3 Reasons Why We Are Not Going To Cape Town

We are not going to Cape Town this winter. I am still coming to terms with this decision after months of anticipation and excitement.

Victoria & Albert Waterfront at Cape Town, South Africa
Photo Credit: David Stanley (license) via Flickr.com

By all accounts, Cape Town is an excellent vacation destination. Just check this Pinterest board where for months we’ve been collecting anything and everything about South Africa including this energetic city. I would love to spend 2 or 3 weeks there.

Cape Town and slow traveling do not bond well, however. Scores of digital nomads so enthusiastically recommend this city that I had no doubts about going there. My optimism lasted until I tried to find a place to stay.

To be fair, there are couple things that may play a role here:

  • We are full-time slow travelers who work on the road. Our home is the place where we stay at any given moment. Unlike many others, we do not have a permanent home where we would eventually come back to relax and recharge batteries. To avoid been burned out and fatigued from the perpetual change of locations, we consciously chose to stay in comfortable accommodations that have enough space for a home office or at least a big table with comfortable work chairs. As any experienced traveler would attest, “working” on your laptop while sitting in a beach chair next to the ocean makes a perfect photo op, but does not fit into the real world. Hotels, hostels, and shared accommodations are out of the question. Arguably, they could be Ok as a short-term solution, but not comfortable enough for 3+ months. After some trials and errors, our ideal accommodation shaped up to be 1 or 2 bedroom apartment in a city’s central or close suburb area to avoid renting a car. I try to keep our housing budget under $1K. So far it worked in Andalucia, Sicily, and Uruguay. Medellin and, surprisingly, Sofia proved to be more expensive.
  • We wanted to visit Cape Town in winter, which is the highest season there. Hence, we joined the crowd looking to escape cold, dreary days in sunny paradise.

Back to the main topic. What are the 3 reasons why we are not going to Cape Town?

1. Cost of accommodations

I picked 5 suitable places on Airbnb and contacted owners. Obviously, the high season means that prices go up. Well, the luxury of wearing t-shirt and sandals in January while watching penguins comes with a price. Naively, I decided that doubling the housing budget should be sufficient. Wow, I was wrong. Even with the discount for a longer stay (3 months), prices skyrocketed into a $5K neighborhood. The best offer was $3,5K for an apartment with no (!) internet.

2. Internet connection

Yes, the last sentence is not a typo. Internet connection is not included in a surprisingly large number of rental apartments. This quote from a property owner sums up this situation nicely “Wifi in SA hasn’t quite reached the 1st world stage, which is a bit frustrating, but we’ll get there.”

This is really troubling. Our only choice would be to buy a prepaid plan. $130/month might or might not give us enough data.

3. Load-shedding

The final straw came totally out of blue. Casually, someone mentioned load-shedding in Cape Town. A what?

action to reduce the load on something, especially the interruption of an electricity supply to avoid excessive load on the generating plant.

Rolling blackouts in the 21st century! Essentially, there is a possibility that a particular area would be without electricity for 2,5 hours. There is no 100% guarantee that it would happen on any given day, it happened in the past and most certainly would happen again. There are a load-shedding schedule and area maps to help locals deal with it. There is even advice on 15 Ways to Make the Most of Load Shedding in Cape Town. On a personal level, I could write it off as the learning experience and take it with the sense of humor. From the business point of view, though, it would be too careless.

In the end, crossing out Cape Town from our 2015-26 travel plans was the right decision. There is always tomorrow.

3 reasons why we are not going to Cape Town


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31 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why We Are Not Going To Cape Town”

  1. It is somewhere we have always wanted to visit and for that reason things such as money would not stop me, even if we had to spend a shorter amount of time there as a result. But I respect how you stick to your way of travelling and also budget, you have to do what is the best for you at the end of the day.

    • Hi, Nic, great to hear from you! Sometimes it’s tough to give up, and I have to admit that not going to Cape Town this year was a huge disappointment. Hopefully, we will get another chance some day.

  2. Yes I dismissed Capetown for similar reasons; it is too expensive to stay longterm. Then every time I see a cute penguin photo I think ‘oh maybe next year’. Where are you going instead then?

    • Hi, Sarah, thanks for stopping by. The Cape Town debacle was even more disappointing due to timezone constraints. The project AT is working on requires him to be close to GMT (plus/minus hour). That’s a huge limitation, which is along with our wish to stay somewhere relatively warm gave me a headache. Long story short, our next stop is Cyprus. Winter is a low season there, so it was easy to find a reasonable accommodation.

  3. Ah, too bad you didn’t go. I loved Cape Town and spent 2 weeks there, trying to see it at a small pace and it was pretty great but I know what you mean with hostels. I stayed in them for a full year and it absolutely drove me nuts working there. People making noise, interrogating you on what you’re doing and the lack of privacy. I hope you get another chance to go someday.

