Thursday, 4 April 2013

Arrival in Cape Town: fancy frames and friendly faces

Having taken an evening flight from London to Amsterdam on Good Friday, my boyfriend Tom and I spent the night in the Ibis Amsterdam Airport hotel, waking to snowflakes the following morning. Twelve hours, three in-flight meals and several films later we touched down in Cape Town, picked up our hire car and made our way to Atlantic Point Backpackers.

It's more than ten years since I was last in Cape Town, having stopped here back in 2001 on a post A-levels trip around the world. Returning now with a few more rand in my money-belt, I had decided to swap a city centre dorm room for a double room near the waterfront, but was still taken by surprise at the stylish decor and slick interiors at our hostel.

Designer wallpaper, handcrafted picture frames, a swish new kitchen and a mini putting green outside by the pool: is this the norm for backpackers in Cape Town these days? I certainly wasn't complaining.

Excuse the mess - focus on the funky frames & wallpaper instead!

Located a few minutes' stroll from Cape Town Stadium, at Green Point (built in 2010 for the FIFA World Cup), arriving at Atlantic Point from the airport was fairly easy. Having read several scare stories and warnings not to drive in Cape Town at night, we'd been reassured by friends that we'd be fine, so long as we stuck to the main roads and central areas.

The swish new kitchen at Atlantic Point Backpackers

While Cape Town's reputation for crime and danger shouldn't be shrugged off, neither should you come here expecting every other person to pull out a gun. Being aware of your belongings, sticking to street-lit areas at night, and taking taxis when you have no idea where you're going are safety precautions you should probably take in any big city and, with the crime rate in Cape Town, it's wise to take all this a little more seriously.

But speak to the people who live here and you'll realise that not everyone who lives in a township wants to mug you and that the locals don't live in constant fear for their lives. Cape town is packed with happy, friendly and super smiley people who are ready to share their city but if you plan on staggering around drunk at night, flashing your iPad about and carrying a wallet that bulges with cash, you'll be rich pickings for other backpackers, let alone the locals.

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