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Moving to Cape Town

With sweeping vistas of the ocean on one side and the mountain on the other, it's no wonder that expats who move to Cape Town often find themselves seduced into staying for far longer than they initially anticipated. Repeatedly featuring in and topping lists of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town's popularity rests on its celebrated scenic landscape, mild climate and the relaxed lifestyle of its residents.

Cape Town is at the heart of South Africa's information technology industry, while port activities, the local film industry and financial services also make significant contributions to the region's gross domestic product. Media, education and creative occupations are also popular avenues for those working in Cape Town.

The city is home to some of South Africa's best-known educational institutions, including the University of Cape Town, the highest-ranked university on the continent.

Living in Cape Town as an expat

It may be at the very tip of the African continent, but the Mother City, as it's also called, is anything but isolated. Shaped by its complicated history, the city's vibrant and cosmopolitan character is a mixture of colonial and local influences, and is home to an eclectic blend of people from all over in a city that feels part African and part European.

Expats moving to Cape Town can generally expect a laid-back atmosphere that offers a healthy, balanced alternative to the high-stress work environment of more corporate cities. Attractions as diverse as internationally-recognised wine farms, shark cage diving and wonderful hiking trails mean that locals enjoy an active and satisfying lifestyle.

Cape Town is arguably South Africa’s most efficiently run metropolis and although there are high-risk areas, the city centre and the suburbs where expats are likely to live are relatively safe. While its public transport network could be better, the introduction of the MyCiTi Integrated Rapid Transport system means that it is easier for residents to get around than ever before. Most expats do, however, choose to own a car.

Like any large city, Cape Town has its issues, but locals and expats alike will attest to the fact that the lifestyle and beautiful environment more than make up for any problems they may face.

Cost of living in Cape Town

The cost of living in Cape Town is reasonable – however, with lower salaries than in Johannesburg and plenty to splurge on, expats may struggle to save. Still, whether an outdoor enthusiast, a lover of the arts or a gourmet connoisseur, it's easy to live the good life in the Cape.

Though relatively small, Cape Town has all the trappings of an international metropolis, with gourmet dining, world-class shopping and high-quality private healthcare. It is also a coastal city known for its spectacular beaches and is home to thriving businesses at the forefront of their fields.

Expat families and children in Cape Town

Public education quality varies depending on neighbourhood and fees, but private and international schools offer higher quality education at higher costs. Public schools typically offer the South African national curriculum, while many private schools offer the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) national curriculum or world-class international curricula.

Public hospitals are generally understaffed and underfunded, so most expats use private healthcare. General private healthcare is very reasonably priced, but complications and specialists can quickly break the bank, so expats are advised to take out health insurance.

Cape Town is host to a ton of attractions and activities for kids, as well as being surrounded by beautiful outdoor spaces. Nature reserves and beaches are around every corner, and Capetonians are known to be fit and outdoorsy, so there is no shortage of sports teams and walking or running clubs to join.

Weather in Cape Town

Cape Town's climate is Mediterranean, and its weather is balmy if unpredictable. From December to February, the Windy City's summer season is marked by warm temperatures and cool winds. From June to August, winter brings cold fronts and extended rains and storms.

Weather in Cape Town

Locals often remark that one can experience four seasons over the course of a single day in Cape Town. The city's constantly fluctuating weather makes it tricky to predict – nevertheless, each season has its own distinctive characteristics.

Summer is from December to February and is often characterised by a strong southeasterly gust known as the 'Cape Doctor' or simply 'the South Easter'. Temperatures peak in mid-February before gradually dipping as the city eases into autumn. Winter, from June to August, brings frequent cold fronts and storms with lashing rain and powerful winds.

The amount of sunlight the city receives varies significantly throughout the year. In late December, the sun can set as late as 8pm and rise as early as 5.30am. By contrast, it often only rises after 7am at the height of winter and can set as early as 6pm.


Pros and cons of moving to Cape Town

Every city has perks and drawbacks, but Cape Town undoubtedly has more of the former than the latter. The city is known for its beautiful beaches, spectacular mountain hikes, world-class wineries, vibey nightlife, breathtaking natural beauty and the laid-back lifestyle its residents enjoy. Still, it's important for expats to be aware of the city's downsides along with its upsides in order to make an informed decision before relocating.

Here is a brief look at the pros and cons of living in Cape Town.

Accommodation in Cape Town

+ PRO: Lots of choice

Whether expats aspire to have a home right on the seashore or prefer the idea of living the high life in the foothills of a mountain, there are plenty of options in Cape Town's varied areas and suburbs. Expats are sure to appreciate the variety of accommodation options available, ranging from luxury apartments and sprawling villas to cosy cottages and comfortable houses.

- CON: High prices

Real estate prices are notoriously high in certain parts of the city, and expats who want to live right on the doorstep of one of Cape Town's two major assets – the mountain and the sea – will have to pay handsomely for the privilege.

- CON: Rotational blackouts

Beginning in 2007, there has been a shortage of electricity supply in South Africa which has led to the implementation of 'load shedding', a system of rotational blackouts. The intensity of load shedding can fluctuate quickly, causing varying degrees of disruption to daily life. Some residents use generators, solar power and batteries to buffer themselves from the worst of it. With the help of a pumped-storage scheme, the City of Cape Town is able to protect municipal customers from one or two stages of load shedding.

Lifestyle in Cape Town

+ PRO: Variety of outdoor activities

Whether a fitness addict or a nature lover, expats are sure to find plenty to see and do in Cape Town. Popular outdoor activities include hiking, surfing, running and playing rugby, cricket or soccer.

+ PRO: Lovely weather

With long, hot summers and mild winters, Cape Town's climate makes it easy to enjoy the wealth of outdoor activities on offer. Expats should take note of the famous 'Cape Doctor', though, a strong south-easterly gale that blows for a few weeks of the year.

+ PRO: Great nightlife and shopping

Capetonians take leisure time seriously and the city has a thriving nightlife to show for it, not to mention the fact that Cape Town is the unequivocal gay capital of South Africa. Whether expats are keen for a big night out or just a few cocktails with some friends, there are loads of excellent bars and restaurants to choose from.

The city's thriving wine industry means that it's always easy to access good wine at an affordable price, and going wine tasting in Constantia, Durbanville or Stellenbosch is a great way to spend an afternoon.

For expats in search of retail therapy, there are boundless options in the form of one of Cape Town's many sprawling shopping malls. The city also has several regular, well-loved markets.

Transport in Cape Town

- CON: Limited public transport

Aside from the MyCiTi bus system, there aren't many other viable options when it comes to public transport in the city. In addition, the current routes followed by the MyCiTi buses are limited to certain areas only. Fortunately, Cape Town is quite compact and walkable, and taxis or ride-hailing services aren't expensive thanks to short distances.

- CON: Minibus taxis

Minibus taxis seem to be a uniquely South African problem, and their erratic and often outright dangerous driving is a constant hindrance to many of the city's drivers.

+ PRO: Easy to navigate by car

Although Capetonians are quick to complain about the traffic, the city as a whole is relatively compact and the highway network is comprehensive, making it fairly quick and easy to get from one place to another by car.

Working in Cape Town

+ PRO: Thriving creative industries

Popular with both the local and international film industry, Cape Town has become a haven for creative types. Artists, writers and designers of all kinds are sure to meet plenty of like-minded people here. Although there is a lot of competition for creative jobs, expats who are able to measure up to the local standard are sure to find myriad opportunities in the Mother City.

- CON: Salaries are lower than in Johannesburg

Johannesburg is South Africa's economic centre, and jobs there will generally offer higher salaries than for the same position in Cape Town. In addition, accommodation is pricier in Cape Town than in Johannesburg. This can be a challenging balancing act, but if expats are able to budget well or can land a high-up position, it is certainly still possible to live comfortably on a Cape Town salary.

