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Driving tips for Cape Town

Southend
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Driving tips for Cape Town

Have just come back fm first visit to Cape Town.

A lot of this might be common knowledge but some may be useful (hope so).

i) Parking - multi storeys are of course ticket operated and there are several in the City, not overly expensive either and practical.

ii) Otherwise you will be using a parking marshal - either an official one (employed by the Council) with a badge and receipt machine or, especially in the evenings, an unofficial one - and they pop up everywhere. Tell the official one how long you think you're going to be, pay him/her and ask for a receipt. If you overstep on time simply pay more when you get back to the car. Unofficial ones you don't have to pay for but we got the impression that if we didn't, we might regret it. So we always gave them a few rand either on arrival or just before leaving. They will guide you in and out of your space with much hand waving and claim they will look after your car while you aren't there and they seem to have their own 'patches' too. We always paid a few rand and didn't have a problem so whilst you might have views on this unofficial payment system, it does seem to work and most were friendly and grateful for a small payment.

iii) Only park facing the direction in which traffic is flowing - don't cross over the road and park the wrong way round - you will be fined.

iv) watch out for mad Capetonians in fast cars who will happily overtake you on the left (keep your wits about you and use all mirrors) and very slow middle lane hoggers - both abound.

v) CT roads are excellent - fast access to city from suburbs along motorways and A roads and very clearly signed.

vi) When hiring a car think about where you are going to go. We hired a little Nissan Micra which had a very hard job getting 4 of us up the hill to the Table Mountain cable car. Camps Bay is also very hilly. If you go out to the Winelands, some of the mountain passes are VERY hilly (understatement). Much of the southern suburbs is undulating. If you opt for a small car and there are lots of you (or some or all of you are overweight) you will struggle and could damage the clutch, tyres or both. Be warned! Better to upgrade a notch or two on engine size.

Hope this all helps.

Leigh-on Sea...
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1. Re: Driving tips for Cape Town

we also returned from SA today and had a good 15 days tour by hire car.

my tips are :-

dont' take any notice of the descriptions of how many cases will fit into your boot. We had 2 large, 1 medium and a small one that fits into the overhead locker in the plane. Despite making it very clear that we needed space and even going to the bother of checking out boot sizes of various cars in the UK, when we arrived at CT airport we tried 3 cars before finding one with a large enough boot. We had to make do with a lower grade car for 2 days before a larger car was found. A Toyota Seconda made the grade.

I agree with Madhatter with regards to the engine size. Much of the pleasure of touring SA is going along the scenic routes which have many hilly passes, so you do need an engine that can cope.

The roads are in excellent condition but often just one carriageway in each direction . Both sides of the road have what the English call a 'hard shoulder', this is designated by a yellow line. If the car in front knows that you want to overtake, they will pull in over the yellow line allowing the overtaking to be done without crossing the central white line. You should follow the same procedure when the car behind wants to overtake you. The thank you sign is a few flashes of your hazard lights.

We got the impression that many of the poorer people driving old wrecks may not have a licence, the standard of driving could be very poor. We saw people doing U turns on the central reservations of dual carriageways.

Seek the advice of your accomodation regarding road safety (drunks and wandering livestock) , they will advise what stretches to avoid in the dark.

Driving is very easy as the main garden Route roads were very, very quiet.

As well as small change for the 'car minders' keep some for the petrol filler (didn't come across any self serve pumps' and for the person who will wash your windows whilst being filled up.

I wouldn't bother taking a car into cape Town center, parking on the road appeared to be limited to 1 hour (if you can find a space). Next time I would use the red Hop On Hop Off bus.

Southend
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2. Re: Driving tips for Cape Town

Hi Gem 166,

yes, agree with all that and forgot about the boot size and overtaking thing. We travel light so the boot size was OK (just) - the pull over onto the hard shoulder thing we only found out by experience. Beware however as there are quite often people walking along on the hard shoulder who you could conceivably run down! Just make sure you have good visbility I guess. Also worth noting that if you are stuck in a small car behind a huge lorry on a single lane going uphill just grit your teeth, go into low gear, leave a good 20 feet betwwen you and him and simply be patient - there are always stretches of dual carriageway, even short ones, so you can make a go for it then. One other thing - we had a fairly good map but no GPS - but with me driving and 3 very argumentative family members all deciding they knew which direction to go in (and all differing) ask for a GPS there or some other device, it will probably save tempers!

Leigh-on Sea...
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3. Re: Driving tips for Cape Town

Hi southendmathatter,

we downloaded the Southern Africa map to our Tom Tom, it worked very well with a few exceptions.

we got back to snowy Leigh on Sea this Monday and missing the sun already.

it sounds like you had a good holiday , did you adult children enjoy it also?

Fordingbridge...
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4. Re: Driving tips for Cape Town

From experience, stick to the speed limits, there a lots of radar speed cameras. No complaints because the roads are so good. Glad you had a good trip............we depart 3 weeks tomorrow..................yippee!!

