We arranged our car hire when we were in Stellenbosch, so on our second day in Cape Town we wandered around to the National car hire building and picked up our brand new fiesta which was to be our means of transport in South Africa for 5 weeks.
Cape Town is a city, so it is fairly busy.
This is South Africa remember - so you must use common sense when driving around, we always kept our car doors locked, its a bonus to have air con inside your car. Always park in a prking bay or a car park - many will have attendants who keep an eye on your car - drop them a few rand when you go back to collect.
I seriously heard so many negative comments from people when we said we were hiring a car, but for us it was the only option - to go where we pleased when we pleased.
We did not encounter any problems - just use your head!
Aside from the shock of finding that the right-hand lane in South Africa is the passing lane, the biggest surprise to me has been the kamikaze-like fervor of the drivers, not just on the interstate-analogs (N1, N2) but even on tiny suburban streets that barely allow two
vehicles to pass if both have one set of wheels up on the curb. Traffic enforcement, at least in Cape Town, is almost exclusively by camera. There are periodic signs along the autoroute with a speed listed and a camera icon. However, many of these are not operational cameras. You need to know which are -- because the rental car companies generally charge an "administrative fee" on top of whatever traffic fine is assessed if you're caught doing 120 in an 80 zone.
The rates for taxis in Cape Town are the highest we've seen anywhere in the world. Starting at 7 rand per Km they can go up to 11 Rand per Km, that is a whooping EUR1.16 per Km or $2.37 per mile!!!. We're talking here about fully legal and metered taxis.
It is up to the taxi company to determine how much to charge per km as long as it is listed on the taxi itself. To avoid nasty surprises chech the following before getting into a cab:
1 - check price per km listed at the back of the taxi and remember you can look/call for a cheaper one. I'd suggest to ask your hotel for the number of cheaper ones.
2 - Ask in advance how far is the place you're going to and the approximate cost of the taxi ride.
Taxis can't be stopped in the middle of the street, you can find them at taxi stands or call for one.
If driving around Cape Town from Hout Bay to Vishoek please note that the Chapmans Peak route is a toll road and traffic is allowed only from one direction each way for 15 minutes before switching around again so tip - take money and patience. The road offers spectacular views of the ocean and mountains along the way but a beautiful drive to see
If you are planning on taxi'ing around Cape Town, I would recommend getting one called from your hotel, and then provided you are happy with the driver, keeping his number for future needs. After my initial taxi ride, I was able to arrange drop offs/pick ups with the same driver, saving the hassle of trying to find a cab later. You do not want to be stuck without a taxi and have to walk any significant distance at night.
It is easy as long as you are ok driving on the LEFT hand side of the road with a stick shift.
Car Rental rates are rasonable (more $$ than US but less than Europe)
All the majors can be found in Cape Town so shop around.
Traffic is calm for a large city and other than not signalling turns Capetonian drivers are not all that bad.
Signage is great and it is pretty hard to get lost.
Being in a foreign country, where the cars drive on the "other" side of the road, we were a bit leery about renting a car. But having done it, I highly recommend it!
The car rental services will bring the car--paperwork and all--righ to you at your hotel; and when you're finished with the car, they'll pick it up as well. Driving on the "wrong" side of the road was far easier than we anticipated, and the experience was fantastic. We drove along the coast and saw towns that we otherwise wouldn't have explored. We wound our way along the cliffs overlooking the ocean, stopping periodically to take photos from the scenic pullover spots.
And you will see plenty of wildlife right from the windows of your car. We saw zebras, baboons, camels and springbok, just to name a few.
Be warned when people speak of black taxis in South Africa they do not mean reputable black cabs as in London.
These taxis are usually beaten up minibuses which hold maybe 12 people but they cram 20+ inside. I heard of a case where the driver was steering the car with a lead pipe.
Someone hangs out of the sliding door yelling destinations whilst the driver cuts up everyone in his path, hand on the horn. Not suprising there are many accidents and fatalitys involving black taxis.
To be avoided at all costs I think its fair to say.
Although i didn't see buses in Capr Town i did see other kind of transports, such as usual taxis, and also some more interesting. The are big minibuses where local people use to travel , you can catch them in the street and they will charge you about R3 , also there are some cars calles Rikki's, you can call them by phone and they catch you. they transport a lot of people to different places , so you can get to know other areas of teh city they charge you about R15
Metered taxi's are cheap and very readily available, so use them!
However, only use taxi companies recommended by your hotel. I found Marine taxi's were good.
Always drive with your doors locked and windows shut if possible. Street kids and peddlers will snatch things from inside your car, including your sunglasses of your head!
Never leave anything on display in your car when parked up. People will steal almost anything!
I found driving in Cape Town fine, going without any hiccups, please take onboard the above advice.
If you've never driven on the left side of the road in a right side drive car, well this is the time to try it. We took cabs and walked our first few days in the city. But when we came back after the safari, we rented a car in Stellenbosch and drove the winelands, the coast and back to Cape Town. Steve drove, so I just took a Xanax and tried not to scream too loudly when he came close to driving off the left hand side of the road :-)
We LOVED seeing baboons crossing the road on our way from Franschhoek to Hermanus!
Cape Town is one of those cities where you really need your own transport. Even within city limits there is no extensive or useful public transport system and getting to and around the peninsula, the Winelands or the Atlantic coast would be next to impossible without a car.
Car rental is not expensive in South Africa, petrol is cheap and driving is a pleasure, even in the cities.
They drive on the left hand side of the road in South Africa, and as I am really a New Yorker, I hardly remember how to drive at all. I have been saying "taxi" for over 20 years now.
So for me, it is best to leave the driving to someone who is responsible, and knows how to drive on the left hand side of the road. It is much easier than risking your own self or the rental car.
Some reliable taxis I have used:
J & R Radio Cab (mercedes cabs)
If you walk, remember hardly anyone else does!
The first thing anyone here will tell you is get a safe car with good locks.
But since crime occurs oten against tourists who stay at the Waterfront and those that drive cars, I didn't do either one. I managed to stay free from crime this way for the 6 months I was in Capetown.
South African drivers do not look out for those who walk on their sidewalks or cross their streets. What you will notice is the fact that SA driver's think they are the only ones on the planet when they are behind the wheel of the almighty automobile. This is not proper or polite Switzerland!
You must look right, and this is confusing to remember if you are coming from where you look "left" before you cross a street. BE CAREFUL because you have your life in your own hands when walking.
Look like you can outrun anyone. Make sure you look like you bought your clothes at a second hand store when you are walking the streets. Do not call attention to yourself with jewelry or brand name purses. Try to look like the ordinary human clothed in the mass market apparel sold at retail outlets like Walmart.
You can survive in Cape Town without a car, but it is a very stretched out city, being wrapped around the mountain, so a car helps. There are good freeways, but there can be traffic jams at rush hours. Otherwise, there are buses and a suburban railway which are fine provided they go where you want to.
Oh and one more thing you have to know how to drive on the LEFT!
There are plenty of taxis all around Cape Town. They're cheap and ver comfortable. You can even tell the taxi driver to pick you up at a certain hour if you're coming back from some party. And always ask for their telephone number, just in case. We did, and it saved us from walking quite a lot of kilometers!!!
Do not travel on those mini vans. There are a lot, but I was told that they're not very safe. They're cheaper, but not safe.