Cape Town travel guide for beginners
⋆ ⋆ ⋆ How great that you're on your way to one of the most amazing cities in the world: Cape Town!
You are at the right place to learn about the fun and struggles of daily life, the country's rough history, how to be streetwise and if the city is actually that dangerous... Curious? Continue reading! ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Life in Cape Town
These days, Cape Town is a very multicultural city. It is hard for me to say how far there is still discrimination, as being white and a foreigner. Unfortunately, discrimination still happens anywhere in the world, in big and small cities, on big and small scales. But, to me, I experience discrimination here less than anywhere I’ve been before. Everyone could be a South African: if you’re black or white, brown or yellow. There is such a great mix of people that I feel easily at ease here, a local— something which I find very important. The other day someone started speaking Afrikaans to me: how cool is that! Down below, I’ll continue about the spoken languages.
Back to the life here in Cape Town. You can easily find good meals between €3 and €6; there are enough fancy farmers markets for quality food, drinks at the bar are pretty cheap, like 3 drinks for €5. I pay €270 for rent, for a big single room where I share the rest of the house, about 10 minutes from the centre. Fuel is around €1 a litre and renting a car is about €10 a day. So all together, you can pretty easily get around with €1000 a month, when you live on a budget but still want to do nice things. And, of course, all the best stuff is free anyway: friendly people, the beauty of nature and the sunsets!
But life isn’t as easy for everyone. Due the harsh history of this country, there is a big gap between poor and rich. In Cape Town, there is the biggest population of people living on the streets in South Africa. At many traffic lights (robots, as they call them here) and on the streets in and around the city centre, you’ll see beggars or people selling things like pens or fruit. You see self-made shelters, made with blankets and carton, where people live in. One of the outcomes of poverty is crime, which is big in Cape Town. You’ll get advised to keep your belongings close to you while walking on the streets, not leave anything (at all - they could also think there is something of value in that plastic bag) behind in your car and to not walk outside after sunset. But by having your own car or using Ubers, you’ll feel pretty safe and life doesn’t have to stop at 7 pm.
Another thing that I definitely have to mention, is the locking-doors policy. I have to use my keys 6 times before I’m out of the gate and ready to go. This takes around 5 minutes each time, so if I leave twice a day that is about 20 minutes each day. I think that is quite a lot. Guess that is part of “Africa Time”: take it easy!
There are many ways to get around. You can go by bike which can be useful when you live in the city and you want to head near your area. U-Turn is out of town so you will definitely have to get here with another kind of transport. Scooter rentals are expensive and can be pretty unsafe, it will also be hard to know what way to go without navigation. Renting a car doesn’t have to be that expensive, it will be around R150 a day but you can easily find better deals when you rent for a longer term. I would advise you RentACheapie or Bidvest. If you’re thinking of buying a car, I can advise you to read on a little further… Another car option is taking taxi’s: Uber and Bolt will be the safest and won’t be very expensive.
There are also many ways of public transport. There is a train which stops very near to the U-Turn Head office. It is cheap but very unreliable and certainly not always safe. Different busses and taxi vans will drive around that will also be cheap and drive more often.
Buying a car
I’ve been thinking of buying aecond hand car as I am a long term volunteer. As a foreigner, you have to get a traffic certificate to be able to buy a car. You have to go to the Civil Centre with two ID photo’s, your driver’s license and passport and a proof that you live here, like a house contract. To get the paper it can take up to 6 weeks, I fortunately got it after 7 days.
A brief history of South Africa’s history where big parts take part in Cape Town. The history of South Africa is huge and intense and it goes a long way back. I won’t go back to the prehistory, but to the time that the first Europeans started with taking over this beautiful country. Even though the Portuguese were the first Europeans here; the first settlement was established by the Dutch— this was in 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck put first foot onwall. It was a good halfway stop between Europe and the East where they went for spices. They must have liked it here, expanded, got slaves from countries like Malaysia and India into South Africa and caused conflict with the indigenous people, like the Xhosa.
In the early 1800s, Great Britain seized the Cape Colony from the Dutch and continued the wars against the Xhosa. Many of the Dutch colonists wouldn’t accept British rule and moved to the north to where Johannesburg is today. The discovery of gold and diamonds in the mid-to-late 1800s near what would become Johannesburg led to further expansion by the British. This resulted in two wars with the Dutch colonists who moved to the north.
In 1948, the government began implementing a series of segregationist laws that later became known as apartheid ("separateness"). The “Blacks” were sent to dry and bad land far from the big cities and they were not allowed to own land (Quick Facts & A Brief History). There were separate beaches, seats in the bus and benches for the Blacks and the Whites. They started to ‘relocate’ Africans from ‘white’ areas. In 1950 they started to implement the pass law, which limited the movements of the Africans. Due to these laws, over 17,745,000 Africans have been arrested or prosecuted” between 1916 and 1984 (Pass Laws) One of them was Nelson Mandela. In 1963 he got imprisoned for life long and stayed for most of the time on Robben Island, an island which you can see from Cape Town. In 1990 he became a free man, a year after FW de Klerk became the president who is known for ending Apartheid. In 1994, Nelson Mandela became president and this was the start of equal rights for black and white (Nelson Mandela Biography). A bit further in the blog you will read how this is working out in today's life.
Four seasons in one day
Most of the days here the weather is perfect. It is around 25 degrees and hardly any clouds in the air. It is the end of summer now, but I am told that even in summer the weather can me very unreliable. The mountains make the weather very unpredictable, and sun can turn into rain and a breeze can turn into a massive storm. Weather change could also mean huge rainfalls and it also means that you should always carry around a sweater when it’s sunny and a t-shirt when it’s cold, because you never know what the weather is going to do that day!
Electricity & Water
South Africa has got a BIG problem with a lack of electricity, and ‘load shedding’ is a big thing here.
Which means they cut off your power for a few hours a day to save power. That can be very annoying
when you need WiFi, just wanted to start cooking your meal and can be dangerous on the roads, as the
‘robots’ (Afrikaans word for traffic lights) also won’t work anymore. Besides the lack of power, there is
also a big dearth of water. This has already been going on since a few years and we are advised to have
short showers, to not flush toilets when not ‘highly necessary’ and showers on beaches are cut off.
Languages in South Africa
I told you before that Cape Town is a very multicultural city. Well, actually the whole country is very multicultural!
There are 11 official national languages. Zulu (22,7%) is mostly spoken, then Xhosa (16%), the language with the clicks
which I find awesome. Then Afrikaans (13,5%), followed by English (9,6%). A cool fact is that 2% of South African
citizens speak a first language that is not an official language (Languages of South Africa)
In Cape Town, Afrikaans is the most widely spoken home language with more than 40% of Capetonians speaking the language. A quick introduction about the Afrikaans language: I was very confused in the beginning, as I thought Afrikaans would be a real African language, but it is actually “kitchen Dutch”, which means a very simplified version of Dutch. I recognize almost all the words, but a lot of really funny ways of saying it. They also have two denies within 1 sentence, for example: “Geen alkohol word toegelaat nie” will become “No alcohol allowed not”.