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March 12, 2013

Cape Town on a budget: nightlife

Long Street comes alive at night. Photo courtesy of smee.bruce

Cape Town loves to party (many would say the city is the party capital of South Africa), but with iconic places like the V&A Waterfront, Long Street and Camps Bay, it may seem that it only caters for the rich and famous. That notion, however, is easily dispelled.

With favourable exchange rates – the rand currently hovers at around R13.50 to the pound, R9 to the US dollar and R11.80 to the euro – one's buying power can be maximised. Scores of backpacker lodges in and around the city centre, stunning beaches, hikes, markets and local cuisine cost little or nothing, meaning that there is much to see and do when you are on a tight budget.

Visitors to any city always hanker after the nightlife; that is, after all, where you will meet locals letting their hair down. In Cape Town the nightlife is not centred in one place: across the city there are "party hubs", which means that if you want to club or bar-hop, it does not need to cost you a fortune to move from one place to the next. 

As the sun sets over Cape Town, places like Long Street and Observatory come to life. While the V&A Waterfront is busy from morning till late at night, the crowd changes as the day progresses, from people enjoying high-end shopping and long lunches to the crowd that arrives for cocktails and candlelight dinners.

Observatory is close to the University of Cape Town, which means that the suburb is a popular hang-out spot for students, and this is where one's rand really can be stretched. Shoot a game of pool at Stones, where they have a very long daily happy hour from 5pm to 9pm seven days a week, drinks specials and free late-night pool on Wednesdays. Both Observatory and Long Street have scores of pubs and clubs, most of which have happy hours where you can get two drinks for the price of one.

If you look closely you will see little "holes-in-the wall" like Abantu, which is on the corners of Long and Leeuwen Streets; Carnival Court, a backpacker's lodge with a balcony bar overlooking Long Street; Bob's Bar, unmistakable with its wooden barrel tables outside, and the deep-purple building which houses the Purple Turtle, set slightly down from upper Long Street.

Locals will tell you that those are the places where the drinks are cheap, the music rocks and an assortment of fun people hang out. 

If you want to go clubbing, then go before 10pm. Many clubs, like Deco Dance in Sea Point, allow ladies in for free before 10pm and offer a hefty discount for the guys at weekends.

At night the Waterfront lights up, and while many people enjoy gourmet restaurants and shopping until 9pm, a firm favourite is catching a cold beer at Ferryman's while sitting outside soaking up the vibe, window-shopping and chilling at sports bars. There is also a strip of fast-food joints – buy your meal and sit on one of the outside benches or at the ampitheatre, which is also regularly used for free concerts. 

Sushi restaurants often have all-you-can-eat specials, and local steak and pizza joints have standing weekly offers, like two burgers for the price of one or all-you-can-eat pizza nights.

Nightlife in Cape Town has also come to mean viewing the city when it is dark. Every full moon scores of people hike up Lion's Head to take in Cape Town from a unique point of view. 

Partying on a budget in Cape Town has never been easier!

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