Your first trip to Cape Town is something really exciting to look forward to. Sometimes I wish I could land in Cape Town for the first time and see the majestic Table Mountain as I fly in. This city is full of places to explore and amazing views. It is a budget friendly place for travelers with lots of inexpensive food and accommodation options as well!
Here are a few tips if you are planning your first trip to Cape Town!
Check the weather
Checking the weather is a daily thing for us Capetonians. You never know what Cape Town might throw at you and how vastly different weather will be from one area to the next. If you don’t want your plans to fall through check the weather. Places like Table Mountain and Chapmans peak drive actually close when the weather get’s really bad. You don’t want to waste your day going somewhere and then not being able to do anything. This is also important for hiking as in Summer the wind comes up a lot in the afternoon and it get’s extremely bad on Table Mountain, making hiking dangerous.
WHAT TO READ NEXT – 101 Things to do in Cape Town
Pack wisely for your first trip to Cape Town
Cape Town is known for having four seasons in one day. It can go from foggy in the morning to hot in the afternoon and windy and cold in the evening. We are used to it but if you aren’t you might be ill prepared especially when you are exploring. Packing extra layers is always a must ( or wearing layers in Winter! ) so you don’t end up in a situation. I find this especially true when doing things like hiking as you might go from boiling to freezing in the space of an hour.
The first thing I do when I visit a foreign country is buy a sim card and Cape Town is no different. Roaming is expensive and having data for things like Uber and Google maps is always a necessity. Data is a bit pricy but you will also find free wifi at a lot of places. You can buy a sim card using your foreign passport at any cellphone provider as well as some grocery stores.
Know your transport options
The public transport isn’t the greatest in Cape Town but it is not that difficult to get around, especially in town. Uber is almost everywhere and that is probably the best option especially if you are a solo traveller. If your budget is a bit on the tighter side I would suggest using the MyCity busses as they are the most reliable public transport. Stay away from minibus taxis or trains unless you are super savvy and well traveled. The best thing to do is to rent a car at the airport. It is relatively inexpensive and means you can explore anywhere you want including some great day trips. The roads are wide and easy to navigate and google maps or waze works everywhere.
Do day trips
If it is your first trip to Cape Town you might be weary to venture out of the protective bubble that I call the fishbowl. Fishbowl – everything around Lions head! It is however so worth it as Cape Town has loads of great spots to visit that can take anything from 30min to 2 hours to get to. A lot of these places are great for day trips as they have their own vibe and sometimes is vastly different from the city.
A few of my favorite day trips include:
- West coast national park ( 1 hour from city )
- Simons Town ( 45 min from city )
- Cape Point national park ( 1 hour from city )
- Cape Winelands ( from 45min to an hour from city )
WHAT TO READ NEXT – 4 Must do day trips to take from Cape Town
There are plenty of accommodation options in Cape Town. From 5 star hotels to guest houses and awesome hostels. My favorites though are airbnb’s. You get plenty of them around and you can find some pretty incredible deals especially if you are travelling in a group or you are looking for self catering accommodation. Filter your search for areas like Atlantic seaboard, Tamboerskloof, and Gardens and you will definitely be happy with what you find.
Click here to get $40 off your first stay when signing up with airbnb! If you have already signed up don’t worry. Just sign up using a new email address to get your voucher! You can also get a % off an airbnb experience like a guided tour or hike in Cape Town.
Tipping is a thing
I know a lot of countries don’t tip but in Cape Town and the rest of South Africa there is a big tipping culture. Unfortunately a lot of staff, especially at restaurants earn almost nothing so they depend on tips for the bulk of their income. This means adding 10% to your bill could mean a lot more to them than to you. If service was really great definitely tip as much as you feel like but always add 10%
However do check if a service charge has not been added already. This usually only happens with bigger tables at restaurants but you don’t want to get a shock after realizing you have double tipped.
Get a hiking guide
Hiking is a big thing in Cape Town especially in the busier December holiday season. For your first trip to Cape Town definitely get a hiking guide. There are some easy hikes that you don’t need a guide for but a lot that you might if you are not a good hiker. There are lots of certified ( remember to check that! ) guides around that can take you to some of the best spots and keep you safe on the trails. Some even offer services like photos and breakfast on the mountains which is a fun experience.
WHAT TO READ NEXT – What to know before hiking Lions Head