Cost of living in Cape Town

+ PRO: More bang for your buck

Out of the world's major cities, Cape Town has a relatively low cost of living, so even if expats aren't taking home a massive salary, they should still find that their money goes further than it would elsewhere. This is especially true if one is earning in dollars rather than the local currency, as the South African rand tends to be quite weak against the dollar.

Safety in Cape Town

- CON: High crime rate relative to European cities

South Africa's high crime rate is largely a result of the country's unequal social conditions. These conditions are one of the first things many expats notice upon arrival, as they are likely to fly over some of the city's townships before landing at the plush facilities of Cape Town International Airport.

However, by taking reasonable precautions, following safety tips and investing in good security, expats can avoid becoming victims of crime.

A lot of the high crime statistics of Cape Town are also a result of gang-related violence, which is unlikely to affect expats at all.

Schools and education in Cape Town

+ PRO: Lots of good schools

There are lots of options for schooling in Cape Town. While many expat parents send their children to one of the city's international schools, there are also a number of excellent (and less expensive) private schools.

Healthcare in Cape Town

- CON: Public system is inadequate

In general, the public healthcare system in South Africa will not be up to the standards that most expats are used to. Doctors and medical staff are highly trained and world-class, but the facilities themselves and waiting times often cause expats to choose private healthcare instead.

+ PRO: Excellent private healthcare

Luckily, good quality private healthcare is readily available to make up for the lack of good public healthcare facilities. Visits to a private General Practitioner are reasonably priced, and there are various health insurance schemes for expats to choose from.

Working in Cape Town

New arrivals working in Cape Town often find the daily grind to be a considerable step back from the rat race they may be used to. To some, Capetonians seem to contend that there are too many other wonderful ways to be spending time. In fact, many of the people who have relocated here don't hang onto the ladder of ambition for too long, as they reprioritise their lives.

On the downside, employers are fully aware that the city's striking landscapes beckon qualified workers from South Africa and elsewhere to the metropolis. It follows that fewer job opportunities exist in the city and smaller salaries accompany the positions that do become available, especially when compared with the likes of Johannesburg. Generally, once people pin down a good job with a respectable company, turnover is relatively low.

Job market in Cape Town

The media and advertising industry, the IT sector and asset management businesses are well represented, and a high proportion of expats working in Cape Town can be found in one of these industries. The city is also a bastion of creativity, and there are plenty of opportunities for young people to expand their artistic abilities while embarking on a creative career – those with a focused entrepreneurial spirit often find success.

Cape Town's stunning natural scenery, favourable weather patterns and the relatively low costs of local labour have also made the city an international destination for the film industry. That said, opportunities in this sector are subject to drastic seasonal changes.

Tourism and hospitality services are also thriving industries, and many expats from abroad find employment in positions where knowledge of a second language apart from English is a necessity.

Foreign nationals will, however, need a work permit to be legally employed.

Finding a job in Cape Town

In some ways, the city still operates like a small village. Positions in Cape Town are often found and extended through personal recommendations or word of mouth. Expats who have not been lured abroad with a solid employment opportunity should invest time and energy into networking and creating meaningful connections.

The traditional routes of job hunting also exist and, for expats with the proper documentation, a tertiary degree and relevant work experience, finding employment is very much possible, although it may take some time.

Major local newspapers tend to publish an employment supplement with job listings once a week, and there are several popular websites that are regularly updated as positions open up in a variety of fields. The city also has recruitment agencies and headhunters, and the fee for their services is generally shouldered by employers.

Work culture in Cape Town

South Africa's work culture is informal, with humour and friendly banter commonly heard around the office. The dress code is generally quite relaxed, especially in creative industries. Relatively few companies require their employees to wear formal business clothes in the office, except in some corporate settings.

Most companies in Cape Town operate on a relatively flat hierarchical structure. Employees are generally encouraged to voice their views and opinions. That said, the boss still ultimately has the final say in important decisions.

Accommodation in Cape Town

Options for accommodation in Cape Town are plentiful, and expats will need to decide on their priorities before choosing the area and type of housing that best suits their needs.

The city centre is relatively small, and there are a number of neighbourhoods nestled in the midst of Table Mountain, Lion's Head and Signal Hill in the City Bowl. Residential communities flank the mountain on either side, stretching up along the coast and down along the mountain into surrounding suburbs and family-friendly developments.

House prices in Cape Town are among the highest in South Africa, with the most expensive properties situated closer to the city centre and seaside neighbourhoods. Most expats choose to rent a property in Cape Town until they become more familiar with the city and its property market.

Types of accommodation in Cape Town

Expats will find that there is plenty of choice when it comes to types of accommodation. Factors for expats to take into consideration include the size and type of property they want, whether they're willing to tolerate morning and afternoon traffic, and whether they would prefer to be in a leafy suburb or a colourful city district.


Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation are easily found. Expats looking to rent long-term may want to rent unfurnished and bring their own furnishings, while those in the city for a shorter period may prefer furnished accommodation.

Freestanding houses

Most frequently found in the suburbs, freestanding houses are spacious private homes with gardens. Many South African houses come complete with a 'braai' (outdoor barbecue) area. While freestanding houses are more expensive than apartments, they're a great choice for families, animal owners, or simply those who enjoy their own space.


Commonly referred to as 'flats', apartment blocks can be found all over the city, though they are most common in the city centre and surrounding areas. Styles range from small and simple to modern and replete with facilities.

Garden cottages

A garden cottage or 'granny flat' is a small home located on the property of another, larger house. These compact, self-contained dwellings are usually occupied by a single person and are often 'bachelor style' with one main room acting as a kitchen, living room and bedroom.

Security complexes

Security complexes, also referred to as gated communities, are controlled-access housing developments typically comprised of a mix of accommodation types, such as townhouses, freestanding houses and apartment blocks. This type of accommodation is naturally popular with security-conscious expats. Other benefits include access to in-complex facilities such as a communal pool, braai area or park.

Load shedding in Cape Town

'Load shedding' is a term used by South Africa's national electricity provider, Eskom, to refer to rotational or rolling blackouts. When the demand for electricity outstrips supply, areas of the country are scheduled for a number of two- or four-hour daily blackouts to reduce the load. The City of Cape Town uses the Steenbras Dam pumped-storage scheme to shield its customers from one or two stages of load shedding.

Load shedding is something to consider when looking for accommodation in Cape Town. Some apartment blocks and residential complexes in the Cape will advertise that they have backup generators. Additionally, properties on the same block as a hospital are typically not subject to load shedding.

Read Accommodation in South Africa for more detailed information on load shedding.

Useful links:

Finding accommodation in Cape Town

An abundance of real estate agents in Cape Town provide services for both renters and buyers. In South Africa, property owners bear the burden of paying agents to find tenants or owners for their properties. Real estate agencies are great resources for finding out what kind of accommodation is available on the market.

Otherwise, expats can check weekly listings in major local newspapers, as well as property websites and online classifieds. Upon finding a suitable place, expats should contact the advertiser to arrange a viewing. Expats should note that properties go quickly in Cape Town, so it is best to work swiftly. House-hunting in Cape Town can be cut-throat, especially during high season. It's best for prospective tenants to have all their paperwork prepared beforehand and to be ready to pounce on a place if it suits their requirements.

Renting accommodation in Cape Town

Making an application

Once their ideal home has been found, expats will need to put in an application. This usually consists of an application form, proof of identity, proof of income and employment, and references.


Before moving in, prospective tenants will need to pay the first month's rent upfront, along with one or two months of rent as a security deposit. If the property is in good condition at the end of the lease, the deposit will be returned. Any damages beyond normal wear-and-tear incurred during the lease will be deducted from the deposit. Before moving in, expats should inspect the home for any pre-existing damage and alert the landlord of any issues.

