Breathtaking vistas of Table Mountain overlooking rugged shores and the exuberant Tavern of the Seas are just a few of the things which entice travellers from all over the world to South Africa. An eclectic multicultural mixture which holds a uniqueness distinct from any other city and a truly unparalleled landscape of natural wonders, it’s no surprise that Cape Town is at the top of the bucket list for many. Yet while its presence alone is priceless, like any holiday, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and suddenly lose track of spending. But because of its incredible festive flair and a wide array of activities available, visiting Cape Town on a budget is not an insurmountable task – in fact, it’s very easy to make the most of the cosmopolitan hotspot, and in style.
Saving doesn’t start when you get off the plane, of course. Preparation is one of the surest ways to cut back the costs when travelling anywhere. This follows common sense principles:
• If booking a flight, researching the most opportune times to purchase a ticket as well as modifying your dates – sometimes off-season is best season
• Renewing your passport well ahead of time (extra fees may be issued for fast-tracking)
• Checking baggage requirements to avoid expensive airport fees
• Purchasing goods such as toiletries in advance (one trick is to buy travel bottles, and once those are used up, replace with bulk-bought products using the same containers so that they meet baggage and carry-on regulations)
• Researching the prospective costs of the region and budgeting in advance
• Looking for discounts and coupons, as well as purchasing tickets to events, clubs, and venues beforehand (and look into the best transport pass available as well)
• Travel insurance – always worth it
• Consider alternative options which also benefit the community you are visiting by planning to buy from local, sustainable, and ethical sources (a vital aspect of ecotourism).
When it comes to currency, one of the best ways to make the most of the exchange rate is to monitor it and transfer small amounts at different intervals rather than one lump sum if the rate isn’t to your advantage. When the exchange does swing in your favour, then larger sums can be beneficial. Many companies offer different rates and can be shopped for online, as well as traveller’s cheques and other forms of travel money. These are preferable to credit cards (unless your bank offers good international rates, in which case you should notify them of its use in another country in order to prevent any suspicion of theft) and loans can also provide a useful source of money when travelling abroad. With a selection of policies and conditions to choose from, it’s become a common method for people to use. Especially for students, getting a loan or grant is one of many ways to enjoy travelling abroad.
Enjoying the City
True city lovers will tell you that there is more to visiting a bustling hub than simply chasing landmarks – it’s all about walking around and taking in the atmosphere. Surprise street parties, beautiful street art, charming little restos and live gigs are just a few of the things to take in which reveal the true character of a neighbourhood. Some tourists may be apprehensive doing this in a strange city, but Cape Town has several free walking tours available led by an experienced and friendly guide who can show you the best that the coastal gem has to offer. Festivals also present a unique opportunity to get to know a city, and usually these showcase live music, open-air art exhibits, screenings, parties, and other events for free as well as paid.
Cape Town has many locales which are worth a full day’s attention, and it’s up to you whether or not you decide to spend your hours engaged in a myriad of activities or simply relax. The V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain Cableway, Groot Constantia, Kirstenbosch, and Cape Point are a few wonderful attractions which have a lot to offer, and great for visitors on a time constraint. Also check out EatOut’s list of fabulous Cape Town restaurants, offering delectable dining options but throwing in a few choices to eat a delicious meal for a budget price. As well as online, the next best option (other than buying a Frommer’s or Lonely Planet) is to simply go and hang out with the locals who know the best places, the best prices, and the best times. After all, in this warm and welcoming city, you’ll find that you have more than enough to do and those incredible memories which last a lifetime won’t cost a thing.
Contributor, Susie Youngman