South African Information
Consistently voted one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town combines iconic splendour, a pulsating energy, breathtaking, varied landscapes and a vibrant conglomeration of cultures, making it unique in every way.
Cape Town has some of the best beaches in the world to offer, so if you're a sand-and-sea lover be sure to take some time out to relax and soak up the sun. From the family beaches on the False Bay coastline to the trendy Clifton beaches on the Atlantic Seaboard - you're sure to find a stretch of sand that suits your fancy. The beaches of Camps Bay, Clifton and Llandudno that dot the Atlantic Seaboard are white and sandy offering beautiful views and spectacular sunsets. Although the water is very chilly, on a hot summer day it does make for a refreshing dip. These are generally the more 'trendy' beaches where many locals spend their weekends.
Clifton Beach is made up of 4 coves and the beaches are called 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. When the summer south-Easter blows, the Clifton beaches are usually well sheltered from the wind. All of the beaches are accessible via stairs leading down from the road above. In summer, plan to get to the beach early as parking is very limited. Generally 4th is the busiest in summer with good changing room and bathroom facilities. Kiosks on the beach sell snacks, cold drinks and ice-creams as do the many vendors that wander the beach. Deck chairs and umbrellas are also available for daily rental. If you're on a budget and plan on spending alot of time on the beach - buy your own umbrella as this will save you in the long-run. Clifton 4th is a Blue Flag beach.
Camps Bay is a long sandy beach accessed directly from the road. Again, parking in summer is limited and you may need to park along one of the many side roads. The road behind the beach is lined with street side cafes, restaurants and a few small grocery stores making snacks and lunch easily at hand. Kiosks and vendors also operate from the beach. Camps Bay is generally more family friendly as it is bigger and there is more space for games and sandcastles for children, and the young at heart. Deck chairs and umbrellas are available for daily rental.
Further along the coastline you will find the picturesque Llandudno beach - by far one of the most beautiful beaches and a favourite for sundowners. The houses that hug the steep road down to the beach have breathtaking views. Once again, parking is extremely tight in peak season and the beach is reached by a winding pathway. The sandy beach is flanked by rocks on either end - leading to smaller coves for those wanting to explore. This beach is slightly more remote with no shops and sadly poor bathroom facilities, but vendors do operate on the beach for snacks, drinks and ice-creams. Deck chairs and umbrellas are available for daily rental. There is often good surf for surfers and body-boarders.
For shopping, dining and entertainment the V&A Waterfront is a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. Still a working harbour, the Waterfront is an example of creative architecture and restoration and has become South Africa's most visited tourist attraction. The Waterfront offers over 250 shops from designer boutiques to craft stalls, a host of restaurants and coffee shops and plenty of other activities, including fun activities for children. Children will love the Two Oceans Aquarium and the Telkom Exploratorium. The SA Maritum Museum has interactive displays, the history of local shipwrecks and more and the new Nelson Mandela Gateway in the Clock Tower precint exhibits historical and educational material relating to Robben Island.
Enjoy a drink at one of the many waterside pubs and restaurants, shop till you drop, or relax and enjoy the variety of live entertainment that is always on offer. There are also a number of harbour cruises and sundowner cruises that depart from the Waterfront.
The Waterfront is open 7-days a week, 9am - 9pm.
Markets & Unique Shopping Experiences
Visiting one of Cape Towns markets is a great way to pick-up gifts and souveniers from a wide variety of local designers, artists and entrepreneurs.
The cobble-stoned Greenmarket Square in the centre of town is a vibrant craft market where you will experience the pulse of Cape Town. African carvings, masks and drums, beadwork and jewellery are displayed alongside clothing, leatherwork and ceramics. Items are generally well-priced and at some stores bargaining is acceptable. The Red Shed Craft Workshop and the Waterfront Craft Market - both at the Waterfront - are indoor markets open 7-days a week. Clothing, jewellery and an array of crafts and artwork are available. Sunday is the time to head to the Greenpoint Market in the parking area of Greenpoint stadium. The market is a flea-market and craft-market combined with goods from CD's and sunglasses to African art and beads on sale.
Open-air craft markets are held on most weekends in various areas including Hout Bay, Constantia, Kirstenbosch and Rondebosch. Look out for posters for details.
The quaint main street in Kalk Bay is great for antiques, memorabilia and bargains - enjoy a coffee at one of the steetside cafe's while you're there. Hout Bay also offers an array of craft shops and galleries - all set in beautiful surroundings.
The Cape Peninsula has a Mediterranean-type climate with well-defined seasons.
The months of the year fall into the seasons as follows:
December to February – Summer, with average maximum temperatures of 27 degrees Celsius
March to May - Autumn with pleasant maximum temperatures of around 22 degrees Celsius on average.
