town can be incredibly confusing, with many roads having more than one name or being labeled in more than one language. You'll also have to keep some spare cash on hand to pay for parking and to tip parking attendants. You can rent a car at the Cape Town International Airport (CPT) or from one of the many agencies located downtown. If you're looking to save money, opt for a daily mileage limit, which is usually too high for most travelers to exceed. U.S. driver's licenses are accepted in South Africa.|
Cape Town's commuter rail system offers service from the city center to many of the outlying suburbs and the nearby wine districts. Trains run every day starting around 6 a.m., with the last train operating at 8 or 9 p.m., depending on the route. Fares depend on the distance traveled, and tickets can be purchased at Metrorail stations. Note: Beware of fraudulent ticket-sellers, who often pass off used tickets to unsuspecting travelers. You should only purchase tickets from the designated machines.
The Golden Arrow Bus is by far the cheapest way to get around Cape Town, providing transportation for as little as 5 to 10 ZAR ($0.60 to $1.30 USD) depending on your destination. But you'll end up paying in frustration. Buses operate on a timetable, but they're often late. Plus, route maps are only available in major depots (like the Golden Acre terminal in the city center), which makes navigating fairly difficult. If you do decide to ride the bus, make sure to keep an eye on your belongings; pick-pocketing is a frequent occurrence.
|Combi||For short distances, consider taking a combi, which are minibuses that offer speedy and affordable service along many of the city's main streets. Unlike the buses, combis do not have set schedules or stops, making them somewhat difficult to track down; a small gathering on the side of the road usually indicates a pick-up point. Combi rides usually cost between 5 and 20 ZAR ($0.60 to $2.50 USD).|
|Taxi||Taxis are an extremely efficient means of navigating Cape Town, but their convenience will cost you. Rates are about 10 to 11 ZAR per kilometer (roughly $1.50 USD per mile) depending on the cab company. Also, don't expect to hail a cab directly from the street. Because most people in Cape Town have their own cars, finding a cab in a pinch can be difficult; it's best to call ahead. For information on reliable taxi companies, ask your hotel concierge.|
To save money, opt for a Rikki over a regular taxi. These London-style black cabs offer 24-hour door-to-door service throughout Cape Town for a fraction of the cost. The reason they're so cheap: Rikkis often pick up additional passengers en route. This fare-sharing means that passengers can go just about anywhere in central Cape Town for around 20 to 25 ZAR (roughly $2 to $3 USD). You will need to schedule a pick-up in advance.
Entry & Exit Requirements
Americans traveling to South Africa will need a valid passport with at least one blank visa page. However, South African immigrations officers have been known to require two unstamped pages: one for the South African temporary residence permit sticker and the other for entry and exit stamps. Without these blank pages, you may be refused entry to the country. Travelers planning to spend fewer than 90 days in South Africa do not need a visa. If you are traveling to South Africa via a country where yellow fever is present (even if you are not even leaving the plane), you will be required to present a valid International Certificate of Vaccination (known as a "yellow card") that has been approved by the World Health Organization. To learn more, visit the U.S. State Department website.