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A Digital Nomad Guide to Living in Cape Town
Prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, I was living in Cape Town, South Africa as a Digital Nomad and working remotely on PixPair from January to mid-March. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “Digital Nomad”, a Digital Nomad is a remote worker who tends to work from different locations around the world.
In this post, I am sharing why Cape Town is such an amazing spot to be a Digital Nomad. With the Digital Nomad community in Cape Town growing rapidly, it is an underrated place to work remotely with so much to do and see.
Here is my Digital Nomad Guide on living in Cape Town, South Africa.
First things first, lets talk the visa process so you can determine how long you can stay in Cape Town long-term as a Digital Nomad. US Passport holders can stay in South Africa for up to 90 days on a “visitor visa” (see list of all countries and their visa process here).
You do not need to apply for the visa and can obtain it on arrival instead. Please note that you must have at least two, blank passport pages in your passport book or South African authorities can refuse you entry.
You will also need to a departure flight out of South Africa to potentially show the customs officer upon arrival. The same applies if you are using Cape Town as your “home-base” in Africa for travels to explore neighboring countries. The closer you are to your 90 day limit, the more likely customs will ask to see your outbound ticket home.
Accommodation is South Africa is affordable and easy to come by. If you plan on traveling to Cape Town during peak season (January – March), make sure you book your accommodation in advance.
You will want to book accommodation in a safe neighborhood and secure location. I lived on a compound with two houses, surrounded by high, concrete walls and electrified wire. Safety in South Africa must be taken seriously and I believe all travelers and Digital Nomads need to be aware of this (read more about safety below).
My favorite neighborhoods to live in Cape Town are: Sea Point, Green Point, Clifton, Camps Bay, V&A Waterfront and the City Bowl. I will be publishing a post next week with details on my favorite neighborhoods so you can learn more about each.
How to Find Rentals
AirBnb is the easiest way to find long-term rentals in Cape Town. My accommodation, however, was arranged by a company called The Wifi Tribe.
However, those who left the compound at the end of their stay found accommodation via Airbnb at an affordable price.
The easiest and most efficient way to get around Cape Town is by using Uber. As a Digital Nomad, Uber is the safest and cheapest way to get to and from your final destination in Cape Town. We used Uber everywhere we went for a fraction of the cost it was in the US. There is no excuse not to use Uber, especially at night. Make sure you have the Uber app downloaded on your smartphone before you arrive in Cape Town.
While we were in Cape Town, we noticed that our Uber ratings dropped significantly. Every one saw our 5.0 star rating plummet to nearly 4.0 over the two months we were in Cape Town. Similar to how we rate our Uber drivers, Uber drivers can rate their passengers. This rating is important for passengers because the Uber driver can cancel and refuse your ride if your rating is too low. As a female traveler, this can be alarming.
Unfortunately, we could not figure out why and we tried many different ways to increase our rating, including tipping in cash, talking to drivers, not talking to drivers, and blatantly asking why our ratings were going down. We received mixed responses every time and there was no consistent answer as to why we saw are ratings decreasing so rapidly. While this is an unfortunate side-effect of using Uber in Cape Town, it should not deter you from using Uber to get around there.
Cost of Living
Cape Town is a very affordable place to live, especially for US citizens. A latte at a popular coffee shop is about $2.50.
At a trendy cafe, Smoothie bowls start at about $6.00 and you can treat yourself to a healthy and filling lunch for about $5.00! Cape Town has an impressive food scene and you can find restaurants for as little or as expensive as you like. The standard, however, is very affordable in my opinion.
Safety is a big topic I want to cover about living in Cape Town since it was the most challenging aspect of my time there. I will be creating a longer blog post about it, but for now, hopefully this will give you an idea of safety there.
Cape Town is a beautiful and unique place to live but you must be aware of your surroundings and the neighborhoods you’re in. Crime can be an issue in Cape Town if you are not aware of certain commonalities locals instill day-to-day.
Muggings, kidnappings, car-jacking and home invasions are no stranger to South Africa. When I arrived, I received an extensive safety talk with the group I was in. As stated earlier, our home was situated on a compound surrounded by concrete walls and electrified fence. We even had panic buttons in our bedrooms.
The group leader informed us to be aware of our surroundings and keep track of our electronics. You cannot leave your laptop sitting out at a cafe or walk around texting with your phone in your hand. He also informed us to never, and I repeat never, walk alone at night. If your final destination is one block away, do not hesitate and call an Uber. If you are waiting for a ride after dining out at a restaurant, wait inside the building until you see the Uber pull up out front. Do not wait outside. This was strange to many of us, but when you looked around, we saw locals abide by these rules too. Stay safe, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t walk alone at night.
