(1) Taxis are very few and far in between. A taxi ride costs ZAR 10 (RM 5) per kilometer, which I think is rather expensive. Locals rely on “rikkis” - private minivans that serve as shared taxi. A rikki ride only costs ZAR 5 (RM 2.50) per person. Similar to buses, they have specific routes, therefore you have to know which rikki takes you where. The challenge is the routes aren’t published anywhere. The only way to find out is to keep your ears open, because the driver will scream the destination to potential passengers (anybody standing by the roadside) as he passes by!
(2) Considering that riding normal buses and rikkis is not very safe, taking a hop-on hop-off bus is the best way to get around town. Not to mention that the hop-on hop-off buses stop at many interesting spots! One-day-ride only costs ZAR 120 (RM 60) for one route. They have two routes - red and blue. Red route goes around the city, while blue route goes by the seaside around the cape peninsular. Two-days-ride costs ZAR 200 (RM 100), which entitles you to both routes and a free night tour to watch sunset at Signal Hill. Definitely a bargain!
(3) If you go to Cape Town during summer (towards the end/start of the year), bring along a hat, the bigger the better. African sun is really strong. Fortunately I had my huge white straw hat (which sometimes made me look like I was going to an English tea party) to protect my face. If only you see my sunburned hands and feet, you’ll know why I say that I’m now three shades darker!
(4) Take a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain, the scenery is simply breathtaking! Do note that the cable car’s operation is very much dependent to the weather. If it’s too windy, they’ll close the service. Therefore, make a plan to do this during the earlier part of your trip, because if the cable car is close on you first visit, you can always go there another day. Of course, you can also hike up the mountain, but only if you are an experienced hiker. Many less experienced ones end up being rescued midway.
(5) Another picturesque place is Cape Point. Take a full day Cape Peninsular tour which includes a visit to Simon’s Town (the navy town), Boulders Beach (the penguin colony) and most importantly Cape Point. Make sure you get to spend at least an hour at Cape Point so you have all the time in the world to climb up to the lighthouse, which we couldn’t because our stopover was too short!
(6) Get a hotel near to Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, simply known to locals as “the waterfront”. The rates may be a bit expensive, but it’s totally worth it. The view is fantastic, there are plenty of shops and restaurants (including several halal ones) and it’s completely safe to walk around the area day and night. We stayed at Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, which is one of the most reasonably priced hotels within the waterfront area.
(7) Cape Town is a city of extreme weathers. It can be super hot and sunny at Camps Bay but incredibly windy and chilly at Cape Point, despite of the two places being only an hour drive apart. Bring along a jacket and a scarf, just in case.
(8) If money is no object, splurge on ostrich skin products. These stuffs are very beautiful, brightly colored and of extreme quality. A small size handbag costs ZAR 10,000 (RM 5,000). The cheapest item I found was a keychain the size of a 50 cents coin, which costs ZAR 150 (RM 75).
(9) Passport is required to do currency exchange. I didn’t try it as I brought enough ZAR from home. Yes, you can buy ZAR at most money changers in Malaysia. No need to wait till you reach South Africa to get them.
(10) South Africa is the only country that I’ve been to where tourists can do VAT claim before the day of departure. There’s a VAT claim office at the waterfront where you can do this. Just bring along the receipts, the goods, your passport and your flight ticket. Once your VAT claim has been processed, you can check-in the goods, so you don’t have to carry them as hand luggage. Very convenient! Anyway, there’s also a VAT claim office at the airport doing the same function. After your claim has been processed, you will be given a tax refund cheque, which you will be able to cash at the boarding hall, after passport control.
(11) In South Africa, the term “townships” refers to residential areas where black people live in makeshift houses and extreme poverty. Visiting such places is an eye opener and definitely a reminder for me to always be thankful for what I have. Given the condition, it’s dangerous to go there on your own. Many tour operators offer township tours, but they are a bit touristy and quite expensive too. A more exciting and cheaper alternative is to take the hop-on hop-off bus blue route and alight at stop number 22, right at the entrance of Imizamo Yethu township. You’ll be greeted by a local tour guide who will take you around the area and stay with you all the time. It only cost ZAR 50 per person, which you will pay directly to the guide at the end of the visit.
(12) Going to safari is quite expensive. There’s no safari in Cape Town itself, the nearest one is about 2 hours drive away. We went to Aquila Game Reserve in Touws River for a day trip safari, which cost ZAR 1,950 (RM 975) per person inclusive of hotel transfer, breakfast and lunch. Was it worth it? You bet it was!
(13) Bo-Kaap a.k.a Malay Quarter is a must visit. It is the place where Cape Malays live since hundreds of years ago. There are many halal restaurants in the area serving authentic Cape Malay cuisine, which have strong similarities to our own Malay cuisine (i.e. rice, beryani, curry). And the colorful houses, I so love them! It is nice to see how well the Cape Malays live despite being minorities, which verifies their reputation to the other locals as hardworking people.
(14) Speaking of Cape Malays, they are always happy to meet Malaysian Malays. They love sharing stories about how their ancestors sailed from Malaysia (and other parts of South East Asia) to Cape Town and settled in the city. One guy told us that he had been to Malaysia four times and will be heading our way again in April. “I like Malaysia,” he said, “because your people are my people, and your food is my food!”
(15) Cape Town is a perfect place to admire the nature. From Table Mountain to Robben Island to Cape Point, everywhere looks like a postcard picture! Even if you are not a nature lover, once you are in Cape Town, you’ll become one.
(16) It is also a very family friendly city. There are plenty of places and activities that are suitable for kids. I see a lot of families travelling in big groups, taking the hop-on hop-off bus from one place to another.
(17) For Muslims, halal food is very easy to find, there are lots of halal eateries around the waterfront and at Bo-Kaap. There’s a section at Victoria Wharf Shopping Mall’s food court with several halal stalls to choose from, though finding a table can be quite tricky as there are plenty customers all the time.
(18) Having mentioned points number (13), (14) and (17) above, one thing I can say for sure - every Malay must go to Cape Town!
Left our mark in Bo-Kaap Museum’s guestbook! Somehow throughout this south to south to south trip, we just loved signing guestbooks :-D