Why you should visit Cape Town + First Impressions

why you should visit Cape Town plus first impressions

Why should you visit Cape Town? To be honest, I didn’t really have any expectations before arriving in Cape Town and didn’t know what to expect. South Africa just seemed so far away and until starting this travel forever journey, it hadn’t even crossed my mind that I would ever be able to visit it. But from the first moment of arriving in the “Mother City” it has been simply incredible. If Cape Town isn’t on your bucket list, I would recommend adding it right now. Why? Here are a few reasons:

The beauty will amaze you

Driving around Cape Town, we are constantly amazed at how beautiful it is. There are many times when we exclaim, “Wow, doesn’t that remind you of Hawaii?!” In the photos below, Kirstenbosh Botanical Garden with Table Mountain (Cape Town, South Africa) in the background is on the left, and Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden with the Ko’olaus (Kaneohe, Hawaii) in the background is on the right. Walking through Kristenboch, you can definitely imagine being in Jurrassic Park – which was filmed in Hawaii – but Cape Town also has a similar atmosphere.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa

Honestly, Cape Town seems to be a conglomeration of a lot of beautiful places in one area. At times is also looks like Austria and Switzerland with the mountains in the background and the layered peaks. Some areas are reminiscent of San Francisco and the coastline of California with seals on the rocks and cliffs of mountains along the coast. Parts of the coastline also are similar to the Canary Islands’ coastlines. Since the mountains are so close to the beaches, Cape Town has an island feel to it even though it isn’t an island. Plus, many of the people we’ve met have been friendly and laid-back.

It’s very affordable

At least for Americans and most of the Western world. A made-to-order sushi roll of 8 pieces was $4-6 USD at a sit-down restaurant in a mall. Pre-paying for a 3-day hospital stay for giving birth was a few thousand dollars without insurance. For non-Americans, a few thousand dollars may seem like a lot but in the US a multi-day stay in the hospital (sometimes even with insurance) can cost tens of thousands or more. Currently, the exchange rate has been fluctuating around 13.6-14 South African Rand per USD.

Plenty to do/see

Cape Town is a city, and there is a lively nightlife scene on Long Street if that interests you. But there are many other activities and places of interest that can easily entertain people of all walks of life. You can visit the historical area of Bo-Kaap, gush over cute African Penguins at Boulders Beach or Stony Point, take a game drive on a private reserve and see the African Big 5, go shopping at the V&A waterfront, or visit all the local craft and food markets held on the weekends.


First Impressions of Cape Town

Visiting Cape Town has been a fantastic experience, and I’m so glad we made it out here. After landing in Cape Town, we went to pick up our car rental and got a free upgrade! After visiting some countries where a “free tea” meant “I’m going to guilt you into buying something overpriced and not needed and make you feel like it’s unsafe to leave until you make a purchase” – it was nice to get a real freebie.

While the driver’s seat in cars is on the right-hand side, some cars have the windshield wipers on the left of the steering wheel, and some on the right. The signal light switch is on the opposite side… so we’ve hit the windshield wipers multiple times when trying to signal a turn.

There are usually parking attendants at all parking lots or even street parking. They wear vests, help you find a parking spot, and watch over your car. They do expect a tip… but a very small amount usually about 5 rand (~$0.35 USD).

There are lots of savings for locals – discounted national park entrance fees, movie tickets, restaurant apps. Some discounts are only available if you sign up through a South African health insurance provider. For tourists and visitors, there may be loyalty cards that you can sign up for but they’re usually only worth it if you’ll be staying a month or longer.

There are many shantytowns/townships… with digital satellite dishes.

As for safety, for us, it’s felt about the same as any big city. It is advised not to stop along the road especially if there aren’t other people around. We drove around the city and suburbs quite often without incident. Some parts of the city are known to be less safe, but we walked around quite often and didn’t encounter any threats to our safety. When we stayed on Long Street for a couple of weeks, there was one homeless guy that was very persistent and demanding, “give me food”. He followed us for a block or two on several occasions as we walked around town, and continued to demand money or food, but I think it felt more like a mild annoyance than threatening.

You may have heard or read in the news about there being a drought in Cape Town. There are systems in place to re-use water from households to water the lawns, and many of the public restrooms in malls and shopping centers turned off the tap at the sinks and provide hand-sanitizer instead. Even though the dam water levels around Cape Town are getting higher, water conservation efforts remain in place. It hasn’t negatively impacted our visit here at all though. We were asked by some of our hosts to use a bucket to collect the shower water that came out before the water heated up so it wouldn’t go to waste. The bucket water was then used to flush the toilet. We could have even had a water birth or used a birthing tub at the hospital where I gave birth, but I ended up doing almost all of the labor at home so it wasn’t needed.

We ended up staying in Cape Town for three months. From first impressions up through the end of our visit, we were in awe of the beauty of the mountains and beaches, the multitude and wide variety of activities, and the kind hospitality we witnessed regularly. Cape Town is a wonderful city to visit, and you should definitely add it to your bucket list if you haven’t already! If you have any questions or concerns about visiting Cape Town, let us know in the comments below! We loved our visit, and can’t wait to go back!


Plan your visit to Cape Town!

Accommodation

We like to use booking.com to look for hotels or BnBs since you can filter your preferences and get a great rate. They're also great for budget hotels.

Flights

Skyscanner and Airfare Watchdog are both excellent search engine sites to search for cheap flights. You can also set up alerts for price drops to your destination of choice.

Car Rental

Booking buddy lets you search all the big sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, and RentalCars in one place. It saves you money AND time!

Save even more

For additional savings when booking your trip on tours, travel bags, airport lounge access and more, check out our Best Travel Deals page!

 Thanks for reading! Please feel free to check out some of our other blog posts or leave comments or questions at the bottom of the post.