Author: Georgia Walker
Departure day for your volunteering or internship placement is fast approaching, but is the idea of packing your bags more daunting than the 12-hour flight? Knowing what to pack when traveling to a city you’ve never been to before is overwhelming – we get it. So, Cape Town staff member Georgia has come up with a master packing list of the necessary items you should pack when volunteering or interning in Cape Town.
What no one tells you about Cape Town is that you can sometimes experience all four seasons in one day – so here’s a bit of advice about each season and the key things to bring.
If you’re with us in the summer months (December to February), you can mostly expect hot, dry weather – possibly reaching temperatures of 40°C. Swimwear and sunscreen is essential. This is the most popular time for tourists, as many of those from ‘up north’ trade their white winter in for a beach holiday. So, expect busy beaches and a very long line at the Table Mountain Cableway. Wise advice: bring a hat.
March to May is the autumn season, and probably the most pleasant time to visit Cape Town… It’s not too hot and it’s not too cold. Winner. The city is no longer run by large groups of tourists, but rather locals visiting the night markets and breweries. Although the temperature in the day is still warm, the evenings become quite chilly, so be sure to pack some long pjs and a jacket or two.
Ever heard of the Cape Doctor? No, it’s not a healthcare professional, but rather a legendary south-easterly wind – gales like something out of a movie. It blows along the South African coast during spring and summer, so although we’ve told you to pack your swimsuit, make sure you also pack LAYERS. LAYERS, LAYERS, LAYERS.
Layers are also great for winter, from June until September time. While it doesn’t get as cold as what you can expert in the northern hemisphere, you’ll definitely need to pack long trousers, sweaters, scarves (we highly recommend scarves) and a rain/wind-proof jacket. That being said, there are still some beautiful days in winter, so throw in a pair of shorts or a dress, just in case!
Spring time is upon us mid-September, and with it, the spring rains (so bring a rain jacket and closed shoes). Grass really does become greener on the other side of winter, which can be best enjoyed at Kirstenbosch Gardens.
An obvious one, but some of our volunteers and interns forget. South African electricity sockets require 230 volts, 50hz and most often an M plug type. This is the same plug type used in India, Israel and Sri Lanka (see full list of countries here).
Another important thing to remember is your charger! Our Cape Town projects nominate a ‘journalist’ every week who will be able to take photos while on project. Just a tip: this drains your battery like crazy. If you do have a portable charger, we recommend you bring it along. There is no worse moment whilst traveling than missing a great photo because your phone battery is dead.
The Cape Town water crisis hit the headlines this year, and while it appears to be getting a lot better, the city is still in the middle of a particularly hard-hitting drought. Nonetheless, Cape-Tonians are breaking records in their water saving efforts – something no other community in the world has achieved. As a response to the water crisis, our volunteer house jacked up their water saving practices. The ‘if its yellow, let it mellow’ practice was implemented, as well as shorter showers using recycled water. Although water restrictions in the City of Cape Town have decreased dramatically, we haven’t stopped saving. It’s become engrained in the house and it’s been a great learning experience for our volunteers – water is, in fact, a non-renewable resource.
But, of course, we get dirty on project. Your typical day on will consist of playtime, games, sports and coloring in (or being colored in by the children). Considering our strict water saving protocols, the luxury of a 10-minute shower or candlelight bath is not possible. If our 90-second shower limits aren’t enough for you, be sure to pack your favorite deodorant and some dry shampoo (which is very expensive in South Africa so rather bring from home)!
Cape Town is named year-after-year as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is absolutely mesmerizing to travelers, often being their first destination of choice in Africa. The tourist attractions – Table Mountain, Robben Island, and the Southern Tip of Africa – are all stunning and guaranteed to remain in your memory years after you’ve left, but it’s also worth capturing them on camera. The more mundane activities (well, at least to the locals) like hiking, wine tasting and street art tours are what Cape Town is all about. Although the views will always be ingrained in your memory, there’s no harm in taking some sneaky snaps of it all to show folks back home. An eSIM is a great new piece of technology that ensures better coverage and, ultimately, better connectivity while you’re in Africa.
Our Foundation (the African Impact Foundation) helps to independently monitor our projects and provides tools and expertise that help to ensure our sustainability, as well as ensure that donations given by our volunteers are managed responsibly. Just like African Impact’s other projects across the continent, our Cape Town initiatives rely heavily on resource donations from our volunteers. Check your welcome pack – once your placement is booked – for each project’s wish list. To help raise further funds, ask our team about FUNdraisers happening during your stay. They are an amazing way to get to know more of Cape Town’s restaurants, bars, and people, while also helping to raise some much needed funds for resources.
Being out on project all-day (especially under the hot African sun) is thirsty work, so bring a water bottle with you that can be refilled throughout the day. The tap water in Cape Town is safe to drink, but our Cape Town team sells 5-litre bottles of water to refill yours in case you’d rather drink bottled.
Be sure to pack a pair of closed shoes that you are comfortable in for when you are out on project, i.e. trainers or pumps (or sneakers or takkies, whatever you call them!). Not only are they great for day-to-day life as a volunteer, Cape Town also boasts some of the most beautiful hiking trails with panoramic views, so you can use them pretty much anywhere. It’s also advisable to bring a pair of shoes that are easy to slip on and off for around the house, as well as going between the showers and the bedrooms. Flip-flops (we call them slops here) are ideal. If you’re considering throwing in a pair of heeled shoes (we’re looking at you, boys), we’d say to leave them at home as Cape-Tonians are known for being very relaxed on nights out – you don’t want to look out of place.
Like any big city, Cape Town city center – particular at night – is known for pickpockets and opportunists. To keep your valuables safe, it is advisable to bring a small bag with zip compartments in order to keep your valuables safe and close. This will make your time exploring the city much more relaxing and enjoyable. Also, bumbags are pretty on-trend right now, so you won’t look like a wierdo.