The ultimate guide to exploring Cape Town on the Cheap

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My friend Nikki from has graciously provided us with a guest blog. Nikki is a travel blogger based in Cape Town, South Africa. Nikki is a talented writer and has traveled in Africa, Europe, and North America She has some great stories to share.   Today she is posting about inexpensive options for exploring Cape Townsa11

Cape Town has heaps to offer travelers a budding art scene, natural beauty, wine estates, lots of beaches (80 to be exact), wildlife, tasty food and more. The best part of Cape Town is that almost everything is affordable for overseas visitors. And the cherry on top is that there happen to be many free things to do around the city. You can read more about free things to do by clicking. If you are a budget conscious traveler here’s how you can stretch out your travel budget even further.

Where to stay

Cape Town’s City Bowl District (CBD) has a number of Backpackers which charge less than the five-star hotels. The convenience of staying in the CBD is that it is fairly easy to walk around to most of the city’s attractions. Other attractions are also close by. Table Mountain, District Six, The Company Gardens and several art galleries and museums are all within walking distance. I suggest staying at Muizenberg if you want a beach getaway the accommodation is reasonable. Find out more:

How to travel

Public transport is much cheaper in Cape Town than Uber or Taxify. I suggest using the My City buses which are air-conditioned, wheelchair friendly and efficient. The only downside is that the buses don’t have a route all over Cape Town yet. And striking is a common occurrence in South Africa, Cape Town included. My City bus drivers have been known to strike leaving travelers stranded. My boyfriend’s Canadian friend ended up being unable to use his My City bus card for a rather long time. He was unlucky since this doesn’t happen often.

The older and cheaper Golden Arrow buses are also rather reliable. I use the Golden Arrow bus to get to commute to work and back. I have also used it to go to the mall, beach and other spots. I avoid traveling by train rush hour trains in Cape Town are normally packed to the brim. Safety on trains at night time isn’t guaranteed either. Although during the day along the beach route and other more affluent areas the train is safe.

The cheapest way to travel in Cape Town is by minibus taxi which is a van with other passengers. You can get off along the route or at the taxi rank. Many travel bloggers who write about Cape Town suggest that tourists should never use a public taxi because it’s unsafe. As a resident, I’m here to burst that bubble. In Cape Town, it’s all about which areas you intend on visiting. It’s certainly risky to travel alone in a taxi to the Cape Flats, and informal settlements. But, if you plan on traveling from the CBD to Seapoint, Greenpoint or the V& A Waterfront during the day you will be safe. Don’t get into a taxi which is empty rather wait for other passengers to get in to. And make sure to ask the other passengers what the fare is to your destination. This way you can’t be overcharged by the taxi guard also known as the loud person who collects the taxi fare, announces stops and gives you your change. Website:

How to travel at night

Use Uber or the cheaper Taxify if you intend on traveling around at night time. Download the apps off Google play and avoid using private cabs. They are insanely expensive. My company once had to pay R700 for a private cab to take me home even though I rode for less than 30 min in the cab. Public transport isn’t frequent at night time with the exception of the My City bus which like I said only serves certain areas for now. If you can use the My City bus then do as it will be cheaper but, remember to check the schedule and only do this if your accommodation is close to the bus stop. Walking around late at night in Cape Town alone in isolated areas isn’t a safe thing to do.

Rent a car

If you rather want to rent a car I suggest you use contact Rent a Cheapie at Rent a Cheapie charges much less than other car rental services. The cars they rent out are older but, they are reliable. My friend drove me around in a rent a cheapie car and we traveled smoothly. Like I said traveling by public transport is the cheapest option however, if you want to drive out further without worrying about the time this is the next best option.

Take the sightseeing bus

If you are a budget traveler and you want to see many main attractions then hop on to the hop on hop off bus. This bright red bus is geared at sightseeing. I took it on my birthday one year with my sister it was remarkable. The bus has an open rooftop area which is perfect to sit at on a summer day. My US friend Irene didn’t want to take this bus because she was afraid it would be too touristy. I told her that locals do take the red bus she went ahead took the tour and raved about it. You get to drive past many top attractions and you can choose to get off and see the attractions or continue with the bus tour. You can hop off and on again at the bus stop. This allows riders to see different attractions along the bus route. The bus is worth it even though the tickets cost more than public transport. The tour has an audio recorded guide you can listen to along the trip. And that way you can learn more about Cape Town whilst enjoying a scenic drive.

The train route covers some of the most scenic beaches in the area.

