The city of Cape Town is currently becoming the top digital nomad hotspot in Africa. It is home to some of the most stunning beaches in the world, which is why it is already known among the kitesurfing nomad community as the best city to work remotely from. Some remotely working professionals and entrepreneurs have chosen to settle as expats in Cape Town after having spent a few European winters here, including the founder of CoworKite.
This guide focuses on the needs of all location independent entrepreneurs, freelancers and digital nomads who enjoy living by the beach and practicing watersports – such as kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing and SUP – in and around Cape Town. Not only does it provide you with basic information on accommodation, security and how to make your way around. This guide also includes lots of suggestions on how to experience Cape Town from a local perspective, with information on some of our favorite neighbourhoods, restaurants and locations for you to check out.
Cape Town is one of the most beautiful, diverse and unique cities on the planet, with two oceans at its feet and the famous Table Mountain at its heart. The city is a geographic wonderland, taking your breath away at every turn. In many ways Cape Town feels like San Francisco, but both the weather and the lifestyle are more similar to places like Los Angeles. Today, the metropolitan area has four million residents from all over Africa and the world. Capetonians are warm, welcoming and open-minded people.
There is hardly any other city offering so many amazing and diverse activities, as well as an abundance of sunshine, outdoor activities and watersports. Breathtaking vistas, scenic drives and a unique wildlife including penguins, baboons, sharks and whales make this part of the planet so special. Cape Town owes the ethic and cultural diversity to its topsy-turvy history: Local Africans, slaves from Malaysia, as well as Dutch and English explorers all made their way to South Africa at some point. With its history, culture, design and variety of food there is something to explore for everyone.
Being so far from Europe and North America, Cape Town is a place where you want to spend at least three to four weeks working remotely. There is so much to do in and around the city that staying less than two weeks means you will only get to enjoy a tiny tourist glimpse. English is only one of 11 official languages of South Africa, but everyone speaks it and it’s the primary language of government, business, education and commerce.
Cape Town is one of the safest cities in South Africa, with 8 out of 10 of the richest suburbs in the country. However, the crime rate is still very high compared to Europe and the wealth gap is extreme. 99% of the violent crime takes place in the poor townships outside the city bowl.
Even though the city has a very European vibe with its plazas, town squares and architecture where everyone is walking around safely, there are definitely some dodgy streets to avoid, especially during the night. When out and about after dark, we therefore recommend to use services such as Uber or Taxify to make your way around safe and sound (see 2.3.). Petty crimes such as cellphone theft are the most common. If you’re visiting night clubs along the Long Street stay in a group. Girls shouldn’t walk alone late at night or even hiking alone during the day. Other than that, renting an apartment is much safer than renting a house.
The living costs in Cape Town are two to three times cheaper compared to global cities offering a similar lifestyle, such as Los Angeles, Melbourne, Sydney or San Francisco. Eating out is certainly not as cheap as in Thailand or The Philippines, but the quality and diversity of food and especially wine is on a top level. By the way – if you order a steak with a bottle of red wine in a nice restaurant you probably end up spending more in Thailand than in Cape Town.
The cost of living in Cape Town depends on the season. Rental prices during Southafrican winter are much lower and even the best restaurants offer winter menus.
- Costs for a 1-bedrom apartment (short term rental): EUR 30-100 (USD 35-120) daily, depending on the location and season
- Costs for a 1-bedrom apartment (long term rental) in a safe and walkable neigbourhood close to the ocean: EUR 600-1,300 (USD 700-1,600), depending on the location. A typical security deposit of one to two months’ rent is required.
