With Table Mountain in the heart of the city, its hard to ever be completely lost in Cape Town. However, having a large mountain, two coasts, a few large bays, and a national park as major features makes Cape Town a bit hard to navigate as a visitor. Add to this a public transport system that leaves something to be desired, a road system that has drivers on the opposite side of the road to the USA, and some unique traffic vocabulary (you stop at a “robot” not a traffic light), and one can understand how the average visitor might have some problems getting around. So, if you find yourself in Cape Town with map in hand and no idea how to get to your destination, here are some suggestions.
First off, do you want to drive yourself or rely on public and private transport? For those wanting to self drive, the big international rental companies all have offices in Cape Town (Avis, Budget, Hertz etc). In addition, Dayway Care Hire has some older and cheaper cars for rent; you should try to book ahead of time as many of their best deals are booked well in advance. If you are in town for a longer stay, other options are to rent an old, somewhat reliable VW Beetle from Best Beetle or an old Merc from Rent-A Merc (email email@example.com). Don’t expect the most refined of vehicles, especially from Best Beetle.
If you’ve decided that renting and driving is too big a hassle, there are several other transport options. Cape Town has several train lines, minibus taxi service, and public buses. The most useful train service for visitors is the line that runs from Cape Town central station via the Southern Suburbs along the False Bay coast to Simonstown. Tickets can be purchased from any train station (generally just below Main Rd). The train is fairly safe, but it’s best to ride in the 3rd class compartment during busier hours. Do not use a cell phone, have your wallet out, display cameras, etc on the train or in the stations.
Minibus taxis frequent Main Rd from the city centre to the False Bay coast, from the Southern Suburbs to Hout Bay, and from Hout Bay to the City Bowl. They are hard to miss as they are accompanied by a fare collector who yells out the destinations. Ask for the price as you get on, depending on the distance, the fare should vary between R2 and R15 (Cape Town to Muizenberg with a few changes of taxis). Expect to be crammed in far beyond the advisable limit and get ready for some pumping tunes. Golden Arrow buses also operate along these routes, they can be boarded at bus stops along the road with fares similar to taxis depending on the distance you wish to travel.
If privacy, a modicum of safety, and direct drops are more your style; or, if you’re traveling at night, there are a number or private taxi companies that service the city. In the city centre, Rikki’s (086 174 5547) offers some of the best prices by allowing passengers to share rides. For trips from other areas of the city, Excite Taxis is the most reliable (021 448 4444). Airport transfers and other services are also provided by Citihopper (021 386 0077).