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- There are eleven main car hire companies operating out of Cape Town airport.
- Most of the car hire centres have a base at the airport and in the city centre.
- The minimum age to hire a car is 18 however there will be a surcharge if you are under 25. This can be anything up to £20 a day depending on the rental company.
- If you ask for directions don’t be surprised if you hear turn left at the robot. Robot is the South African term for a traffic light.
- The country is huge and not easily traversed in a day, make sure you plan a route with plenty of rest stops and have overnight accommodation booked in advance.
- There are three fuel types, petrol, diesel and dual fuel which can be used in place of either.
- All signposts are written in English so finding your way around should be relatively easy.
- Many of the national roads between the major centres are toll roads. Check the toll fees before you leave, and make sure that you have either a credit card or cash to pay.
- The normal speed limit on Italian motorways is 120 km/hr. The normal speed limit on main roads is 100 km/hr (outside built-up areas) and in built-up areas is 60 km/hr – unless otherwise indicated.
- If your license does not have a photograph on it, then you must also carry your passport with you so that you can be identified as the legal holder of the driving license.
- You must always carry your documentation with you and be able to produce it of stopped by the police.
- Seatbelts are compulsory no matter where you are sitting in the car.
- South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road and all cars are right hand drive.
Guide to Cape Town
Cape town is fondly known as the “Mother City”, set against the stunning back drop of the Table Mountain Plateau and the sapphire blue seas in Table Bay this South African gem really does have it all, from centuries-old architecture, it’s buzzing harbour and streets packed with nightlife and sleek modern shopfronts. Cape Town’s rich history intermingled with modern culture will keep you coming back over and over again.
Things to do in Cape Town
The Table Mountain Ariel Cableway needs to be one of the first things that you do when you arrive in Cape Town. Taking you 3500 ft above the city. Whilst the climb itself only takes around five minutes in a slowly rotating cable car the views are utterly breath-taking. There is a café at the summit or space outside to sit with a picnic and check out the local wildlife. Cars run seven days a week and trips are roughly every ten minutes.
The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Set in 5.2 sq/km you’ll find more than 7000 of South Africa’s 22,000 native plant species including the famous fynbos. During the summer months there is a huge range of outdoor concerts held here and the treetop walkway gives you a unique view of the park. There are free guided tours of the park however if you’d rather explore it on your own then you can hire the MyGuide to receive recorded information about the various plants you’ll find along the various circular walks.
Inside the former Methodist Mission Church, you’ll find the District Six Museum. Brace yourself to be moved by this museum that celebrates the once lively multiracial area that was destroyed during apartheid in the 1960s and 1970s it’s and 60,000 inhabitants forcibly removed. If you take a Township tour you’ll often find that this is one of the first stops they make to give you an insight into the turbulent history of the country. Many of the staff here are displaced residents, or the descendants of, and have heart-breaking tales for you to listen to.
If you want to get out of the city and take advantage of your hire car then head out on the Cape Point Road Trip. Approximately 140km in total it takes you in an anti- clockwise scenic drive around the peninsula passing through some of the most beautiful sights on the peninsula including Llandudno, Hout Bay, Chapmans Peak Drive, Noordhoek, Scarborough, Cape Point, Boulders Beach, Simons Town, Kalk Bay and Muizenberg.
If you’d like to see some of the animals that South Africa is so famous for then the Gondwana Game Reserve is an excellent safari experience. Dedicated to the conservation of the “Big 5” and is your chance to see rhinos, elephants, giraffes, lions, buffalo and leopards in their natural environment. Set four hours outside of Cape Town is doable in a day however if you’d prefer there is a Game Lodge with overnight accommodation on site.
Robben Island was used as a prison from the early days of the VOC right up until 1996. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site dedicated to the people (including Nelson Mandela) that were incarcerated here. You can only visit here in a tour which lasts around four hours including the ferry ride. Booking online well in advance is highly recommended as tours can sell out. Even if you don’t plan a visit to the island, it’s worth dropping by the free museum at the Nelson Mandela Gateway, with its focus on the struggle for equality.
Another great way to see Cape Towns wildlife is the Boulders Penguin Colony. Small sandy beaches are divided by towering boulders and house over 3000 delightful little African penguins. A boardwalk runs from the Boulders Visitor Centre at the Foxy Beach end of the protected area to Boulders Beach, where you can walk amongst the penguins. Although they look cute don’t be tempted to try and touch them, their beaks are razor sharp and can cause a lot of damage. If you visit during the breeding season March to May, you’ll be treated to a cacophony of braying which will leave you with no doubts as to why they used to be called jackass penguins.
