Fun things to do this summer in Cape Town: #Be a tourist in your own city

#Once…upon a time:

We were tourists in our own city. And as funny as it may sound you could say that it was purely an exercise in doing something most locals never do, let alone think of doing. And even though we could’ve come up with a million reasons as to why we should; such as keeping the everyday city humdrum at bay. It was in its simplest form a question of; why would we not? And would prove to be all the Nomadic team needed to (literally) step out the front door and cross the road.

But where to start, here’s a clue; don’t come home for the evening. No, not like you usually would but like a tourist, with nowhere to stay. So what do you do? Book yourself into a backpacking hostel silly! It’s the quintessential prerequisite to being a tourist. Especially if you’re on a shoestring budget and you know, like to meet fellow travellers such as yourself.

And the city of Cape Town is chock full of them, just take a look at the listings online and you’ll notice that this city is the backpacking Mecca of South Africa. They’re literally on every corner with one in particular, Once…in Cape Town becoming our preferred choice. It was probably due to a combination of proximity and the fact that we had been privy to all their late night shenanigans from our apartment’s balcony. But, as it turned out we immediately absolved them of any past transgressions for possessing all the hallmarks of a great place to stay. Affordable, clean and boasting a board full of free daily activities to get involved in we knew then we had made the right choice. Especially after checking into our dorm room wherein their friendly staff immediately knighted us tourists in our home city.

Now if that was not enough how about throwing in a truly happening coffee shop to the mix. They did and surprise, surprise, Yours Truly – attached to the premises – was anything but a regular coffee shop. Think live bands, movie screenings and all round late night partying. This establishment it would seem does not know the meaning of an early night in. Just ask the local residents nearby and they’ll tell you the free coffee vouchers are always a welcome treat, it was something I would consider unique in its approach.

Much like being a tourist where meeting new people is something that just happens spontaneously. I mean where else would you normally bump into interesting characters like a life coach and a photographer? Probably if you like us just became tourists for a day or just rolled in those circles, And the best part is they themselves were not even  locals to Cape Town but then again who is? I mean when you live in Cape Town it’s as if everyday it’s a new city. And is probably why so many backpackers and immigrants make their way down to the Deep South. Just ask our new friends and they’ll tell you for a backpacker Cape Town has it all but unfortunately most locals just tend to overlook it. But no, not us not anymore as we all saluted each other local and foreigner alike.

So far we had managed to assimilate ourselves quite nicely but still had a long evening ahead of us. But with so many options to dive into and one night in which to do it in what would be our next move? A grumbling stomach quickly put an end to our indecisiveness. And saw us drunkenly making our way to their fully kitted out communal kitchen where we were soon making more friends over a hot stove plate. This was followed by a couple of drinks and silly travel stories shared around their superb outdoor braai pit. Where, the occasional outburst of expressionism was typical of travellers who knew very little about each other as we all shared the warmth of the fire.

As the evening drew to a close, our heads spinning somewhat like a top losing its momentum wanting to fall over, but into our beds, we did come to appreciate something we normally would have overlooked. Why wait to enjoy the city you live in, or wait to go on holiday to be (or act) like a tourist? The opportunity is right there on your doorstep (literally) and all you have to do is cross the road.

Once a Map


  • Once offers a fully kitted kitchen, braai pit, en suite bathrooms to every grade of dorm, free Wi-Fi, a Skype booth, a PC room and a daily roster of pay for and free activities. E.g. pay for paragliding or do a free walking tour of the Bo-Kaap. And not forgetting their friendly and awesome staff who were always on hand, remember to tell them you heard it from us.
  • Yours Truly coffee bar besides offering up great coffee boasts a deli and pizzeria. Where, especially on weekends you can watch live bands, view movies on their big screen and of course get connected with their free Wi-Fi.
  • Once is also a Baz Bus and overland safari pick up and drop off point.
  • Its prime location is also ideal for travellers who want to be close to the hustle and bustle of the inner city to but far away enough to enjoy in the tranquillity of an inner city leafy suburb. That’s safe and relatively quiet most week nights yet loud and happening on the weekends.
  • It’s also very close to a multitude of activities such as the hop on hop off Red Bus City tours, Lions Head (for hiking and paragliding), Table Mountain (countless activities including the cable car), Long Street boasting restaurants, bars, shops, entertainment, the Company Gardens and of course the Lord Nelson Hotel.

Tips for virgin tourists/ backpackers:

  • If possible booked ahead either by email or phone especially if you intend to stay during the peak season. There’s nothing worse than rocking up to your hostel of choice only to be turned down or forced to sleep on the park bench outside.
  • Always do your homework beforehand, be it talking to other tourists who’ve stayed there before or by reading up on reviews online on websites such as TripAdvisor. Because most hostels will charge the same rate per night but some are just better kept than others. Oh and don’t always believe/ trust what the backpacking manuals say about a specific hostel, it’s always fifty fifty when you rely purely on them.
  • Always check with the front desk the itinerary for the week on offer. Sometimes due to unforeseen circumstances such as the weather (always a possibility in Cape Town) it will change but not on the board. Oh and always confirm the price for any service beforehand, and try not to run up any tabs with the hostels, it could just end up costing you more.
  • If you’re unsure of the safety and security of the city you’re in do not be afraid to ask the staff and/ fellow backpackers what are best/ safest times to go roaming and in what part of the city is best for doing so. There’s nothing worse while on holiday being lifted of all your valuables and cutting the adventure short. Walking tours are great way to see the city safely and familiarise yourself with all the spots you might want to check out on your own at a later stage.

