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. They are usually in a bad state rusting & dented
To be avoided at all costs I think its fair to say
Don't accept R200 notes as fakes are rife
At the time of writing (May 2010), there has been a big problem with forged R200 notes entering circulation recently, to the point where many shops and banks refuse pointblank to accept them. These are orange/red notes with a leopard on them - and as it's difficult for even locals to spot the fakes, a tourist is simply not going to be able to identify a counterfeit.
I would therefore caution you to make sure that you don't accept any R200 notes. If you are given them by a bank or bureau de change or in your change, state politely (but firmly) that you have been informed that there has been a problem with fake notes of this denomination and are therefore sure that the other person will appreciate why you would prefer to have R100 or R50 notes instead.
Better to risk offending someone than to be landed with a lot of money that nobody else will accept (and it never hurts to show that you're an informed traveller)!
Feeding the baboons
I know it is very tempting to feed them, cause they look so cute. But please people, DO NOT feed them as they do become aggresive and might attack you to get more food or even worse might attach the next visitor, cause you showed him that people can feed him!!!! Every year a few of them have to be killed cause they become too aggresive and all of that due to the fact that people do not adhere to the signs!
Times to avoid visiting Cape Town
Let me state up front that I am firmly of the opinion that there is never a bad time to visit the Fairest Cape. However, there are certain times of year when it is less advisable to visit - usually because of pressure of numbers which drive up transport and accommodation prices, as well as contributing to major traffic congestion.
The first guiding principle is to try and avoid Cape Town during school holidays, when it is besieged with local tourists. Consult the following website for details on school holidays, and in particular, aim to avoid the long Christmas break over which South Africa virtually shuts down (from 16 December to the first week in January).
Secondly, Cape Town hosts two major sporting events: the Cape Argus cycle race - usually the second week in March - and the Two Oceans marathon over the Easter weekend. The town is absolutely packed with lunatic sports fanatics over these periods, so best to steer clear unless you intend to participate or feel obliged to collect the mortal remains of your loved one at the finish line!
The weather is always a bit of a random factor in the Cape: frankly, it can be glorious and it can be absolutely vile at any time of year. As a rule of thumb, the Cape has a Mediterranean climate, which means cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Personally, my favourite time to visit is the (Southern Hemisphere) spring - October/November - when the landscape is still green from the winter rains, but that's really a personal preference. As long as you bear in mind that the water's icy any time of year, then you'll at least make an informed decision!
Watch out for the Baboons!
If you make it down to Cape Point, you will almost certainly encounter some of the many baboons in the area. They particularly like to congregate in and around the parking lot below the funicular station and the restaurant/gift shop, often perching atop cars. They're certainly cute and exceedingly entertaining; however, they do represent a certain danger. Occasionally, they will jump on people's backs, which is certainly disconcerting. But they're not exactly lightweights, either, so that experience can be rather painful. Another trick they pull sometimes is to climb inside cars when people are either getting in or if they've forgotten to roll up their windows. This is a real "situation" because getting them out is no easy task. Anyway, although they're not likely to bite, they are a bit of a menace and a certain caution is called for.
Some ideas for what to do in bad weather
The bad news is that of all the major tourist destinations in South Africa, Cape Town probably has the most unpredictable weather. The good news is that Cape Town probably offers more foul weather options (and believe me, it can get foul at any time of year!) than any other South African city!
This tip is a response to an excellent travel forum suggestion by Gerald_D, that there was a great need for a list of things to do in Cape Town in bad weather. For what it's worth, this is my initial offering - by no means comprehensive, so please feel free to offer your own suggestions!
The first (and most obvious) suggestion is to retreat to the V&A Waterfront. Heading for the seashore when the weather is bad may seem counterintuitive, but the Waterfront is home to the brilliant Two Oceans aquarium and there is also an undercover craft market section next door. Then obviously there is a large shopping mall for your retail therapy and a great cinema complex, as well as many restaurants which you can retreat to until the weather improves.
