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Cell phones & SIM cards

Cape Town (and most of South Africa) has great mobile phone reception. Calls and mobile data will probably be significantly cheaper with a local SIM than than roaming with your home provider.

SIM card

If you are coming from overseas, I’d recommend that you get a SIM card for your phone at the airport. If you are from the US (and some other countries), you will first need to confirm that your phone isn’t locked to one specific network and that you can add other SIM cards.
Vodacom and MTN are the main two carriers. The process to register a SIM card is simple and straightforward at the airport: you just need to show your passport, pay, and they’ll activate it for you.
(If you don’t do it at the airport, you’ll have to go to an MTN or Vodacom store, provide a document stating your South African “proof of address” like a utility bill or bank statement with your name and a South African address on it —which you won’t have as a visitor. Trust me, it will be faster to go back to the airport another day than to try to deal with all that red tape at a store)
You can add money or mobile data, right at the airport. If you run out, you can use the MTN or Vodacom apps to top up, or do so at most supermarkets.


Alternatively, if your phone supports eSIMs, you can get internet-connected without the need to get a SIM card. I use when I travel, especially if I’m in a place for a short time as it cuts down on admin time at the airport. Use my promo code WERNER8667 and we both will get a small discount. The biggest advantage of eSIMs is that you will be connected from the minute your airplane touches down, enabling you to send messages to those back home, and get an Uber right away.
(In my experience 4G/5G/LTE data are both faster and cheaper with Vodacom and MTN than an eSIM. You could also do what I do and get both an Airalo eSIM and a physical SIM card)

Getting to the apartment

The address is . The building is called Madison Place and you’ll be in unit 804.
Like most large cities, ride sharing platforms are convenient and plentiful. Cape Town is served by both
(one that is even cheaper than Uber, but sometimes with longer waiting times and slightly older cars). I use both. Download the app(s), and add your card details before you arrive.
Follow the signs (or ask the information desk) for the e-hailing pickup area in P1. Ignore any touts offering you a “cheap taxi” or “Uber price here!”.
You’ll find that the price using Uber or Bolt is significantly cheaper than most other places around the world. I only use my car for longer trips, as it is cheaper for me to take an Uber/Bolt than it is for me to pay for parking. Prices are determined by demand, so it’s cheaper at some times more than others. A ride from the airport is usually between R150 and R350 (~US$8 - $20).
The airport also has departing every 20 minutes to the Civic Centre in Cape Town (from where you can take an Uber/Bolt). Lastly, there are official (but more expensive) taxi companies with desks inside the airport terminal. As before, avoid the touts / unlicensed taxis.

Load shedding

My native South Africa is a beautiful, complex place. There are endless things that will delight you, but also some things may confuse and annoy you, particularly if you don’t understand them.
We’re a relatively young democracy, with some of the growing pains you might expect. During the horrible, race-segregated apartheid years (which officially ended in 1994), the country was exclusively built for a small, white minority. Services were great, but only built for this small white minority. Schools and universities to educate the few; towns and cities to house them; fire stations and a police force to keep them safe; roads and water and electricity to keep things running.
Even though we’ve shaken off many of those shackles, inequality is persistent and will take generations to improve. There has not been enough done to fix past mistakes, and still many things haven’t grown or been maintained enough to deliver to the entire nation.

In the dark

For these (and other) reasons, South Africa is experiencing rolling electricity blackouts (known locally as — Google it), where electricity is cut from time to time. These cuts are longer and worse in other parts of the country, than in Cape Town. People are adjusting to this “new normal”, but it can be frustrating at times.
Every person in every building in South Africa is affected by this. The City of Cape Town is enacting many policies and building extra power-generating plants, but we all will have to live with this dark reality a bit longer. Currently the power is off for between 1/2 and 2 hours at a time, a few times per week (often late at night or early morning, when sleeping).
I’ve equipped the apartment with rechargeable lights, so you’ll always have some light and a place to charge your phone; a battery supply for uninterrupted WiFi internet for work and streaming; and a battery-powered sound system, so you won’t have to sit in silence :-)
The building invested in generators, so that the lifts (elevators), common-area lights, and security cameras all work round-the-clock, but you won’t be able to use the kitchen appliances like the stove and oven during load shedding. Almost all restaurants have adapted and will be open during load shedding hours, with backup lights or romantic candles.
That said: if you just started the laundry right before load shedding starts, it might be frustrating. I recommend downloading the ESP (”Eskom SE Push”) and adding the suburb of “Observatory, Cape Town” to monitor (and get notified) of when the next load shedding is scheduled.


There are good guide books, blogs, Tiktoks and more, to get excited about your visit!
You can also see a list of shows set in or about South Africa.

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