- Car rental for 1 month: EUR 300-700 (USD 350-850), depending on the car type and size
- Fuel: EUR 0.9 (USD 1) per liter
- MyCITI bus Blouberg – Central Business District CBD: EUR 0.6-1.1 (USD 0.7-1.3) for a one-way fare, depending if it is peak hour or not
- Taxi services: While Uber is the most popular taxi choice at the moment, Taxify is quickly growing in popularity: As of November 2017 it operates in 20 countries in Europe and Africa. Both services offer great prices compared to Europe and the USA. It’s important to note that unlike with Uber, Taxify does not have surge pricing and in peak hours you’ll pay 2 times less. The Uber minimum charge currently is ZAR 20 (EUR 1.4 / USD 1.7) for a trip up to 3 kilometers. Taxify treats drivers better by taking a smaller share of their fares, so we recommend giving it a try. To get a free first ride worth ZAR 150 use the code HAP6U or download the Taxify App and get a free Ride.
- Car rentals: As the city is huge, you can enjoy it even better when you rent a car. For rentals up to one month rentalcars.com usually offers the best prices and insurance is included. For long term rentals try Motorent or RentMyRide. And remember, South Africans drive on the left hand side of the road, and all signposts are written in English.
- Buying a car: Everyone can easily buy a car in Cape Town, but as a non-resident to register a vehicle firstly you need to get a Traffic Register Number (TRN). Obtaining a TRN as a tourist on a visitor visa is possible, although it requires certain effort. Applying for a TRN can be done in the nearest traffic department office. The trick is that most of the offices will not accept your application if you’re on a 3 months visitor visa. In our experience Bellville Traffic Department was the most helpful with 1 week processing time. Official application procedure with required documents is explained here. Note that in South Africa you’ll rarely get upfront a list with every single requirement.
- Public bus: MyCiti bus offers a decent and affordable public transportation to get around Cape Town. During peak hours as it uses a dedicated bus lane, which makes it faster than going by car on many routes, such as the one from Blouberg to the city center.
Be aware that Cape Town has South Africa’s worst traffic congestion that can be compared with Los Angeles. In peak hours to drive from Blouberg to Cape Town city centre it takes 1-1.5 hours one way.
Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia and most of the EU countries may remain in South Africa for up to 90 days with a tourist visa that is issued upon arrival. As Cape Town might be the one place you will end up never wanting to leave, it is possible to extend your visa for another 90 days: You have to apply for your visa extension from inside South Africa at least 60 days prior to the expiry of your current visa.
Previously, it used to be easy to extend your visa for another 90 days with border hopping to a neighbouring country. Unfortunately only a 7-days extension is granted when re-entering from a country within the SADC region nowadays. Should a visa renewal not be received in time before the expiry of your current visa, you can still wait for the outcome within South Africa. Nevertheless, we advise you to leave the country before the visa expiry date, to avoid being banned from visiting South Africa for the next 3-5 years.
To sum it up we suggest to organise your visa extension as early as possible.
5 Steps on How to Extend your Visa for South Africa
- Book an online appointment with VFS (Visa Facilitation Services) as soon as possible after entering South Africa, as appointments are usually scheduled ten days in advance. If you are running out of time and there is no appointment available soon, you have the option to use the Premium Lounge service. It costs ZAR 500 extra, but you will avoid queues, save a lot of time and your request is prioritized. To book the Premium Lounge service you can go directly to the VFS office in Cape Town.
- The online application with VFS is very confusing. Choose “Application for the renewal of the existing visa”, Visitor Visa Section 11 (1).
- Once you have made a booking, the system will create your appointment letter and checklist documents. On appointment for a 3-months tourist visa extension you have to bring along the following documents: appointment letter, your filled-in Visa Application Form, passport, color copies of your passport and previous visas, proof of online payment, proof of sufficient financial means (ideally a bank statement from the last three months), a new air flight ticket indicating the exact date of leaving the country, proof of residence, statement on the purpose and duration of your visit.
- The processing time is four weeks on average. You will receive an email stating that the “Adjudicated Application has been received at Visa Facilitation Centre”.
- There is no guarantee to receive another full 90-days visa extension, as the extension is at the discretion of the Department of Home Affairs, not VFS. If your visa has not been extended until the desired date you can still apply for rectification of your temporary tourist visa renewal. It is free of charge, but you will have to undergo the annoying procedure again.
