Trip Report: Cape Town, South Africa
As previously mentioned in my Johannesburg trip report, back in January I booked a 10 day trip to South Africa in order to recover from my law school final exams. The first half of my trip was to Johannesburg and the other half was to Cape Town!
Cape Town is a beautiful city and one of the most western cities in the African continent. Everyone was very friendly and the city is very safe to navigate, just use common sense.
To/From the Airport
- Uber is available almost everywhere in Cape Town. Getting to the airport during morning rush hour was R120 (~$10USD). It’s about a 45 minute drive to the center of Cape Town from the airport, it took about 35 minutes to get to our Double Tree hotel from the airport.
*Note: Uber picks you up from the pick-up garage that other individuals use to pick-up friends and family member. Do not go to the Taxi line as Uber is not allowed there. Follow the signs at the airport for the pick-up zone.
Like I said above, Uber is available everywhere. Uber is also cheaper, and in my opinion, safer than taxis. I used Uber everywhere, even places that were ~30 minutes away. Just remember to make sure to purchase a data plan at the airport or at some nearby mobile store.
Again, I recommend downloading the food app called Zomato, since Yelp does not work in South Africa. Zomato has reviews, menu images, and a rating system. It definitely helped us with finding places to eat outside of the hotel. We mostly went to eat at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (V&A Waterfront), which is a mall by the sea filled with stores and restaurants.
If you are in the mood for some seafood, then head to the V&A Waterfront, lots of choices there. Additionally, I also tried ostrich, kudu, crocodile, and springbok. All were yummy!
- Some places we ate at:
- Baia Seafood Restaurant
- Belthazar Restaurant & Wine Bar
- The Union Bar
- Mitchell’s Scottish Ale House
Hotel Review: Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Cape Town – Upper Eastside
We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cape Town – Upper Eastside. The hotel was very modern and eco-friendly. It had beautiful interior designs and a few privately owned Cafe’s and shops in the lower level. The hotel is awkwardly placed between stores and residential homes in a neighborhood called Woodstock. The hotel does offer scheduled shuttle service to the V&A Waterfront mall. The hotel staff were incredibly friendly, polite, and always willing to go the extra mile to help.
Remember that Hilton is running their double points or miles promotion until the end of August, so this could be a potential boost in airline miles or HHonors points.
The hotels HHonors rooms were clean, medium size, but overall quite comfortable. The hotel does NOT have a pool but you can go to one that is on the property for a fee. There is a gym and a business center available for guests for no charge. As always, the breakfast was free for HHonors Gold and Diamond.
What to do/see (details below)
- Shark Cage Diving
- Robben Island (Prison where Nelson Mandela spent much of his time)
- Table Mountain – Hiking/Cable cars
- Boulders Beach (African Penguin Colony)
- Wine Tasting
- Old Downtown
Shark Cage Diving
There are many companies who provide shark cage diving tours from Cape Town. These companies will pick you up from Cape Town via a shuttle and take you to a town called Gansbaai, which is about 3hrs away from Cape Town. Many provide you with breakfast, lunch, and the diving gear. However, the company we used had a pretty crappy lunch offering.
We used a company called the “White Shark Project” and don’t really recommend them, but we also can’t compare them to any other company at the moment. The boat staff were a bit rude to some of the members, not us, but still. After being out to sea for over 2 hours we expected a decent lunch, however, we were just given the option of soup. Soup, in my opinion, is not lunch.
- Price: R 1,600 (~$130.00 USD)
- Including transfer from Cape Town
- Time: 3-4 Hours (not including transfer time)
- Company rating: OKAY/Decent
- Tip: Take motion sickness medicine, over half of the boat got sick.
The overall experience of cage diving and seeing great white sharks so close was amazing and definitely recommend it. There is no need to be scared, the cages float and are also attached to the boat and it is impossible to get bitten by a shark if your entire body is inside the cage.
Former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 of the 27 years he spent in prison. The prison was first used in the 17th century for political prisoners, the mentally insane, and up until 1991 it was still operating as a maximum security prison for political prisoners.
The tours begin by taking a ferry from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront, the entire tour takes about 3.5 hours.
- Price: R280 ($23USD) for adults or R150 ($12) for children.
- Time: Ferries operate at 09:00, 11:00 and 13:00. (The 15:00 ferry will be added when peak season commences on September 01, 2015)
The tour is a little disorganized, many complain that you cannot understand the tour guide that takes you through the actual prison (not the bus tour), because they are so old. All prison tour guides are former inmates of the prison, which is pretty cool. Unfortunately, I was only able to understand about 1/3 of what was said by my tour guide.
Visit Robben Island’s website here.
A must do if you have a lot of time on your hands. There are two ways to get to the top of Table Mountain: 1) hiking up/down; and 2) taking the cable cars. If you decide to take the cable car I suggest you allocate enough time (up to 5 hours), because South Africa’s government struggles to provide the entire country with electricity and they institute “load shedding,” which means that the power company interrupts service to certain areas. When we were there, we spent about an hour in line to get down because of load shedding. Normally, it’s about a 5-10 minute trip up the mountain, and another 5-10 minutes down the mountain on the cable car. Definitely do not recommend doing this the day of your flight (like I did).
Hiking it takes about 1-2hrs. It all depends on your fitness level. There were a lot of hikers who enjoyed it, the elderly or those with children should definitely take the cable cars because the hike is demanding.
Regardless of whether you hike or take the cable car, the view from Table Mountain is breathtaking and one you should definitely try to take advantage of.
- Hours: 8am (first car) – 5pm (last car up), 6pm (last car down)
- Price: These prices are until September 1, 2015. Use Google to convert the prices to US Dollars.
Ticket type Return One way Adult (see below for details) R225 R115 Child 4-17 return R110 R58 SA senior citizen (Fridays only at Ticket Office) R95 R50 Student (Fridays only at Ticket Office) R130 R68
Cape Town has some great wineries! We visited three different wineries and took advantage of the hop-on hop-off buses, which I never use, to get to them. The bus picks you up from V&A Waterfront (blue line) and then takes you to the hop-on hop-off bus station (purple line) that takes you to three popular wineries.
The wine tasting is separate from the hop-on hop-off bus but still very affordable.
- Hop-on hop-off price: R150/pp ($12USD) for adults, R80/pp ($7USD) for kids 5-17.
- Wine tasting Price: Usually no more than R50 ($5USD) for wine tasting.
- Groot Costantia
- Eagle’s Nest (my favorite)
- Beau Constantia Wine Farm
Find out about the hop-on hop-off wine tours here.
Cape Town was great, I would definitely try to visit again sometime soon. There is so much to do that I was not able to do it all. I flew back to JNB via British Airways (operated by Comair) on a Boeing B737. Additionally, there is a lounge at both CPT and JNB for oneworld members and priority pass members. I’m sure elites of other airline alliances have access to it as well, the lounges are privately owned and your expectation should not be set too high.
Hope you enjoyed my trip report. Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about this trip report!
I can’t wait to go to Capetown in September!
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