Southend
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5. Re: Driving tips for Cape Town

Hi Gem 166

We got back to snowy Southend also on Monday! Were you on the same flight? Wewere on the AirFrance with a changeover in Paris, got back to Heathrow at 9am. Wish they did one from Stansted!.

Our grown up kids LOVED it. My very fit 28 year old son made his old man CLIMB up Table Mountain (normally 2.5 hours, took them 6), we all loved it actually. The only hassles were with how to get somewhere. 'No, its that way. No, you want the M3. No you don't, you want the N2' and because I am the best driver I ended up just gritting my teeth in the front and going with whoever shouted loudest! .....So next time it will definitely be a Tomtom download, what a brilliant idea!

Leigh-on Sea...
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6. Re: Driving tips for Cape Town

Hi Southenmadhatter,

my daughter and her husband (26,30) had a good time. I was worried that it would be a bit 'old fashioned or tame' for them, so we booked to stay in Camps Bay which was a young persons place. They loved the fine dining that could be had for a fraction of the price of London, Paris, New York etc . They are still talking about the Tasting Rooms at Franschoek, they vote it the best dinner ever eaten (and they have eaten some top notch ones) .

All our flights were with SAA. Glad it was not with BA as their Sunday night flight from Jo'burg was showing as delayed to +11am Monday!

Blimey, that was some climb, we took the cable car, although my husband did keep reminding us that he had climbed the mountain 3 times as a 22 year old carrying a 6 pack of beers and drinking them en route. This time , the staff saw he was disabled and fast tracked him to the front of the queue. How things change !.

Southend
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7. Re: Driving tips for Cape Town

Hi Gem 166

Yes, the food was superb - we could NOT get over the quality for the price - yet everyone was thin! Must be the climate. We are sold on the place - trying to work out now if we can maybe retire there or sell up and buy something tiny here and maybe a little house or bungalow there to go to for 3 - 6 months a year. Not sure what all the rules and regs are but we are going to think about it seriously over the next year or two. My husband is diabetic. When he came back to the UK 2 days ago his sugar levels had never been so low - he didn't need tablets. Now he is having to take them again. We also noticed how fresh our mouths felt - we forgot to brush our teeth at night sometimes whilst here we'd have to. Now why is that? Must have been the water. Nice to talk to you and swap notes with a local.

Leigh-on Sea...
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8. Re: Driving tips for Cape Town

Hi Madhatter,

I have lived in SA (cape Town and Durban) , NZ, Australia and 6 months in Florida, but to me there is no place like home (even if it is only Leigh on Sea). Don't be seduced by sun, good food etc, boring I know, but think of the realities of good health care, family around in time of crisis etc. I met up with my friend from Leigh who emigrated to Jo'burg 40 years ago and is now making an exit stragedy ,as are many of his friends reaching retirement age, whose children have already left . Australia and Canada seem favorite destinations. His son has already left for Australia. He said the Cape escapes many of the problems that might be experienced in other parts of the country. During his many visits to Leigh over the years, he could be a bit of a bore on what a superior lifestyle he had , but now at retirement age , with a few medical problems , he wants a future of peace and quiet and believes the future of SA may not offer that. We were AMAZED at his turnaround. He is also very rich, so you would think that he could rise above the problems, many mutterings of 'country going to the dogs' .

A good alternative is ,as you suggest ,to rent for a few months to escape our winter. I have been looking for such a place ever since retirement a few years back but nothing has fitted the bill. S.E Asia and Mexico are very cheap but I can't do more than a month or so at a time, the culture is too different. Stayed with my sister in law who was living in Spain (now back in Essex now to be near family after a health scare) but where she lived was dreadful, full of the worst sort of Brits ,junk food eating places, Bob's fish and chips, tea like mum makes, you get the picture.

South Africa fits the bill, infact I lost count of the number of British retirees we spoke to ,who stay for the winter, they all seemed to stay around Constantia and seemed to have a nice little community going. Called themselves Swallows.

Do keep in contact and let me know how your winter plans work out.

Southend
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9. Re: Driving tips for Cape Town

Hi Gem 166

Thanks - you are very very helpful - and yes, I know holidays can make you have rose tinted specs. It is early days yet. and we know that there would be other issues for us if we did go there permanently. We went to Aus last year (Perth) but found it SO expensve and so remote (our 2 kids are London based) I couldn't contemplate it - plus very long flight. Also spent 3 winter hols in Malaysia - great place, clean, pretty safe but also quite a flight away and very humid (mozzies everywhere, we didn't have that many in Cape Town). Also when we were in Cape Town I had a minor health scare and went to an emergency unit - paid £50 for the consultation and £25 for prescriptions, am not going to bother claiming on my insurance as it is too little and there is an excess anyway - but treatment was first class, seen in 10 mins, accurate diagnosis, problem solved in 2 days. BUT of course long term health care (especially with a diabetic husband) may well be a different matter altogether. I suspect at the end of the day we will stay here and either go out to CT every year for a month or two if we can, or maybe buy a little place (prices are cheap at the moment, this might be cheaper ) and try and make it 3 to 6 months (I assume we can only stay for 90 days, so would have to return back to UK after that time, then whizz back out there?) I will definitely keep you posted and thanks for your comments, extremely useful - yes, we must stay in touch.

