Visiting Cape Town On A Shoestring Budget
South Africa has a booming tourist industry and it’s friendly and diverse population plays no small role in making it one of the top destinations among international tourists. Travelling can be an expensive business, but South Africa is one of the cheaper destinations for many. There are attractions and various types of accommodation on offer to suit any budget. Cape Town is one of the most visited cities in the country, and with its efficient infrastructure and vibrant community offers a wholehearted welcome to a traveller on even the lowest budget.
Getting around in Cape Town
When travelling in Cape Town, transport is not a problem. While there are a number of options including Ubers, taxis and car rental agencies, Cape Town’s public transport system is an ever-growing network of trains and buses connecting people all over the province for much more affordable prices. The intercity bus system is a reliable way to get from A to B in a number of areas, including the city centre and certain parts of the west coast. You will need to buy a prepaid card (which vary in price and the period for which the card remains valid) before boarding one of these buses. The train system is fairly reliable and safe to use during daylight hours, and is a popular mode of transport for locals, especially at the start and end of the working day.
First Thursdays in Cape Town
Just because you are on a shoestring budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the best of Cape Town. ‘First Thursdays’ is a public event that takes place on the first Thursday of every month. On this night, entrance to certain art galleries is free and they are open until 9pm, sometimes with unique cultural events. For those interested in witnessing the curious and the unexpected, participating in unique events and seeing some of the best talent in the country, First Thursdays are a must-see to even the most cash-strapped.
Cheap accommodation in South Africa
If you are looking for somewhere reasonably priced to stay in South Africa, there are a number of options for you that won’t break the bank. Backpackers are not hard to find, especially if you use websites like booking.com or agoda.com. You might be able to find discounted prices on these websites too. Another option for the more flexible traveller is couch-surfing. To find hosts who offer short-term accommodation for free, or for a work exchange, all you have to do is register on the couch-surfing website and create a profile, find a suitable host and connect with them. WWOOF is another organization you can join if you are interested in exchanging some of your skills for accommodation. To sign up as a volunteer, you will need to pay a small registration fee, and provide a recent criminal record check.
Things to do in Cape Town for free
Short on cash? Some of the best sights in Cape Town are available to see for free.
For example, there is no reason not to experience the unbeatable view from Table Mountain, Lion’s Head or Signal Hill. Tackling Table Mountain does mean a 1-2 hour hike either way though, so pack your walking shoes, hat and sunscreen. Lions Head is a slightly more challenging alternative, with a chain ladder and some challenging sections near the top. You can drive or use public transport to get to the top of signal hill – this often under-estimated site offers panoramic views of the Mother City and is a popular hangout for couples seeking a romantic and cheap night out.
If you are spending the day in the city centre, you can take a free walking tour that will provide you with a deeper understanding of the city itself and there is no shortage of interesting sites to visit in Cape Town. The Company’s Garden is a park in Cape Town city centre that is well worth a visit. You can relax there with a picnic and feed the resident squirrels.
While many music concerts in Cape Town require an admission fee, music lovers can enjoy free concerts during the summer months at De Waal Park.
The Western Cape’s dramatic coastline is arguably one of the most beautiful in the country. Muizenberg is one of the best beaches to surf or enjoy the warm summer days between November and March. You can also participate in the full moon ‘Muizenberg Meander’ which takes place on the first Saturday after the full moon.
For those who prefer to spend their time exploring the cultural and historical wealth of South Africa, the Iziko Museums occasionally offer free entry (usually on public holidays) but otherwise have a reasonable entrance fee the rest of the year. The Iziko Museums include the Planetarium, the Bo-Kaap Museum and the Natural History Museum.
See the best of Cape Town for under R50
There are a number of must-see attractions in Cape Town that may not be free, but that will definitely stretch your budget. For starters, you can enjoy the beautiful coastline of the Southern Peninsula by buying the hop-on, hop off train ticket that will take you for Muizenberg to Simonstown where you can visit the Just Nuisance monument or see the penguins at Boulder’s Beach.
You can also go wine or beer tasting at a number of venues throughout Cape Town. Some offer free wine-tasting, but most have a minimal fee, but this is a small price to pay for sampling some of the best wines in the world. One of them is Fairview Wine Farm, established in 1683, that is a working farm specializing in wine and cheese, with an exceptional restaurant, deli and bakery. You can choose to participate in wine and/or cheese tasting from prices that range from R20 to R80.
If you are interested in environmental and wildlife conservation, you can take a guided tour of SANCCOB. SANCCOB is a seabird rescue and rehabilitation centre situated in Table View. Your money will go toward to the maintenance of the centre.
Stellenbosch is a good place to be if you are into farmer’s/craft markets. Most of them do not have an entrance fee and you can fin a plethora of reasonably priced meals. Strawberry farms are a popular attraction for families during picking season.
If you are interested in exploring the informal settlements in the Western Cape, visit the Department of Coffee and The Spinach King in Khayelitsha. If you are wanting to find some locally produced art and craft works, The Khayelitsha Craft Market is the place to be.