  4. Dear Elena, great blog. I asked myself what is the minimum speed a normad ask for to decide to go to a place? And where will you finally go now? Have a great winter season. I will return here and read more about your adventures. Best from Cyprus, Christoph

    • Hi, Christoph. Great to hear from you. Thank You for your nice words about the blog :).

      Speaking of internet connection, it really depends on what type of projects: software development vs. marketing, vs. design, etc… In our case, we consume on average ~3Gb/Day. Therefore, for us it looks like this:
      <5Mb unacceptable for long stay;
      10Mb or higher nothing to complain about;
      20Mb or higher - makes us happy :).

      So far, the best wired 50Mb was in Sofia; the best wireless 100Mb 4G in Sicily.

  5. I’ve never heard of it called load shedding…we call them brownouts here in the US. That is just crazy that they are still having them in 2015!

    I can’t imagine how warm it would be in the summer time. Looks lovely, though.

    Boston is also experiencing high rental costs right now as we become more popular and prices rise. Unfortunately, not only are visitors put in a bad spot, so are the middle and lower class residents. Seeing a lot of righteous angst about this right now.

  6. Cape Town’s popularity comes with a price. We are in the short term rental business and have seen prices increase as more and more people want to stay. Price increase as demand increase. During winter is obviously the best time for bargains. The rates are down 60% and more. Then you can negotiate the best possible deals.

    When you are looking for a bargain during peak you get the bottom of the bottom and then you may sit with host who are clueless about internet needs – they don’t realise that internet is like water. Not the same but you get the idea.

    Your article is biased because you chose a time where your budget forced you into this situation.

    And your last objection: load shedding. We run an online business. Our many properties on Airbnb, on our website and the owners of homes depend on us being available all the time. We have not lost one deal because we had a power failure. Once a week we had two hours off. Thanks for small mercies. I think you mean well but you can only tell if this is an issue if you have experienced it hands on. And the only time this was an issue for us is when we wanted to watch a time bound TV show. Or if you were running a major retail store depending on feet coming through your door.

    Just go and read what the Cape Town Gov is doing to limit load shedding https://plus.google.com/+DanievanderMerwe/posts/cbYm51jfqMk

    You needed internet, your computer can operate for an hour or more, you needed cell phone data and two hours of sightseeing when the power was down. And load-shedding would not have affected you.

    We are not perfect but there are no excuses not to visit Cape Town. None! And if the above were valid then by adapting a little you could have experienced so much more.

    When you change your mind let us try and assist you.

    Have fun

    • Hi, Johan. Thank you for taking time providing local insight.

      Cape Town is a great city. Moreover, it’s tourism authority had been very successful in promoting CP internationally. The US and the UK mainstream media more the once mentioned it as THE destination to visit.

      Simply put, I was 3 or 4 years late with my plan of visiting CP in December-February. The sad fact is that this is the most desirable time period to go there. Europe and North America are in the middle of winter, so for their residents visiting a great city in the midst of local summer is super attractive. This is not feasible for a budget traveler anymore.

      Interestingly, the next available time slot on my travel schedule is April-May of 2017. For now, spring is a quieter time in CP when prices are not too exuberant. However, in 2 years this might not be true anymore. We will see. Cheers!

  7. Nice finding your blog Elena, we travel much the same way.
    Happy to see this post because we plan on being in Cape Town in January. Prices in Cape Town a little higher than expected (on Airbnb) but we’ve seen apartments in the $1300-$1500 USD range. Like you we work as we travel and wifi, a desk, and a safe neighborhood with nearby conveniences are priorities. If ever you find alternatives to Airbnb would be very grateful if you would send us a note.
    I’ve got my ex-boss who’s South African and the minute I tell him we’re going he’ll probably map out our whole time there for us and arrange everything. Which is why we haven’t told him yet 🙂 . But when we do I’ll give you any tips we receive.
    Look very forward to seeing Cape Town as well as the Garden Route and Little Karoo. I lived in Zambia for a few years as a kid and just can’t wait to see Africa again. And will make sure to fit in a trip to Victoria Falls.
    Hope you change your mind, maybe we even get the chance to meet up!
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Frank, great to hear from you :). Thanks for stopping by.
      The interesting thing about Airbnb in Cape Town during the high season (Dec-Jan) that happened to me is that the prices listed on the website are not the ones the owners were willing to accept. Initially, I found a number of places at acceptable prices (i.e. under $1500), but when I sent booking requests to the owners, literally, they all came back with similar response: “Oh, look, it’s high season. The price you see is for the rest of the year…” In one case, the owner explicitly said that she would not accept any offers lower than $4000/month. It’s weird, but in some cases, it seems that the owners do not want to show the real price on Airbnb.

      Ultimately, we decided to move our future CP visit to less popular months. We still want to go there, but either in spring or fall of 2017. Meanwhile, the next stop is Cyprus; then back to Schengen in Portugal.

    • Just to be fair, free wifi is available in Cape Town. It seems that internet speed is sometimes lacking, especially in comparison with other developed countries. Here is the crowdsourced website that shows wifi spots. More unusual is the fact that some accommodations do not provide the internet connection at all.