Cape Town
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10. Re: Driving tips for Cape Town

Hi Guys

Interesting comments from Gem but let me give exactly the opposite perspective. I am a Brit and lived for most of my life in the UK – some of that time in Essex. However in my working life I travelled all over the world almost continuously, including living in the Bay Area of California and spells in Germany and India. Ten years ago I moved my job to Cape Town, as it was the best city I had seen in all my travels around the world. Haven’t regretted it for one minute. Especially since, working down over the past couple of years, we have had the chance to travel round and discover much more of South Africa. A wonderful country, as you have discovered!

Moving in this direction is different to those who, for personal reasons, have moved the other way. Gem's friend will get a shock if he returns to the UK and has to get treated under the NHS! As you have found, Health Care here is in many ways better than the UK. – at least comparing the private sector here (much cheaper than the private sector in the UK) to the UK National Health Service. My local doctors group surgery is open all day and on Saturdays and Sundays. I can get an appointment immediately, and then get normally a 30 minute consultation – not 3-5 mins! I even had a small procedure carried out on Christmas Morning - not an emergency, my doctor was just on-call that day so suggested that I popped in for ten minutes - between opening the presents and going to the beach! If I want something more doing I can get a specialist appointment in a few days. Not months - or even years, like in the UK. All the people that I know who have needed longer term care have had treatment every bit as good as the UK and much easier than on the NHS. Yes you need Private Insurance but it costs very much less than my company paid for my equivalent UK private health insurance.

Then as Hatter says South Africa and the UK are on similar time zones so that communication is no issue. With Internet calling and video phones we talk to out kids in London virtually every day. We feel MUCH more in contact than when we lived in the SE of England. If my daughter is buying a new dress she will talk to my wife for ages. If she wants to know how to shorten sleeves she calls back and forth to her Mum – happened just last week! If there is a real problem we can be on a plane the same evening and with either of the kids in London early the next morning. Exactly the same in the opposite direction. Although fortunately we have not needed to – yet!

The you see your kids more!!

Since moving here my son has visited us 14 times. In the UK when he visited. every few months, he would drive up for Sunday lunch for a few hours. Maybe occasionally stay overnight. Now he comes for a minimum of one week, mostly two and is with us the whole time – except the go off sometimes for a few days on their own. We then travel to the UK ourselves once or twice a year. Then we stay with one or both of the kids for most of the time. So I would suggest that we see our son around four or five times longer than when we lived 30 miles apart! We certainly know both of our kids better.

Also, surprisingly, we see many other family and friends that we used to see not so often when we lived in the UK. Just happened to be coming on holiday to SA, as you and your kids tell us how wonderful it is - maybe we could come and stay with you for a week (or more) while we are in Cape Town! No problems we love it! Now we have also made lots of friends, of all ages, here in Cape Town - and people from here are starting to go and stay with our kids when they are in the UK!

Then the logistics. If you move as a swallow (a general term not confined to Constantia). Then it is trivial. No rules or regulations about foreigners buying property – and it’s so much easier than in the UK – no chains or gazzumping. I could go into an estate agents today and come out having bought a house with full and binding commitment from both sides – if I wanted to do it that way!

If you came as a swallow then you can stay for up to six months at a time. You get a 90 day visitors permit when you arrive at the airport. But then after 60 days you can apply for a further 90 day extension (this costs about R400). Gives a total of 6 months at a time. Later or if (when!) you decide to move here permanently then you can apply for permanent residence. As long as you comply with the financial requirements (you need provide certified statements of your pension and other income or investments) or alternatively you need to buy a business (most Brits buy guest houses or B&Bs) and show you have invested a certain amount of money and are providing employment to at least four local people. It may take time to get your Perm Residence but that depends on how efficient Home Affairs are at the time. But you can still keep going out of the country at the appropriate times and back a few days later, after your permit has expired – and you get a new one.

Lots of other good things and very few not so good. Anyway, if you have more questions you can either post on here or send me a PM, as it’s a bit off topic!

As for the country “Going to the Dogs” I would love to see the evidence that they base that on. Is bringing the 80 percent of the people that were excluded from all normal life into the same society, "Going to the Dogs” - sadly I know that there are some people who think so – and, yes, many of them are leaving. But there are a lot coming in the opposite direction. Not just Brits but Germans, Swiss, Dutch and many other nationalities – and people of all ages. My new doctor is Swiss!

Edited: 09 February 2012, 14:00