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The Travel Insighter Cape Town FAQBook

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4 weeks ago

This post is part of Travel Insighter’s FAQBook series, providing up to date answers to the most frequently asked travel questions for destinations across the globe. We regularly update our destination FAQBooks with the latest questions and answers to ensure that you are fully prepared for your travels and to help you get the most out of your experience.

Get in touch with us if you have a question that we’re yet to answer. Our community of locals is ready and willing to provide answers. Or, for exclusive personalized travel advice, join our WhatsApp community by signing up to our weekly newsletter, The Insight, using the subscribe box at the end of this post.

Getting Around

Is it safe to drive your own car in Cape Town?

Carjackings do happen in Cape Town so you should absolutely have your wits about you. Having said that, if you are purposeful, driving your own rental car is perfectly fine – and it is quite freeing to have your own set of wheels in Cape Town.

It’s perfectly safe to drive in the winelands (Stellenbosch and Franschhoek) and virtually anywhere in and around Cape Town during the day, but it’s not wise to drive at night in the winelands. The highway in that area can attract some unsavory characters, so a breakdown or a stop in an unlit area might put you in a sticky situation.

Activities

Where is the shark cage diving in Cape Town?

We are frequently asked about shark cage diving in Cape Town. It’s typically done in Simonstown which is the area where you’ll find the penguins at Boulder’s Beach. We only recommend Apex Predators for shark cage diving.

They know what they’re doing and their safety record is a point of pride, not something they don’t want to answer questions about. If you do want to do shark cage diving, be warned: you will be covered in fish bait which is, candidly, pretty disgusting. And it’s a 4 am start.

Local Custom

Do you tip at restaurants in Cape Town?

It is usual to tip 10-15% in South Africa. This is usually for higher-end restaurants. More local establishments won’t expect tips. Having said that, no waitperson will turn their nose up at a tip, so if you liked your service, feel free to tip.

Do you tip car guards in Cape Town?

If you rent a car and park in any location where parking is unpaid, there will more than likely be a ‘car guard’ as they known locally. Occasionally they are employed by establishments like restaurants or markets, but more often than not they’re self-appointed. It’s expected that you tip these car guards R5-10. It’s worth keeping some coins or cash in the car in a non-visible place for this purpose.

Do you tip at petrol stations in Cape Town?

In South Africa, there is usually an attendant who will fill up your car with petrol at the bowser. It is usual to tip these attendants at least R10-20, but you can and should give more depending on what they help with (e.g., putting air in your tyres or checking oil and water).

History

Is it acceptable to ask South Africans about apartheid?

South Africans are generally happy to speak about apartheid, though some may only be willing to speak about it in the abstract. It is generally appropriate to ask questions about apartheid, but it’s usually wise to listen to the responses and not attempt to engage in a discussion on correctness or incorrectness.

And while you’re in South Africa, you absolutely should make an effort to visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. You’ll walk away with a much sharper understanding of the history that shaped the country.

Safety

How safe is Cape Town and South Africa generally?

The places that we recommend are relatively safe, but despite that, our overriding safety advice for travel anywhere in the world should still be front in centre: move with purpose. You should always look like you know what you’re doing and where you’re going – and be vigilant.

Don’t leave your valuables in an unattended car. If you need to take valuables with you, put them in the boot of your car before you leave. This is so that people nearby don’t see you put valuables in your boot.

How common is pickpocketing in Cape Town?

Try to keep your valuables in a zipped bag when walking in busy streets to reduce the chance of being pickpocketed. Generally, avoid walking with your phone in your hand unless you actually need it. And if you do need it (for example, to check our recommendations for free things to do Cape Town), you should go into a secure building, finish your business with your phone there and then exit.

When dining at a restaurant (particularly if you are sitting at a table near the pavement), don’t leave bags or other items hanging on the back of your chair or on the floor next to you. If you have a handbag, put your foot through the handle or keep it on your lap.

Does violent crime occur on hiking trails in Cape Town?

The unfortunate reality is that violent crime does occur on hiking trails in Cape Town, even the best of them like Lion’s Head and Table Mountain. If you plan on doing a sunset or sunrise hike, you should consider going with a local guide as part of their job is to stay abreast of the latest news and to keep you safe.

It’s not uncommon to hear stories of solo hikers, couple hikers and even small groups of hikers being attacked at knifepoint or gunpoint on even the most popular hiking trials. The best thing you can do to prepare is to make sure you’re in a big group with an experienced local.


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