Almost all shops and restaurants accept Visa and MasterCard credit cards, even for buying a cappuccino. Having said that, the rate that your bank will use to convert your money will not be great, because the South African Rand is now officially the most volatile currency in the world. The best way to save money on currency exchange is using the Revolut card-app: Revolut currently offers interbank exchange rates from all major currencies to ZAR during weekdays. Only during the weekend they charge a markup from 0.5% to 1.5%. You can also use Revolut to withdraw money from an ATM or to send money to South Africa. If you have to transfer bigger amounts for renting an apartment or buying a kiteboarding equipment another good company worth checking is Transfer Wise.
There are a lot of foreign exchange shops around Cape Town, especially in the shopping malls, but we strongly advise to bring as little Euros or Dollars as possible because they do not offer good rates and charge special fees. If you are not using Revolut, it is much cheaper and safer to withdraw money on an ATM at one of the big four banks: FNB, Standard, Absa, Capitec. Using Revolut will save you up to 5% and using an ATM will save you about 3% of each transaction compared to exchange shops or exchanging money at the bank itself.
Remember to inform your bank that you will be using your credit/debit card in South Africa before heading there.
Over the last couple of years there has been a lot of improvement with regard to having a reliable Internet connection and decent data speed in South Africa. Nowadays, many buildings have fibre optic, which is why working from home or from a coffee shop can be an option. When renting an apartment, make sure you confirm with your landlord that you are not on a capped data plan.
Regarding mobile connection, Telkom and Cell C offer the best value for money, depending on size of prepaid data bundle. Vodacom has a slightly faster 4G connection, but data prices are way more expensive: Currently 1GB costs ZAR 149 or approx. 10 EUR.
If you wanted to work on the UK time during European winter, you could start working at 11 AM in Cape Town, which is 9 AM in London. The Mother City – as Cape Town is also called – is the tech hub of Africa and it has a strong entrepreneurial vibe with more than 25 coworking spaces. Most of the shared workspaces are located in the Central Business District (CBD). Amongst so many beautiful and cool coworking offices, the following three are our favorites:
- CoworKite: While most coworking offices in Cape Town are situated in the city center, CoworKite is the only coworking space located next to the beach. The convenient location in Blouberg allows you to walk to the kitesurfing beach, enjoy an epic kiting session and then walk back to the office to take a shower and finish your work. We reckon there are not many other coworking spaces worldwide that are as kite-friendly. The CoworKite office occupies two floors, it’s opened 24/7 and has a large rooftop lounge overlooking Table Mountain and the beach.
- Work & Co: One of the most beautifully designed coworking offices located in one of the most beautiful cities in the world is a good way to describe it. The spacious office on three floors combines the buzz of a coffee shop with the comfort of a home. You can find Work & Co in the CBD on trendy Bree Street. In case you visit Work & Co, make sure you take the elevator to the 14th floor where you can enjoy panoramic 360° views of the city.
- Workshop 17: Not only is it a huge coworking office, but also an inspiring conferencing and event space with views of Table Mountain and V&A Waterfront’s marina. Workshop17 is part of the must visit V&A Waterfront, situated between the V&A Food Market and the Aquarium. It has a big design and craft market on the lower floor.
Although the terms digital nomad and location-independent professional aren’t exactly the same we use them interchangeably mainly because this guide is interesting for both of them. To check out events and connect with remote workers around Cape Town, have a look at the following links to digital nomad groups and workations:
Flights to and from Cape Town are generally at their most expensive from mid-December until 10th of January since this is the city’s peak tourism season. So far we have had the best experience with Qatar Airways. They offer the best value for money with two bags, 30 kg each and they do not charge extra for the kitesurfing equipment. Turkish Airlines also has great offers sometimes and the free baggage allowance for trips to South Africa is 30 kg. Other major airlines have direct flights to Cape Town, such as British Airways, Lufthansa and Emirates. Before booking we recommend comparing flight prices on Skyscanner, Kiwi or Google Flights.