June to August - Winter – wet, cool days with the mercury seldom falling below 7 degrees Celsius and reaching an average high of 18 – 20 degrees Celsius some days.
September to November - Spring – high pollen counts make this a difficult time for hay fever sufferers but the weather is a fresh blend of cool and ever-warmer days, and a maximum temperature average of up to 25 degrees Celsius towards the end of the season.
You can obtain up to date information on the latest weather conditions in the following areas by dialling the numbers indicated below. Under extraordinary conditions these reports are updated four times a day. (Calls to these numbers are free)
- Cape Town Weather Office 082 233 9900
- Forecasts Longer than 7 Days 082 233 9000
- Weatherline 082 162
Passports and Visas
All persons travelling to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport. For some of the neighbouring countries, a visa is needed. Visitors who intend travelling to South Africa's neighbouring countries and back into South Africa are advised to apply for multiple entry visas. In terms of existing arrangements, passport holders of certain countries are exempt from visa requirements as for instance Australia, USA, Scandinavia, Japan, New Zealand and countries which belong to the European Union (EU).
Upon arrival in South Africa, countries falling into this category will automatically be given a free entry permit sticker that outlines how long they may remain in the country. This automatic entry permit is usually for a maximum of 90 days, though the immigration officer may tailor the time period according to the airline tickets held. Foreign nationals from some other countries are offered this service, but for a maximum of 30 days. If visitors want to stay for a longer period, they will have to apply formally for a visa, as opposed to relying on the automatic entry permit.
South African immigration laws require all visitors' passports to have at least two blank pages and to be valid at least six months from your planned date of departure from South Africa. The law is rigorously enforced so please check your passports without delay!
For updated information regarding your visa requirements arrangements, please visit our South African Home Affairs or contact your local Embassy for Visa application forms.
Security & Safety
While South Africa has received a lot of bad press with regards to the crime rate it is still a relatively safe city to visit when compared with other tourist destinations around the world. Cape Town has lower crime statistics than Johannesburg, and it is a fact that many crime-related stories are exaggerated by the media to boost sales. As with travel to any destination, it is wise to take certain precautions in order to not become a victim of avoidable crime.
When holidaying in the Cape take note of this safety advice and you’ll be able to avoid any unpleasant or dangerous encounters during your holiday.
- Avoid walking around quiet and dimly-lit streets late at night. Stick to areas such as the Waterfront and the busier streets in the CBD and Camps Bay area, which are generally well-lit and under the watchful eye of contracted security guards.
- When going out at night always stay in a group and not alone or with just 2 or 3 women only.
- Don’t ‘wave’ your bag, camera or cell phone around while walking in the city. Pickpockets watch from the sidelines and notice where you stash your valuables. Avoid keeping anything of value in back pockets or open backpack compartments.
- Keep the windows up and the car doors locked when driving around the city.
- Discourage theft of property from your car by keeping bags, keys, cell phones or anything ‘tempting’ on the floor and not on the seats where they are visible to passers-by.
- If you wish to visit a township, there are many excellent tour companies that will escort you. They will make sure you don’t get lost (some townships are enormous and confusing), arrange meet-ups with locals and take you to the best sites, keeping you out of less safe neighbourhoods. Once again don’t flash your cash, phone or camera around. Be sensitive to the fact that many of the people you encounter are poor, so flaunting your valuables is not going to be appreciated.
- If you make use of the trains you may wish to go on one with a blue ‘Biggsy’s Restaurant Car’ and stay in this section of the train, enjoying a cup of coffee or a yummy breakfast while watching Cape Town’s suburbs pass by the window. Travelling in the restaurant car is a safer, more comfortable experience than in the main carriages.
- Rather than giving cash to beggars, make a donation to a registered local charity that assists the homeless and street children, or keep fruit or bread in the car as a healthier alternative. Money gained through begging, unfortunately, is inevitably ill-spent.
- At restaurants and movie houses, keep your bag on your lap.
We have increasing numbers of international celebrities visiting South Africa, and some even purchasing property here in order to spend extended periods of time in the country. There are, as a result, some excellent security companies offering private bodyguards, for stars and the general public. Don’t let fear put you off visiting the beautiful city of Cape Town.
Pickpockets and muggers are a sad fact of life the world over, and if you take care you can be sure of finding Cape Town as friendly, safe and enjoyable as any busy cosmopolitan city in the world.
It's always a good idea to keep important numbers nearby- here are a few to put on speed dial
- Police 10111
- Ambulance 10177
- Grab a Cab 021 55 66 3 44
- AA roadside 083 THE AA
- Assistance 083 843 22