Cape Town on a budget
Cape Town offers world-class food, accommodation, and activities that cater to every taste, but you might be wondering what to do if you’re travelling on a budget. The good news is that you can still get the full Cape Town experience, even on a dime.
Where to stay
While Cape Town offers world class luxury accommodation, there are a myriad of different options available depending on your budget.
Places in the City Bowl or Atlantic Seaboard are close to the action and convenient. Whichever accommodation type you choose, you’ll find it gets cheaper the further you stay from the city. The Blouberg area is a great choice, with postcard views of Table Mountain, and is only about 20 minutes from the city centre. A little farther afield, Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, or Simon’s Town are a great choice for a coastal village vibe. Gordon’s Bay is a fantastic romantic seaside option, with some of the best sunsets you’ll ever see, while Somerset West is located a stone’s throw from the best wine estates in the Cape. Airbnb is also a very popular option, with spots available in every nook and cranny of the city and its surrounds. If you do want to stay closer to the city, there are many great backpackers that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
Check out our awesome Love Cape Town Neighbourhood Series to get to know Cape Town’s neighbourhoods and find out what makes each of them tick.
Wining and dining
As with most cities, many restaurants and bars cater to international tourists and while the food is great, Capetonians all know some of these places charge ‘tourist prices’. Check out the spots outside the main tourist areas, and make sure you visit the restaurants locals love. Grabbing a drink or bite at one of these places won’t just save you a couple of bucks, it will also allow you to hang out with the locals and get a feel for what it’s like to call this beautiful place home. It’s also worth trying out local South African food, which you can usually pick up very cheaply!
With so much cultural and natural diversity and a rich, colourful history, Cape Town is a treasure trove of sights and experiences, with numerous tour operators offering niche tours in all directions. One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to get an overview of Cape Town and its surrounds is the popular City Sightseeing bus. It operates a hop-on-hop-off service all over the peninsula, making sightseeing a breeze.
For an even sweeter deal, get a City Pass which grants you major savings on attractions, as well as discounts for restaurants.
One of the great things about Cape Town is how much there is to do in the city that is either free or inexpensive—it is one of the things the locals value most about living under the watchful eye of Table Mountain. Take a look at this awesome list of things to do in Cape Town for under R50.
Of course, the most affordable way to get around the city is the same way locals do. There are a number of options.The MyCiTi bus can take you almost anywhere in Cape Town, often along some incredibly scenic routes. You can enjoy spectacular views of Table Mountain, the Sea Point Promenade, and Hout Bay, to name but a view. Bus passes are relatively inexpensive and can be bought either at kiosks at main stops, or at various retailers.
If you want to get around really cheaply, consider getting your hands on a bike! Cycling in Cape Town is a great option.
The train system in Cape Town is mainly focused on commuter transport, but the Southern Line is highly recommended for visitors. It runs from the city to Simon’s Town, stopping at several beautiful suburbs and coastal villages along the way. This is the most affordable way to move around the city.
Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities on earth, and the great outdoors are free! Capetonians love to hike, and there is a great web of trails spreading across the Peninsula, from Sea Point to Cape Point and even a couple of hiking routes up to the top of Table Mountain. Most hikes are free, but some require an inexpensive permit from SanParks. One of the best resources when it comes to hiking trails in Cape Town is Andy Lund’s ‘Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula’. If a leisurely stroll is more your thing, a sunset walk along the Sea Point Promenade is an absolute must.
Cape Town has some of the country’s magnificent beaches, from white sandy beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay, to the pebbles of Sea Point, and the seemingly never-ending stretches of sand in False Bay. With Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles mountain range as backdrops, Camps Bay and Clifton are also some of the most scenic beaches in the world. There are loads of activities on the beach, especially Camps Bay where you can catch a game of volleyball or beach soccer, or you can simply soak up the sun or swim in the crisp, clear water of the Atlantic.
Cape Town also has a number of beautiful gardens, from the Company’s Gardens in the city centre to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the other side of the mountain. While the Company’s Gardens are open to everyone to enjoy for free, Kirstenbosch charges a small fee. One of the main attractions at Kirstenbosch is the Boomslang, a unique tree-top walkway that winds through the canopy with great views of the gardens, as well as the back of Table Mountain and the Constantia Valley. There are also many parks you can enjoy for free.
The best way to shop on a shoestring is to visit the markets in Cape Town. Green Market Square is an outdoor market in the City Bowl, and it is the perfect place to find inexpensive souvenirs. There’s also cheap food at the surrounding restaurants or the city’s popular Eastern Food Bazaar. Beyond that, try to do your shopping outside of the tourist hotspots to find the most affordable options.