The Breakdown: South Africa
Exchange Rate: $1 Canadian = 9.78 South African Rand
South Africa was the first time either of us had stepped foot on the African continent, and it was with a combination of excitement and trepidation that we touched down.
Though Johannesburg would be our first entry into the country, we’d already decided to transfer directly onwards to Cape Town, based on some frightening internet research about crime in the city. Normally, we don’t put too much stock in alarmist reports, but we simply had no idea what to expect from the country.
As it turned out, reports of danger are most likely overblown (as they usually are), and we probably could’ve had a great time in Johannesburg. We certainly did in Cape Town, which turned out to be the 2nd city to make it onto our “we could live here” list, along with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Gifted with some of the world’s most stunning natural beauty, elegant infrastructure and a diverse food scene, our one week stay there only left us wanting more. With a vow to return one day, we boarded the plane and headed for, what would be, one of the most exciting destinations of our entire trip – Tanzania!
What We Did
To call this post a South Africa breakdown is a bit of a misnomer, because aside from a few nights in Hermanus and a stopover in Johannesburg’s airport, we basically spent all our time in Cape Town and the surrounding area.
It was our first time flying on South African Airways, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. We barely felt the 12 hour long-haul. Maybe it had to do with the unlimited South African wines on the flight? 😉
We had a quick stopover in Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo airport, where we fueled up on huge cups of percolated coffee at Mugg and Bean. Oh happy times! We’d definitely been missing that particular form of caffeine rush during our 3 months of travels in South America.
From there, it was a quick 2 hour flight down to Cape Town, where we picked up the cute little Hyundai that would take us to Hermanus, for the first 2 nights of our stay in South Africa. With a reputation for being the best place to see southern right whales from land, we’d hoped to get a glimpse of the gigantic beasts, but to no avail, despite driving the length of the Whale Coast Route.
We cut our losses, made the stunning drive back to Cape Town, and checked into a gorgeous and affordable little Bo-Kaap guesthouse with a view of Table Mountain and the sea, that for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of (sorry!).
We took full advantage of our rental car and drove all over the Western Cape, visiting penguins on Boulders Beach, checking out Camps and Hout Bay on the way down to the Cape of Good Hope and driving Chapman’s Peak twice. We also explored the city thoroughly, taking a stroll through Long Street and the V&A Waterfront, and dining on seafood one night, Indian the next, and Thai the night after.
South Africa is where we went well and truly over our attempted $100 per day budget. Over 7 days, we spent $1080.87 or $154.41 per day – a full 50% plus over our intended number!
Truthfully, I’m pretty sure we could’ve stuck close to our goal. Cape Town was not that expensive. Our centrally located guesthouses in both Hermanus and Cape Town cost $50 per night (including breakfast), our car rental was just $15 per day, and we only paid 1 park entrance fee of $44 during our entire week there.
In Cape Town, we spent some money stocking up on items we’d been missing on our travels, like a miniature speaker and mundane things like underwear and slippers. South Africa’s shopping environment was very similar to Canada’s, so it was an easy and comfortable place to do so. Still these living expenses only amounted to $107 or 10% of our total budget.
No, where we really failed was in the dining department. After the relative sameness of South America’s cuisine (with the exception of Peru), South Africa’s diversity felt like food nirvana. We felt like kids in a candy store as we indulged in the cornucopia of dishes on offer.
I am sad to report that we spent a full 40% of our budget just eating, but hey, we couldn’t resist. 😉
The full breakdown of our costs can be found on the Budget Your Trip website.
Food and Drink
The fact that I only have a single photo of the things we ate in Cape Town, is a testament to the level of enjoyment we were having over it.
We literally ate a world of food while there. I honestly wish I had some pictures to show you of the spicy Thai and Indian curries, Greek lamb chops, and steaks we dined on while there, not to mention the wine, but unfortunately the food didn’t last long enough for me to snap a pic. It’s like we couldn’t wait to get our paws on the food and into our bellies.
Suffice it to say, everything we ate was delicious and authentic, and you will not be disappointed for choice if you visit.
Not only do you need a car in Cape Town, but you’ll be very happy to be driving one indeed.
Whether it’s zipping around the breathtaking curves of Chapman’s Peak, or speeding down the highway towards penguin paradise, this is one place where driving is a real joy. We couldn’t get over how wide and smooth the roads were, how gorgeous the scenery, and how little traffic there was. It was truly a driver’s dream.
More practically, distances between attractions and sites are not small, and while public transit is available, it just doesn’t make sense to use it, when a car (and the corresponding freedom), can be had for just $15 a day (over a 1 week rental).
Just remember to drive on the left hand side of the road.
How do you choose between the Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain, Boulders Beach, the dazzling ocean vistas or the delicious restaurants? It’s not an exaggeration to say that we loved every single moment of our time in the city and it’s surrounding area.
It really didn’t matter if we were visiting penguins, attempting to scale Table Mountain, watching a brilliant sunset, or eating flavourful Greek lamb chops, we always felt completely and comfortably peaceful and content.
And that’s why I’m simply putting “Cape Town” as my attraction tip. Every single place we visited was completely worthwhile, and probably deserves it’s very own write-up, but honestly, my favourite part of our time there, was simply being there.
When in South Africa
When in South Africa, eat at Ocean Basket. A restaurant chain with delectable, fresh seafood platters at reasonable prices, we indulged at least a few times. You eeta da feesh, we cleana da face!
Have you been to Cape Town, or other parts of South Africa? What are your favourite places to go, things to do, and food to eat?