The crystal clear and sunny days of spring start in September with daily temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius (approx. 70 degrees Farenheit). The days are getting warmer and warmer as each week passes. In beachside neighbourhoods such as Blouberg and Camps Bay a light cold breeze coming from the Atlantic ocean is blowing on most days, which is never humid. Even when the temperatures rise to some summery 30 degrees Celsius (some 90 degrees of Farenheit), it is not hot and you may even need a long sleeve t-shirt during the evening.
The kitesurfing and windsurfing season kicks in during spring time: It lasts from September to April and peaks in January and February when the King of The Air competition is held. In 2018, the Red Bull King of The Air competition takes place from 27 January until 11 February at the Kite Beach in Blouberg. There is a common misconception that the kitesurfing season in Cape Town starts only in December and lasts until February. That is certainly not true: The photo below depicting the real wind statistics from September 2017 shows that we had 15 kiteable days in Blouberg during that month, with a 30-knots day once a week. And in September you’ll only have to share the beach with a few other kiters. Besides Blouberg there are 15 additional kitesurfing spots in the greater Cape Town area with a huge variety of conditions: cool Atlantic waters, the warm Indian ocean, lake, river mouth, flat water, small waves and huge waves.
Cape Town enjoys mild temperatures all year round. During the summer months from December until March the Atlantic Ocean is very cold while the Indian Ocean is warm enough to enjoy swimming. In the winter months from June to August the temperatures are lower. In general it can rain a lot during the cooler winter months. There has been, however, very little rain since 2015, which is why Cape Town is experiencing a big draught for the first time ever in its history.
If you are a location independent professional who loves relaxed lifestyle by the beach, with access to the hustle and bustle of the big city then the following beachside neighbourhoods will offer you the best of both worlds. They are all very safe and easily walkable:
- Blouberg beach is the longest beach in Cape Town and a true watersports paradise. If you want to practice kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, SUP or simply jog along the beach – Blouberg is your place to be. Blouberg beach is the main reason why Cape Town is such an epic watersports location. The unique weather conditions allow to surf in Blouberg in the morning when wind is light, kitesurf in the afternoon and finally windsurf in the evening when the SE wind is strongest. As far as surfing is concerned, there is surf all year round for surfers of all levels. Blouberg has plenty of great restaurants and a spectacular postcard view of Table Mountain. The neighbourhood is relatively big, with high-rise buildings and beautiful beachfront apartments that are well-priced. If you are on a short budget you can find cheaper accommodation a few blocks away from the ocean. There are many guest houses offering rooms and apartments as well, such as Dolphin Inn, Blouberg Accommodation and Sandy Shores, to name a few.
- Camps Bay is a beautiful bay with a white sandy beach on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard. It is a breathtaking suburb surrounded by Lions Head, the back-side of Table Mountain and its Twelve Apostles range. Together with the neighbouring Cliffton 4th beach it is a very popular place for playing beach volleyball. Camps Bay is very safe, but it can get crowded with tourists and hawkers. Mantra Café offers decent food, whereas Café Caprice has great cocktails and Sunday sundowners. Most other restaurants are overpriced tourist traps, and the quality is way below the high Cape Town standards. Camps Bay is one of the most expensive suburbs in the whole of South Africa and very touristy. There is no coworking space in the area, either.
- Sea Point is not really a beachside neighbourhood because most parts of its coast are very rocky. Having said that, Sea Point Promenade is beautiful and one of the best places in Cape Town to take a stroll and go for a jog. It is a very conveniently located neighbourhood and close to the city centre, as well as to V&A Waterfront and Cliffton-Camps Bay beaches. The range of restaurants is very good, especially in Mouille Point. Over the past few years Sea Point has experienced a strong rise in property prices, but it is still possible to find affordable rentals. Sea Point is relatively safe, although you may have to get used to the view of quite a few beggars on the main street. Rentals are more expensive than in Blouberg, but still cheaper than in Camps Bay. At the end of Sea Point is upscale Bantry Bay and if you can afford to stay there don’t think twice.
There are other cool beachside neighbourhoods worth visiting such as Hout Bay, Simon’s Town, Muizenberg and Kalk Bay, but we do not recommend them for living and working remotely.