Our other great favourite is the underrated Cape Town museum in Company Gardens, which has a superb natural history section and is great for children and adults alike. There are also a range of other museums - the District Six museum, the Gold museum, the Jewish museum, the Slave House and the brilliant Heart of Cape Town heart transplant museum at Groot Schuur hospital just to list a few. With such an eclectic range, surely there should be one or more that appeals to your interests?
Obviously there is retail therapy - and we would really appreciate your noble contribution to our national GDP! Shopping is almost a religion for South Africans, and the quality and presentation of shops is world class. An obvious option (in addition to the Waterfront) is trendy Cavendish Square, although most suburban shopping malls will probably offer more than enough to keep you occupied.
If all else fails, retreat to the movies! The Ster Kinekor and Nu Metro chains offer excellent facilities at affordable prices (by international standards) and tend to be located in the shopping malls. Sadly the IMax cinema at the Waterfront closed down a number of years ago.
Another great option for families with kids is the wonderful Science Centre at Canal Walk, a little way inland (which is also a good shopping centre). The Century City entertainment complex (Cape Town's answer to Johannesburg's Montecasino) is also an option - personally I have little enthusiasm for these overly glitzy entertainment complexes, but it does offer an excellent cinema complex, tremendous live shows and lots of restaurants, albeit in a very kitsch setting.
The last option is to head inland - most obviously to the winelands (think Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, or my personal favourite, Paarl), although don't ignore the less-trumpeted charms of places such as Ceres, Tulbagh and Prince Albert (a long day trip, but through stunning scenery). The rule of thumb is that once you get a mountain or two between you and the sea, your chances of staying dry improve exponentially!
What do you do if the weather isn't awful but seems unsettled? The best advice that I can offer is to only plan your day's itinerary that morning once you can see what the weather is likely to do. If you plan to go up to the top of Table Mountain (which is well worth doing), then if you can see that the top of the mountain is clear of the 'tablecloth' of cloud, ditch any other plans that you may have had for the day and scurry up to the cablecar! A similar thing goes for Robben Island, as these are probably the two most weather-dependent tourist attractions. Gerald's own splendidly pragmatic advice is to head for whatever set of mountains are not shrouded in cloud!
Now, what did I leave out???
A survival strategy for sleep-deprived children
Every parent brave enough to travel with children knows only too well that trying to keep small kids in some sort of sleep routine so that they don't become sleep deprived and make the entire trip a misery for everyone concerned is a huge issue. Having been there, done that and got the T shirt, for what it's worth, I've found that the best way to do this is to take them for a long drive in the early afternoon in the earnest hope that they drop off and have some sort of nap.
I am happy to report (based on extensive field trials) that the Cape peninsula is ergonomically designed for this purpose! I have lost count of the number of times that I have driven around the peninsula - sometimes twice - in order to give small, cranky people a rest. In case you find yourself in a similar situation, my recommended route (which can be driven either way) is as follows.
Take the main highway (M2) towards Muizenberg, and at the end of the highway, either take Ou Kaapseweg over the mountain, or go down the False Bay coast (either the main road that hugs the coast, or the exquisite Boyes Drive which contours the flanks of Table Mountain, which is elevated above the coast, giving you stupendous views). I would recommend Boyes Drive if your child is a light sleeper, as there are quite a lot of robots (traffic lights) on the road from Muizenberg through Kalk Bay, and this section of the road was undergoing major roadworks at the time of updating this tip (April 2012).
Both roads will eventually take you down to the entrance to the Cape Point Nature Reserve, where you turn west, cross the peninsula until you hit Scarborough and take the road up the Atlantic seaboard, which either involves the iconic Chapman's Peak drive or cutting up through Hout Bay and the leafy upmarket suburb of Bishopscourt. Sounds complicated, but once you look at a map, I promise that it will make sense!
The beauty of this strategy - provided that your little darling(s) play ball and do what they're meant to do - is that you also get to experience some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the world, so even if you end up doing it regularly, the chances are that you will feel grateful (rather than resentful) for the opportunity to repeat the experience!