Signing a lease

Contracts are typically signed for 12 months and are renewable. Some leases have stricter conditions than others and may contain stipulations about smoking, pets, noise hours and gatherings in the home. Expats should make sure they understand the lease agreement and any such clauses before signing.


Utilities are rarely included in rental prices and are usually an additional expense for the tenant.

Home security

Expats are advised to ensure their new home has appropriate security measures installed such as burglar bars, alarm monitoring and armed response. Complexes and larger apartment blocks will have their own front-desk security, but smaller units will only have security if provided by the body corporate.

Buying property in Cape Town

Despite the rand’s weakness and low consumer confidence, the South African property market is considered by many to be a worthwhile investment, and sellers have the advantage when it comes to Cape Town real estate. In fact, many a Cape Town millionaire has made their fortune through property. Resale returns have, however, diminished since the height of the property boom, and foreign investors are increasingly choosing to rent out their properties and settle for a stable source of income.

Conversely, the weak rand means that expats get high-end properties in Cape Town at great value for money, with the number of investors buying to rent increasing despite economic conditions in the country.

Areas and suburbs in Cape Town

The best places to live in Cape Town

Expats are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing between the many areas and suburbs in Cape Town. Each of its inner-city neighbourhoods, seaside communities and serene sections of suburbia has its own appealing aesthetic, so all expats have to do is decide which option best suits their tastes and needs – and, of course, their wallet.

City living in Cape Town

Cape Town

The City Bowl area, Camps Bay and the Atlantic Seaboard are prime residential districts for living close to the city. Though conveniently situated, property prices in these areas are some of the highest in Cape Town. 

Depending on the area they decide to live in, expats will have access to high-end family homes along with apartments in the area, typically occupied by the young and trendy.

City Bowl

Among the many advantages of life in Cape Town is the opportunity to live in the heart of the city without experiencing the crush one might expect from a big urban centre. Some of the most popular and affordable areas for expats living in the City Bowl are Gardens and Vredehoek. Vredehoek sits under Devil's Peak, and can get very blustery when the wind blows. 

Closer to the city centre on the slopes of Lion's Head are the more upmarket areas of Oranjezicht and Tamboerskloof – attractive, leafy suburbs known for Victorian houses and apartments with awe-inspiring views of the mountain and the shimmering lights of the suburbs surrounding the city. A bit further up the hill, the affluent neighbourhood of Higgovale stands sentinel, with gorgeous views over the city and quiet streets lined with large houses. 

Atlantic Seaboard

To the west of the City Bowl on the seaboard circling Signal Hill and Lion’s Head are the suburbs of De Waterkant, Green Point, Sea Point, Mouille Point, Clifton and Camps Bay.

Green Point and Mouille Point are centred around the Cape Town Stadium and close to the V&A Waterfront, boasting a vibrant mix of densely packed trendy apartments and bars. Further down Main Road is Sea Point, a mixture of high-rise apartments and sea-facing houses jostling for space on the slopes of Signal Hill. These areas are known for their array of boutique-style bistros and trendy retailers along the picturesque beachfront promenade.

Yet further along the coast is Clifton, known as Africa’s own St Tropez and home to Millionaire’s Row. Some of South Africa's most expensive real estate can be found here, with apartments selling for millions – even parking bays have been known to change hands for exorbitant prices. Despite being a short drive away from the city centre, Clifton feels far removed from the city’s bustle and its luxury properties overlook picturesque beaches framed by dramatic boulders.

It can get very windy in Cape Town, particularly in the summer months when the Southeaster blows. There are some suburbs like Bantry Bay and Clifton that are relatively wind free, but others such as Camps Bay where the wind can be fierce. Most residents are not too bothered by the wind, but it can drive others to distraction. When it blows, lying the beach is an unpleasant experience.

Cape Town suburbs

Cape Town

Though some entail no more than a 20-minute commute, Capetonians classify nearly anything that demands driving time as part of 'the suburbs'. These areas are family-friendly and offer housing options that are much more spacious and reasonably priced than in the City Bowl.

Southern Suburbs

Long-term expats often drift away from the city centre to Cape Town's leafy Southern Suburbs. Many families choose to live here for their larger houses and gardens, not to mention the area's access to some of the best educational institutions in the country.

The areas around the University of Cape Town, such as Mowbray, Rosebank and Observatory, are fairly inexpensive, Bohemian enclaves populated by students. Middle-class bastions such as Rondebosch, Newlands and Claremont are family favourites, offering freestanding homes, good schools and nearby parks.

Further around the mountain are Constantia and Bishopscourt, which boast enormous properties in a forest setting. The luxury properties in Bishopscourt, home to a multitude of businessmen and local celebrities, are some of the most expensive in South Africa.

The main disadvantage to living in the Southern Suburbs is rush-hour traffic to and from the city, though many living there feel that it's a price worth paying.

Southern Peninsula

The Southern Peninsula encompasses Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek and Simonstown; quiet seaside settlements linked by a scenic road and railway line winding along the coast. These areas are becoming increasingly popular with first-time home buyers, although their distance from the city will mainly appeal to expats with an aversion to the city or an addiction to surfing.

Hout Bay

One of the more popular areas for expats wanting to live outside the city is Hout Bay. Residents will enjoy a gorgeous view, a local beach and a charming harbour. On the downside, there have been tensions between established properties and the informal settlements on the outskirts of the town.

Northern Suburbs

Expats looking for safety, good value and a calm, suburban atmosphere might find Northern Suburbs areas such as Durbanville and Bellville to be a great fit. Several major shopping malls are situated in this area, not to mention the famous Durbanville wine route, leaving residents with plenty of entertainment options.

Though commerce and business are conducted in the city centre, Cape Town's industrial sector is based in the Northern Suburbs, providing job opportunities in the area. While it's possible to live in the Northern Suburbs and work in the city centre, the gruelling commute of more than an hour each way can be draining.

Domestic help in Cape Town

The availability and affordable nature of domestic help in Cape Town is one small luxury that most expats may wish to take advantage of if they move to the city.

Employing domestic helpers, nannies and gardeners is common for middle- and upper-class South Africans and provides much-needed employment in the country's highly unequal society.

While expats are likely to have somebody knocking on their door looking for work at some point, it's important to employ people based on references. There are also several recruitment companies that specialise in domestic staff.

Employing domestic workers in Cape Town

There are specific rules concerning work hours, overtime, annual leave, unemployment insurance and termination.

Live-in staff will expect food and accommodation as part of the package. Live-out staff may expect additional pay to compensate them for travel costs and, if working a full day, at least one meal should be provided to them at lunchtime.

Although not an obligation, it is normal for domestic staff to receive a thirteenth check in December as an additional bonus to their regular pay.

Annual leave for domestic workers in Cape Town

Domestic workers in Cape Town employed on a full-time basis are entitled to 15 working days of leave per year. This is often taken over Christmas, when many South Africans head to other areas of the country to spend time with extended family. Expats should try to agree on dates well in advance. Domestic workers may not be forced to work on any of South Africa's 12 official public holidays.

If ill or injured, domestic workers are entitled to the equivalent of up to six weeks of sick leave for every 36 months (three years) of work. This usually amounts to around 10 days of sick leave per year of work if split equally over the three years. Generally, sick leave is paid, unless certain conditions aren't met (such as if the domestic worker can't produce a medical certificate on request after two or more days of being off sick).

New mothers are entitled to four months of maternity leave, which may be paid or unpaid at the discretion of the employer. The job must be reserved for them should they choose to return.

