Living in Cape Town as a Digital Nomad: What's it Like?
In the fifth of our interviews with digital nomads who have experienced living in different countries around the world, we talk to Simon and Erin from travel blog Neverending Voyage. Full-time travellers and digital nomads, Simon and Erin have been travelling full-time since March 2010 and in that time have earned a living from their blog, web design and development, and creating travel apps that make your travels easier. They’re a real inspiration for others who dream to achieve the digital nomad lifestyle.
They spent a couple of months living in Cape Town while working from their laptops, exploring the landscapes, culture and getting to know the people. We ask them 10 questions to hopefully help you decide if a move to Cape Town is right for you.
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An Interview with Neverending Voyage
What are the locals like?
In general, we found South Africans to be relaxed, open and friendly. The hardest thing is the divide between white and black people. We felt uncomfortable that the customers in most of the restaurants and cafes we went to were mostly white – in Johannesburg, it was much more mixed.
How much does long-term accommodation cost? What options are there….apartments, villas, guesthouses?
Airbnb is really the only option we found for renting an apartment and it’s not cheap. While living in Cape Town, we paid $1500 a month for a nice one bedroom apartment one block from the sea in Sea Point, a 10-minute drive from downtown. Ubers are very cheap so it’s easy to get around.
I found options on Airbnb from $1000 a month but they were either too small, basic or in downtown Cape Town. We really liked Sea Point as it felt safer and we could run, walk and watch the sunset on the nearby promenade. Airbnb prices would be lower in the winter.
There are also plenty of hostels and guesthouses for shorter stays.
What’s the average cost of food and drink? What’s the food like?
Food and wine when living in Cape Town is amazing and very affordable by US/Europe standards. We usually paid 200-300R ($15-23) for a meal for two people or 500-700R ($38-53) at nicer restaurants with multiple courses and wine. You can get a dish in a market for 50R ($4).
Cape Town is only an hour from the beautiful Cape Winelands where you can sample excellent wine on one of the wineries and enjoy gourmet feasts. Our favourite town was Franschhoek where you can visit many wineries without driving on the fun Wine Tram.
What options are there for working online? Is the Wi-Fi good? Is there co-working spaces/cafes etc?
Wi-Fi isn’t brilliant. We worked from our Airbnb and had download speeds of about 1.75 mbps. We could stream video and Skype but it wasn’t always reliable. Fibre optic is gradually being introduced so you could look for accommodation that has it. Some apartments only have limited mobile internet so make sure you’ll have unlimited WiFi before you book.
4G speeds were faster but this could be a pricy to use exclusively. A Vodacom SIM cost 105R ($8) from Johannesburg airport and a 10GB data plan was 599R ($45).
Most cafes have Wi-Fi and there are many co-working spaces with fast WiFi such as Spin Street House but we didn’t use them.
What’s the visa situation like for Living in Cape Town?
Many nationalities including UK and US citizens don’t need a visa for stays of up to 90 days. They are strict about visa runs so you can’t just leave the country and return for another 90 days – a shame as we would have loved to stay for longer! Apparently, visa extensions are possible but it sounded like a complicated and slow process.
Is there an expat/DN community?
There is a small digital nomad community but we didn’t get involved with it. The Facebook group Cape Town Digital Nomads organises some meetups.
How did you spend your free time while living in Cape Town?
There is so much to do in Cape Town that we only worked three days a week during our two-month stay and spent the rest of the time exploring. We relaxed on the many beaches (the water is too cold to swim though), hiked in the mountains, had many sunset picnics (South Africans love picnics!), went to concerts and plays, did a Cape Malay cooking class, took the cable car up Table Mountain, visited museums, and took a stunning helicopter ride over the city.
We also had a few trips away to Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands and De Kelders further down the coast. There’s so much to explore in the surrounding area.Before we arrived in Cape Town we did a month-long road trip from Johannesburg including Kruger National Park, the Drakensberg Mountains, the Wild Coast and the Garden Route. I highly recommend exploring more of the country and renting a car is the easiest and most affordable way to travel.
What are your three favourite things about living in Cape Town?
1) The food
2) The stunning mountain and ocean scenery
3) The many amazing activities and day trips available.
Is there anything you don’t like about living in Cape Town?
After a few incidents (attempted pickpockets and scams) in downtown Cape Town, we didn’t feel very safe walking around there, especially in the evenings and weekends. It was annoying having to be on our guard all the time. We felt safe in the Sea Point neighbourhood where we lived though.
What one thing from home do you wish you could have with you in Cape Town?
We found Cape Town had everything we needed including some superb vintage mature cheddar from Woolworths!