Also, north africa's really far from South Africa isn't it?
October 30, 2006 6:16 PM   Subscribe

What is there to do in Capetown? I mean I plan on buying a cool cape from one of the legendary cape tailors of cape town but after that...what do I do?

I'm heading down to South Africa from Nov 16 thru the 27th to visit a pal but I'll be on my own for most of that time. What are the things someone MUST do before leaving Capetown? I'm looking for bars, events, one of a kind experiences and even a little of the touristy stuff.

That said, what are some things to avoid? From tourist traps to parts of town that a shortish (but remarkably stocky) white American boy shouldn't be wandering into on his own.

I've heard a lot about the crime rate but, then again, I grew up in Brooklyn. So I'm guessing it's probably one of those overblown things people talk about. Is it? Or should I get myself some sort of blunt weapon?

And finally, I did some initial myspace missives to some lovely women over there. Two ridiculously hot black women wrote me back. Not that it's gonna stop me in any way from actually macking them, but since the fall of apartheid, is it generally okay to date outside your race in that country?

Again, any tips, help or warnings you can throw my way would be well appreciated.
posted by rileyray3000 to Travel & Transportation around South Africa (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are some other good Capetown tourism threads on Askme, where I've put in some thoughts based on experience there last June.

Do take the safety warnings seriously, even as a New Yorker. Trust the locals as to whether somewhere is walkable, safe at night, or even safe during the day.

Make sure to eat a lot of delicious animals. While I was there I ate crocodile, boar, ostrich, eland, and a lot of others. Other unique things are pap, chakalaka, and monkeygland sauce. Three of the favorite places I ate were Marcos' (in town somewhere), Rooti (near the pier to go to Robben Island) and Ikhaya (in the Clocktower). Try all the strange sodas, too: Grapetiser, Granadilla Twist, and more.

Things not to miss include Cape Point, Robben Island, and a visit to a township (arrange this with a group that is run by the community rather than outsiders).

I don't know anything about dating locals in South Africa.
posted by whatzit at 6:44 PM on October 30, 2006

I really enjoyed africa cafe, where you get to try food from all over Africa.

Kirstenbosch Gardens were amazing; we climbed up the gorge from there up Table Mountain and went down via the cable car.

If you feel like exploring outside of Cape Town, the Stellenbosch area is beautiful. Moyo offered a great meal and gorgeous setting.

There was a lot of great art around; a unique style of diorama was popular when we were there and some of it was really amazing, and fairly affordable.

I also highly recommend a Cape Flats tour... the history is really interesting and probably one of the only safe ways to explore the townships. Don't underestimate your safety; I found Cape Town to be far less threatening than Johannesburg, but you'll see that a lot of people live in very desperate situations... It's very, very real, not just talked about; it's a fact of life for all South Africans, but you'll also be amazed at the optimism some people have for the new South Africa. The attitude was infectious, and was what made me fall in love with the place.

Have a great trip!
posted by squishy at 7:08 PM on October 30, 2006

I found the Museum of District Six to be quite amazing, not a typical museum at all but a shrine to a community destroyed by Apartheid.
posted by Rumple at 7:57 PM on October 30, 2006

The first day you can see the sun, head up Table Mountain. You never know when you'll get the chance again.

Definitely go down and visit Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope.

I now regret not getting out to Robben Island while I was there. If you are going to be mixing with any of the older black population, I would say that visiting it is a must.

Re: the crime rate -- it's really hard to tell how it compares to New York. There's certainly a lot of hysteria about it, but one gets the impression that it's quite overblown: while I was there last month, the Cape Argus had a front page story on a simple tourist mugging, talking about it as if it was a big deal. Seems like pretty small stuff for a city of 4.2 million people.

I like to walk and got around quite a bit in Cape Town, but I checked carefully with locals and didn't wander into any areas they said to avoid. Particularly the townships are to be avoided unless you are on a tour guided by someone from that township.

Dunno about interracial dating. There is a deep mistrust between the white and black South African population, and as a result you don't see much of it. As a non-South African that may not apply to you.
posted by tkolar at 10:49 PM on October 30, 2006

For going out, the bars on Long Street take some beating. Most of the good ones are towards the end of it, so bear that in mind (it ain't called Long Street for nothin).

Re, dangerousness - practice being a quiet American and you should be fine ;)

To clarify somewhat - don't make it obvious you're a tourist with a ton of cash in your wallet. As previously advised, if a local says don't walk somewhere - don't walk there. Cabs are cheap and money well spent if it means avoiding mugger's alley.

As for interracial dating.... if its OK with you and its OK with her... what's the problem? Cape Town is one of the most racially diverse cities I've ever visited - and I've visited a good few, particularly in Africa. That said, if your just arrived in a country and you have girls, girls, girls hanging off your arms, people may assume your entourage has been paid for...

Oh, and yes, North Africa is a long, long way from South Africa. There are many, many countries, cultures, communities, trading blocks, rivers, forests, beliefs, religions and plane rides in between them - it'd be a life time of travel to see it all.
posted by davehat at 11:57 PM on October 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

Don't forget to hit the beaches. Clifton & Camps Bay for the beautiful people, Big Bay & Noordhoek for the surfers.

Besides Table Mountain there's a (relatively) easy hike up Lion's Head next door. Takes about 45 min to 1h20 depending on your fitness level.
posted by PenDevil at 2:04 AM on October 31, 2006

I'll second tkolar's comment regarding Table Mountain: on my last visit, I had to wait about three days for sufficiently decent weather to go up on the cable car.
One of the more irritating aspects of visiting Table Mountain is that on a sunny day all the tourists will flock to it and the queue to get tickets for the cable car can easily take an hour to get through. With that in mind, visiting the Table Mountain ticket booth on a day with crap weather to buy tickets in advance could be a considerably less painful option.

Your attitude towards crime in South Africa is laughably naive and you would do well to read up on it (1, 2, 3).
I quite sincerely wouldn't recommend a weapon of any sort, blunt or otherwise. If you were to carry a weapon, you would be raising the stakes too high in the event of any altercation, and anyway, we have more than enough maniacs down here. You will be far better served by being purposefully aware of your surroundings and not acting like a complete "tourist".

I tend to smile at mixed couples since it shows some progress, but we still have an enormous number of idiots who gawk, glare and are generally rude to any mixed race couple that they come across. I wouldn't be too concerned about hanging out with/dating a black lady (especially in Cape Town). I would however (and I am), be completely paranoid about HIV/AIDS. If you're planning on hitting anything, make absolutely sure that you're carrying a condom. South Africa is the throes of an HIV/AIDS epidemic and anyone who thinks otherwise is a complete fool. In a phrase - just be careful.

A few other things to be aware of would include: bring sunscreen - don't assume that you can easily tan, our sun is really unforgiving to european complexions (this assumes that you get the chance to tan). Bring a decent windbreaker jacket since it gets really windy in Cape Town. I'm not too sure how an American accent would fare in any of the non-touristy areas, so just be aware that it might irritate some people.

Overall, have an absolute blast - Cape Town is a really beautiful city and loads of fun.
posted by KayTerra at 3:43 AM on October 31, 2006

KayTerra wrote...
Your attitude towards crime in South Africa is laughably naive and you would do well to read up on it.

From your first link, South Africa had 535,000 crimes per year with a population of 44,000,000. That makes for a 1.21% per capita crime rate.

In 1992, New York had 212,000 violent crimes for a population of 18,000,000. That makes for a 1.17% per capita crime rate.

In short, a guy from Brooklyn could in fact feel very much at home, crime-wise, in South Africa.
posted by tkolar at 10:08 AM on October 31, 2006

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