As a Capetonian I have an insider’s view of how to travel around Cape Town on your own. I have done lots of things alone in the city. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing. I’m also lucky to have met a few foreign friends who visited Cape Town. Their views along with my knowledge of my home town will hopefully provide you with all the info you need about how to travel solo in the Mother City.
1. Safety first
Crime is a part of every day life. So be aware of it. Don’t flash your cash or camera/phone etc. Pickpocketing and grabbing your bag is a big thing. I usually sling my bags to the front and I make sure zips or any opening are facing my body not the outside. Hiking alone is asking for trouble as you could get mugged, lost and if you do get hurt you’re alone. Always say no to “friendly strangers” if someone offers to help you at the ATM for example you should turn it down. There’s lots of thieves and scammers in Cape Town be aware of your surroundings. Back up your important documents send them to your own email, and or onto Google Drive. Spread out your cards and cash that way if you lose some cash you don’t lose everything. Do research to find out about locations before going to find out if they are relatively safe or not. And if you do need help call 112 from any cellphone, its South Africa’s emergency number.
2. Join a walking tour
There are daily walking tours for free. You can give a donation if you want to, to the tour guides. Tours run from 11am till 2pm and there’s no booking needed, just pitch up on time. The meeting spot is at Motherland Coffee which is in Wale street, in the City Bowl District. It’s cool that there’s are a number of tours you can take and the tours will allow you to meet people, get a lay of the land and learn more about Cape Town’s interesting history. Read more here: https://freewalkingtourscapetown.co.za/
3. Take the red bus
The City Sightseeing bus allows you to hop off and on the bus. There are a number of different routes and key landmarks are covered. I advised my US friend to use this bus to visit Kirstenbosch gardens. It is much cheaper than renting a car and a good way to see Cape Town. The bus has an open top section which is perfect when it’s sunny out. I’ve taken the bus a few times and many locals do.
4. Go wine tasting
South Africa has the longest wine route in the world. It would be a shame if you never visited a single wine estate even if you don’t drink wine. There are juice tastings usually for kids, and you could just have a delicious meal without alcohol. To get to the estates you have to hire a car, take a Uber or the Franshoek wine tram. If going all the way to a wine estate is still too much effort you can join a daily wine tasting at Wine concepts, a store in Kloof street which offers free wine tastings every day from 3pm to 6pm. Just be aware that Cape Town loves big pours when it comes to wine tastings you should definitely not drive afterwards get a Uber, Lyft or Bolt rather.
5. Hike in a group
You can often join a hiking group at hostels in the city, join a Airbnb experience or one of the many Facebook hiking groups. The easiest hike for me is Kloof corner although I huffed and puffed a bit as it was my first hike in January after eating through December like a hungry caterpillar. The hike only takes 15 to 20 minutes to the top and another 20 minutes down. And the steps up the trail are steep but, it’s a just a few minutes of pain. Elephant’s Eye is the easiest hike I’ve been on and I’m unfit. Many guides will recommend you hike Table Mountain or Lions Head both are a harder and you should be moderately fit.
6. Homestay or hostel
Staying at a homestay can help you learn much more about the city, culture and things to do from a local perspective. It’s often also much cheaper than staying at a hostel. Hostels are a great place to meet other travellers, especially other solo travellers. If you are looking to socialise a hostel is the best option. Once is one of the best hostels as it’s connected to my favourite night time spot in Cape Town, Yours Truly.
7. Don’t let fear hold you back
I’ve spoken to guys from the UK who were told not to leave their hotel rooms ever in Cape Town. They ignored the advice and I had a great chat with them with my boyfriend with me. They made us laugh after asking if South Africans are racist. Crime is high. It’s not as bad as it’s sometimes reported though. You can walk alone at night in the dark. It all depends on the area and if there are other people walking around. Blend in as much as possible. Don’t wear your camera on your neck or a full khaki outfit which screams tourist. You have to go with your gut or Uber to a restaurant/ bar and back if you don’t feel comfortable. Just don’t stay in your room the whole time due to fear.
8. Treat yourself
Eat out and indulge. Cape Town is home to top restaurants like the Test Kitchen which has a long….. waiting list. If you’re solo they might squeeze you in. However, I don’t really like fine dining so I’d recommend Casa Labia, Harbour House or Mariners Wharf in Houtbay if you do want to visit a fancier restaurant which offers better portions sizes than fine dining spots. I’m not a spa girl yet once I’ve tried a few I will add the ones I like here. There are many spas around Cape Town
9. Talk to me
By, me I mean locals. If you talk to Capetonians most of them will talk back. We are friendly people. Talking to locals it the best way to learn about a place and you will get valuable insider information. Like that you can find amazing seafood at Kalky’s located at Kalk bay harbour even if the place doesn’t look fancy or that their are penguins at Seaforth beach sometimes at Windmill too so if you’re not keen on going to Boulders Beach go there’s other options.
10. Try local food
You have to have a Gatsby, Wafa’s in Adderley street serves up portions for one smaller than the massive sandwhich roll you usually get. We also have babootie, milktart, koeksisters and koesisters which are doughnuts. And a braai which is not them same thing as a barbecue according to South Africans. The list goes on. Being alone can make you crave for reminders from home and at times the go to is a burger from Mac Donalds. I have been there and ate a burger in Paris. Despite the hunger for a bit of home it’s very important that you try the local food. It ties in with the culture and our food has a story as well. If you’re not keen to eat alone even after reading my tips, check out Dine4Six which allows people who love food to meet each other over dinner.