Take the train to the beach

Wondering how to get to the beach well you can take the MyCity bus to Seapoint, Clifton Camps Bay, Dolphin Beach, and Bloubergstrand. The Southern Line Rail route departs from the city centre and travels along the False Bay Coast. You will pass beaches such as Muizenberg, St. James, Kalk Bay beach, Fish Hoek, Boulders beach and more. Be safe keep an eye on your bag, don’t be flashy and travel during the day. The train will take you past the sea; you can smell the salty air and hear the squawking of the seagulls flying across the blue sky aboard the train. Book a hop on hop off ticket and you get to spend the day visiting different beaches along the railway line. For more information:

Muizenberg is just one of the many beach destinations that can be reached on the Southern Line Rail.

Things to do

Rose picking

Go rose picking at Chart Farm in Wynberg. You can pick your own rose, have tea, and go horse riding all at Chart Farm. I love this place and have written about it before. And if picking isn’t your cup of tea then you can buy a budding rosebush directly from the farm. The roses cost R6 per stem which is $0.42. Website:

The roses are in bloom at Chart Farm

Spot a Hippo at Rondevlei Nature Reserve

Rondevlei is tucked away within the Cape Town suburb of Grassy Park, roughly 20 min drive from the city centre. Most locals don’t know about it. The reserve is home to approximately 256 species of indigenous plants, there’s a museum, bird spotting towers, and several pathways to walk around. There’s so much more to see the Cape clawless otter and Hippos. I spotted a Hippo back when I took a school field trip to the reserve who knows you might too. Facebook:

Address: Perth Rd & Fishermen’s Walk, Zeekoei Vlei, Cape Town, 7941, phone +27 (0) 21 706 2404

Watch a movie at the Labia Theatre

This theatre used to be the Italian Consulates Ballroom and is named after Princess Labia. When you enter it you are transported back in time. The cinema has an old world charm to it. It plays foreign films, art house film, independent films, and documentaries. There’s usually one mainstream film playing at any given time.


Go swimming at a pool

Cost: Between R6 and R21

If you don’t like swimming in the sea then go swimming at a public pool. Sea Point Pavillion is popular which is right next to the sea. Alternatively, there is a number of free tidal pools around the city.

More information:

Walk around Newlands Forest

Entry to the forest is free, there’s the same charge if you want to use the braai (barbecue) area. You can walk along the trails, take a hike up towards Table Mountain or pack up a picnic. Remember to tell someone where you are going and when you are planning on returning. And never hike alone, stay safe.


Play putt-putt (mini-golf)

Situated in Mouille Point and Muizenberg, mini-golf is fun. I grew up playing against my sister and losing every single time. But, I still love it because win or lose I got ice-cream

afterward. These courses are both located close to the beach so it really is a win-win situation. Facebook:

Muizenberg Putt-Putt:

Visit Iziko Museums

You can see dinosaurs, a planetarium or beaded artwork at these museums. Learn more about South Africa’s art at the National Art Gallery or explore the Natural History Museum. To find out more follow the link and remember that everyone is allowed to enter most Iziko Museums on South African national public holidays.


Get the Cape Town City pass

If you are planning on seeing many paid attractions in the city then I suggest you get this card. The card allows you to see 70 attractions without having to pay for each one separately. The sightseeing bus is included in the cost of the card, skip the queue tickets to go up the Table Mountain Cableway, entrance to the Castle of Good Hope is also included. You can get a card

Budget eating and drinking spots

There are many budget restaurants to choose from in Cape Town. You can choose from Thai, Indian to cheap seafood meals. Some places even come with a view included.

Eastern Food Bazaar

This souk-like restaurant is always busy. The food is delicious and the prices are extremely low. You can grab Chinese, Arabic, Turkish and Indian meals all in one place. You can find the bunny chow which was created in Durban but, spread to Cape Town. No bunnies are harmed whilst making this hulled out bread loaf stuffed with spicy curry inside. Prices for meals start from R60 ($4.41) and normally don’t cost more than R70 (5.51) for a meal, sides and a drink.


Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday: 9am – 10pm; Friday – Saturday: 9am – 10:30pm


Kalky’s is right next door to Kalk Bay’s working harbour. This means that you are sure to always get the catch of the day served on to your plate. The restaurant is laid back, and the food is salty crispy perfection. The best part of it is that you might sport a friendly seal whilst sitting outside on sunny summer’s day.


Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10am – 8pm

Food Lover’s Market

Food Lover’s Market is a self-service food retailer. You can choose what you want to eat and afterward your plate gets weighed. St. George’s Mall in the City offers sushi along with the usual Food Lover’s Market menu. I ate way too much when devouring their breakfast with my boyfriend and it was one of the cheapest meals I’ve ever had in Cape Town.


Eat at the Earth Fair Market

There are a lot of options to choose from at this outside market. The market has pricey items alongside great budget options. Walk around to compare prices before you buy. The food is lovely.


