How is Cape Town for digital nomads?

Has anyone spent time in Cape Town? Any recommendations on places to stay? Airbnb seems pretty sparse. Wifi also doesn’t seem to be a strong suit - anyone have positive experiences?

I worked in Cape Town for 20 years. My daughter is still living there so I go over usual once a year and was last there in August 2014. Most cafes and restaurants now have wifi. What type of accommodation are you looking for and how long are you looking to stay.

I’ve heard wifi isn’t particularly fast, and some cafes limit your connection to only one hour’s free surfing. Others let you browse all day, but it might not be great for heavy duty work.

I’m heading there for six weeks in November, so hopefully I’ll be better informed soon. I’m staying with friends and family, therefore accommodation isn’t an issue.

Any tips or advice from people who have worked there remotely would be most welcome though.

I’ve spent some time in this guest house and really liked it: http://www.sunflowerstop.co.za/

Unfortunately I can’t really recall how the quality of the wifi was, because it was over 2 years ago. But I do remember that the place was very nice, the location central in the city, the rates reasonable, and the owners of the guest house were extremely friendly and helpful when I broke my foot there and needed help all the time:)

Edit: The city is one of the most beautiful cities I know, and also the surrounding areas along the coast and inland are really pretty, so I think it’s totally worth it to go see it

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I don’t have any specific places to recommend (though one I’d recommend against), but http://www.safarinow.com/ is more widely used. http://www.capestay.co.za has some good listings but has a terrible browsing/enquiry experience (if you’re casting a wide net).
Wifi is usually available at coffee shops/restaurants but often slow or limited as mentioned.
I primarily use mobile data bundles… costs roughly R100 ($9)/GB, though there are a couple deals that are good value 60GB = R1800 ($150), 100GB = R2500 ($200).
Average mobile speed is 2-8 Mb/s, wired internet is in the same range, and wifi often slower. There are a few co-working spaces that have good wifi though.

I’d definitely recommend CT (in spring/summer at least) if you can find affordable accommodation, the city and surrounding areas are really beautiful and there’s plenty of fun things to see and do.

If anyone does find themselves down here sometime in the future, give me a shout.
Would be great to meetup if I’m not off travelling myself.

Hi! Im planning to go to Cape Town around september.

Which areas would you recommend to rent for digital nomads/expats? My main concern is safety, but I would also like to have easy access to markets/restaurants and entertainment options.

Thank you!

Great tips, @theunis - I’ll drop you a line when I arrive in November :slight_smile:

Thanks @theunis. Regarding mobile data bundles - any providers that you lean towards, especially for faster 4g?

Hey jammingsloth, I’ve been living in Cape Town for a little over a year now and while it’s a beautiful city, I wouldn’t recommend it to digital nomads looking to do any serious work. The wifi speeds are generally horrendous (1-3mbps) and if you opt for the only alternative for speed (3G) then you’ll pay out your ears for it. There are a few coworking spaces popping up around woodstock (suburb of Cape Town) that boast fiber and high speeds, but have yet to check them out.

Re: accommodations. It depends on the scene you’re into. If you want hipsters and design - bleeding edge, bru… 0_o - check out Woodstock. Gardens and Vredehoek are sleepy areas that are safe but very windy. Greenpoint has a decent party scene and relatively cheap apartments considering the location, and Seapoint is a bit dated and overrated. Camps bay is expensive and fake. Alright, so I’m hating on a lot of suburbs now…not intended. Put it this way, you’re not going to avoid crime altogether, but if you’re mindful you have nothing to worry about. Consider what you want to do while you’re here and know the public transit is pretty good (MyCiti), then choose a location. Airbnb is good, but gumtree is also the go-to for everything here. We live in Hout Bay - sleeper, hippie community 20min by bus from Cape Town. A blazin’ 3mbps speeds down here. haha :slight_smile: Enjoy the Mother City!

Thank you for the info about accommodation @travelingpm!

I spent 3 months in Cape Town last year and would recommend TwentyFifty They’re the best coworking spot in the mother city as they don’t charge per MB used. everywhere else has really low limits. (two of the fibre connected coworking spots limit you to 2gb per month) The community at TwentyFifty is also awesome. They’re chill but easy to get connected to. Last I knew when the Buffer guys are in town they work from TwentyFifty.

As far as everything else (accommodations, transportation etc) I’d recommend getting this PDF Guide you can use the coupon code “nomadtogether” for 10% … worked great for me.

And finally you need to checkout Gumtree

As for my personal experience outside of the co-working space… well lets just say I spent a lot on 3g data due to paying per MB. (I travel with a wife and 4 kids, so we eat data like it’s going out of style) I used Vodaphone and a 3g mifi hotspot. worked well in every area I went and wanted to work. Cafes’ wifi is a joke, they’ll give you 200mb free and then you have to pay a terrible rate for the data.