Needless to say that our favorite is Blouberg, because it offers much better prices than Camps Bay and Sea Point for the same quality of apartments. The watersports scene is amazing and there is a solid community of remote working professionals, expecially kitesurfing digital nomads. Did we mention that Blouberg has a pretty cool coworking space called CoworKite, which is a stone’s throw away from the beach?
Any well-travelled kitesurfer will tell you that if you are looking for great kitesurfing conditions, Cape Town is one of your top destinations. There is hardly any other place in the world that connects a vibrant city life with activities so closely in tune with the ocean, the wind and the waves. During peak season, the kiting conditions include sunny days, amazing big air jumps and wave spots, with super reliable and strong winds. An occasional spotting of seals and dolphins raises the experience to another level.
Riding downwind is arguably the most fun way to enjoy kitesurfing in Cape Town and explore the Blouberg skyline. Organizing downwinders in Cape Town is now easy thanks to Downwinder Bus that runs for 10 km, from Dolphin Beach all the way down to Haakgat. On a windy day the bus starts operating as the wind starts blowing, with the last ride at 7pm. The frequency of the rides from Dolphin Beach to Doodles is 15 minutes. Every 60 minutes the bus goes to Haakgat. A ticket is ZAR 30 (EUR 2). Make sure you get a tag from one of the kite shops and load it with credit, as you cannot buy the ticket on the bus.
Langebaan lagoon is a great spot to learn in case you have never tried kitesurfing before. It is situated one hour north of Blouberg. The flat water, predictable winds, warmer water and safe surroundings make it a perfect place to learn kiteboarding.
Being the creative capital of South Africa and 2014 World Design Capital, Cape Town hosts a range of international events and conferences. Cape Town’s artisanal coffee scene with on-site roasteries and local specialized baristas has exploded and will satisfy everyone, including total coffee addicts.
The nearby city of Stellenbosch with its Cape Dutch architecture is also one of the must visit places, with some of the most spectacular settings for wine estates that you can imagine. Stellenbosch-Franschhoek area is like Napa Valley on steroids.
Besides watersports you can do any type of outdoor activities in Cape Town like hiking, mountain biking, climbing, outdoor yoga classes and world class golf courses each in their own unique setting. Last, but not the least, paragliding from Lions Head and Signal Hill is one of the most spectacular flying sites in the world.
Here are a few links that help you find your way around:
Majestic wine farms and a phenomenal dining scene are two features of Cape Town’s multi-cultural heritage. You will be spoilt with the choice of restaurants, as the Mother City is the culinary capital of South Africa. Beef is everybody’s favorite meat and Capetonians perfected preparing it, whether as steak, burger or their specialty biltong, which is similar to prosciutto. Our favourite steak house in Cape Town is Angus Grill, located in Blouberg.
Pricing examples for restaurant and bars:
- Hake & chips in Ocean Basket EUR 4 (USD 5), hake & chips in other restaurants EUR 5-6 (USD 6-7.)
- Pizza Capricciosa EUR 4-7 (USD 5-8.5)
- Big Mac EUR 3 (USD 4)
- Quality (non-McDonald’s) 200g burger with chips and salad EUR 5-7 (USD 6-8.5)
- Fillet steak with side dish EUR 8-12 (USD 9.5-14)
- Bottle of good everyday red wine EUR 6-12 (USD 7-14)
- Bottle of lager beer EUR 1.2-2.5 (USD 1.5-3)
- Cappuccino EUR 1-2 (USD 1.2-2.4)
A gratuity of 10-15% is a normal tip for good service at restaurants and in bars. Car guards should be tipped R2 to R10, depending on the length of time the car is parked. Avoid tourist-trap restaurants like the ones on V&A Waterfront and in Camps Bay, as the quality of the food is mediocre and prices are up to 50% higher than in the rest of Cape Town. If you would like to experience the city like a local, then we suggest you try the restaurants and bars in Kloof Street, Bree Street or Green Point-De Waterkant.
Give us a shout!