Many Cafes around Capetown offer a scenic beachfront vista

The V& A Waterfront Food Market

Most other food markets are not cheap in South Africa. The Old Biscuit Mill is expensive. The V&A Waterfront Food Market is the exception. Here you will find lots of food places in one renovated warehouse. The place has lots to choose from cakes, coffee, smoothies, burgers, pizza…. The prices are good and so is the food. Plus you can walk around and soak up the beautiful views which the V&A Waterfront offers all for free.



Café Wafa I used to go to this spot after school with my high school friends. Cafe’ Wafa is in Adderley Street. My high school friends and I would pool our money and end up buying a Gatsby to share. The staff is friendly and I suggest you have the Masala steak Gatsby there. It’s a spicy steak sub like sandwich with steak fries (slap chips), lettuce, tomatoes, shredded carrot, cheese, an egg, and sauce. Doesn’t order a whole Gatsby for one person rather go for quarter portions if you are solo.

25 Adderley Street | City Centre | +27(0)21 461 2527

Whatever your palette, there’s a delicious match waiting for you.

Food Inn

Food Inn offers Indian and Thai dishes. Every meal is jam-packed with flavour. I used to visit it regularly with a friend from university. The prices are reasonable. And there’s lots of seating still it can get very crowded. Don’t let that stop you from ordering a perfect plate of chicken Briyani. Food Inn is open 24-hours and is one of the nightlife streets of Cape Town, dotted with bars, clubs, stores, and restaurants.

156 Long Street | City Centre | +27(0)21 422 5060

Live Bait

Live Bait is a stone’s throw away from Muizenberg’s beachfront. From the window, you will have a majestic ocean view. It’s not a budget restaurant. Seafood restaurants are normally more expensive. But, book for a Saturday and enjoy their fish and chips special. The special includes fish, chips and a beer, or a glass of wine or a ginger beer all for only R90 ($6.62).


Sgt. Pepper

With it’s laid back vibe and the quirky posters Sgt. Pepper is a great place to relax.

This eatery is on Long Street. It has pin-up girl posters. Their music selection is also rather nostalgic. Grab the killer pizza special on Tuesdays. You get two pizza’s for the price of one. Last Tuesday I had a glass of house red wine, my boyfriend had a beer. We had a prawn, salami, cream cheese, chili sauce pizza and a Mexican style pizza called Johnny Jalapeño for less R230 ($16) with the tip included. Normally the price of eating out for two comes to R300 ($22) minimum or more and I usually share one pizza. From Sgt. Pepper you can see a view of the mountain on a cloud-free day and the restaurant is lit up with many fairy lights at night.


Two-fer Tuesdays at Sgt. Pepper gives you two Pizzas for the price of one.

Cheap drinks

From 4pm till around 6pm most bars in Cape Town offer two for one or discounted drink specials. Burger & Lobster on Bree Street has a two for 1 special. I had their Gin cocktails whilst my boyfriend had a jug of beer. The service was excellent. The only drawback is that the food is overpriced so we skipped out on eating there.

Afternoons 4-6pm enjoy two for one drinks in many Capetown Bars


Then there’s Roast and Co. which is next to Heritage Square. This restaurant specializes in serving free-range roasted chicken. Selected drinks are discounted if you get to Roast & Co. during happy hour. They also have a shared platter special at the same time. This makes up for the hefty price tag of eating there.


Banana Jam is a Jamaican themed restaurant based in Kenilworth. It’s one of my favourite places to eat. They have interesting items on the menu such as goat, you can go beer tasting and the restaurant has a brewery on site too. Grab a drink from their selected menu during happy hour which is between 5pm and 6pm.


Wine tasting

Spier in Stellenbosch allows you to taste 3 blends of their wine for only R90. Spier’s Rose’ is fruity, sweet and light. It’s on my list of favourite wines. The estate has expansive green lawns. During the festive season, you can view a free light show at the wine estate. Mariana wine estate which is also in Stellenbosch offers cheaper wine tastings paired with biltong. Biltong is a salty South African snack similar to beef jerky. My sister, mom, brother-in-law and I all indulged in the wine, biltong, and food of the estate. The friendly staff will great you and you will be surrounded by natural beauty. From the modern styled balcony, you can see rolling mountain ranges.

More information:

Beer tour and tasting

Beer lovers should definitely take a tour of Newlands Brewery. Tours run from Mondays to Saturdays and cost R80. The tour includes beer tasting and two drinks which makes it worth it.

Thank you, Nikki, for sharing your post. You can read more about Cape Town on her blog

Things to do for Free in Cape Town

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