We lived in Camps Bay, mostly because we were there in the off season and found an incredible deal on an awesome house (yeah can’t do the hostel thing with 4 young kids). We stayed our first week in a terrible airbnb house in camps bay… we left a review saying so, if you run into that place avoid it. There are some awesome backpackers/hostels in Cape Town and if you get out of the CBD/downtown area you can find cheaper BnBs. My recommendation is to watch gumtree, get a bnb (or airbnb) for a week and then meet up with realtors and find a place for a couple months (that’s how we did it)

The food is awesome, the fun is awesome, there is no place on earth quite like Cape Town. I’ve lived there twice in 10 years and while the threat of crime is still an issue in all of South Africa it is super simple to avoid trouble. The only problem we had was 10 years ago someone broke into our bakki (pickup truck) and stole our medicine/medical supplies kit. In reality the majority of the crime is petty theft, or crimes of convenience. You can avoid these by being smart!

Let me know what other questions you have I’m still in touch with a few locals and would love to help anyone enjoy Cape Town.

@jammingsloth the two I mention are 3g only I believe. For 4g you might be better off using Vodacom & Mtn, they tend to have better signal country wide, but I could be wrong. I’ve been using my 100gb (once off) cell c data sim fairly successfully for work in cape town and johannesburg, but if you’re used to European internet it might be too slow for you

@Mari_travels In the city I’ve only stayed in de waterkant, which turned out to be a great location, a couple nice restaurants around, including the piano bar which I really enjoyed (for the music).
Also easy to walk to center / waterfront, though it might not be recommended to do so alone at night (but I have).

The hiking is great too, if any of you are into that.

hey @jammingsloth i spent a few months in the mother city and had to learn how to make things work the hard way. here are my experiences. First, forget TwentyFifty co-working space… sure, they don’t charge for the data usage but they only have metal chairs that are frankly impossible to sit on for more than 10 minutes. I have literally tired every co working space there. The best one, in my experience is, 88 mph (http://www.88mph.ac/capetown/) and happens to be one of the cheapest too. they have real tables, very comfortable chairs, located in a cool trendy part of town, and the community is great.

Next: wifi. forget cafes, forget restaurants. the wifi – here – just sucks. the thing is, i NEED super fast wifi for my work. Enter Vodafone. Get a SIM card and load it with a data package. I would purchase around 4GB per month. it’s not that expensive and it’s very fast and very reliable.

next is load shedding – or sporadic power outages. The solution is just to chill, take a break and drink a cold one when it happens. after an hour or two, you’re back on your feet. This is where you mobile phone really comes through. you can run on battery so you have good internet even during load shedding.

as for security, i would recommend to chat up one of the locals for tips. I always used Uber at night, and was extremely careful at night. In short, you’ll be fine if you make safety something you’re always thinking of. it sounds worse than it is, but it’s really ok.

lastly, pay attention to the VISA rules. If you over stay your visa, even by one hour-- you’re banned from the country for one year. it’s a new law and it sucks.

the best way to describe cape town is a beautiful easter egg. looks amazing on the outside, but once you crack it open… it’s a bit screwed up like every other city.

cheers to the good life.

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I lived in Cape Town for 6 months, living with friends who are residents.

If you are doing web work, freelancing out of Cape Town can be difficult. Graphic design / non bandwidth intensive activities are probably fine, but for web guys like myself, you are going to be very limited in your options. Data wasn’t sufficient for me as I would just eat up gigs with the amount of stuff I do on the web - it’s my 8 to 5, as it were. 99.5% of the internet is DSL, and really crap DSL at that. Plus data caps, time limits…yikes. Don’t plan on working at most hotspots for more than 15-30 minutes without paying for some so-so internet access.

However, here’s the secret: Canal Walk, a mall in a suburb called Century City, has free and unlimited high speed wifi. It’s good to great as far as free wifi goes, and the security is top notch too. They spent buckets of money on this place - security everywhere, redundant power, ample parking, blazing internet (for SA) - it’s a great place to work. The only trouble is that there isn’t really a ton of great cafes to work out of, so that’s where you’ll likely run into issues. There used to be a coffee shop in Exclus1ve Books, but they closed I heard. The illy coffee shop may be your best bet.

Be sure to check out Origin Coffee - best roasters / coffee shop in town. The guys there are awesome too. Last I heard they were talking about turning their upstairs into offices, so they may even be an option for office space. Wifi at their location is so-so, however (and parking is difficult as they are downtown).

I lived just outside of Cape Town all of 2015 and will be returning later this year. I’ve actually postponed my return because there are frequent (daily) power outages throughout the country and it, undoubtedly, affects the internet. The internet wasn’t the greatest anyway but I could make do unless I had to have video conferences with coworkers. Since I left in March, I heard the power outages have increased and it’s not getting any better.

If you have flexibility, you might be able to make do. But if you have deadlines and need reliability, I don’t recommend going to South Africa at this time. Google Eskom power failures to learn more.

I have heard that if you post up near a hospital that you can avoid the power outages, though - just FYI.

As for safety, it’s not the kind of place I would be comfortable in without gated security, a car, and friends. You definitely don’t let your curiosity guide you in this country.