Set on the waterfront this old grain silo is now home to the Zeitz MOCCA Museum. Only opened in 2017 this museum is still trying to find its feet in the exhibition world but is home to contemporary Southern African art collection of entrepreneur Jochen Zeitz, as well the museum’s own extensive collection as well as some beautiful loaned works. Easily the most striking thing about this museum is the building in which it’s housed, when it opened in 1921 the grain silo was South Africa's tallest building. Since then it’s undergone a radical transformation both inside and out into the state-of-the-art building that you’ll find today.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline fix then head about 90-minutes outside of Cape Town to Downhill Adventures. Here you’ll be able to try out sandboarding on the dunes or quad biking in the desert. They also offer surf lessons and, for the exceptionally brave travellers out there, cage diving with the sharks.
Eating out in Cape Town
Fresh, local ingredients are the name of the game here and Cape Town is a multi-cultural melting pot meaning it has an incredibly diverse, globally inspired culinary landscape for you to sample. So, whether you’re looking for a meaty feat or a delicately inspired 12-course taster menu Cape Town has it all.
The Test Kitchen has won award after award since its inception in 2010. Chef Luke Dale-Roberts brings you fine-dining at quite literally its finest. The inventive taster menu is packed with local specialities given a modern European flourish, be warned though its definitely a budget buster of a night out. Booking in advance is a must and if you still find you’re struggling to get a booking try its sister restaurant Pot Luck Club.
If you’re looking for something a little easier on the bank balance but equally delicious then head to La Colombe. Consistently receiving world-wide acclaim it’s positioned amongst the top restaurants in the world and once you’ve tasted their food you’ll soon see why. It’s whimsical and creative French-Asian themed tasting menus are a delight on the palate and there is no attention to detail spared when it comes to their presentation. As with The Test Kitchen you’ll need to book well in advance to secure a table.
Slightly further out of town you’ll find Millers Thumb. A completely unpretentious, yet always packed to the rafter’s eatery. Serving up generous portions of mouth-watering seafood and steaks, this restaurant has its guests coming back time and time again. Knowledgeable staff are more than happy to make recommendations for you and its quirky interior make this a must-visit whilst you’re in Cape Town.
South African food can be a little meat heavy so if you find yourself craving something a little different then Royale Eatery is the place for you. With a full page of delicious vegan and vegetarian options on offer (as well as some delightful meat offerings) this restaurant has really moved with the times in terms of what people want. They even have a range of dairy-free milkshakes available.
Cape Town Nightlife
Warm evenings, excellent wine and a unique mix of Afro-Euro vibes make Cape Town a night out to remember. From vibrant cocktail bars to laid back music venues there’s something for everyone on offer in this city.
Coco is where tourists and locals alike go to rub shoulders with celebrities. This is one of the most exclusive clubs in Cape Town, expect to find high-end bottle service and awesome tunes blasting from the speakers. Friday nights are reserved for Dancehall and Hip Hop, while house music is played every Saturday.
As its name might suggest Shimmy Beach Club is an alfresco champagne lounge set on its own private beach. This dance venue is famous for its amazing parties and on-site pool. Private areas are reserved for VIP’s and the parties usually last until the sun comes up.
Piano Bar can only really be described as a New York-inspired cocktail and jazz club. With live music throughout the week offering everything from blues to indie music it’s the perfect place to start your evening. They have a comprehensive cocktail list as well as a tasty tapas menu to accompany it.
If you want somewhere a little more laid back to watch the sun go down with a expertly crafted cocktail then Café Caprice is the place for you. With all the current beats playing both day and night it attracts large crowds especially over the summer months. Overlooking Camps Bay Beach, it’s the perfect place to watch the sun set.
FAQs for Car Hire in Cape Town
How much does it cost to hire a car in Cape Town?
Car hire costs can be as low as R 177 (£9 / €10.50) in the winter months for a small compact but can soar to R 1400 (£70 / €83.00) a day for a larger car over the summer months. Always book in advance and don’t hire a bigger car than you need.
Which companies are available at the airport?
You can choose from, Avis, Bidvest, Budget, Dollar, Europcar, First, Hertz, Tempest, Thrifty, Keddy and Woodford Exclusive Rentals.
Which car should I get for driving in Cape Town?
If you’re planning on exploring the whole country, you’ll be spending a long time in the car so book for comfort. Overall the roads are in good condition in and around the city but off the beaten track you’ll find they become a little more uneven and potholed. Plan your journeys and book accordingly.
How far is it from Cape Town Airport to the city?
It’s a short 20km drive from the airport to the city and should only take around twenty minutes.
Anything else I should know?
Automatic cars are less common that manual cars so make sure that you check the transmission type on your rental car and that you are comfortable driving a manual.
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