11. Take good solo shots
Learn to take photos of yourself. Read up on it and get a selfie stick as a bare minimum. You will want to have photos of yourself trust me. It’s best you practice beforehand if you’ve never taken solo pic before. The worst part is that people will stare a bit. If you do this in your home town you will get used to the stares and that will allow you to take better photos of yourself.
Where to Stay in Cape Town if you’re a solo traveller
There’s lots of options. However I think it’s best to stay in areas with lower crime rates and which are more central to tourist areas. That way you will feel safer and see more of the attractions.
Seapoint is by the beach. There’s the popular promenade with many ice-cream stores, runners, dog walkers, families etc along the way. It’s always buzzing. You will also find CAFDA books which sells secondhand books to raise money for its charitable programs in the main road. If you want designer shoes head over to That Shoelady and Mojo market is a wonderful food market with different kids of food all under one roof. Seapoint has many restaurants/bars and coffee shops as well. It’s also super close to the CBD.
It’s more expensive than Seapoint. There’s classier restaurants and it’s closer to the Waterfront. Overall Greenpoint does feel similar to Seapoint. It’s home to Cape Town Stadium where FIFA 2010 matches were hosted so if you are a big sports, or concert fan it’s a good place to stay. I like the Vib which is newly opened, there’s a rooftop pool, art gallery, bar and restaurant all inside of the hotel.
Camps Bay & Clifton
Close to the city but, you will have to Uber or take a My city bus. Camps Bay and Clifton has an icy ocean with soft sand and many bars/cafes/ a theatre and a newly built Starbucks. It’s the trendier part of Cape Town which locals and celebs visit.
If you have the money to spare stay at the Waterfront it’s full of attractions. It’s a working harbour, there are often seals, live musicians, two food markets, the biggest art gallery in Africa (The Zeitz Mocca) need I say more. I recommend you stay at the Silo Hotel since it’s gorgeous, it’s also super pricey or the Radisson Red which is cheaper but, offers spectacular views of Cape Town. You can walk from the Waterfront to the CBD as well although it’s a cheap taxi ride to there last time I checked it was R10 less than a dollar.
It’s fill of students studying at the nearby UCT. And there’s always lots of foreigners, interns and students from all over. One of my US friends Julie stayed in Obz for 6 months. I met her through my internship back in 2012. I love the area because it has a young feel to it. There’s lots of creative murals all over. People also sometimes walk the streets barefoot. There’s great bars like Stones and one of my favourites Trenchtown. A Touch of Madness which is a beautiful Victorian era house turned wonderful restaurant is also located in Obz. You will also be able to find many “vintage” shops and Never New ( a fantastic secondhand clothes store) all in one spot.
The City Bowl District (CBD)
Once is at Kloof street and Cartwright apartments on Adderly street also have Airbnb listings. If you are looking for a fancier hotel The Onyx is super classy, with a rootop bar, pool and a spa. I haven’t stayed here alone but I have visited people who have like my boyfriend’s aunt. My boyfriend is the photo below. The security at Cartwright and Onyx is super strict you can’t enter without a keycard and the elevator doesn’t work with it either. Once is more relaxed but it is safe. I’ve never heard complaints.
I’m not listing Woodstock as much as I love the murals and atmosphere. I know the area well since I worked there for a few years. It’s become gentrified that being said I wouldn’t suggest you walk there alone. There is a bit of a crime issue especially in the roads which don’t have tourist hotspots.
The Bokaap is another place I didn’t mention. Again it’s being gentrified to the point that people are losing their homes.
If you do want to stay in these areas try to find a homestay or take cooking classes at someone’s home . Hotels, hostels and B&B’s often don’t invest back in these communities and profit from the location, driving locals out of there homes when the rent prices skyrocket.
How to travel
A Uber, Lyft or Bolt are all good way to travel. They can get expensive and My citi buses are safe and cheaper. The Golden Arrow bus is also okay but, they are so slow and not as safe. A metered taxi is probably the most expensive way to get around town. A normal minibus taxi where you ride with 15 other passengers is the cheapest. Normal taxi’s are known for not following rules, driving recklessly and being a pain. That being said I travelled daily using taxi’s back when I was studying and they got me where I needed to be. You can travel by taxi just don’t get into an empty one, ask the passengers about the fare and your stop to make sure you get off where you have to and travel to safer areas. If you take a taxi from the CBD to Seapoint you should be fine. A taxi from the CBD to Langa, Mitchells Plain, Mannenberg alone though isn’t advisable. Before you travel you should find out which areas are safer which ones aren’t.
It’s mandatory to wear a mask in all public spaces in Cape Town. All hotels, hostels etc are COVID compliant which I’ve come across so far. Temperature checks and filling in screening forms are the norm. Most South Africans are religiously wearing a mask, social distancing etc. if you don’t you will stick out like a sore thumb, don’t visit if you don’t want to comply as you will get arrested and fined.
I’m thinking about writing a post on things to do if you’re a solo traveller in Cape Town. Best I do think I should add that in a separate post since this one is rambling on.
Thank you for reading and please comment if you want to. I love reading comments on my blog. Hearing from you makes my day.