Friendly Cape Town Tours

Practical Travel Information

Friendly Cape Town Tours

Practical Travel Information for Cape Town

All your travel questions answered!

Cape Town is South Africa’s most popular city, whilst the Western Cape region around together with the luxury safari lodges of the Kruger National Park form the most visited regions of South Africa.

Weather & Clothing

In summer (December to February), typical maximum temperatures range from 25 (77 F) to 32 degrees (90 F), though sometimes hotter, and almost always hotter inland, like in the Winelands.

Summer is the dry season in Cape Town, when rain is unlikely but not unheard of. It can often feel cooler than the temperature suggests when the wind blows, especially if you’re near the ocean. Most of the time a pleasant sea breeze off the cold water keeps the air fresh and prevents it from getting muggy, and at times it can be a lot more than just a breeze! Whatever the temperature, you’re almost sure to enjoy sunny days, and the UV is very strong, so be careful about getting sunburnt when the wind is blowing and you don’t actually feel hot! Even in the height of summer a light sweater often comes in handy, and is often essential for evenings.

Winter (June to August) is generally described as cool and wet, with temperatures ranging from an average minimum of 8 (46 F) to an average maximum of 18 degrees (46 F). Inland, the nights get colder. What really makes Cape Town feel wintery is the possible combination of rain and wind. Cold fronts roll in off the Atlantic every 7 to 10 days bringing varying amounts of rain: if you’re lucky, for just a few hours, if you’re unlucky, for 2 or 3 days. But it’s usually in the form of scattered showers, so it’s rare to have a whole day rained out.

Between those spells of chilly or wet weather the days are beautiful: clear sunny days, with little or no wind, reaching the low 20’s, but with chilly nights. It’s not uncommon to see snow on the mountain peaks a half an hour’s drive out of Cape Town. We call it the secret season, and it’s enhanced by the colour of the winter & spring flowers, the migrating southern right whales, and the lack of crowds.

Bring practical, comfortable clothes, and comfortable walking shoes. Bring layers you can peel off as the days warm up in winter.

Time Zone

In our summer, South Africa is 7 hours ahead of the US East Coast and 10 hours ahead of the West Coast.

2 hours ahead of the UK and 1 hour ahead of the rest of Western Europe. In our winter, all of those are one hour less. There is only one time zone covering the whole country, and we don’t have daylight savings so we never change our time.


When paying in cash, only South African Rands are accepted in South Africa, though some shops in touristy areas will take US Dollars but will generally charge an unfavourable rate to cover their cost of changing them back into Rand.

ATM’s are widespread in the towns and cities. Credit cards are accepted in all shops, restaurants and tourist attractions. Some places don’t accept American Express, or if they do, they sometimes have problems, so if there’s a choice, Visa & Mastercard are usually preferable.

The best place to change foreign currency into Rand is at independent Bureau de Change agents – much quicker and easier than in banks, and with comparable exchange rates. There are quite a few in the main shopping mall (Victoria Wharf) of the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, open from 9 to 9 daily.

Note that besides converting your currency according to the current rate of exchange, they will also deduct a commission which is usually around 2% to 3% but with a minimum commission of about R80 to R150, so it helps to change a larger amount, or for a few people to club together to share the commission.

PLEASE NOTE that you need to show your passport to change money anywhere, and it takes a few minutes to fill in the forms.

Bank notes are R200, R100, R50, R20 and R10. Coins are R5 (which come in a new and old version), R2, R1, 50 cents, 20 cents & 10 cents. It’s useful to have a few smaller notes like R20’s and R10’s, as R200 or R100 notes are often frowned upon if buying small items.

At informal souvenir and flea markets, only cash is taken, though some vendors take Dollars, again not at the best rate. Remember that the vendors expect you to bargain! You should normally end up paying about 2/3 of the starting price, but think about the work and time that has gone into making the handcrafts, and support these hard working entrepreneurs in making a living.

Cash is always handy for souvenir stands, postcards, drinks & snacks, and tips for local taxi drivers etc.