Staff can also request to take family responsibility leave to look after a sick child or to attend a funeral of one of their extended family. Employees are entitled to three days of family responsibility a year, but domestic employers are usually flexible about this.

Healthcare in Cape Town

Expats will have a multitude of options when it comes to both public and private healthcare in Cape Town. However, with government hospitals being largely understaffed and underfunded, most expats use Cape Town's private healthcare facilities.

Basic consultations with general practitioners are generally affordable, but costs can quickly escalate with even the slightest complication.  For this reason, it's highly recommended that expats take out private health insurance, which South Africans commonly refer to as 'medical aid'. An assortment of local and international service providers offer different schemes; some are completely comprehensive, while others provide basic hospital cover for emergencies.

Below is a list of recommended hospitals in Cape Town.

Private hospitals in Cape Town

Mediclinic Constantiaberg
Address: Burnham Road, Plumstead

Melomed Tokai
Address: Corner Main & Keysers Road, Tokai

Netcare UCT Private Academic Hospital
Address: D18 Anzio Road, Observatory

Mediclinic Cape Town
Address: 21 Hof Street, Oranjezicht

Education and schools in Cape Town

There is a wide selection of schools in Cape Town of varying quality. The city has a range of public schools (government run), private schools (independent) and international schools, each with their own reputation. Education standards vary tremendously at government schools, while private and international schools offer consistently high levels of schooling – with prices to match.

The city is also home to the University of Cape Town, located at the foot of Devil's Peak and consistently ranked as the best university in Africa. There are several other well-known institutions that can be reached from the city, including the University of Stellenbosch.

The school year in South Africa runs from mid-January to early December, across three or four equal terms, depending on the school. Holidays generally take place in April, June/July, September and December.

Public schools in Cape Town

The quality of public schools in Cape Town can vary widely depending on their source of funding. The best schools are generally those that are partially funded and controlled by a private governing body in addition to funding from the government.

Many consider the best public schools to be those situated in Cape Town's wealthier suburbs. More often than not, schools in these areas come with a long and prestigious history. The fees for such schools are often on the high end of the spectrum by public school standards, but they are still generally cheaper than private and international schools.

Pre-schools in Cape Town

Cape Town has many pre-schools to choose from, and the more popular ones can have long waiting lists so it's important to register in advance. Some are affiliated to private schools, or act as feeders for the more prestigious state schools. Fees range from R30,000 to R45,000 per year, with extras on top. Pre-schools cater for boys and girls who are 18 months old up to age 7, when they will start junior school. 

Read more about pre-schools in Cape Town.

Private schools in Cape Town

There are many excellent private schools in Cape Town with good academic track records and international university acceptance rates. Given the range of good private schools in and around the city, they are often the first choice of informed expat parents moving to the city.

Provided they meet the standards prescribed by the Education Department, private schools can manage their own learning, teaching and assessment of students. They can also choose whether to follow the South African national curriculum, the curriculum of the national Independent Examinations Board (IEB) or any other officially recognised curriculum.

Read more about private schools in Cape Town

International schools in Cape Town

International schools in South Africa follow curricula determined by international bodies, such as the International Baccalaureate, the British A-Levels or the American SATs. There are also a number of international schools that teach the curricula of foreign-language countries – for example, French and German schools. These schools teach in the predominant language of their country of origin, though some have bilingual programmes as well.

They offer a high standard of education and internationally recognised qualifications; however, international schools are also the most expensive schools in Cape Town. If expats have the financial means to pay for these schools, they are generally the best option for globally mobile families or those who don't plan on staying for the long term, mainly because the curricula of international schools are easily transferable around the world. Learning a familiar curriculum in one's home language can also make the adjustment to life in South Africa a little smoother.

While these schools are a great option, there is a lot of competition for places and waiting lists are often long, so it's best to apply as far in advance of arrival as possible.

Read more about international schools in Cape Town.

Special educational needs in Cape Town

Parents of children with special educational needs can choose between mainstream schools with extra support, and dedicated special-needs schools in Cape Town. Some parents of children with special needs prefer to place their children in mainstream schools where they are exposed to a larger and more diverse peer group. Some mainstream schools have more developed special educational needs programmes than others, though, so parents will likely need to consider a few schools before deciding on the best fit. Government schools rarely offer adequate support, so private schools are recommended.

Tutors in Cape Town

In South Africa, tutors are frequently hired to assist with 'problem subjects' such as maths or science, or in the run-up to major testing such as the pre-graduation matriculation exams. Expats may wish to make use of tutors in similar circumstances or utilise tutors in other ways, such as improving English, maintaining proficiency in the family's mother tongue, or catching up to a new curriculum.

Some tutor companies, such as the highly recommended Master Maths programme, specialise in a particular subject. Others, such as Teach Me 2, have a varied roster of tutors, each of whom has their own specialised subjects.

Pre-school and childcare in Cape Town

Pre-schools and childcare in Cape Town are mostly private organisations that can be found in most suburbs, as they cater to the neighbourhood's infants and toddlers.

Apart from word of mouth, there are several resources available to help expat parents find the right pre-school for their child. Online forums can be useful, as other parents share positive or negative feedback about the pre-school.

Long-term expats should consider that certain pre-schools are feeders for some of the city’s best schools, and having their children attend them may be advantageous when the time comes to apply for primary school.

Here is a list of some of the most prominent pre-schools in Cape Town.

Pre-schools in Cape Town

Christopher Robin Pre-Primary

Taking on children as young as 12 months, Christopher Robin Pre-Primary is part of the Parklands College group of schools near Table View. Little ones from Christopher Robin often end up continuing on through Parklands, eventually graduating from the senior school having received a consistently high level of education.

Reddam House

There are three Reddam House campuses in Cape Town: Constantia, Atlantic Seaboard and Durbanville. With campuses in the United Kingdom and Australia, children from Reddam House's pre-primary have an advantage that could extend beyond Cape Town.

St Joseph's Marist College

The prestigious school in Rondebosch gives parents the option of either mainstream or Montessori education and provides its young students with a firm foundation for entering into the Junior School section of St Joseph. 

Fledglings Educational Playgroup

Situated in the leafy southern suburb of Rondebosch, Cape Town, Fledglings Educational Playgroup embraces the traditions and values of independent education. While keeping in touch with new initiatives and ideas in education, Fledglings makes sure each child is equipped with the skills and knowledge needed for life.

Private schools in Cape Town

Private schools in Cape Town are often excellent and range from historied co-educational institutions to schools offering alternative education models and curricula. Annual fees for tuition and boarding can be extremely pricey at the most elite schools. However, in return, students are exposed to high-quality teaching and exceptional facilities including cutting-edge science labs, well-tended sports fields and dedicated spaces for the arts.

Private schools in Cape Town


Bishops Diocesan College

This independent all-boys school has a long and prestigious history. Set on a magnificent campus in the leafy suburb of Rondebosch, Bishops offers an excellent education. Boarding facilities are available.

Gender: Boys only
Curriculum: South African
Ages: 4 to 18

Cedar House

This intimate Kenilworth school keeps class sizes small in order to celebrate individuality and provide an academically rigorous education in a warm environment. Individuality and critical thinking are actively fostered and encouraged.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: South African (IEB)
Ages: 9 to 18

Constantia Waldorf School

Set in vast, lush grounds in the upmarket suburb of Constantia, this school's curriculum is based on the educational ideas of Rudolf Steiner and aims to produce well-rounded men and women.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Waldorf/South African
Ages: 1 to 18

Herschel Girls School

Founded in 1922, Herschel Girls is based in Claremont and is known for being one of the best schools in Cape Town. Equal emphasis is placed on academics, culture and sport, with the school especially enjoying a good reputation for the latter.

