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A super detailed Cape Town budget travel guide. Including where to stay, what to eat, what to do, and more!
In just one short week, Cape Town catapulted itself to the top of my favorite cities list.
It has gorgeous beaches, amazing hikes, delicious food, interesting animals, friendly people, and it’s overall very affordable.
I even managed to fit in wine tastings and a safari into my stay, so Cape Town was pretty much a dream for me.
With this Cape Town budget travel guide, I’ll list and explain all the best parts of this city.
From the super helpful locals to the fun activities, to the hilarious sight of baboons running across the road, Cape Town really exceeded my expectations.
Cape Town Budget Travel Guide
In this travel guide I’ll include some helpful travel tips for exploring Cape Town on a budget.
Topics I’ll cover include when to visit Cape Town, where to stay, how to get around, where to eat, and all the best Cape Town attractions.
I’ll even include some of the best day trips from Cape Town!
When To Visit Cape Town, South Africa
Any time of year is great for visiting South Africa.
Summer is hot and more crowded. But there are more hours of daylight so you have plenty of time to see everything.
During winter, the weather can get pretty cold, but still mild and comfortable during the day.
There are fewer crowds in winter, and I’ve been told it’s a better time for safaris and surfing. Flights tend to be cheaper during the off-season as well, so I’m happy I came here in winter.
Where To Stay in Cape Town, South Africa
Cat and Moose Backpackers is one of the most affordable hostels. It costs only 124 Rand per night ($8 USD) for a dorm bed.
It’s located on Long Street, a popular street in the city center with lots of cool restaurants and bars.
I stayed at this hostel for one week, and there were lots of friendly locals staying there as well. Everyone was happy to give me advice about Cape Town and South Africa and show me around themselves.
How To Get Around Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is huge. So if you want to visit all the cool places on the Cape Peninsula, you’ll have to drive or take public transport.
The most flexible option is renting a car. This allows you to go wherever whenever! Remeber to drive on the left side of the road.
We just searched on rentalcars.com, and picked the cheapest option. But there are tons of online platforms to use for your rental car search.
If you don’t rent a car, there are public buses in Cape Town for getting around the city.
Baz Bus is a popular bus company that travels all along the South African coast to the most popular tourist spots.
Travelers who don’t rent a car often buy a long term Baz Bus ticket. This allows them to hop on and off at different towns throughout the country.
Cape Town Budget Travel Guide: Things To Do
Of course, you should try and see all of the best Cape Town attractions; they are popular for a reason!
Luckily for budget travelers in Cape Town, most of these places can be seen for free, or for very little money.
V and A Waterfront
This bustling hub of entertainment and commercialism is located next to the Cape Town Harbor.
It’s fun to stroll around and watch street performers, get some snacks, and absorb the vibrant energy.
You can visit the waterfront at any time of day. Though it’s a bit more lively at night and on the weekends.
Chapman’s Peak Road
You need a car for this attraction, and it’s the only one I’ve listed that costs money.
There’s a 50 Rand ($3) toll fee to drive along this winding, cliffside road. But the views are worth it!!
It takes about 30 minutes to drive Chapman’s Peak Road, That includes lots of stops for photos since it’s been called “one of the world’s most scenic drives”.
African Craft Stores
Every country has its typical tourist shop where they sell traditional souvenirs.
In Cape Town, it’s these amazing African craft stores and markets. You’ll see lots of them while walking through the city.
Popular finds in these shops include cool sculptures and paintings, colorful clothing, intricate beadwork, and carved wooden utensils.
Africa’s wild animals act as inspiration for lots of artwork and souvenirs as well.
One particularly cool shop is the African Trading Port on the V and A Waterfront.
Bo-Kaap is definitely one of the best Cape Town attractions!
This little neighborhood is famous for its rows of brightly colored houses and its history as a former Malaysian slave town.
Visit the Bo-Kaap Museum and the first Muslim mosque in South Africa known as Auwal Mosque.
Or just stroll around and watch people taking Instagram shots in front of the pastel backdrops.
Other popular Cape Town attractions:
I put these attractions in a different category because they’re pretty expensive and therefore I didn’t actually do them.
But they’re so significant to the city’s history, landscape, and tourism industry. So I still wanted to include them in this Cape Town budget travel guide.
Here is where the revered first president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned before he changed the fate of the country forever.
You can only visit with a tour company, and the standard price is 550 Rand ($36).
Cape of Good Hope
The southernmost tip of the Cape Peninsula is full of picnic grounds, biking trails, and rich wilderness.