Hi @jammingsloth

It’s so good to hear you’re wanting to check out Cape Town. It’s a very cool place, it has it’s challenges (mostly related to the current government), but it will blow your mind! You will not want to leave!

I grew up in Cape Town and have done a fair bit of travelling around the world, so I can undoubtedly give you the best feedback on CT with a global perspective.

Firstly, it is the most beautiful city in the world. No where else in the world will you find a city which is surrounded a beautiful (‘New 7 Wonders of the World’) mountain range, which runs down onto pristine white sand/blue flag beaches, the blueness of the sea matches the deep-blue cloudless sky, which has hundreds of centuries-old wine estates (featuring michelin star chefs!) within 30 mins drive… not mention all the outdoor and cultural things to do! Think of Cape Town as a semi-first-world city within a third world country.

What we call Summer in CT, lasts from mid-October to mid-March and the temperature is typically 28C-38C during summer. In Winter the temp drops to around 5C and it rains a lot during July, August and the first two weeks of September.

As a nomad, you want to live in and around the city bowl. Within tech circles, CT is known as Silicon Cape (Google them) because of all the startups and devs. There is a big design, modelling, film industry (second biggest in world to Hollywood). There is a lot of work available for devs. I heard someone mention they had a bad experience in Camps Bay. That’s unlucky, Camps Bay is probably one of the most beautiful and upmarket suburbs in the world. If you don’t believe me, Google it! I saw someone else said it was fake; having lived there myself I can tell you it’s not fake and a very cool place to be based and also virtually crime-free. I recommend staying in Camps Bay if your budget allows it, otherwise the following areas are all good: Bantry Bay, Sea Point, Green Point, Mouille Point, De Waterkant, Gardens, Vredehoek, Oranjezicht. Capetonians use the gumtree.co.za to look for and advertise accommodation. AirBNB and Agoda are just kicking off. Look at spending around $500 in accommodation.

Around the city bowl the public transport (MyCiti Bus) is really good and cost-effective. Uber is also a good option.

Only use Vodacom for your mobile network. The poor service provided by the other networks is not worth the cheaper price.

There are a lot of co-working spaces: Check out Jungle Corner at the Woodstock Exchange or the Bandwidth Barn. There are a lot more, just Google them.

In the last two years, internet speeds have got really good in SA. A lot of people have 10MB down (even my parents!), but a lot of businesses and co-working spaces have 50MB-100MB down speeds. Some restaurants like McDonalds etc. give you one hour free, but plenty of coffee shops/restaurants don’t have bandwidth limits as long you order from the menu.

Despite international media, Cape Town, as in the CBD and suburbs are one of the safest in comparison to other well known international cities. If you venture 45 mins out of the city into the townships/Cape Flats (ghettos), there is a chance you might experience crime, so avoid those areas unless you have a local guide.

One of the biggest challenges South Africa faces right now is “load-shedding”… basically planned power outages. I wasn’t too affected staying in Camps Bay, but a lot of other suburbs get hit regularly by load-shedding. The only way around it is to check the load-shedding schedule and move onto an area nearby which isn’t scheduled, but sometimes the schedule isn’t 100% accurate. Cape Town is situated in the Western Cape province and is run by the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), because of this the province is run far more effectively than the rest of SA’s ANC-run provinces and more recently on occasion when the national load-shedding program has CT scheduled, Cape Town has not experienced load-shedding because the city (DA) has managed to conserve power in other areas.

Over the last two years, the city bowl area has been experiencing a resurgence of artisan businesses. Expect plenty of great coffee bars, top end restaurants and bars. Craft beer happy hour specials for $1.20 a draft.

There is a lot of big business in CT, so if you’re a networking you can find team members, clients, business partners, angel investors etc. If you want to get connected join a meetup.com group or ask around and find out where the meets ups are happening. There’s plenty of opportunities if you’re in the right circles.

Update: Mark from Workshop 17 here in Cape Town is a miracle worker - making huge advancements in fiber infrastructure. Today he was showing off the speedtests at Coworking Africa Conference (hosted at workshop 17 in Cape Town).

Earlier he ran at 749 Mbps download speed. The comments on slow internet in CPT are still relevant, but times are a change’n. :slight_smile:

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Hi I am a digital nomad and prefer slow-travel. For me, because I come from a tropical island (mauritius) I have no desire to go to other tropical places and with my currency, Europe and anything in the Northern Hemisphere is way too pricey for me. So I am based in Cape Town - getting the best of both worlds - it feels like Europe because it’s cosmopolitan and you can surf, visit the winelands or have a beach picnic all in one day but still has the facilities/infrastructure of third world… slow internet etc. I have uncapped internet 4mbps which I’ve been using for work - I mostly write, work on Wordpress. But I have friends who work on the same speed who do 3D animation, graphic design and it seems to work for them. I’m here for a little while until next year. Airbnb is available - you just have to keep looking because there are more people looking for accommodation than there are free rooms. Mostly because it’s such a popular destination.