- Ryan Kretch
TL;DR Here is a map of all the places we recommend in this guide:
TL;DR Here is a video saying mostly the same things:
In the brutally cold winter (but South African summer of) 2023, we decided to escape the Berlin bleakness and hop down to Cape Town, South Africa for a remote working stint. Surprisingly, things have went quite smoothly, but that was thanks to the collated advice from a few kind-hearted South African friends who wanted to ensure that we had the time of our lives in this city.
So let's cut to the chase...the no-bullshit guide filled with tips on how to maximize your Cape Town experience as a digital nomad from even before you are there. As this is solely based on our fabulous experience, we leave out a lot of potentially amazing places and ideas, so feel free to use this as much as you want, but always remember to weave in your own adventures 😘.
Before you go: Things to Prepare and Accommodations in Cape Town
1) Get well-versed on safety in Cape Town and load-shedding
Load-shedding, what the hell is that? If you have a similarly dirty mind like us 💦, it is not what it sounds like. It is South Africa's way of dealing with the country's energy crisis by turning off electricity around various districts during pre-determined times of the day (usually for 2.5 hours at a time). Rich or poor, it affects all South Africans in some way, shape, or form and as a digital nomad, you will also experience the pains and inconveniences around it as well. We will go into details on how to make load-shedding as smooth sailing as possible, but just know that it does exist.
And now the part where we become caring mothers and talk about safety and security, just so you don't rock up to Cape Town thinking everything is all roses and you immediately have your phone stolen. While Cape Town is generally safe, the best advice we have gotten is to simply "be vigilant". Even in these planning stages of your trip, it is good to know that Cape Town's crime rate is a bit higher than some of the other digital nomad hotspots you may have experienced. There is economic disparity, noticeable racial segregation, and in turn it doesn't always feel safe on every corner you go to. So while you are planning your trip and in the execution phase, make sure to keep this in the forefront of your mind. For sure don't let it hinder your decision to come to this magnificent city, but just remember to "be vigilant" (mom rant over, but I will reference this later on in the guide).
AirBnb to find accommodations in Green Point or Sea Point2) Use
After buying the flight down to Cape Town, the accommodation planning process commenced. My friend, Tilden, told us about the thriving AirBnb scene, so we got on it and sent him a few options. Without much prior knowledge of Cape Town, we sent him some cheaper, but sexy AirBnbs in the Central Business District (CBD), but these were swiftly rejected. He mentioned staying in Green Point or Sea Point, while more expensive, was a more suitable option as they were much safer areas and also more relaxed vibes. So we went with his word and forked over a little bit more money for a place in Green Point. There are no regrets on that decision.
In the nearby vicinity we have the typical digital nomad necessities, such as hipster restaurants and cafes to work, a gym, and parks, plus some massive bonuses including Signal Hill right behind us (from which you can hike all the way to Lion's Head) and abundant seaside. You will get a relatively similar experience in nearby Sea Point, although I don't love the more commercial feel to it.
Here are some tips when looking on AirBnb for flats in Cape Town:
- Try to look for the monthly rate as there is often a steep cut in costs. Also, did you know on AirBnb, you can try to negotiate the price down? Feel free to counter-offer whatever the rate is and what is the worst that can happen?
- Ask your landlord about the internet situation during load-shedding. They will likely not be able to ensure that you will have electricity during these load-shedding periods, but our landlord made sure we had wifi that ran on an inverter, so we were never without wifi while working
- Digital Nomad Safari provides all-inclusive digital nomad accommodation including coliving in Green Point and other areas around the city
- If you are looking for a co-working, co-living situation, look no further than Neighbourgood
- If you are cool with hostel vibes for a little while, especially if you are solo traveling, email The Little Lemon Tree or book the Sunflower Stop (we stayed here at the end of our trip and was a great way for us to meet some other travelers -- albeit a bit of a younger crowd)
Our AirBnb even has an occasional cat visitor!
3) Pre-book a car if you don't plan to Uber
Uber is the preferred method of getting around in Cape Town, but it isn't for everyone, so one of the other popular ways to get around is to rent a car. You can get super good long term deals!
When we drove the Garden Route on a road trip before we settled in Cape Town, we used Discover cars and picked up and dropped off the car right at the airport.
Just beware that they drive on the left side of the road 😘, which for me was my very first time.
4) Get yourself a portable charger
As mentioned in #1, load-shedding will become a daily part of your vocabulary in Cape Town, so do yourself a favor and grab a portable charger if it is the only thing you bring in the end! We are fortunate enough to have relatively new computers, but there have been close calls where I have had to switch to a phone for a meeting. So from our experience, save yourself the stress and grab a portable laptop charger.
5) Download a few must-have apps: Uber and ESP
Whether you love it or hate it, Uber will become your best friend while you are in Cape Town for a few reasons. 1) It is cheap, 2) There isn't particularly reliable or wide-spread public transportation, and 3) circling back to the safety topic, it just sometimes feels safer to Uber than walk somewhere.
You may be able to pick up a free one-month trial on an Uber Pass, which reduces the amount you will need to pay per trip (which I usually tip back to the driver).
The other quintessential app to download before coming to Cape Town is called ESP, to once again, help you deal with the completely alien concept of load-shedding. In the app, you put in the area you are staying in, and it will give you the load-shedding schedule for that day and the next day. You can also turn on your push notifications, so you will get an alert 15- and/or 55-minutes before a load-shed...enough time to go run to a charger and juice up a bit or find an alternative source of internet.