This Nature Reserve is supposed to be beautiful. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough money on us when we arrived so we had to skip it.
The price for foreign adults is 303 Rand ($20).
Where To Eat In Cape Town, South Africa
As a popular tourist destination and multicultural city, Cape Town is full of amazing food.
You can find any type of cuisine here. And unless you go to fancy five-star restaurants, everything is pretty affordable.
For a really tight budget, stay in a hostel with a kitchen so you can cook.
Buy your groceries at the local grocery store, which is usually Spar.
This store even has a buffet-style selection of hot, prepared food as well as groceries, which is great for quick, easy meals.
For eating out, visit Kloof Street and Long Street, as they’re full of funky bars and restaurants.
I had a mindblowing veggie burger at Jerry’s Burger Bar and delicious, cheap breakfasts at Arnold’s, both located on Kloof Street.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, visit Charly’s Bakery.
This place has the cutest cookies and cupcakes decorated with faces, animals, emojis, bright colors, and decorations. They also have delicious cakes and the biggest fudge brownie I’ve ever seen in my life.
V and A Food Market
My favorite place to eat is the V and A Food Market, an indoor smorgasbord of high-quality food for decent prices.
This place has everything.
Flavored popcorn, artisan ice cream, fudge, crepes, and donuts.
Hearty meals like sushi, pizza, or curry.
You can also find stalls selling fresh rice paper rolls, savory pies, paninis, poke bowls, samosas, and other local specialties.
For a rough idea of the pricing, a small snack or dessert costs about 35 Rand ($2). Small meals cost about 50 Rand ($3.50), and a big meal costs around 100 Rand ($7).
Everyone must try Malva Pudding while in South Africa.
This traditional dessert is a dense, sweet, sticky pudding served with ice cream or custard.
It’s so filling and indulgent but absolutely incredible.
Best Beaches in Cape Town, South Africa
No Cape Town budget travel guide would be complete without mentioning the amazing beaches!
Because Cape Town is set on a peninsula, it has too many gorgeous beaches to count. The sand here is pure white, the water is cold, and the waves are fun.
Here are all the best beaches in Cape Town.
Muizenberg beach is perfect for learning how to surf or just practicing if you’re a beginner. The beach is super long and flat and holds the record for most people on one wave.
There are lots of surf schools here offering lessons, and plenty of surf shops for renting or buying boards and wetsuits.
Muizenberg town also has lots of trendy cafes and shops, giving off full hipster surf town vibes.
It’s super chill and relaxing here, and the colorful cabins on the beach are a popular photo spot.
Boulders Beach is famous for its penguin colony. It costs 152 Rand ($10) to enter if you’re a foreigner.
If you’re an animal lover the fee is worth it!!
I felt so happy to see African penguins thriving outside a zoo or aquarium. And these adorable creatures seem to be pretty content here.
This is one of the most popular Cape Town attractions among animal lovers!
Beaches Closest To The Cape Town City Center
Camps Bay is one of the prettiest beaches in Cape Town. The area also has a natural rock pool and lots of nice seafood restaurants.
Clifton has 4 beaches all right next to each other. They’re conveniently named 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Beach (the 4th is the most popular). Just beware that these beaches get super crowded on hot summer days.
Less Touristy Beaches in Cape Town
Scarborough, Llandudno, and Kommetjie are three nice beaches further down the Cape Peninsula.
Here you’ll find bigger waves for surfing if you’re more advanced. And they’re way less crowded and more peaceful than the city beaches.
Hiking and Fitness in Cape Town
The main reason why I love Cape Town so much is all the greenery and wilderness located right next to the city center.
Actual mountains for hiking are rare to find so close to the city. So I was impressed with how active I could stay in Cape Town.
Hiking in Cape Town is perfect for the budget traveler because it costs little to no money. Also, it’s an amazing workout, so you can burn off all the sugar you ate at Charly’s Bakery.
Here are the three best ways to exercise while enjoying the beauty of Cape Town.
Hike Table Mountain
This famous mountain has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Nelson Mandela also named it a “Gift to the Earth” in 1998. After spending a whole day on this mountain, I agree with him.
The natural beauty here is unbelievable, with saturated natural hues exploding all around the urban landscape. The hike is not easy, but it’s 100% worth it.
Platteklip Gorge: The easiest route
The most popular and most direct route for climbing to the top of Table Mountain is through Platteklip Gorge.