Gender: Girls only
Curriculum: South African/IEB
Ages: 3 to 18

Herzlia Middle School and Herzlia High School

Situated in Oranjezicht, Herzlia Middle School and Herzlia High School are part of the United Herzlia Schools group. The group has three primary schools in Cape Town as well as a number of feeder pre-schools. Students are required to learn Hebrew and Jewish Studies, although all creeds are welcome.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: South African
Ages: 13 to 18

Parklands College

This non-denominational school on the Atlantic Seaboard has an excellent academic reputation and offers a good range of extra-curricular activities. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: South African
Ages: 1 to 18

St Cyprian's School

A member of the Round Square educational group, St Cyprian's is a girls-only Christian school with boarding facilities available. The campus is in Oranjezicht in central Cape Town.

Gender: Girls only
Curriculum: South African (IEB)/Cambridge
Ages: 3 to 18

St Joseph's Marist College

St Joseph's is a Catholic school with Montessori options and a good special-needs programme. Pre-primary and junior school students can be enrolled in either a traditional or a Montessori curriculum. The school's campus is in Rondebosch.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Montessori/South African
Ages: 3 to 18

International Schools in Cape Town

International schools in Cape Town are a popular choice for expat parents. Standards are generally high, and international schools are often staffed by expat teachers experienced in delivering the core curriculum of their home system. Consistency, continuity and a sense of familiarity at school can be immeasurably helpful for children adjusting to such a major move.

A further advantage is an opportunity for expat children to form connections with children from diverse countries and backgrounds who nevertheless share the complex experience of being an expat child. Expat parents, too, can benefit from connecting with fellow expats in the school's community.

International schools in Cape Town


American International School of Cape Town

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 2 to 18

Deutsche Schule Kapstadt

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: German
Ages: 5 to 18

Hout Bay International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE
Ages: 3 to 18

International School of Cape Town

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18

L'école Française du Cap

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 2 to 18

Reddam House Durbanville

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: South African (IEB), Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 1 to 18

Note: Many expats send their children to one of the excellent private schools in Cape Town rather than an international school.

Lifestyle in Cape Town

Life in Cape Town is a lesson in the art of leisure. Capetonians are known for their appetite for the good life, and expats will find it difficult to resist the Mother City's indulgent pastimes for long.

A naturalist's playground with a cosmopolitan heartbeat, Cape Town offers a lifestyle that balances an emphasis on the great outdoors with an appreciation for arts, culture and entertainment. It's possible to climb Table Mountain in the morning, go wine tasting in the afternoon and end the day with fine dining at one of the city's renowned restaurants.

Even if food, wine and sun aren't one's idea of an ideal lifestyle, Cape Town's niche boutiques and mega malls can be perfect for those that would rather wander shopping aisles than nature trails.

Shopping in Cape Town

Cape Town has an abundance of locally inspired, creative shopping options. The city has a strong movement of young designers, stylist artisans and craftspeople, and in many cases, they have their own shops or studios.

There are also plenty of standard department stores to satisfy the whims of any shopper, as well as a few not-to-be-missed speciality stores. The Old Biscuit Mill is an unorthodox shopping complex that is home to a selection of eateries, restaurants and craft stores. It also hosts the well-loved Neighbourgoods Market on Saturday mornings, a must-see for expats who love food trucks, organic produce and quirky crafts.

For a more normalised mall experience, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is a popular destination, housing South Africa's favourite stores as well as a range of high-end international brands. Other popular shopping destinations include Cavendish Square in the Southern Suburbs, as well as Canal Walk and Tyger Valley in the Northern Suburbs.

Outdoor activities and sport in Cape Town

With all the natural beauty that surrounds the city, expats are spoilt for choice when it comes to outdoor activities. Table Mountain is at the centre of ecotourism in the city, offering residents hiking trails, mountain biking and several nature reserves. For an incredible view of Cape Town, take a ride on the Table Mountain cable car.

Cape Town's beaches are also not to be missed, and there are plenty to choose from. Recommended beaches include Camps Bay and Llandudno just north of the city centre as well as various beaches in the Southern Peninsula, such as Boulder's Beach, where visitors can swim among the area's freely roaming African penguins.

There is also more than enough sport in Cape Town to keep fans happy. The Cape Town Stadium, originally built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, often hosts local and international football (locally known as soccer) and rugby matches. The Newlands Stadium in the Southern Suburbs is the venue of choice for cricket matches in the city.

Fitness fanatics will find plenty of opportunity to partake in the city's many marathons, not to mention the famous Cape Town Cycle Tour.

Nightlife in Cape Town

Cape Town's nightlife has something to cater to all tastes. Long Street, in the centre of the city, has one of the highest concentrations of entertainment venues. With everything from gourmet burger restaurants to an Irish pub and clubs playing electronic music into the early hours of the morning, there's always plenty to do in Long Street. The city also has an active music industry, with artists and bands of all kinds of genres performing throughout the city. Younger expats typically flock to the student nightlife offered by Claremont, a suburb to the south of the city, and craft beer connoisseurs will enjoy the wide selections on offer at trendy bars across the city.

Meeting people and making friends in Cape Town

Making new friends can be one of the toughest parts of moving to a new city. A great way to meet new people with similar interests is to join a local club or meetup group. Here are some suggestions.

Internations Cape Town

Internations is an international organisation devoted to connecting expats and organising social events for them in cities across the globe.

International Women's Club of Cape Town

This club is aimed at bringing expat women together and helping them support each other through the process of adjusting to new environments. They offer various lectures, classes and other activities to members. They also host several interest groups, like gardening, movie club and wine appreciation.

Atlantic Athletic Club

Expats who want to keep fit while they work on their social life might join a running club like the Atlantic Athletic Club. The club offers a variety of social runs and beginner runs, as well as training runs for the more competitive.


Expats who work from home may find the lack of water coolers an additional barrier to meeting new people. Consider using a coworking space like Workshop17's Watershed at the V&A to meet other digital nomads.

Shopping in Cape Town

Capetonians love to shop, and expats will find that shopping malls are ubiquitous in the city.

Location often influences the kinds of stores that feature in each mall. For example, the V&A Waterfront and Cape Quarter are situated in prime tourist territory, so expats should expect to find luxury items with prices to match. On the other hand, Canal Walk offers more practical stores that align with local needs and budgets.

Shopping malls in Cape Town

V&A Waterfront

The much-photographed V&A Waterfront wraps around the old Cape Town harbour and is set against the always-breathtaking Table Mountain. There is a huge choice of shops, including upmarket clothing shops, supermarkets such as Pick 'n Pay and Woolworths, and bookshops. There are also many restaurants, a cinema and entertainment options such as the aquarium, boat trips, bands and buskers.

Cavendish Square

Located in the Southern Suburbs, the upmarket Cavendish shopping centre is packed with a huge range of shops from supermarkets to boutiques, bookshops and home décor shops. There are also plenty of restaurants and coffee shops as well as a cinema.

Canal Walk

Canal Walk is situated in the Northern Suburbs, just off the N1 highway. Canal Walk has hundreds of shops, including international brands, clothing shops, supermarkets, restaurants, fast food outlets, toy shops and a cinema. The shopping here might be slightly less upmarket than Cavendish or the Waterfront, but the choice at Cape Town's biggest shopping centre is vast.

Constantia Village

With over 80 stores, Constantia Village is an ambient, opulent shopping experience set in the heart of the vineyard-peppered, old-world charm of Constantia. Here, expats will find a number of great eateries, jewellery stores and fashion boutiques as well as a large supermarket.

Cape Quarter

This petite shopping centre packs a punch, full of unique designer brands, upmarket artisans, fabulous florists and incredible restaurants.