You've arrived! How to maximize your time and money while in Cape Town
You've likely been flying a minimum of 12 hours (if you are coming from Europe) or 24 hours (if you are coming from the U.S.), but don't leave the airport just yet!
6) Pick up a SIM card at the airport
Right after baggage claim, you will have a few SIM-card options. Make it easy and go to Vodacom, which inside and outside Cape Town, has been more than reliable enough for my needs. At the time of writing this, I spent R199 (a little over 10 euros) for 20GB (lasting for 30 days). I had the new SIM in my phone in a matter of 3 mins and was on my way into the city.
7) Shop at KWIKSpar to save, shop at Woolworths to SPLURGE
Our first shopping trip was at Woolworths where we kind of just threw a bunch of things for a barbecue in two baskets thinking that it was South Africa so it wouldn't break the bank, but when we got the register, we realized we racked up a bill for about 100 euros. One of the culprits was a 12 euro jar of absolutely not special nuts...like what? Our verdict, Woolworths has it all and is of super high quality that you will find hardly anywhere else, but use it only for a fancy, occasional picnic.
In our neighborhood, we soon after discovered KWIKSpar, which is a much cheaper alternative. The quality of the food is still good, but you will not cry at the end of every register visit. There is also Shoprite around too, which is the most affordable of them all.
Alright, so the honeymoon phase is still happening, as I don't think it ever goes away being in this city, but maybe you're missing your workout routine by this point. If you are staying in Green Point or Sea Point, you have the most glorious gym cum indoor swimming pool cum outdoor swimming pool cum fitness classes cum cafe/co-working space in one place. Plus, not to be completely vane, but there is so much eye candy it is actually quite motivating.
For about 100 euro for a single month, you have access to everything within Virgin Active. That may seem a bit expensive, but I feel like it has honestly been one of my highlights of my time in Cape Town. The atmosphere of the place has made me excited about working out and when I want to "pretend" I am working at 3pm on a Friday, I have a pretty quiet pool I can retreat to.
We tend to go in the morning, when it is admittedly a bit more crowded than we like, but it is a must if you are one of those nomads like us that need a fitness routine to function.
The outdoor pool at Virgin Active, our favorite take-a-break-from-work spot
9) Find some cozy work spaces
Hopefully you have taken some vacation days and explored the city by now, but maybe it's time to get back to work. The flat is great, but you want to find some cozy places to work from and see some people. Well, Cape Town has the places to do it, whatever your style is. Just beware that most places will still experience load-shedding and you should hopefully have a charged laptop or a portable charger as mentioned before.
If you are one of these cafe-goers, Cape Town has some of the best places and they won't get mad at you for having just a coffee and staying there for several hours. Here are some of our favs around the Green Point area:
- Park cafe - Adorable, airy, colonial-style place in the heart of Green Point where they will be playing throwback tunes and serving up cheap eats (try the vegetable pesto sandwich and their bottled kombuchas). They have a nice shaded outdoor area to the side where you can get some shit done.
- Nourish'ed - The cafe at the same location as the aforementioned Neighbourgood, this place is a digital nomad haven and albeit a little slow on the service, has nice vibes and good wifi.
- Bootlegger coffee - There are a few of these around the area and in general is a nice, spacious coffee shop with reliable internet and tasty food.
- (Believe it or not) Virgin Active - Nü cafe - Another shout-out to Virgin Active. While the internet isn't great, it is a nice place to get some admin things done after you have a workout, without having to go very far. I will generally just use my hotspot there and have a coffee or healthy shake in the interim.
- Cushty Neighbourhood Deli - A bakery with delish fresh salads and a few nice working stations if you can snag them.
If you prefer co-working:
- Ideas Cartel - A bit of a walk away from the area we suggested to stay in, but is in a beautiful industrial building and they are immune to load-shedding 💦!
10) Start work early, end work early
The vibe I get here is that people thrive during the daylight hours, so try to end your day a bit earlier so you still have a few hours before sun-down. Take advantage of the nature in the late afternoon hours and do one of these if you are feeling adventurous:
Table Mountain Gondola ride Sunset hike at Lion's Head
or go relax at one of these favorite places to watch the sunset:
- La Perla - Damn good bottles of wine and fried calamari
- Rockpool - An awesome little outdoor place overlooking the sea with dangerous Coronaritas (coronas inserted in margaritas) and decent food
- Cause and Effect - Camps Bay - While there is a street between you and the beach, it is a banging place for an end of the day cocktails and a seafood platter
- Blondie - Whoa whoa whoa, this is in the CBD, but it gives us such summer vibes and has extremely creative cocktails and tapas. No sea-side view here, but just a fab atmosphere.
You can also go to (or avoid like the plague), fine dining restaurants like Pier. Check out our last post on this 🤣.
Get the seafood platter at Cause and Effect 😋
(Bonus and probably not necessary to reiterate) Be vigilant
Okay, mom here again for a brief second. Just be careful, go by your gut, and if you are feeling unsafe, make sure to call an Uber home.
So there you have it! Obviously this post is more just covering Green Point and Sea Point, but if you loosely follow these steps, your digital nomad experience in Cape Town will conquer all other digital nomad experiences.
Happy (and blurry) digital nomads in Cape Town
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