Walking around alone during the day, however, is fine given you are in the right neighborhoods. We lived in Sea Point and I would walk alone to the gym every morning and felt fine. I would also stroll the promenade alone and walk to coffee shops. It is a safe place to eat, walk and travel to alone given the time of day and neighborhood you’re in.
Exercise common sense and be aware of your surroundings. Steer clear of the Cape Flats however.
Beautiful Cape Town
Another interesting topic of conversation that frequently comes up in the Digital Nomad community is Wifi Connection. As Digital Nomads, we rely heavily on wifi connection to do our work remotely. When I first arrived in Cape Town however, the city was experiencing wifi issues with the local provider. This was difficult at first but we learned very quickly to invest in a local SIM card that had a few gigabytes of data on it. With this on hand, we could hot-spot or “tether” to the data instead of relying on wifi. This method of tethering to data is essential for city-wide electricity blackouts called “Load Shedding”, which I’ll explain next.
About a year ago, Cape town was in a water crisis. They spoke of a day called, “Day Zero”, where the city would run out of fresh water indefinitely. Now, they are challenged with electricity deficiencies and use “Load Shedding” to prevent a collapse of the country’s power system.
Photo from Unsplash
Please consult your local travel doctor or physician on the vaccines you may need.
Load Shedding is when certain Zones and Neighborhoods lose power for at minimum two hours a day. This is so that the electricity provider, Eskom, can restore balance when power is insufficient to prevent a collapse of the country’s power system. Load Shedding occurs randomly, when needed and can happen anywhere from 2-4+ times a day.
Some shopping malls, restaurants and cafes have generators to keep power on and business as usual during load shedding, but our home did not. Wifi, fans, and lights would completely shut off for 2 hours during load shedding. If you needed to work, you either had to go to a cafe or co-working space with a generator or use your hot spot from the local SIM card to continue working.
However, Load Shedding was not as inconvenient as it seems. There is an app called “EskomSePush” that informs you when load shedding will happen in your neighborhood, at what time and for how long. It’s extremely useful in preparing for the electricity outage and scheduling meetings, dinner and other essential tasks that depend on electricity around it.
Cafes & Co-Working Space
Cape Town is in no shortage of cozy cafes & co-working spaces. Whether its a beach front smoothie bar or local coffee shop, there are plenty of places to work remotely from that make being a Digital Nomad in Cape Town incredible.
Photo from Unsplash
Health & Lifestyle
Staying healthy and active in Cape Town is not an issue. With year round weather, staying active outdoors is easy and fun!
When I arrived in Cape Town, I joined BUC Fitness Club. I usually do not join elite fitness gyms like BUC, but it was within walking distance from my home, above the local grocery store and within steps from my favorite coffee shop, Bootlegger.
BUC Fitness had everything I needed to keep up with my fitness routine from Austin. Aside from having cardio and strength training equipment, they offer month-to-month memberships which make it easy to join as a Digital Nomad. A monthly membership at BUC was about $68 USD.
It is very easy to have a healthy lifestyle in Cape Town. The have public and private health care that is attainable and affordable along with local pharmacies for your convenience.
Aside from medical health, you can run the promenade, eat healthy, plant-based lunches and work remotely anywhere. Cape Town has one of the best work-life balances I’ve found as a Digital Nomad yet. The stunning landscape and many hiking routes make being outdoor and staying active a breeze!
One of the best parts of being a Digital Nomad is getting to experience the culture and country you’re working remotely in and Cape Town has so much to offer!
A few of my favorites things to do are hanging out at Clifton or Camps Bay beaches, wine tasting in the gorgeous Stellenbosch, hiking Lion’s Head & Table Mountain (even though I didn’t do this!), biking along the promenade, roadtripping around the Cape of Good Hope, and going on Safari.
If you can’t tell, I adore Cape Town and think it is an incredible place to live as a Digital Nomad. With the gorgeous landscape, outdoor activities and amazing weather, it is nearly impossible to have a bad day in Cape Town. It’s also a great “home-base” to have to explore the rest of Africa. Cape Town’s Digital Nomad community is expanding and they have meet-ups frequently so you can easily meet other remote workers living there as well. If you’re looking for a group to work remotely with and explore Cape Town, check out The Wifi Tribe or Work Wanders.
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