Food & Drink


Cape Town in particular has hundreds of restaurants, many of which are world class. The standards of food and hygiene are high, whether buying meals in a high-end restaurant, a local neighbourhood eatery or snacks in a supermarket. The fruit, vegetables and salads are as fresh and healthy as anywhere in the world.

Tap water is safe to drink in South African towns and cities, but bottled water is available everywhere. In restaurants, it is standard practice for the waiter to offer “still or sparkling water” meaning plain bottled water or sparkling bottled water for which you will obviously be charged. But you can feel free to politely ask for tap water. There is a growing consciousness about the carbon footprint of bottled water and most restaurants are mindful of this. But the choice is (or should be) yours. There’s never a health risk with ice in your drinks.

If you enjoy seafood, welcome to paradise! “Linefish” means the catch of the day; ask what it is. Some of the great options include kingklip (a firm white meaty fish with a mild but delicious flavour); various other fish like yellowtail and kob; prawns, mussels, and the delicious West Coast rock lobster (spiny lobster with antenna but no claws), often called crayfish.

From our history as a stopping point on the spice trade between Asia & Europe, the Cape Malay tradition emerged: dishes seasoned with fragrant, aromatic (rather than hot) spices including various typical stews and curries.


Electricity is 220V. All chargers for cameras, phones, shavers, iPads, laptops, etc, made for some years already, can take a variable input from 110V up to 240V.

South African sockets have 3 large pins, but adapters are commonly used to accept a European plug with two small round pins.

These are very widely available. International adapters are available in airports and certain shops in the cities to accept other types of plugs, but can be a little harder to find out in the country.

Getting Around Cape Town

Public transport isn’t great. Cape Town’s MyCiti bus system is good but it’s inconvenient that you have to buy a card from one of the main stations and load it with credit there in order to use it.

Uber is a fantastic solution to getting around: quick, convenient and excellent value for money.

Regular taxis charge about R15 per kilometre so if you’re just getting around locally, especially if you share rides, you will find them reasonable too.

Some busy tourist spots (e.g. certain hotels, Table Mountain, V&A Waterfront) have busy taxi ranks where taxis line up and are ready to go.

But it’s not easy to hail taxis on the streets – instead it’s best to call to book a taxi, or ask staff in any restaurant to call for you.

Unicab 021 – 486 1600, Excite Taxis 021 – 448 4444Sport Taxis 021 – 447 4444.

If you need to pay by credit card, first check that this is possible.


If you use a porter’s services at an airport or hotel, it is recommended that you pay them about R25 per passenger.

Should you wish to carry your own bags / push your own trolley, politely but firmly say no thank you, otherwise if you hesitate someone might start assisting you, whether you need it or not


It is customary to tip restaurant staff 10%, or up to 15% for really great service. If paying by credit card, fill in the amount you wish to add on to the bill (check) BEFORE handing your card to the waiter/ress for processing, and they will get that amount. But check the bill first in case the tip has already been added, which is usually done for groups of about 8 or more, in which case you needn’t feel obliged to add anything more.

For taxi drivers, it’s a bit of a grey area, but it’s typical to add 10% or round up by about R10 or R20.

Luggage Weight Limits

Please check the weight limits for the various sectors of your flights.

Here in South Africa, the limit for domestic flights is normally 20kg (= 44 pounds) of checked luggage, and a limit of one checked item, per person.

Bear this in mind if your first flight from home is an international one with larger weight limits, because if you fly from Cape Town to Johannesburg on your way home, you will be subject to the rules of domestic flights

Malaria Medication

Malaria only occurs in the far northern and eastern parts of South Africa, nowhere near Cape Town in the south-western corner.

Safety & Security

As in any large city, please be streetwise and sensible by not carrying any unnecessary valuables, or having your camera hanging around your neck giving you away as an obvious tourist.

Be especially careful using ATM’s in crowded places and do not accept help from anyone while using them. Rather use ATM’s inside a bank branch or lobby.

(I’ve never had a problem with this in all of my 47 years but have met a few overseas visitors who’ve had a problem on their first day here!)