Navigating Cape Town: Transportation Options for Your Trip

Make your Cape Town experience easier with our expert's guide to getting around the city, including car rentals, airport transfers, public transit and more.

Arriving at the airport

Cape Town International Airport (021.937.1200) lies 22 km east of the city center on the N2. It takes approximately 20 minutes out of rush hour by car.

The airport has a full range of facilities, with domestic and international arrivals and departures linked by one long terminal and a retail mall. Wi-Fi is available in all public areas. Within international arrivals, Cape Town Tourism (021.934.1949; Mon-Fri 6 am-9 pm, Sat-Sun 8 am-8 pm) can arrange accommodation and has maps and leaflets to give out. The Master Currency exchange counters remain open for international arrivals and there are ATMs throughout the airport. You can hire mobile phones and buy local SIM cards at Vodacom’s Vodashop (5 am-midnight) or from MTN’s Fone 4 Hire (5 am-midnight), which both have desks at international and domestic arrivals.

Cape Town airport, South Africa
It's easy to travel from Cape Town airport to the city (©Arlene Adams/iStock/Thinkstock)

Rental cars

All the car-hire (rental car) outlets can be found across the road from the Transport Plaza (the concourse outside the terminal building) and are accessed by pedestrian subways. Several shuttle services run from kiosks in the international and domestic arrivals halls and drop off at hotels and guesthouses in central Cape Town. They cost around R180 per person plus R30 for each additional person from the same group.

Alternatively you can pre-book one through your hotel, or directly through Citi Hopper (021.936.3469). Taxis running between the airport and city centre should have a special airport license and they must use their meter by law. Touch Down Taxis (021.919.4659) is the authorized airport taxi company and kiosks are in the arrivals halls. Expect to pay around R280-350 to the city centre, depending on traffic.

The MyCiTi Bus (0800.65.64.63) airport service runs between the airport bus station. It’s located on the Transport Plaza immediately outside the arrivals halls, and the Civic Centre on Hertzog Boulevard near the railway station in central Cape Town. Many of these airport services then carry on to/from the V&A Waterfront (check the front of the bus), and the bus stop there is outside the Victoria Wharf shopping mall on Breakwater Boulevard.

At the Civic Centre, there are MyCiTi buses to other destinations, regular taxis for onward journeys and a drop-and-go facility for private vehicles. The buses depart every 20-30 minutes (depending on the time of day) between 4:45 am and 10:20 pm from the airport, and 4:20 am and 9:40 pm from the Civic Centre. Outside peak traffic hours it takes around 30 minutes (45-55 minutes in morning and evening rush hours).

Tickets are available at kiosks in the stations; R61.50 during peak hours (6 am-8.30 am, 4 pm-6 pm); R59.80 at all other times; children younger than 4 years or less than 1 meter tall are free. All MyCiTi Bus services operate this child policy. Timetables and fares can be found on the website. The main railway station is in the centre of town and is also the terminus for the mainline long-distance bus companies; Greyhound, Intercape and Translux.

Getting around the city

Sightseeing bus, Cape Town, South Africa
Take a sightseeing bus to see the city and surrounding areas (©Alex Rich/iStock/Thinkstock)

Most of Cape Town’s oldest buildings, museums, galleries and the commercial centre are concentrated in a relatively small area and are easily explored on foot. However, to explore more of the city, and to visit Table Mountain, the suburbs or the beaches, there are several public transport options, and taxis are affordable, particularly if you use Rikki’s shared taxis. There are also a number of day tours to join and, for the greatest flexibility, it’s always a good idea to rent a car.

Alternatively, Sightseeing Cape Town (021.511.6000, daily from 8:30 am), is a red double-decker, open-top, hop-on hop-off bus that follows a 2¼-hour route around the city. There are two routes; the Red Route has 13 stops and a bus comes by every 15 minutes, while the Blue Route has 13 stops and buses come by every 35 minutes. Audio-commentary is available in eight languages and there’s a special kids channel. The main ticket kiosk is outside the Two Oceans Aquarium on Dock Road at the V&A Waterfront, however you can buy tickets on the bus or online (for a discount) and join anywhere on the routes. It’s ideal if you don’t want to drive, and stops include the Lower Cableway Station, Camps Bay, Kirstenbosch, all the city centre museums, and as far south as Hout Bay on the peninsula. A one-day ticket costs R150, children (5-15) R70, under 5s free, and a two-day ticket is R250/R150. The buses are wheelchair friendly. There is also a sightseeing bus which takes you to the surrounding wine-growing areas.

Tourist information

Cape Town Tourism (The Pinnacle, corner of Burg and Castle streets, 021.487.6800, Oct-Mar, Mon-Fri 8 am-7 pm, Sat 8:30 am-2 pm, Sun 9 am-1 pm, closes 1 hr earlier Apr-Sep) is the official city tourist office. They can help with bookings and tours throughout the Western Cape.

It is an excellent source of information and a good first stop in the city. In addition to providing practical information about Cape Town, it can help with accommodation bookings and has plenty of information on nightlife and events. It is also home to Western Cape Tourism (same contact details) and there is a South Africa National Parks (SANParks) desk, where you can make reservations for the parks. There’s also a café, gift shop and free wifi. There are 12 other branches/desks around Cape Town including at the Table Mountain Lower Cableway and Kirstenbosch National Park.

Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
There's a good transport service to Table Mountain (©Groblerdu Preez/iStock/Thinkstock)