Just drive up to the cable car station (or take an uber, public bus, or walk if you don’t have a car). Then drive a bit further down the road until you see the sign for the trail on the right.
The trail is easy to follow and can be done in 1-3 hours. It’s pretty steep, so the time it takes depends on your fitness level.
Upon reaching the top, you have until sundown to enjoy the gorgeous views.
The amazing views
To the south, you can look over the entire Cape Peninsula, which is full of rugged cliffs and surrounded by a bright blue ocean.
To the west, you can look over the curving coastline of the Clifton and Camps Bay Beaches.
You’ll also see where the warm, turquoise Agulhas Current from the Indian Ocean meets the cold, deep blue Benguela Current from the Atlantic Ocean.
To the north, you can see the sprawling city center of Cape Town. Nearby are the harbor, Lion’s Head Mountain, and the surrounding neighborhoods all melding together.
To see the east, you need to walk to the other end of the tabletop.
This path leads you to Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain. The walk takes about 45 minutes one way (the path is dotted with yellow footprints to guide the way).
At the end of the path, you can look over the huge mass of congested houses that make up the suburbs of Cape Town. You can also see the long stretch of sand that is Muizenberg Beach, and the distant mountains and hills.
Climbing this gorgeous beast of a hill is quite the accomplishment, and it’s a privilege to see all of Cape Town from above.
Table Mountain Cable Car
It’s definitely not as rewarding as hiking. But it’s an option for the less fit or for those short on time.
If you have sensitive knees, take the cable car back down after hiking to avoid the stress of climbing down the steep hill.
Hike Lion’s Head At Sunrise
This is another one of the best Cape Town attractions. However, a local friend told me Lion’s Head is only worth hiking at sunrise or sunset.
Because it’s not as high as Table Mountain, the view is a bit less impressive.
But with the sun rising or setting over the beautiful city, the experience is much better.
You also get a perfect view of Table Mountain from here.
The hike takes about 1 hour if you’re reasonably fit, and the terrain is easy for most of it.
The last 15 minutes is all climbing, with ladders and chains in place to assist you. There is also an alternative path for those who don’t want to climb, though it’s still steep and rocky.
The top of Lion’s Head also provides a 360-degree view of the picturesque Cape Town area. Be sure to bring a camera!
Rent A Bicycle
One way to exercise while staying on the ground in Cape Town is by renting a bicycle.
If you’re really on a budget, visit Bike and Wines on Loop Street. Here, you can rent a basic city bike for two hours for free.
If you want to bike for a full day, check this website for pricing. You can also rent a bike at the waterfront.
Bike along the coast to enjoy the ocean views, as it’s not as hectic as biking in the crowded city streets.
Day Trips From Cape Town, South Africa
The Cape Peninsula itself could easily entertain for weeks.
It’s full of so many diverse neighborhoods and other challenging hikes that I didn’t even have time to consider.
But if you are keen to explore other areas outside Cape Town, here are a couple day trips to consider.
Wine Tasting in Stellenbosch
About 45 minutes northeast of Cape Town are the wineries of the Stellenbosch region.
There are lots of tour companies offering wine tasting day trips, including Bike and Wines that I recommended previously.
Get Your Guide has lots of amazing, highly-rated wine-tasting tours.
The plus-side to booking a tour is you don’t have to drive. So you can drink as much as you want!
But this day trip is a lot more affordable and convenient with your own car so you can drive from winery to winery as you please.
Just walk into any winery and ask about tastings! Most of them cost around 30-60 Rand (less than $5).
Spier Winery has a nice wine and chocolate tasting for 70 Rand ($4.60).
Lovane Winery is the smallest winery with an intimate tasting experience.
But there are honestly so many wineries to choose from!
Safari in Karoo Region
There aren’t any self-drive safaris near Cape Town, so you’ll have to book a tour if you want to see some wild animals.
I searched for one-day Safaris on Get Your Guide and found a day trip to Aquila Game Reserve for $187. It included transport to and from Cape Town.
The tour included a buffet lunch and a three-hour game drive in an open 4WD.
We spotted animals like rhinos, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, springboks, ostriches, antelopes.
The lions were kept in a separate enclosure to prevent them from eating the rest of the wildlife. But they seemed pretty happy snoozing away in their massive private section.
Check out my in-depth safari article: How To Do An African Safari On A Budget.
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Thanks for reading this Cape Town budget travel guide! Sorry it’s a bit long. There’s just so much to cover!!
To read about more of my adventures around South Africa, check out: