How to Do Capetown on a Budget

City Travel, South Africa — By on February 15, 2011 at 2:00 pm

by Ceri Houlbrook
Special to Lost Girls World

Cape Town PhotoThere’s a reason South Africa is known as the “rainbow nation.” Nowhere else in the world boasts such multicultural diversity, and while the country has suffered centuries of oppression and division, it’s emerged from its bleak past and been re-born as home to one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities: Cape Town. This city is a cocktail of colors, customs and cuisines; a vibrant fusion of culture and natural beauty. With its vast heritage, its quirky neighborhoods, and its majestic setting in the iconic shadow of Table Mountain, Cape Town is a place just begging to be explored and experienced.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite the bargain destination that it once was, but it’s still perfectly possible to experience Cape Town in all its vibrant glory on a tight budget – you just have to know where to look. Fortunately, after years of traveling on a shoestring, penny-pinching has become second nature to me, and I can smell a good deal a mile away. And so on my recent trip to South Africa I picked up a few penny-saving tips that prove that your pockets don’t have to be lined with gold for you to enjoy Cape Town at its fullest.

Where to Stay

When it comes to accommodation, you don’t have to sacrifice luxury to find an affordable room. There are hostels aplenty, and these needn’t require squeezing sardine-style into a matchbox-sized room with dozens of fellow backpackers. The Ashanti Lodge Gardens, for example, situated in the City Bowl area, is a backpacker hostel with all the comforts of a four-star hotel, complete with recently refurbished rooms, a swimming pool, bar, and restaurant. This is far from ‘roughing it’ and yet the prices are surprisingly cheap; in the high season, which runs from December to April, you’ll pay 300R a night for a single room (equivalent to £25) and 420R for a double.

Where to Eat

Boasting over 7000 restaurants, Cape Town offers something for everyone’s culinary tastes as well, whether you want cheap pizza, gourmet French cuisine, or a salad fresh from an organic deli. But why visit South Africa if you’re not going to experience some authentic African cooking? The best place for this is Marco’s African Place, where you can enjoy pan-grilled fillets of springbok, ostrich and kudu, crocodile carpacciou, and m’pumalanga salad. However, if, like me, you’re vegetarian, there’s still plenty of choice; order Marcia’s Rasta Pasta with the jabula platter as a side dish. Delicious.

Where to Party

Tourists and locals alike flock to this hidden gem in the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town, but it isn’t just the food that draws them in; it’s the promise of live entertainment. Marco’s is well-known for hosting jazz events, and for just 20R (£1.70) you can enjoy the local music of Jimmy Dludlu, Sbonglie Khumalo, Sylvia Mdunyelwa, and many more. However, it isn’t only the music that comes cheap in Cape Town; in this city, you can pack a full week with sight-seeing and still pay next to nothing.

Museums and Shopping

Entrance to dozens of Cape Town’s museums is free, such as the Maritime Centre on the Victoria & Albert Waterfront, the Cape Medical Museum, and the Old Town House. If shopping is more your thing, though, then head down to Greenpoint craft-market, a jumbled collection of traditional African art pieces, books, jewellery, beads, and curios galore, where, as long as you’re not haggle-shy, you’re sure to find a bargain.

Parks and Wildlife

Table Mountain PictureHowever, it’s the city’s natural beauty that offers budget travelers their most enjoyable experiences. With the rugged wilderness of Table Mountain National Park right on your doorstep, you can cycle the plethora of trails, go wildlife spotting, camp, and climb the Twelve Apostles, Devil’s Peak and – of course – Table Mountain itself. The dozens of beaches that bejewel the Cape’s coastline also offer free diversions; it costs nothing to relax on the white-sand beach of Camps Bay. And if you arm yourself with a pair of binoculars and head over to the False Bay side of the Cape in the months between August and October, then you can enjoy a full day of whale-watching. And the cost? Absolutely nothing.

So what’s stopping you from booking your next get-away in Cape Town? Grab your passport, charge your camera, pack your hiking boots and a swimsuit, and visit now. Here, you’ll find a holiday that won’t break the bank – but will promise you an experience you’ll never forget.

Ceri is from Manchester – no, she doesn’t support United – and her passions include reading, writing, hiking and travelling the globe in search of some adventure!

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  • Rebecca says:

    Love Cape Town so much – and going back later in the year so I’ll be using some of these budget-friendly tips.

  • maggie says:

    i am wondering is it dangerous to go for a week in cape town by myself ? i am a 50 years old woman maggie

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