Markets in Cape Town

Markets have become a mainstay for local fun in Cape Town. Expats won't find bustling souks or monstrous bazaars in the Mother City, but manageable niche markets have sprung up to offer everything from fresh produce and gourmet eats to collectable antiques and fantastic flea market finds. There are scores of weekly markets of all types dotted throughout the city.

The Bay Harbour Market

Situated in Hout Bay, this market is well worth the trip. It is open every weekend and is a must-visit for local curios, pottery, art and furniture.

Greenmarket Square

Built in 1696, Greenmarket Square is one of Cape Town's oldest market locations. The market is open daily and tends to cater to the tourist market with a wide variety of stalls selling African curios, clothing and candles.

The Neighbourgoods Market

Delicious food stalls, local cheeses, wine, crêpes, fresh bread and organic food can be found at this famed Cape Town market. Situated at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, it's open every Saturday and Sunday.

Beauty and spas in Cape Town

Beauty in Cape Town is a serious business, and with plenty of golden beaches and upmarket bars and clubs to frequent, looking good is an art that locals work hard at perfecting. Furthermore, Capetonians are firm believers in being kind to the body, so there are plenty of holistic options to complement the various salons and spas.

Expats in the mood to enjoy a relaxing massage, a revitalising salt float or even just a run-of-the-mill mani and pedi will have no short supply of spas to choose from.

Luxury hotels boast certified beauty palaces that offer everything from full-day packages to individual treatments – however, this carries a hefty price tag. For more affordable options, boutique skincare and health clinics can be found across the city, and while the décor may be a step back from the fluff found in many of the five-star establishments, the services are often just as good.

Recommended spas in Cape Town

Angsana Spa (Newlands)

A renowned spa chain with more than two dozen locations all over the globe, the Angsana Spa at the Vineyard Hotel is sure to provide expats with a world-class experience. Highly trained spa therapists offer a range of treatments such as tension-relieving massages, calming baths and rejuvenating body polishes.

Heavenly Spa by Westin (Cape Town Central)

Located on the 19th floor of the Westin Grand Hotel, this spa offers the best views in town along with a wide range of beauty and skincare treatments. This respite from busy city life offers sublime rest and renewal for the weary expat.

Sorbet (multiple locations)

Whether expats are after the perfect manicure, a relaxing facial or beautifying treatments such as eyebrow threading, eyelash extensions and waxing, this chain offers consistently good services at reasonable prices. Perfect for a quick escape from the daily grind or a much-needed pick-me-up.

Spa Patchouli (Rondebosch)

From aromatherapy treatments and hot stone massages to hydrotherapy and specialist facials, this spa has a lot to offer and is a great place to while away an afternoon in luxury.

Sport and fitness in Cape Town

Sport and fitness are taken seriously in Cape Town, and many Capetonians consider staying in shape to be one of their primary priorities. Much of the lifestyle in the Mother City revolves around outdoor activities, and if the weather rules out such adventures, residents will often take advantage of one of the many gyms or exercise facilities all over the city.

Living between a mountain and an ocean means that hiking, trail running and rock climbing are easy to access and free of charge, as are the various water sports connected with the ocean or nearby dams and rivers. More offbeat options also exist for a minimal price, including capoeira, Muay Thai and salsa dancing.

Regardless of the type of exercise expats choose, keeping fitness levels where they should be is easy in a city with such ideal weather conditions and so many options.

Keeping fit in Cape Town


There are two main gym brands operating in the city: Virgin Active and Planet Fitness. Alternatively, there are other non-chain gyms located throughout Cape Town.

Gym membership can be pricey, depending on the specific gym and selected membership plan. However, some medical aid schemes encourage insurance holders to stay healthy by offering discounts on gym memberships, in which case there is an initial joining fee and thereafter monthly fees are discounted according to attendance.


The Cape’s roads are popular with cyclists and the city has been making an effort to make the city more cycle-friendly, with dedicated cycle lanes and cycle routes being introduced.

Mountain bikers have plenty of options, with good routes on Table Mountain and lots of downhill in Tokai, not to mention countless routes in the mountains surrounding the Winelands.


Hikers are spoilt for choice in the Mother City. Whether climbing Signal Hill, Lion's Head, Platteklip, Silvermine, Cape Point Nature Reserve or any of the other numerous options offered by the city, hikers are guaranteed beautiful views.

However, it's important to stay safe while hiking. For a start, never hike alone – authorities recommend being in a group of four hikers or more. Cape Town is also known for its fickle weather, which can change from warm and sunny to windy and rainy in just a few hours. Wet and slippery paths and rocks are a common cause of injuries when hiking, so always check the weather report before embarking on a hike. Lastly, make sure at least one person in the hiking group has a working, fully charged mobile telephone in case of an emergency.


With spectacular views to be found around every bend and accommodating weather to be enjoyed most of the year, there are plenty of opportunities in Cape Town for running enthusiasts. Popular spots include Sea Point Promenade, Rondebosch Common and Newlands Forest. As with hiking, appropriate precautions should be taken for safety, such as running only during the day, running in groups, keeping valuable items out of sight, and taking note of surrounding areas and people.

Sports clubs in Cape Town

Joining a sports club can be a great way to meet like-minded people while getting some exercise and fresh air, too.

See below for a list of some of Cape Town's top sports clubs. It's worth noting that some clubs require approval of registration by a committee, and at times the waiting list may be lengthy.


Western Province Cricket Club

Address: Ave De Mist, Rondebosch
Tel: +27 21 657 3330

More than just a cricket club, the Western Province Cricket Club offers running, cycling, bowls, squash, hockey and tennis and is equipped with a fitness centre. The club has been around for more than 150 years and is situated in the beautiful suburb of Rondebosch.

Cape Town Cricket Club

Address: The Boon Wallace Oval, Victoria Road, Plumstead
Tel: +27 83 298 6046

The club has an impressive foundation, established 160 years ago. Having produced a number of top international cricket players, the Cape Town Cricket Club is the perfect place for cricket lovers.


Camps Bay Football Club

Address: The Meadway, Camps Bay
Tel: +27 76 070 6563

With junior and senior sides, football fanatics can enjoy kicking a ball around on the grounds located right next to the beach.

Clyde Pinelands Association Football Club

Address: 207 Ringwood Dr, Pinelands
Tel: +27 76 700 7690

Offering both recreational and competitive opportunities, Clyde Pinelands Football Club welcomes players of all ages and has a number of age-specific teams, ranging from Under-7s to Veterans.


Mowbray Golf Club

Address: 1 Raapenberg Road, Mowbray
Tel: +27 21 685 3018

Set on a flat terrain populated by lush trees and water features, the Mowbray Gold Club is open all year round. The course has been specifically designed to block the ever-present Cape Town winds from ruining a game.

Royal Cape Golf Club

Address: 174 Ottery Road, Wynberg
Tel: +27 21 761 6551

Boasting views of spectacular Table Mountain, the Royal Cape Golf Club is South Africa's oldest golf course and accommodates players of all skill levels.

Rondebosch Golf Club

Address: Corner of Access Road and Golf Course Road, Mowbray
Tel: +27 21 689 4176

This course is popular with locals and foreigners alike, particularly for its views of Table Mountain and Devil's Peak. The river that winds through the course provides challenges to the players, and the grounds are home to a variety of bird life.


Mountain Club of South Africa

Address: 97 Hatfield Street, Cape Town
Tel: +27 21 465 3412

This club offers hikes, rock climbs and other mountain-related activities led by volunteers.

The Trails Club of South Africa


Offering hikes of different variations, this club is focused on enjoying nature and spreading awareness about conservation.


Hamilton's Rugby Football Club

Address: 1 Stephan Way, Green Point
Tel: +27 21 180 2838

This club is one of the oldest rugby unions in South Africa and has a great sense of camaraderie. The club is open to anyone enthusiastic about rugby.


