Nomad Guide: Cape Town

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: WiFi Tribe luuuurves Cape Town. This Nomad Guide for Cape Town is a work of love that brings together our experiences so far of this beautiful part of the world.

With three full chapters set up in the last year, we just can’t get enough of this vibrant and diverse city. It’s surrounded by not one but two oceans, has not one but two major peaks to climb, and offers thousands of adventures and activities both within and outside the city limits.

Sunset kayaking, paragliding, hiking, mountain climbing, sailing, an ecstatic nightlife, food markets, wine tours, gin tastings, safaris, shark cage diving, and swimming with penguins or seals are just the beginning of what this city and country have to offer.

Add to that the low cost of living, a truly impressive number of coworking spaces and WiFi-friendly cafes, and you have the place with the perfect work-life-balance for digital nomads everywhere.

But let’s get more specific, shall we?

View of Sea Point and Green Point with Lion’s Head on the right - Photo by Dan Sloan

View of Sea Point and Green Point with Lion’s Head on the right - Photo by Dan Sloan

Visa Requirements

Tourists from most countries get a 3-month visa, extendable to 6 months.

To extend the visa, you’ll have to apply from inside South Africa, more than 60 days before your first visa expires. This visa can be extended once per “session”, meaning that after 180 days in the country, you’d have to leave South Africa, ending your tourism session. You may return at a later date on a new tourism session.

Housing and Accommodation

Cape Town has it all: whether you’re looking for a cheap hostel or a luxury hotel, an AirBnB, guest house or bed & breakfast for middling prices - you’ll find it, and then some.

High tourist and the best beach season is from December to April. Those are the city’s dry summer months, offering the best time for a beautiful sunny stay. Prices are especially jacked up during Christmas- and Easter holidays.

Here’s a quick cost breakdown during these months, to give you an idea for the different types of accommodation:

  • Hostels range from 10 to about 32 USD/night for dorm beds, and 40 to 110 USD/night for privates.

  • AirBnB apartments cost between 35 and 100 USD/night, depending on the location.

  • 3-star hotels range from 60 to 160 USD/night for double rooms, whereas 4-star hotels are priced at between 90 and 200 USD/night for a double room.

  • 3- and 4-star bed & breakfasts will set you back between 55 and 150 USD/night.

Best Areas for Nomads

The best areas in Cape Town for digital nomads are

  • Greenpoint,

  • Sea Point (where WiFi Tribe usually stays) and

  • the CBD (= Central Business District).

These are the safest and nicest parts of the city to live in, sporting extensive infrastructure, while remaining affordable and offering a myriad of spaces to work from.

Camps Bay with the 12 Apostles Mountains - Photo by Pia Newman

Camps Bay with the 12 Apostles Mountains - Photo by Pia Newman

Internet

Most coworking spaces in the city, stretching from Woodstock to Sea Point, have fiber optics internet, typically ranging from 10Mbps to 200Mbps.

There are plenty of WiFi hotspots around the city, but the ones that offer free access can often be frustratingly slow, and the rest offer tiny free tiers (30Mb - 50Mb), after which they require paid access. Unfortunately, even when you pay for data on public wifi, or WiFi in coffee shops and hotels, the performance may still not be the best.

If you absolutely need fast, stable internet to do your job, it might be prudent to spring for a mifi-device and a SIM card.

SIM Cards

Sim cards are available to buy in millions of locations. Non-residents need to show their passport to buy a SIM card.

Data is fairly expensive, with 1GB going for about 150 Rand. Cell C and Telkom Mobile have large packages at much better rates, such as 50GB or 100GB packages for about 2000/3000 Rand (which are usually valid for 1 year).

Currently, Vodacom and MTN have the best coverage, with Cell C doing well in urban areas. If you are travelling in the countryside and your connection drops to Edge (or GPRS), you’ll be lucky to get any data at all - just something to remember when you’re exploring far and wide and using your phone to navigate.

Coworking

Certain neighbourhoods of Cape Town are almost lousy with places a digital nomad can get some work done - mainly Woodstock, the City Center / CBD, Greenpoint and Sea Point. Here’s a list of some of our favourites you should definitely check out, grouped by coworking spaces and cafes.

Coworking Spaces

Cafes

Coworking meetups

For coworking meetups, join the Cape Town Digital Nomads Facebook group. Run by Johannes Völkner, founder of the Nomad Cruise, the group posts digital nomad meetups in Cape Town, but you can also post, connect and organize meetups in the group yourself.

Sunset Cruise - Cheers! - Photo by Lauren Carey

Sunset Cruise - Cheers! - Photo by Lauren Carey

Transportation

It’s easy to get around in Cape Town. From buses to cabs and shuttle services, the city’s got it all.

MyCiTi Bus

The MyCiTi integrated rapid transport network offers an easy and cheap way to get around town. These modern buses offer great public transport options for the city center and a host of nearby landmarks, also extending to:

  • Hout Bay on the Atlantic Seaboard

  • Table View and the Blouberg coastline North of the city

  • Cape Town International Airport

The fares are calculated by distance traveled. You’ll have to buy a MyConnect card, available at the stations or select retailers, and put enough money for your trip on it.