Being a tourist and staying at a backpacking hostel in your city ranks highly on the Nomadic Existence: Fun Things to do this summer in Cape Town.

Special thanks go out to the staff at both Once and Yours Truly, the friends we made and our fellow backpackers for providing us with an experience we normally would not have had.

Our trek/ stay over took place on Thursday 30th and Friday the 31st of October.

By Slippery Joe Lyzard © (Writer for Nomadic Existence)

Photography: Nomadic Bug © 

Nomadic Existence 2015 ©

 Explore. Conserve. Discover.


5 Comments on “Fun things to do this summer in Cape Town: #Be a tourist in your own city

  1. hi there ! 🙂

    I am currently working on my dissertation at Bournemouth University, I am currently looking at the focus of identifying some life events from experienced backpackers.

    I am conducting some research based on your opinion of risk perception and Terrorism. Whether your decision to travel / partake in activities, will effect your decision making process when planning your travels.

    Some may not even consider the risk, but this is what I would like to find out!!
    If you could let me know your thoughts, it would really be a great help for my research!

    Thanks a million!

    Leigh Sullivan

    Bournemouth University Student

    School of Tourism

    Liked by 1 person

    • We here at Nomadic Existence would like to thank you for considering our opinion for your dissertation. Your topic is not only very interesting but appropriate considering current world events and the growing popularity of global travel, especially in relation to the culture of backpacking. I’m sure this topic will raise much debate and many different answers as each person has a different perception of what is considered risky or dangerous.

      The Nomadic Existence team comprises of two people, a writer (Slippery Lyzard) and a photographer (Nomadic Bug). And as different individuals who hold different opinions we have decided to give you our answers separately.

      Nomadic Bug/Dominique Reviglio

      I have a relative amount of travel (especially backpacking/camping) experience behind me. I have travelled extensively in Africa, which for the most part can pose many difficulties for any traveller. Civil unrest, violence, poverty, loss of identity, closed borders, corruption and economic uncertainty to name a few. (Many of these problems are faced by countries all over the world as well). But I have always maintained that a ‘risky/uncertain’ situation in a country would not stop me from visiting said country. Because I believe every place (no matter how negative certain aspects of it is) has other positive aspects to offer.

      That having been said, it would be very irresponsible/stupid/pointless to walk straight into danger, when going to a country to experience a more travel/holiday aspect of it. Unlike when visiting a country for a specific cause, such as documentation for global awareness, news reporting, investigation etc…

      But in my personal experience and most of the time when a country is experiencing any sort of problem it’s generally centralised. Therefore if I am planning on travelling to a place said to be ‘risky’, I would do extensive research on what the problem is, where the problem is located and what the best course of action toward the problem is as a traveller. And then I would STILL travel to my chosen destination, now better informed on what to do, what not to do, where to go AND where not to go.

      Slippery Lyzard/Joe Azrail

      Africa is our home and is, as you well know, often portrayed in the world media as being a no-go area.
      This could be due to factors such as war, civil unrest, disease and poverty to name a few. And in addition has been in some cases portrayed as a safe haven for suspected and/ or known terrorists.
      But in all respects these are generally minor incidents and are more often than not blown out of proportion by the world media. But this not too say the risks aren’t real. If anything it should act as a catalyst for any traveller to do the necessary research before they commence their trip. Even though an incident can happen to anyone, anywhere no matter what the state of the nation is.

      But, back to your question, I don’t think I would go to a known risk and or terrorist controlled destination on holiday or even as a backpacker for that matter. Unless I was able to obtain reputable hard evidence from friends, colleagues and people in the know to suggest it would be OK. I mean travelling has its risks but taking unnecessary risks in my opinion is well, just unnecessary.

      In conclusion I would have to say I personally like to know what the risks are and then base my travels accordingly. And believe it’s a similar thought process to what you said is “the perception of risk and terrorism” when making a travelling decision. And I unlike my college would most probably opt out for a later stage when things have cooled down a bit.

      We hope that we have answered your question adequately and wish you the best of luck with your dissertation.

      Please feel free to contact us on any other travel related questions you might have in the future.

      Yours in Travel

      Nomadic Existence

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much for both of your opinions!

        I would like to ask joe…. you had said that you would find information about certain areas from friends/ colleagues etc… would you use the internet reviews to source this information? and do you think that the judgement of friends opinions would still deter / or encourage you to go, based on your trust in them, or would this not be enough?

        Would you also consider joe, that you are experienced in having a natural ability to know where is good/ bad areas and avoid such “risks” Or would you still carry out your own research just to put your own mind / family members minds at ease?

        Dominique – How have your overall experiences been with your travels?
        You say you would still continue on your desired destinations even if the research you found was negative. why is that?

        Thank you again 🙂


  2. Hi,

    Joe: To answer your first question I would have to say yes. I do rely a lot on Internet reviews and do trust and value the opinions of my peers, family and friends. Enough that it will definitely prompt me to either go or to stay.

    Furthermore I would like to believe I possess a kind of “Spidey sense” in respect to how I determine which areas are good or bad. You could call it travellers intuition if you will. But as I said before I still base a lot of my decision making on research and confidants to yes, put my mind and that of my loved ones at ease.

    I hope these answers will suffice. Thanks again for your input.

    I will get Dom to answer your questions shortly.



    P.S: Send me the link to share your blog.


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