Atlantic Athletic Club

Address: 3 Victoria Road, Clifton

Offering training runs, social runs and runs for beginners, this club is a great place for runners of all abilities.


Claremont Tennis Club

Address: 20 Annette Way, Claremont

Sporting eight tennis courts set against a backdrop of Table Mountain, it is the perfect place for expats looking to enjoy tennis leisurely or competitively.

Gardens Lawn Tennis Club

Address: Upper De Waal Park, Molteno Road, Gardens
Tel: +27 79 259 7062

As well as being a good spot for expats to hone their tennis skills, it offers many social events, making it easy for expats to meet people and make friends.


Royal Cape Yacht Club

Address: Duncan Road, Table Bay Harbour
Tel: +27 21 421 1354

A friendly environment, the club hosts various sailing events along with more casual events like talks and club gatherings.

Kids and Family in Cape Town

Kids in Cape Town are rarely at a loss for entertainment or distraction, and parents will find that it doesn't take a lot of effort to keep their little expats occupied. There is an abundance of open space and natural attractions, as well as all the trappings of Western mall culture for rainy days.

Expats moving to Cape Town with children will be mercifully free of the drastic adjustments required in many other destinations. Provided they speak English, expat families will be understood by the locals. There are also many international schools and excellent English-speaking local schools to help minimise disruptions to an expat child’s education.

Activities for kids in Cape Town

Families in Cape Town can hike up Table Mountain or take the cable car to the top for an incredible view of the city. Areas such as False Bay, Silvermine and Cape Point are perfect for a splendid day out in nature, offering long walks with a wealth of wildlife and beautiful landscapes to appreciate.

For hot summer days, there are the city's scenic, clean and free beaches as well as the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens with its breathtaking scenery and safe, expansive lawns for children to run around on.

A trip to the V&A Waterfront is guaranteed to be a fun day out. There are craft markets, boat rides, restaurants and shops aplenty to keep the whole family entertained. The world-class Two Oceans Aquarium is also found here and provides a fascinating and educational experience for the whole family.

Recommended attractions for kids in Cape Town

Boulders Beach (Simon's Town)

The whole family is sure to enjoy the unique experience of sharing the boulder-strewn beach with a large colony of curious African penguins.

Bugz Family Playpark (Kraaifontein)

The largest playpark in the Western Cape, Bugz Family Playpark offers a huge variety of fun activities to keep the kids amused for hours on end.

Scratch Patch (Simon's Town and V&A Waterfront)

Let the kids loose to search for precious stones, minerals and gems – they get to keep what they find. Families can also enjoy an 18-hole indoor mini-golf course set inside a 'cave'. The course comes complete with waterfalls and UV light sections.

World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary and Monkey Park (Hout Bay)

Africa's biggest collection of birds is a delight for young children. The monkeys are also sure to entertain. A well-equipped play area and good tearoom complete the experience.

Seal Island (Hout Bay)

Take a short cruise out to Duiker Island for astounding views and a close-up experience of a seal colony.

GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World (Goodwood)

With ice-skating, ten-pin bowling, an arcade, laser tag and more, the kids are sure to be entertained at GrandWest. Parents often enjoy a meal or try their luck at the casino while the children occupy themselves.

See and Do in Cape Town

Cape Town might have fewer business opportunities than Johannesburg, but it has far more going for it in terms of world-class attractions and things to see and do. Whether expats are interested in historic sites and museums, or scenic cruises and gorgeous beaches, Cape Town has plenty to keep its residents occupied on weekends.

A good way to start getting orientated is to catch one of the hop-on, hop-off sightseeing buses which cruise around town, linking all of its major attractions through a variety of stops.

Recommended attractions in Cape Town

Castle of Good Hope

By some margin the oldest building in the country, the construction of the pentagonal castle began in 1666. It is considered to be one of the world's best-preserved examples of a Dutch East India Company fort and has a rich history as a military fort, with parts of the castle being used as a jail, complete with an interrogation chamber and a dungeon.

Table Mountain

Named for its flat top and the 'tablecloth' of cloud that regularly covers its plateau, this mountain is Cape Town's most popular tourist attraction and a worldwide symbol of the city. There are numerous walking routes up the mountain, but the rotating cable car is the most popular way to access the stunning views from the top.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Famous for its astounding collection of plant life, rolling lawns and sculptures, Kirstenbosch is magnificently set on the slopes of Devil's Peak, just a short drive from the city centre. The Summer Sunset Concerts held on Sundays during the city's sunniest months are a great, though busy, time to visit.

Clifton and Camps Bay beaches

The Atlantic seafront has the closest beaches to the city centre and some of its best. Clifton's beaches are known for their privacy and granite boulders; Camps Bay for its pristine stretch of golden sand and high-end cosmopolitan atmosphere.

District Six Museum

Up until the 1960s, District Six was a mixed-race area with a lively, diverse culture. In 1966, however, it was reclassified as a 'whites-only' area under the apartheid regime. More than 60,000 residents were forcibly removed from the area, which was then flattened by bulldozers.

This museum memorialises the resilience of the community's culture, even in its loss, and gives visitors a chance to understand the experiences of the area's residents and the repercussions still being felt today.

Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront

The Waterfront is popular with expats, locals and tourists for its variety and picturesque surrounds. A bustling harbour rich with history, it is one of the city’s busiest shopping and restaurant centres and is a vibrant place suitable for both sunny days and winter weather.


The Bo-Kaap is the historical Malay Quarter of the city, known for its brightly coloured houses. A vibrant and resilient reminder of the multicultural heritage at the heart of Cape Town’s history, the area hosts the Bo-Kaap Museum as well as a handful of restaurants serving local foods. It also houses the famous Noon Gun on Signal Hill, which has loudly been announcing midday for more than two centuries.

Two Oceans Aquarium

Based at the V&A Waterfront, the Two Oceans Aquarium houses a plethora of sea animals from both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Educational and hugely entertaining, it receives half a million visitors every year and is especially renowned for its predator exhibit.

What's On in Cape Town

As much as it is known for its natural landscape, Cape Town's very identity is shaped by its iconic events. Locals and visitors from different backgrounds often find themselves celebrating side-by-side in the city's wide selection of annual cultural celebrations.

Here is a list of some of the city's not-to-be-missed yearly events.

Annual events in Cape Town

The Sun Met (January/February)

Previously known as the J&B Met, this is both the city's biggest horse-racing event of the year and a fashion lifestyle event attended by the city's rich, famous and beautiful. The place to see and be seen, the Met has attendants vying for the coveted honour of being dubbed 'best dressed'. With so much glitz and glamour, it's easy to forget that the ostensible reason for the event is a horse race.

Cape Town Cycle Tour (March)

The largest timed cycle race in the world, the Cape Town Cycle Tour (sometimes referred to by its former title, 'The Argus') attracts over 35,000 riders a year and is a city-stopping showpiece for spectators and cyclists alike. The route starts in the city centre before wending around the coast of the Southern Peninsula, over Chapman's Peak, and finally to the finish in Green Point. The vast majority of riders are amateurs, which lends the race a fun-filled atmosphere that belies the testing nature of the strenuous 68-mile (108 km) route.

Cape Town International Jazz Festival (March/April)

Starting out as the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2000, the Cape Town Jazz Festival has grown to become one of the city's most prominent yearly events. It is the fourth-largest jazz festival in the world and the biggest jazz festival in Africa. The event consistently attracts international performers. In addition to the paid performances that make up the bulk of the programme, the festival also offers those who can't afford the hefty ticket prices a free concert with selected performers at Greenmarket Square.

Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts (November to March)

Every Sunday evening during summer, the magnificent Kirstenbosch Gardens hosts a series of sunset concerts featuring local and international artists. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket and enjoy great music under a summer sky framed by Table Mountain.