Uber

Bo-Kaap - Photo by Berta Garrote

Bo-Kaap - Photo by Berta Garrote

Uber is an appealingly simple and cheap way to get around Cape Town, especially on shorter rides. Longer trips tend to become more expensive, but it’s still our Tribers’ favourite mode of transport in the city and comparatively cheap compared to European Uber prices, especially when you’re sharing the ride.

Metered Taxis

There’s always the option of metered taxis. Fares are displayed on the outside of the car as a per kilometer amount. To use a metered taxi, you either need to book one in advance or find one of the designated taxi areas. Aside from this minor restriction, metered taxis offer a reasonable way to get around and see Cape Town.

Shuttle from the airport

All the above-mentioned transportation methods can be used to get to and from the airport, located 20 km from the city center. But you can also hire an airport shuttle service to get you to where you need to be.

Food and Drinks

Ummmm…. where to start? Cape Town is a cornucopia of amazing restaurants, cafes, food markets and bars, all of them incredibly delicious and wonderfully international. So let’s narrow it down to some of our Tribe favorites:

Restaurants

Sea Point Promenade with Lion’s Head in the background - Photo by Berta Garrote

Sea Point Promenade with Lion’s Head in the background - Photo by Berta Garrote

Food Markets

Cafes

See our list of digital nomad-friendly cafes under “Coworking”.

Bars

Our favorite bars in Cape Town are all (with one exception) located in the city center and include, but are not limited to:

Nightlife

Let’s jump further into the Capetonian nightlife, which is just as wide and varied as its culinary delights. You could go out in Cape Town every night for a month and not have to go to the same place. There are three major areas to know about:

  1. Victoria Road in Camps Bay, or “Sunset Strip”, with tables on the pavement or on raised platforms

  2. Long Street, an increasingly grungy area attracting a young pan-African crowd. Most of the backpackers find their way here

  3. Bree Street (which runs parallel to Long Street, making it easy to explore both on the same night) with the densest concentration of hip bars and cool, casual eateries

Whatever your preferred vibe, you’re sure to find it in more than one place.

Penguin Colony at Boulders Beach - Photo by Rebecca Miller

Penguin Colony at Boulders Beach - Photo by Rebecca Miller

Groceries

You can find all your typical Western World groceries and toiletries ranging from cheap to expensive in Cape Town. The most common grocery stores are the cheaper Pick ‘n Pay and the higher-grade Woolworths, which you can find all over the city.

Fitness

Cape Town is every fitness lover’s dream. Hiking, biking, running, walking, roller blading, swimming, kayaking, rock climbing - staying fit is easy with all the opportunities, sunshine and free space available along every promenade and around every corner.

If you prefer the structure and ease of a gym, the city also offers a myriad of great ones to keep you pumped.

Safety

The high poverty rate in Cape Town means that most crimes are financially motivated - mugging and pick-pocketing is something to be on guard for in some areas, like downtown. That being said, in most cases there’s no reason to feel unsafe, especially when in a group. Common sense is your best bet in warding against being mugged or pick-pocketed.

Naughty Baboon at Cape Point - Photo by Pia Newman

Naughty Baboon at Cape Point - Photo by Pia Newman

  • Don’t flaunt your valuables. Keep your bag and pockets close and in sight at all times, especially in crowded areas like dance floors.

  • Avoid walking downtown at night and on weekends when it gets crowded.

  • Rather than walking at night, take a taxi or Uber.

  • Don’t take people up on their offer of helping you at ATMs - it’s a scam! Use ATMs inside banks or shopping centers.

  • Instead of giving to beggars, consider donating to a homeless shelter or charity. Not to sound harsh, but giving money or food to a homeless person or child in the street may result in them becoming your shadow and following you around town - yes, this happened to one of our Tribers.

  • Avoid walking by yourself at night, or running and hiking the trails on your own. An exception to this is Sea Point promenade, where there are always a lot of people around until late into the night, making it safe to stroll or run by yourself.

  • Don’t leave valuables visible in your rental car when parked and always drive with doors locked.

This may sound frightening, but it’s honestly nothing to really worry about. If you stick to these common sense rules, especially downtown, it’s unlikely that anything will happen. Many areas in Cape Town are actually very safe and we never felt threatened or unsafe even when by ourselves. These areas include Sea Point, Greenpoint, Camps Bay, Clifton, and the V&A Waterfront, to name a few popular destinations in town. For extra info, please have a look at our Top Tips for staying safe.

Health

Sanitary and hygienic conditions as well as healthcare are on a very high first-world level in Cape Town.

  1. High-quality tap water is available across the city and is safe to drink straight from the tap.

  2. Medical facilities in Cape Town are world-class. There is an excellent network of both state and private hospitals.

  3. Travel health insurance is highly recommended as the hospitals will bill you for your treatment.

  4. Pharmacies offer a wide variety of common drugs and meds.

  5. Adults don’t need vaccines unless you’re travelling into the country from a yellow-fever endemic area, in which case you will need certification to prove your vaccination status upon arrival in the country.