P.S. I have to confess that my daughter was probably one of the few children ever born who absolutely loathed cars when she was little - in fact, she once screamed all the way from Gordon's Bay to Noordhoek without ever seeming to draw breath: go look on a map - it's a very long way (and seemed like an eternity to her parents!). However, I accept that she was atypical, and this strategy certainly worked like a charm with my son (and, according to my friends, countless others)!
Don't feed the baboons!
When visiting places like the Cape Point Nature reserve, please do not feed the baboons. These are wild animals and feeding them causes them to become a nuisance which may mean that they have to be put down as they become aggresive.
If you spot one on your vehicle be patient and it will eventually move off by itself.Related to:
- National/State Park
Update on R200 notes (and how to avoid them)
Further to my earlier warning about fake R200 notes in circulation, the Reserve Bank has issued new R200 notes. However, these are very similar in design to the old notes, and I'm not going to bother running through the subtle changes that have been made as it is unlikely that a tourist would be able to pick up the differences.
Banks claim that because the new notes have been issued and their systems have been used to eliminate fakes from their system ("trust us, we're a bank ..."), customers have no right to refuse being issued with legal tender. Thus, my previous suggestion that you refuse to accept R200 notes because you are afraid of being issued with fakes will probably not work. I would therefore suggest that a better way to avoid being given R200 notes would be to ask that you be issued with smaller denomination notes (R100 for example) because they are more convenient to use - this is true, as R200 is the biggest denomination we have, and smaller operators (such as artists at markets) will often struggle to provide change for a large note.
Hey Guys watch your bags and things when you go to places like Cape Point because the Baboons have a habbit of Grabbing and Running.
Twice when I visited Cape Point I`ve seen baboons either grabbing people`s food and once grabbing a ladies handbag.
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TABLECLOTH - CAPE DOCTOR
The Cape Doctor is a local name for strong, dry south-easterly winds that blow regularly across Cape Town, especially during the summer. These winds can be especially irritating along the Atlantic Seaboard, such as in Camps Bay. The Cape Doctor - described by some as 'irritating' and by others as 'invigorating' - is also responsible for the sheet of clouds that form atop Table Mountain known as 'the tablecloth'. The 'tablecloth' can turn a hike atop Table Mountain into a dangerous affair due to lack of visibility, wind and wet, slippery conditions. If the 'tablecloth' is out, best look elsewhere to spend your day!Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- National/State Park
- Historical Travel
Architectural monstrosities: the Tampax Towers
Cape Town may be a strong contender for the most beautifully appointed city in the world, but its glorious setting hasn't protected it from the blight of some spectacularly awful architecture and abysmal planning decisions, particularly in the City Bowl.
Offensive though the soulless concrete tower blocks of the CBD may be, they pale into insignificance by comparison with the infamous 'Tampax Towers' at the foot of Table Mountain, which are almost impossible to escape, regardless of the angle from which you view the mountain.
Whoever granted planning permission for these monstrosities should have been condemned to live in the shadow of one of these hideous things forever more!
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Mind your Butt
Please Please Please! Please watch where you throw your cigarette butt. The veld gets very dry here in summer and an irresponsibly disposed of cigarette butt CAN ( and recently did) cause serious damage to our beautiful countryside. We recently watched in horror as Table Mountain went up in flames in a matter of minutes. I saw the first whisp of smoke from my office, we notified the authorities and by the time the first helicopter arrived on the scene the fire was raging out of control and had spread almost a kilometre from where it had started.Related to:
- National/State Park
The Travel Buddy System
Register on the travel Buddy website
provide itinerary details. Registration cost about 20 dollars.
When you are in South Africa , in the CApe buy a local SIM card for your cellphone or hire a cell phone. Provide Travel Buddy with your number through the website.
Travel Buddy will monitor your trip and movements, advicing on the best places to visit and areas you should avoid, details of local information.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Business Travel
- Arts and Culture
Avoid townships.They have a very high crime rate,do not go there.Cape Town has a high rate of poverty,so use your common sense,dont leave your bags lying around.Sea Point is not safe at night.Beaches can be dangerous if you are not an experienced surfer,watch out for strong currents,rocks.Only swim in patrolled areas.
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