MCQP (December)

The world-famous Mother City Queer Project has become the biggest costume party on the city's calendar. Each year's theme invites outrageous and imaginative costumes and attracts people from across all spectrums – everyone is welcome to join the festivities, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, age or race.

Shipping and Removals in Cape Town

There are various options available to expats wishing to ship their belongings to Cape Town. They may choose to use either air or sea freight. Costs vary depending on the distance travelled, the volume of goods and the form of transport used.

Air freight is quick but expensive, while shipping by sea is slower but also cheaper. Some expats divide their belongings up according to urgency, transporting essentials by air and less essential, bulkier items by sea.

Shipping pets to Cape Town

To bring pets into South Africa, a valid import permit and veterinary health certificate is required. Vaccinations against rabies and microchip implantations are mandatory for both dogs and cats.

Without the required documentation, pets will be quarantined and released only once the necessary paperwork has been submitted. Expats should also be aware that dogs from certain countries are subject to a standard quarantine as a matter of course.

Frequently asked questions about Cape Town

Inquisitive expats are sure to have all sorts of questions about their future home, from weather and schooling to transport and safety. Here are a few answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Cape Town.

How safe is Cape Town?

As long as one takes basic precautions, Cape Town is no more dangerous than any other international city. Certain high-risk areas, none of which expats are likely to visit, are epicentres of much of the city's crime. Outside these areas, crimes tend to be theft related, such as house robbery, hijacking and mugging. These crimes are often opportunistic, focusing on easy targets – so it's well worth taking common-sense measures such as keeping valuables out of sight, being aware of one's surroundings, and investing in good home- and car-security systems.

Where can I meet other expats?

There are substantial populations of British, German, French and American expats in Cape Town. Each community has vibrant clubs and societies to help recent arrivals get connected. Examples include the Spanish Social Club, Alliance Française and the American Society of South Africa.

What is the weather like in Cape Town?

Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers (December to February), and wet but mild winter months (June to August). Atlantic currents ensure the seawater is fairly cold throughout the year. It can get pretty windy too, especially when the notorious South-Easter starts blowing.

What language do Capetonians speak?

English is widely spoken and is the lingua franca for business and government. For many, it is their native language. Expats may also hear isiZulu, Afrikaans and isiXhosa being spoken, but even those who don't speak English as a first language will likely speak it as a second or third language.

What's the public transport like? Do I need a car?

Like elsewhere in South Africa, Cape Town's public transport infrastructure leaves much to be desired. The MyCiTi bus system, which operates around the City Bowl, the Atlantic Seaboard area and the lower West Coast, is an efficient system which is becoming more popular with middle-class commuters. However, routes are limited, and many areas of suburban Cape Town aren't covered. In general, most expats buy or rent a car to get around Cape Town.

Should I send my kids to a government, private or international school?

Government schools vary widely – many offer a poor standard of education, but some of the older parent-funded schools in the City Bowl and Southern Suburbs might suit expat tastes. International schools are useful for expats who want their children to follow a strict British, American, French or German curriculum but, in general, private schools offer the best value for money.

Getting Around in Cape Town

Getting around Cape Town is relatively easy, at least in terms of navigation. The city centre is compact, and large natural landmarks make for easy orientation. Additionally, the surrounding suburbs are a short distance from the central business district.

That said, a car is borderline essential because the options for public transport are limited. Expats will need to be prepared to spend a fair amount of time on the road – numerous surveys name Cape Town as South Africa's most congested city.

There are no subways, and metered taxis are expensive. Trains can be unsafe and unreliable and, of the two bus services operating in the city, only one of them approaches international standards and has limited coverage. Cape Town can be conquered on foot during the day, but there are trouble spots, and walking at night is not a good idea in many areas.

Driving in Cape Town

Expats will probably need to buy a car to get around in Cape Town. Both pre-owned and new vehicles are available from dealerships, and purchasing from individual private sellers is also a popular option.

Once they're permanent residents, expats have one year to convert their licence to a South African one. In the meantime, they can legally drive in South Africa using their own country’s driving licence as long as it has a photograph of the driver, is valid and is in English. If their driving licence doesn't meet these requirements, an International Driving Permit can be used instead.

Generally speaking, traffic in Cape Town is at its worst in the mornings and evenings to and from the city centre. Parking can also be a problem and is often expensive, especially in the city centre. Most spots require some parallel manoeuvring.

South African drivers are known for being reckless, and the lawless practices of minibus taxis don't make the roads any safer. Expats should be sure to drive defensively and be aware of their surroundings at all times.

Public transport in Cape Town

MyCiTi buses

An ongoing long-term project, the MyCiTi Integrated Rapid Transit (IRT) system began in 2010 and is constantly being expanded. With dedicated lanes in several areas, the MyCiTi blue buses are considered a cost-effective, efficient and safe way to get around Cape Town and between the city and the airport.

The network has grown to comprehensively cover the inner city and the Atlantic Seaboard from Sea Point to Hout Bay. It also extends northwards, cutting through Milnerton, Table View and Century City before making its way along the West Coast to the quaint town of Mamre. It also extends east to the townships of Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain.

Unfortunately, the service fails to cover the Southern Suburbs which includes a number of areas popular with expats such as Bishopscourt, Constantia, Claremont and Rondebosch.

Golden Arrow buses

With a history stretching all the way back to 1861, the green, orange and white buses of the Golden Arrow Bus Service are as much a part of the local scenery as Table Mountain. Unfortunately, many of its vehicles are old and could be better maintained. The buses are mostly safe but can be inefficient and crowded. However, for those living in the city's Southern Suburbs with no personal vehicle access, this may be an option worth considering.


Train travel in Cape Town is run by Metrorail, the state-owned commuter rail service. Service can be limited in some areas and can be unpleasant and unsafe, especially outside of the first-class carriages. Travel during peak hours is characterised by large crowds, little concern for safety regulations and frequent strikes. Timing can be erratic, with trains arriving perfectly on time one day and being hopelessly delayed the next.

Muggings and petty thefts are common on some routes, and expats should take care to keep an eye on their personal belongings.

While not always ideal for everyday travel, the train from the city centre to Fish Hoek and Muizenberg can be a charming way to spend a weekend afternoon.

Minibus taxis

The most ubiquitous form of public transport in Cape Town is the minibus taxi, which, although cheap and efficient, is not the safest transport option. Drivers are often reckless, conditions are cramped, and vehicles are usually in poor condition. In and around the city centre where distances are short and fares low, these can be a useful mode of transit, but they are not recommended for any travel that requires nighttime or highway driving.

Taxis in Cape Town

Metered taxis abound in Cape Town, but expats should take make sure to use a reliable company. Fares are usually printed on the cabs' doors.

Passengers should make sure that the driver has turned on the meter, or that they have negotiated a fare beforehand. Metered taxis that look to be in poor condition, or taxis that don't have a meter, should be avoided. Tipping is appreciated, but not expected.

Ride-hailing services such as Uber are available in Cape Town and are a good way to get around the city, especially at night. With affordable rates and reliable pickups, Uber is a useful app to have on one's phone.

Cycling in Cape Town

Although a growing number of environmentally conscious Capetonians are turning to their bicycles to get around, expats will find that the infrastructure in Cape Town is a far cry from some of Europe's cycle-friendly cities. Still, there are several cycling paths in the city centre and parts of the Southern Suburbs as part of efforts to decrease congestion. Of particular note is the MyCiTi cycle route, which is designed to connect with public transport routes.

The city's cycling infrastructure still has room for improvement, though. For instance, not all the cycle lanes and routes are connected. If traversing an area without cycle lanes, cyclists must ensure that they are easily visible to motorists and should be aware of surrounding vehicles at all times.