  6. Wear sunscreen when you’re outside. Exceptions not recommended, no matter how well you tan instead of burn. In summer, the sun in Cape Town is strong and shines what feels like 24/7.

Things to Do

A six week stay is almost not enough time to get through all the amazing things to do in Cape Town. Just check out this list:

Sunset Kayak Tour - Photo by Dan Sloan

Sunset Kayak Tour - Photo by Dan Sloan

  • Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour. A great way to get to know the city and its layout is to take a hop-on hop-off bus tour.

  • Free Walking Tours. Get to know more about Cape Town by going on a free walking tour. Choose between the Historic City Tour, the Apartheid to Freedom Tour or the Bo-Kaap Tour - or go on all of them. Tours start several times a day from the city centre and run exclusively on tips.

  • Bo-Kaap. One of the most distinct neighbourhoods in Cape Town, Bo-Kaap is especially known for its colorful houses that basically begged to be instagrammed.

  • Table Mountain. You can either take the cable car up to the city’s iconic mountain top or hike up - or even hike up and take the cable car down. Just make sure the cable car is actually running before you Uber over there; it shuts down during bad weather or high winds. When hiking up, make sure to take enough water and snacks with you; even the so called “easy” and “short” hikes up to the top can be grueling, especially when it’s hot out!

  • Hike up Lion’s Head. An amazing alternative to the Table Mountain hike is Lion’s Head - especially spectacular when you go in time for sunrise. It takes about an hour from the parking lot up to the top and the views easily rival those of Table Mountain.

  • Signal Hill. Enjoy a beautiful sunset over the ocean from Signal Hill, the other end of the ridge from which Lion’s Head rises. Signal Hill is basically the lion’s rear end - but definitely worth a visit.

  • Sunset Kayaking. While we’re on the topic of sunsets, another beautiful way to experience one in Cape Town is to go kayaking in Green Point. If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot seals or dolphins!

  • Sunset Cruise. Yet another sunset activity is going on a sunset cruise. Just head to the V&A Waterfront and discuss prices with one of the numerous cruise operators. They’re often willing to give discounts or even private cruises for larger groups. Make sure to bring a jacket, as it can get cold on the water once the sun has gone down!

  • Sea Point Promenade. Don’t miss out on this wide swath of concrete running all along Sea Point and up into Green Point, providing joggers, bikers and walkers with miles of beautiful views of both ocean and mountains.

  • V&A Waterfront. Still a working harbor, the V&A Waterfront is far better known as a shopping destination, including five different shopping district, numerous wonderful restaurants, food markets and a ferris wheel.

  • Robben Island. Take a boat from the V&A Waterfront to visit Robben Island - the historic site of what used to be a prison island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Previous prison inmates now give tours through the decommissioned facilities.

  • Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. This gigantic botanical garden is nestled at the Eastern foot of Table Mountain. You can take a whole day meandering through the beautiful landscapes, across treetop walkways or with a picnic surrounded by mountains that make you think of Jurassic Park. Many amazing open-air concerts and cinema nights also take place here and are definitely worth checking out.

  • Cape Town Beaches. Out of the many beautiful beaches Cape Town has to offer, our favorites are without a doubt Clifton Beach and Camps Bay. Yes, the surf is icy, but the white sands, turquoise waters and mountain vistas all around are all the more breathtaking. And don’t forget to enjoy a cocktail during an ocean-view sunset at The Bungalow in Clifton - our favorite after-beach hangout.

  • The Neighbourgoods Market. Located in the historic Old Biscuit Mill warehouse in the Woodstock neighborhood, The Neighbourgoods Market houses Cape Towns finest micro-merchants, designer-makers, specialty-producers and food-alchemists every Saturday.

Places to Day Trip

Got time for longer trips on the weekends? Fear not, Cape Town has you covered there, too!

  • Cape Peninsula Tour. Rent a car or take a guided tour around the Cape Peninsula for a day. Stop for the amazing views at Chapman’s Peak on the way there, visit both the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, stop to see the penguins at Boulders Beach and go surfing in the breakers of Muizenberg.

  • Wine Tour. A little outside of Cape Town lies the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek region, famous for its wines. Tour operators take you past beautiful vineyards for a myriad of tastings of many different wines.

  • Gin Tour. Gin is a popular Capetonian drink and a fast growing industry that warrants a day trip around the numerous distilleries in town. If you love gin, this is the tour for you!

  • Penguins and sharks and seals - oh my! Go swimming with penguins at Boulders Beach, snorkelling with seals in Hout Bay or shark cage diving in Gaansbai.

And there you have it - our Ultimate Digital Nomad Guide to Cape Town! Hopefully you now have an idea what to expect of this amazing location and how to prepare. To find out more about our upcoming chapter in this wonderful place in 2019…you know what to do - click to find out more!


Pia Newman - Author

Pia Newman is a copywriter, translator, virtual assistant and novelist. She finds her inspiration in many things, but above all in traveling around the world as a digital nomad and a happy member of WiFi Tribe. Follow both her novel writing- and digital nomad journey on her English blog, or find out more about her services, as well as her guidebooks on virtual assistance and earning money online on her German website.