At the tip of Africa, you will find a very special and unique place called Cape Town.
With its rich diversity of people and scenery, this city has a lot to offer, especially if you know where to look. Navigating a city you have never been to before may be daunting at first, but has the greatest potential of being an exciting experience just waiting to leave you with stories and memories to carry in your heart when it’s time to go home.
To make your trip as special and smooth as possible, we have compiled a short guide to finding your way around Cape Town!
Let’s start with an establishing shot, in other words, the bigger picture. The best way of planning how to go about exploring is to get familiar with some useful maps.
The I Love Cape Town website provides free, downloadable maps of the city centre, the peninsula and the greater Cape Town area. It would be a good idea to print these maps out, if possible, and keep them handy whilst travelling, in case your electronic devices run out of battery.
Cape Town weather is an interesting topic. Locals will tell you that it’s possible to experience all four seasons in one day! This can make packing a bit tricky, but once you get the hang of anticipating weather changes, you’ll understand how to go about dressing in a way that makes you prepared for anything.
Here is a breakdown of the seasons to get a general idea of what the weather is like:
Summer (November - February)
Summers in Cape Town are usually filled with sunshine and warm temperatures. These typically range from 17°C – 29°C (63°F – 84°F). Days are long (up to 14 hours), allowing hours of fun at the beach or driving around enjoying the wide variety of scenery.
Summer is, however, the windiest season of the year. A wind breaker or a jacket is always a good idea to have with you. The wind may seem frustrating at times, but doesn’t need to spoil your days out. If it picks up, make your way to more sheltered beaches or embrace it and seek out activities like kite surfing!
Did you know that Blouberg beach is one of the most sought-after destinations across the planet for kite-surfing? In summer, hundreds of kites in various colors zig zag along the coast with occasional spectacular jumps into the air. Get a decent coffee at Carlucci’s coffee shop and watch the talent.
Autumn/Fall (March - April)
This time of year is beautiful. It’s a wonderful compromise between summer and winter, with crisp days that aren’t too windy, rainy or hot. Wearing short sleeves is still comfortable, but a jacket and long pants are advisable, as the chill does creep in.
Temperatures range from 15°C – 27°C (59°F – 80°F).
It may be getting a bit cold for a swim in the sea during this time of year, but enjoying the coastal scenery and fresh Cape Town breeze with consistent sunshine is such fun. A high up panoramic view of the whole of Cape Town on top of Table Mountain via the cable car is a great start. To do this with a few hours of daylight left means you can see the city and the beautiful blue sea, and then the striking, pink and orange African sun set followed by the city at night. Honestly, spectacular!
Cruising through to Cape Point and Kommetjie area via Chapman’s Peak is a must. Choose one of the many restaurants that seem to capture the rural, green, healthy feel of the area. Kommetjie is a surfing community who pride themselves as lovers of the earth and everything green.
When back in town - why not rent a bicycle from Up Cycles and take a leisurely ride along the Seapoint Promenade, or tickle your tastebuds and drive the 50kms to the Franschhoek Wine Tram? I would describe the area as a little bit of France sprinkled with Africa. Famous for wine and also for their culinary offerings, it is a must for any serious traveler.
Winter (May - August)
Winter allows the city’s green side to come to life as it brings most of the rain for the year (between 9-10 days/month).
The season can get cold, although it is still a lot milder than winters the world over. Temperatures range between 11°C – 22°C (52°F – 72°F).
The wind often accompanies rain and so it would be best to bring along a rain jacket and some waterproof boots - umbrellas do not survive a winter’s day in Cape Town! The wind tears them in all directions and makes the task of walking with them impossible.
Spring (September - October)
Another special time of the year in Cape Town is spring. It will leave your eyes feasting on colour, as the landscape is transformed into a wildflower paradise. Temperatures may still be on the colder side and rain is still a factor, but overall, things start to heat up. Be prepared for 17°C – 29°C (63°F – 84°F) and sudden changes in temperature.
Regularly checking the weather is advisable to avoid disappointments during your stay. Windguru, Weather Underground and Tides4Fishing are useful platforms for providing accurate and detailed updates.
Being aware that crime exists in certain areas of Cape Town, it is important to be mindful of how you move around the city. Therefore, walking the city center in the early hours or on some deserted beach by yourself can be risky. Applying normal caution that is applicable to any major city in the world will keep you safe. Keep to sensible hours and hide valuables out of site, which will make a huge difference to your safety. Leaving valuables in vehicles overnight is not recommended. If you are minimalizing your risk, this allows you to focus on all that can be enjoyed.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) website provides useful information on how to stay as safe as possible and what to do if a crime has taken place. Keep emergency phone numbers stored on your cell phone and written down somewhere in case you do not have access to your phone.
Some key numbers to include are:
South African Police Service Emergency Number - 10111
Crime Stop (report criminal activity anonymously) - 08600 10111
Mobile phone emergency number - 112
South African Tourism helpline - 083 123 6789
Plan your routes before going on outings to save getting lost and losing precious time.
Mobile GPS apps are very useful in this department. Google Maps and Waze are only two of the apps available to provide clear navigation. Both will be able to warn you of traffic and will calculate the fastest routes. Waze works in real time, connecting to other drivers using the app. This makes it great for warning you of things happening on the road at all times, allowing you to avoid stress as much as possible.
Purchasing a hard copy map or mapbook provides some security in case the GPS signal drops or your phone dies. These are available at most bookstores.
Exploring Plant and Animal Life
Cape Town has a beautiful range of fauna and flora to enjoy. The city’s Hop on, Hop off Bus provides day tours, touring all through the Cape. The bus allows you to hop on and hop off at any of its designated stops, which include places like Kirstenbosch Gardens, the World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary and Monkey Park.
The bus has various routes, for which different day tickets can be purchased. It’s a wonderful way of filling your day with adventure and education.
Take the opportunity to plan your time in Cape Town with some of these simple guidelines and make the experience a rich one, filled with fun, laughter and special memories!