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South Africa is a popular holiday destination with tourists from around the world, with English speaking locals, modern culture, excellent nightlife and fantastic weather and nature. Cape Town is the natural place to visit for your holiday in South Africa, with tourists visiting for a once in a life time luxury holiday where they’re close to everything that the country has to offer. Whether you’re looking for exploration and adventure or utter relaxation and calm, Cape Town has it all.

If you’re visiting Cape Town for the first time, here’s all the practical advice you need in order to ensure your holiday runs smoothly and according to plan.

Do I need a visa?

Unless you’re planning to stay in South Africa for more than 90 days, the chances are you won’t need a visa, but it’s always best to check. If you’re a US citizen, you need to make sure you have at least 30 days left on the expiry date of your passport after your return date.

When booking your holiday in Cape Town, always double check your passport is up to date, and that you have at least one free page to stamp, preferably two.

Which currency does South Africa use and can I bring my credit card?

The currency you’ll be using during your holiday is the South African Rand. The Rand fluctuates a fair bit, so be on the eye out for the best time to exchange your currency. If you decide to draw out cash or use a credit card in South Africa, be aware that your bank may charge you a foreign transaction fee, which can be pretty expensive depending on your bank and how much you’re withdrawing.

If you think you’ll be using your bank card or credit card abroad, make sure you notify your bank ahead of time. Banks are always looking to prevent their customers from fraud and regularly freeze accounts if they’re used in an unexpected way, such as in a different country.

If you do need to pop into a bank during your time in Cape Town, remember that banks close early on Fridays (around 3-3:30pm) and are only open until lunchtime on Saturdays.

What are the best ways to get around Cape Town?

Cape Town, like the rest of South Africa, has a great road network, so the easiest way to get around is to rent a car for the duration of your holiday. As well as excellent road signs, you’ll easily be able to find your way round by hiring a GPS unit with your vehicle, so you never have to worry about getting lost.

If you don’t think hiring a car is the right choice for you, there are plenty of taxis throughout the city – just remember to go with a well-recommended company, and the team at Cape Town Beach Villas will be happy to recommend taxi firms you can trust.

Do I need any foreign phrases?

South Africa’s cultural diversity has seen it named “The Rainbow Nation” and 11 languages are spoken in South Africa. English is commonly spoken throughout Cape Town, especially in business environments. Other languages you’ll hear include isiZulu, isiXhosa and Afrikaans, but almost everyone in Cape Town will speak excellent English.

Are there any customs I need to be aware of?

Tipping is a common part of South African life, especially when you go to restaurants, where around 10% is the standard tip. When you get your bill, you should always check it before you tip as some restaurants automatically add the tip. You shouldn’t have to pay a tip twice unless you want to!

If you’re renting a car, you’ll also need to be aware of ‘car guards’, found all around public areas. They ‘guard’ certain sections of parking areas and your car whilst you’re at the shops. Whilst it’s not compulsory to pay them upon your return, it’s common to tip them about R10, although you can give more if they’ve provided you with a really good service.

What about nightlife and smoking?

Cape Town is a great place to visit if you’re looking to enjoy great nightlife, with plenty of bars and clubs to choose from, and a minimum drinking age of 18. The larger and more popular clubs often charge an entrance fee, so be prepared and do your research on Facebook first.

If you’re going to a restaurant for dinner, be aware that you can’t smoke in any public areas, including restaurants. Occasionally restaurants may offer a dedicated smoking room, which is often sealed off from everything else. Additionally, you may not be able to smoke in the outdoor al fresco areas of restaurants either. It’s always best to check with your waiter before you light up.

Do I need to get vaccinated?

If you’ve been travelling through countries in the ‘Yellow Fever Belt’, you don’t need any particular vaccinations. That said, travellers’ vaccinations like measles, mumps, polio, rabies, tetanus, Hepatitis A and typhoid will keep you completely safe. If you’re still not sure what to do regarding your vaccinations, book an appointment to talk things through with your doctor.

Is Cape Town safe?

Cape Town is safer than many cities in the USA, although with any large city, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of crime. Try not to go walking in areas you don’t know on your own at night and don’t use earphones when walking about.

Other ways you can prevent crime is to keep your valuables hidden in public, don’t leave them unattended in a vehicle and if you can, leave your expensive jewellery at home.

There are numerous reasons why holidays can be ruined, from the weather to delayed flights, injury and illness, so it’s always wide to ensure you get the best travel insurance for your holiday. It doesn’t cost much but may end up saving your sanity in the middle of a disaster.

Will I need a power converter?

During your stay n Cape Town, we advise getting a power converter as South Africa uses around 220/230 volts, 5 amps with a 2-prong round pin plug and 13 amps for a 3-prong round pin plug.

How expensive will it be to use my mobile phone?

If you’re worried about hefty roaming charges, the easiest thing to do is get yourself a cheap and basic mobile in Cape Town with a local number. You can avoid all the extra fees that are in addition to expensive roaming charges and you don’t have to worry about losing your fancy smart phone.

For more information about preparing for your first trip to Cape Town and the wonderful selection of luxury holiday homes we have, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at Cape Town Beach Villas, call us on +27 21 987 0280 today.