  8. Hi Elena. Consider March/April to visit our beautiful city. The weather is still warm and dry, the wind will have dropped by then and the holidaymakers have mostly left so you will find it easier to get around to the best places. Sunset from the top of Table Mountain is one of the most spectacular sights you will ever see! You can also take in a sunset summer concert in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. I also agree with everything Hester said. Have you tried sites like booking.com? They have quite a range of options on offer, There are plenty others too. My nephew visits us often from the UK with his wife and kids, stays in an apartment overlooking the sea in Blouberg WITH high-speed Wi-Fi and he finds it very affordable, in fact a lot less expensive than many other countries. Most restaurants and shopping malls also provide free Wi-Fi. Regarding load shedding, when in force it is inconvenient for a couple of hours a few times a week however, we have not been affected for well over a month now where I live in Durbanville on the wine route, and repair to the grid is making good progress. As far as travel destinations go internationally, I doubt you’ll find many nicer ones offering better value. But then I’m from Cape Town so I’m biased 😉 The moral is? Don’t always take everything you read too seriously. Find out more before you decide.

    • Thank you, David. What a touching tribute to your city! I am glad that you and Hester took the time to provide your thoughtful insights. It was so tempting to swap a warm coat with a swimsuit that I forgot about traveler’s golden rule of avoiding high season. Lesson learned. I still find it funny that in the 21st century some people would consider the internet non-essential. I guess some folks of Cape Town just more laid-back and relaxed. Cheers!

    • The devil is in the detail. I asked couple owners whether they would consider installing it, but in both cases the answer was that I would have to buy it myself. It is interesting because this is the first time in 2 years when I saw an apartment completely without the internet connection. A number of times I lived in places where there were no cable and no TVs because, according to owners, everybody was using laptops anyway.

  9. On your own perfect time and on your own ways, you can make it to Cape Town someday.Hopefully, there would be a lot of improvements on internet connection and electricity by then! 🙂

    • Thanks, Anne. Cape Town did such a great job in making itself one of the recommended places to go: topping New York Times ‘ 52 places to go in 2014, being mentioned by Travel&Leasure just to name a few. With increasing amount of visitors, CT has to catch up with the internet sooner than later.

  10. That’s too bad you’re not heading there. Did you look into other accommodation options besides Airbnb? Maybe Hester above can help you out. 🙂 Cape Town is one of my favourite cities on the planet.

    • Thank you, Raymond. Cape Town should be proud – there are so many people who call it one of their most favorite cities. Makes me so curious. It is not completely off my list, but I would have to pick a different time of the year. The attraction of summer in January was too irresistible, and I forgot good old advice about pitfalls of the high season in popular destinations.

    • Hi, Elaine. I was so set on the idea of finding a warm place in January which I haven’t visited yet that I forgo common sense. I absolutely agree with you, and usually avoid traveling to popular place during the high season. Well, just proved the point.

      Since you thinking about visiting Cape Town, this might be useful for you. According to my research, it seems that Vodacom has the best coverage. Other choices are MTN, Telcom, Cell C, and Virgin Mobile.

  11. Hi there. I am so sorry that you decided not to visit Cape Town. Being a Capetonian myself I may not be completely objective as I love this city, but I disagree with some of your reasons for not travelling to CT. I know for a fact that you can find cheaper accommodation in CT and even if you stay a little bit further from downtown, you can use the My City Bus or Uber to get around. Then, the wifi issue, I know SA is a little behind with free wifi everywhere, but you can get uncapped wifi for about $8-$20 a month (depending on which company you use). Lastly, though the load-shedding thing is true, it doesn’t affect everyday life much. Most places will also have backup generators that kicks in when there is load-shedding. Also for the past 3 weeks SA has been load-shedding free (small victory but still). At the end of the day of course it’s your choice. I can guarantee you that you will Love CT and maybe I can just get you to reconsider;) Maybe check for accommodation in Blouberg, it’s not far from the city bowl, very easy access to My City Bus, truly the best view of table mountain, and a beautiful beach right infront of you. I hope someday you’ll be able to visit CT and fall in love with it like everyone else, and write a great review on your (very awesome) blog:) xxx Hester

    • Hi, Hester. Great to hear from you. Thank you very much for taking time and providing a view from the ground so to speak. The local insight is always the best :).

      So that you know, I haven’t given up on the idea of visiting Cape Town. Certainly, I understand why you love CT – it is a beautiful city surrounded by fantastic nature. However, it is definitely becoming one of a more popular destinations. The lesson for me is to avoid the high season. Thank you for mentioning Blouberg. I will check it and other towns/suburbs.

      Internet access, sadly, is a little more complicated. We will need a lot of data for work, and data is expensive. As a visitor, I can use only pre-paid plans, so my choices are even more limited. Hopefully, CT would catch up with wifi trends in a year, so it would not be a problem soon enough.


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